Criminal Law

Christian Acharon vs People of the Philippines

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G.R. No. 224946 – Criminal Law – Book II – Special Penal Laws – Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act – Section 5(i) – Economic Abuse must be Deliberate

Christian Acharon was an Overseas Filipino Worker. His wife sued her for economic abuse (violation of Section 5(i) of R.A. 9262) as Acharon, while being gainfully employed abroad, failed to provide financial support to his wife. Due to this, his wife was not able to pay off their debt – that debt was actually used by Acharon in going abroad. Acharon also maintained a paramour abroad and even told his wife to look for another man. The trial court convicted Acharon as it was proved that his failure to provide financial support to his wife caused her psychological stress. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.

ISSUE: Whether or not Acharon is guilty of economic abuse.

HELD: No. Firstly, it was improper for the trial court to receive evidence regarding Acharon’s infidelity. The Information against him only charged psychological abuse as a result of his failure to provide financial support.

The elements of Section 5(i) insofar as it deals with denial of financial support are as follows:

(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 whom 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.

Section 5(i), although a special penal law, is a mala in se. Thus, criminal intent must be established before a conviction may be had. In other words, to be punishable by Section 5(i) of R.A. 9262, it must ultimately be proven that the accused had the intent of inflicting mental or emotional anguish upon the woman, thereby inflicting psychological violence upon her, with the willful denial of financial support being the means selected by the accused to accomplish said purpose. Mere failure to provide financial support is not punishable by R.A. 9262. To be convicted under Section 5(i), the evidence must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to cause the victim mental or emotional anguish, or public ridicule or humiliation through the denial of – not the mere failure or inability to provide – financial support, which thereby resulted into psychological violence. In this case, the private complainant failed to adduce evidence that Acharon deliberately withheld financial support in order to cause her emotional anguish.

SIDE ISSUE: In the previous cases of Melgar vs. People (G.R. No. 223477, 14 February 2018, 826 Phil. 177) and Reyes vs. People (G.R. No. 232678, 3 July 3 2019, 907 SCRA 479), it was held that: (a) a charge for Section 5(i) necessarily includes a charge for Section 5(e) and (b) denial of financial support BY ITSELF is sufficient to support a conviction for violation of Section 5(e), is Acharon liable for violation of Section 5(e)?

NO. Melgar and Reyes are abandoned. It was wrong to interpret Section 5(e) to mean that denial of financial support PER SE or BY ITSELF is already a criminal violation. The language of Section 5( e) is clear: the denial of financial support, to be punishable, must have the “purpose or effect of controlling or restricting the woman’s movement or conduct.” To be sure, Section 5(e) uses the word “deprive” which, like the use of the word “denial” in Section 5(i), connotes willfulness and intention. The denial or deprivation of financial support under Section 5( e) is, therefore, an intentional act that has, for its purpose, to control or restrict the woman’s movement or conduct. The willful deprivation of financial support, therefore, is the actus reus of the offense, while the mens rea is the intention to control or restrict the woman’s conduct.

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