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Fathers can seek remedies vs. abusive mothers under VAWC, SC rules

Fathers can now seek remedies on behalf of children being abused by their mothers under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (VAWC) Act, the Supreme Court ruled.

In an 8-page decision dated July 2022, the Supreme Court En Banc issued a permanent protection order in favor of a father and his child as it dismissed the orders of the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 69.

“Logically, a mother who maltreated her child resulting in physical, sexual, or psychological violence defined and penalized under RA No. 9262 is not absolved from criminal liability notwithstanding that the measure is intended to protect both women and their children,” it said.

The case stemmed from the petition of certiorari filed by a father before the Supreme Court after his appeal for protection and custody orders before the Taguig RTC was dismissed.

According to the Court, the father filed a petition against his estranged wife with the RTC in December 2017 for a temporary and permanent protection order on behalf of their daughter.

The Court said the mother had hurt the child by pulling on her hair, slapping her face, and knocking on her head. The mother also pointed a knife at her child and threatened to kill her.

It said the mother also sent a message about her plan to kill their daughter and commit suicide.

However, the Taguig RTC dismissed the petition in January 2018, explaining that protection and custody orders cannot be issued against a mother who allegedly abused her own child.

Further, it said that remedies under the VAWC Law are not available to the father because he is not a “woman victim of violence.”

“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 Supreme Court said.

Further, the Court said that Section 3 of the VAWC Law criminalizes acts of violence against women and their children perpetrated by women’s intimate partners.

“However, the Court in Garcia emphasized that the law does not single out the husband or father as the culprit. The statute used the gender-neutral word ‘person’ as the offender which embraces any person of either sex,” it said.

Further, the Court said that the RTC’s interpretation that only children under a woman victim of violence are covered by the law is restrictive and “will weaken the approach of the law and remove from its coverage instances where the mother herself is the abuser.”

“In sum, the Court refuses to be an instrument of injustice and public mischief perpetrated against vulnerable sectors of the society such as children victims of violence,” it said.

“The Court will not shirk its bounden duty to interpret the law in keeping with the cardinal principle that in enacting a statute, the legislature intended right and justice to prevail,” it added. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News