Criminal Law

Torres v. People G.R. No. 206627, January 18, 2017 J.Leonen R.A. 7610 Child Abuse defined

FACTS:

CCC, AAA’s uncle, previously filed a complaint for malicious mischief against Van Clifford Torres, who allegedly caused damage to CCC’s multicab, which was witness by AAA. 

CCC and AAA were at the barangay hall, waiting for the conciliation proceedings to begin when they chanced upon Torres who had just arrived from fishing. 

Torres vehemently denied damaging CCC’s multicab. AAA interjected that Torres damaged CCC’s multicab and accused him of stealing CCC’s fish nets.

Torres warned AAA that he would whip him if he did not stop. However, AAA refused to keep silent and kept on with his accusations. Infuriated with AAA’s meddling, Torres whipped AAA three (3) times on the neck using a wet t-shirt, causing the latter to fall down from the stairs.

Torres was charged with with other acts of child abuse under Section 10(a) of RA 7610.

The RTC convicted Torres.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC Decision albeit the modification of the penalty.

Torres moved for reconsideration, but the Motion was denied.

Hence, the instant petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the act of hitting AAA with a wet t-shirt constitutes child abuse.

RULING:

We affirm petitioner’s conviction. The act of whipping a child three (3) times in the neck with a wet t-shirt constitutes child abuse.

This Court finds no reason to disturb the factual findings of the trial court. The trial court neither disregarded nor overlooked any material fact or circumstance that would substantially alter the case. 

We reject petitioner’s contention that his act of whipping AAA is not child abuse but merely slight physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code. The victim, AAA, was a child when the incident occurred. Therefore, AAA is entitled to protection under Republic Act No. 7610, the primary purpose of which has been defined in Araneta v. People:

Republic Act No. 7610 is a measure geared towards the implementation of a national comprehensive program for the survival of the most vulnerable members of the population, the Filipino children, in keeping with the Constitutional mandate under Article XV, Section 3, paragraph 2, that “The State shall defend the right of the children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”

Under Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 7610, child abuse is defined, thus:

Section 3. Definition of Terms.

. . . .

(b) “Child abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being;

(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or

(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

As can be gleaned from this provision, a person who commits an act that debases, degrades, or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being, whether habitual or not, can be held liable for violation of Republic Act No. 7610.

Although it is true that not every instance of laying of hands on the child constitutes child abuse, petitioner’s intention to debase, degrade, and demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child can be inferred from the manner in which he committed the act complained of.

We find petitioner liable for other acts of child abuse under Article VI, Section 10(a) of Republic Act No. 7610, which provides that “a person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development . . . shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.”

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