Dads can seek protection order vs abusive moms
The Supreme Court has issued a landmark decision declaring that fathers may now apply for protection and custody order against mothers who abuse their children.
The 18-page decision penned by Justice Mario Lopez said abusive mothers can be considered offenders under Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Act, and fathers may apply for remedies on behalf of the abused children.
“The Court finds no substantial distinction between fathers and mothers who abuse their children that warrants a different treatment or exemption from the law. Any violence is reprehensible and harmful to the child’s dignity and development,” the high court said in a decision promulgated in July but was only made public recently.
Concurring with the decision were Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (who wrote a separate opinion), and Associate Justices Ramon Paul Hernando, Amy Lazaro Javier (with concurring opinion), Henri Jean Paul Inting, Samuel Gaerlan, Ricardo Rosario, Jhosep Lopez, Japar Dimaampao and Jose Midas Marquez.
Those who dissented were Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Rodil Zalameda, Antonio Kho Jr. and Maria Filomena Singh.
Favoring the father
The Supreme Court en banc granted the petition for certiorari and issued a permanent protection order in favor of an American citizen and his daughter.
The American national filed the petition before the tribunal after the Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed his appeal for protection and custody order on the ground that it could not be issued against a mother who allegedly abused her own child.
In December 2017, he filed a petition with the RTC against his estranged wife, seeking a temporary and permanent protection order on behalf of their daughter.
He alleged that his wife placed their daughter in an environment harmful to the child’s physical, emotional, moral and psychological development.
The high court said the mother had hurt her child by pulling her hair, slapping her face, knocking her head, pointed a knife at her and threatened to kill her. She also sent a message to her husband about her plan to kill their daughter and commit suicide.
In granting the father’s petition, the high tribunal ruled that while the VAWC Act excludes men as victims, this does not mean the law denies a father of its remedies solely because of his gender.
“The RTC ignored the evidence on the pretext that the father is not allowed to apply for protection and custody orders because he is not a woman victim of violence. On this point, the Court finds grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC,” the court said.
The Court said the VAWC Act’s Section 9(b) explicitly allows “parents or guardians of the offended party” to file a petition for protection orders, adding, the law speaks in clear language when it used the word “parents” pertaining to the father and the mother of the child victim.
“The law did not qualify on who between the parents of the victim may apply for protection orders,” said the Court in a statement summarizing the ruling.
The court ruled that the American citizen filed the petition as the parent of his minor child, the offended party who allegedly experienced violence and abuse.
The SC said the VAWC Act covers situations where the mother committed abusive acts against her own child.
“The fact that a social legislation affords special protection to a particular sector does not automatically suggest that its members are excluded from violating such law,” it explained.
Section 3 of the law defines VAWC as abusive acts “committed by any person,” which “used the gender-neutral word ‘person’ as the offender which embraces any person of either sex.”
“A mother who maltreated her child resulting in physical, sexual or psychological violence defined and penalized under [the VAWC Act] is not absolved from criminal liability,” said the ruling.
The court called the RTC’s position on the case “a restrictive interpretation that will frustrate the policy of the law to afford special attention to women and children as usual victims of violence and abuse.”
This “will weaken the law and remove from its coverage instances where the mother herself is the abuser of her child.”
The high court said the RTC’s “consoling statement that the children who suffered abuse from the hands of their own mothers may invoke other laws except [the VAWC Act]” was discriminatory and “an outright denial of effective legal measures to address the seriousness and urgency of the situation.”
“Suffice it to say that only RA No. 9262 created the innovative remedies of protection and custody orders. Other laws have no mechanisms to prevent further acts of violence against the child,” it stressed.
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