Published 23 June 2023, The Daily Tribune

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court had to reiterate that the mere failure of a husband to provide financial support does not automatically make him criminally liable under Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act.

The case, XXX  v People of the Philippines (GR 255877, 29 March 2023), involved a seafarer husband who was accused by his wife of committing psychological violence and economic abuse by abandoning her and denying financial support, under Section 5 (i) of RA 9262.

The trial court convicted the husband, as charged. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

In the husband’s appeal to the Supreme Court, he argued that he should not have been convicted of Section 5 (i) of RA 9262, since his wife never demanded support, and that she simply took advantage of the law when things were no longer smooth between them.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the husband and acquitted him. Citing the previous case of Acharon v People of the Philippines (GR 224946, 9 November 2021), the Supreme Court emphasized that violation of Section 5 (i) of RA 9262 presupposes the husband’s willful refusal to give or consciously deny financial support.

The High Court said: It was clarified in Acharon that the commission of this crime through denial of financial support is mala in se and thus requires the presence of criminal intent. The mere failure to provide financial support is insufficient to support a conviction. It must be proven that the accused willfully and consciously denied financial support legally due to the woman inflicting mental or emotional anguish upon her.

Crimes mala in se are inherently wrongful acts considered immoral or evil, while crimes mala prohibita are offenses created by law and are considered wrong solely because they are prohibited by statute. In crimes mala in se, the prosecution must prove that the offender acted with criminal intent, but not so in crimes mala prohibita.

Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that the husband could not be criminally liable for failure to give support without a prior demand from the wife. The Court also cited Article 203 of the Family Code which states that “the obligation to give support shall be demandable from the time the person who has a right to receive the same needs it for maintenance, but it shall not be paid except from the date of judicial or extrajudicial demand.”

In this case, the Supreme Court noted that the wife never tried to communicate with her husband regarding support.

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