CASE BRIEF 2019-0012

CASE: Evangeline Patulot vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 235071 January 07, 2019)

FACTS:
As she was about to enter the house, CCC, after gathering clothes from the clothesline outside her house, was surprised to see Patulot who was holding a casserole. Without warning, Patulot poured the contents of the casserole – hot cooking oil – on her. AAA and BBB, both minors, who were nearby, suddenly cried because they were likewise hit by the hot cooking oil. CCC hurriedly brought AAA and BBB to her three neighbors who volunteered to bring the children to the hospital, for treatment. She then went to the barangay hall also at South Signal, Taguig City, to report the incident.

The doctor, who examined and treated CCC and her children, testified that the injuries suffered by AAA and BBB would heal for an average period of thirty (30) days. Next, DDD testified that he incurred P7,440.00 in medical expenses for his wife and children.

The Regional Trial Court found Patulot guilty of child abuse under R.A. 7610.

The CA affirms Patulot’s conviction.

Aggrieved, Patulot elevated the case to the Supreme Court, invoking the following arguments:

She (Patulot) can only be convicted of physical injuries and not child abuse. Citing the case, Bongalon v. People, she submits that not every instance of laying hands on a child constitutes the crime of child abuse under Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610. Only when the laying of hands is shown to be intended to debase, degrade, or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being should it be punished as child abuse. Otherwise, it is punished under the RPC. Thus, in the absence of such intention on the part of Patulot, her true intention being to pour hot oil only on CCC with AAA and BBB being merely accidentally hit, she cannot be convicted of child abuse.

ISSUE:

Is there a need to prove that the acts where intended to debase, degrade, or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being should it be punished as child abuse?

RULING:

NO.

Patulot contends that on the basis of our pronouncement in Bongalon, she cannot be convicted of child abuse because it was not proven that she intended to debase, degrade, or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of AAA and BBB as human beings. Her reliance on said ruling, however, is misplaced. In Bongalon, the Information specifically charged George Bongalon, petitioner therein, of committing acts which “are prejudicial to the child’s development and which demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the said child as a human being.”Thus, we ruled that he can only be held liable for slight physical injuries instead of child abuse in the absence of proof that he intended to humiliate or “debase the ‘intrinsic worth and dignity'”of the victim.

A cursory review of the Informations in the instant case, however, reveals no similar allegation that Patulot’s acts debased, degraded, or demeaned the intrinsic worth and dignity of AAA and BBB as human beings. Instead, they charged Patulot for willfully committing acts of child abuse on AAA and BBB “by throwing on them boiling oil, thereby inflicting upon said victim-minor physical injuries, which acts are inimical and prejudicial to the child’s normal growth and development.”

There are distinct acts punishable under R.A. No. 7610, to wit: (a) child abuse, (b) child cruelty, (c) child exploitation and (d) being responsible for conditions prejudicial to the child’s development.

R.A. No. 7610 and its Rules and Regulations distinctly and separately defined child abuse, cruelty and exploitation just to show that these three acts are different from one another and from the act prejudicial to the child’s development. Contrary to Patulot’s assertion, an accused can be prosecuted and be convicted under Section 10(a), Article VI of Republic Act No. 7610 if he commits any of the four acts therein. The prosecution need not prove that the acts of child abuse, child cruelty and child exploitation have resulted in the prejudice of the child because an act prejudicial to the development of the child is different from the former acts.

Neither can Patulot argue that in the absence of intention on her part to harm AAA and BBB, she cannot be convicted of child abuse because she merely intended on committing physical injuries against CCC.

“When the acts complained of are inherently immoral, they are deemed mala in se, even if they are punished by a special law. Accordingly, criminal intent must be clearly established with the other elements of the crime; otherwise, no crime is committed.”

The petitioner was convicted of violation of Section 10(a), Article VI of R.A. No. 7610, a special law. However, physical abuse of a child is inherently wrong, rendering material the existence of a criminal intent on the part of the offender.

Patulot’s criminal intent is not wanting for as she expressly admitted, she intended on pouring hot cooking oil on CCC. As such, even granting that it was not her intention to harm AAA and BBB, she was performing an unlawful act when she threw the hot oil from her casserole on CCC. She cannot, therefore, escape liability from the same in view of the settled doctrine that  a person incurs criminal liability although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

ANNOTATIONS:

In this case, we learned two (2) things:

  1. There are four (4) distinct acts punished under 7610, namely:
  2. child abuse, (b) child cruelty, (c) child exploitation and (d) being responsible for conditions prejudicial to the child’s development
  3. The prosecution need not prove that the acts of child abuse, child cruelty and child exploitation have resulted in the prejudice of the child because an act prejudicial to the development of the child is different from the former acts.

Therefore, if the accused is charged of Child Abuse, Child Cruelty, or Child Exploitation, there is no need to prove that these acts are prejudicial to the development of the child. But if the Information charged the accused of “acts prejudicial to the child’s development and which demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the said child as a human being” (as in the case of Bongalon), then, there is a need for the prosecution to prove that, indeed, the acts are prejudicial to the development of the child, otherwise, the accused could only be found guilty of the lower offense of physical injury.

Read Full Text: Evangeline Patulot vs. People of the Philippines G.R. No. 235071, January 07, 2019