One type of violence that is punishable under VAWC (RA 9262) is the economic abuse. In the recent decision of the Supreme Court, the failure or inability to provide financial support is not an automatic ground for violation of such law.
Understanding What is VAWC (RA 9262)
Republic Act No. 9262 (RA 9262) otherwise known as the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” or Anti-VAWC Law, was enacted to address the violence including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse committed against women and children.
The Anti-VAWC Law defines violence against women and their children as “any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
Financial Support under VAWC (RA 9262)
“Economic abuse” under RA 9262 refers to acts that make or attempt to make a woman financially dependent which includes, but is not limited to the following:
1. withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds as defined in Article 73 of the Family Code;
2. deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources and the right to the use and enjoyment of the conjugal, community or property owned in common;
3. destroying household property;
4. controlling the victims’ own money or properties or solely controlling the conjugal money or properties.
Legal Implications of Failure to Provide Financial Support Under VAWC (RA 9262)
Under the Family Code of the Philippines, spouses must provide financial support to one another, and parents must give financial support to their children.
While the obligation to provide financial support is necessarily civil in nature, the Anti-VAWC Law criminalized the act of unjustifiably failing to provide financial support. Hence, when a person willfully or deliberately denies financial support for the purpose of causing mental and emotional anguish, there is an economic abuse.
Financial Support Is Not A Sole Responsibility Of The Husband
In a 29 March 2023 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the husband’s failure or inability to provide financial support to his wife does not automatically lead to a criminal prosecution under R.A. No. 9262.
The Supreme Court stressed and cited the Family Code that, “[t]he obligation to provide support is imposed by the law mutually upon both spouses. The obligation is not a one-way street for the husband to support his wife. The wife has the identical obligation to provide support to her husband.” It further said that, “[T]he law certainly did not intend to impose a heavier burden on the husband to provide support for his wife, or institutionalize criminal prosecution as a measure to enforce support from him.”
The ruling of the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction of the husband for violation of Anti-VAWC Law and was sentenced to imprisonment of two (2) years to six (6) years.
Based on the records of the case, the spouses were married in 2002, rented a house and lived together until 2004 until the husband left the country to work as a seafarer. He initially remitted his part of his monthly salary to his wife but stopped after a few months. He told his wife to live in the province with his parents’, but she refused.
For the next 13 years, the spouses did not communicate with each other, and the husband did not send her support. She eventually had a sari-sari store, but it eventually became bankrupt, so she was forced to support herself and worked as a freelance massage therapist.
In 2016, the wife filed a criminal complaint against the husband for “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit psychological violence and economic abuse upon her” which allegedly caused substantial, mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to her.
In his defense, the husband testified that he was only forced to marry his wife. He admitted that he initially sent remittances to her but requested his employer to stop making the remittances in 2004 because his father became sick with cancer. He did not inform his wife that he would stop the remittances because he was traumatized from their frequent fights. When returned to the country in 2007 and worked as an instructor but did not contact his wife or sent her support.
The trial court convicted the husband for his denial of financial support to his wife and ordered him to pay a fine of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (PhP 100,000.00) plus costs, and undergo a mandatory psychological counselling, in addition to his imprisonment.
The husband sought to reconsider his conviction but was denied by the trial court, which led him to appeal the decision before the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court and held that the unilateral decision of the husband to stop providing financial support and communicating with his wife undeniably caused her pain and psychological suffering. It further said that, even if the husband claimed that he was only forced to marry his wife, he still had the marital obligation to render love and support to her.
The husband filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied. Hence, the husband challenged the decision before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court acquitted the husband, and reiterated the landmark case of Acharon v. People, G.R. No. 224946, 09 November 2021, that provided guidelines for determining what property constitutes a violation of Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 for cases involving denial of financial support. It enumerated the following elements of the crime:
1. The offended party is a woman and/or her child or children;
2. The woman is either the wife or former wife of the offender, or is a woman with him the offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or is a woman with whom such offender has a common child. As for the woman’s child or children, they may be legitimate or illegitimate, or living within or without the family abode;
3. The offender willfully refuses to give or consciously denies the woman and/or her child or children financial support that is legally due her and/or her child or children; and
4. The offender denied the woman and/or her child or children the financial support for the purpose of causing the woman and/or her child or children mental or emotional anguish.
The Supreme Court said that the prosecution failed to establish the third and fourth elements of the crime. Although it is undeniable that the husband eventually failed to send financial support to the wife, there was no allegation or proof that the husband willfully or deliberately did this for purpose of causing his wife mental and emotional anguish. His failure to provide financial support to his wife was because he was spending for his father’s hospitalization due to liver and lung cancer.
The Court further noted that, the wife never even tried to reach out to the husband or asked him to provide her financial support. The fact that she did not do anything whatsoever to get support prior to filing the criminal case casts serious doubt on her claim that she needed it.
In resolution, the decision of the Court of Appeals was said to be an unfair ruling which mistakenly tended to establish a unilateral and not a reciprocal obligation of support between the spouses. “Although R.A. No. 9262 was enacted to protect women, it did not intend to limit or discount their capacity to provide for and support themselves. The law cannot presume that women are weak and disadvantaged victims.” The wife was a person fully capable of providing for herself. She was gainfully employed as a massage therapist and owner of a sari-sari store. “She was not a destitute victim who had no choice but to depend on her husband’s money to live. It would be greatly erroneous to interpret and apply the law in a manner that will perpetuate gender disparities that should not exist.”
How to Seek Legal Assistance
If you are being subjected to violence under RA 9262, immediately get in touch with an experienced lawyer who specializes in family law and domestic violence cases who will assist you. The lawyers in Duran & Duran-Schulze Law have extensive knowledge of the law and can provide you with the guidance and support needed to navigate the complex legal system.
In filing a case for RA 9262, it is advisable that you gather your evidence that supports your case, which could include documentation of financial support provided or lack thereof, as well as any other evidence that demonstrates your situation. It is essential to have all relevant information organized and ready for your lawyer’s review.
When seeking legal assistance, considering filing a Petition Protection Order. A protection order is an order issued for the purpose of preventing further acts of violence against a woman or her child specified and granting other necessary relief. The protection orders that may be issued are the barangay protection order (BPO), temporary protection order (TPO) and permanent protection order (PPO). This can help ensure your safety during legal proceedings and beyond.
If you decide to pursue legal action, you must be prepared to testify and provide evidence in court if necessary. This can be a difficult and emotional process, but it is vital for achieving justice.
Lastly, seek support from friends, family, or a therapist during the legal process. Domestic violence can have serious psychological effects and having a strong support system can make all the difference. Remember, you are not alone, and there are people who care about your well-
In conclusion, it is important to understand that while mere failure or inability to provide financial support to the wife is not automatically punishable under VAWC (RA 9262), there is still a moral and legal obligation under the Family Code of the Philippines to provide financial support.
RA 9262 aims to protect women and their children from any form of violence or abuse, including economic abuse. If you are a victim of economic abuse or any other form of violence under RA 9262, seek legal assistance immediately.
Remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a step towards empowerment and freedom.