SC to Congress: Change penalty in child abuse law


The Supreme Court En Banc has directed that a copy of its March 12, 2019 decision in People v. Tulagan, GR No. 227363, be furnished Congress as reference for possible statutory amendments on the maximum penalty for lascivious conduct under RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act).

Specifically, the Court referred to the maximum penalty for lascivious conduct under RA 7610, Section 5(b), Article III when the child victim is under 12 years of age (reclusion temporal medium) and when the victim is 12 years old and below 18, or 18 or older under special circumstances, i.e., are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition (reclusion temporal medium to reclusion perpetua) under Section 3(a).

The Court noted that despite the clear intent of RA 7610 to provide for stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, the penalty for violation of Section 5(b) when the victim is under 12 years old is lower than the penalty when the victim is 12 years old and below 18. “It is a basic rule in statutory construction that what courts may correct to reflect the real and apparent intention of the legislature are only those which are clearly clerical errors or obvious mistakes, omissions, and misprints, but not those due to oversight, as shown by a review of extraneous circumstances, where the law is clear, and to correct it would be to change the meaning of the law. Thus, a corrective legislation is the proper remedy to address the noted incongruent penalties for acts of lasciviousness committed against a child,” the Court stated.

The Court also fixed the award of civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages in Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), Acts of Lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of RA 7610, Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of RA 7610, Sexual Assault under paragraph 2, Article 266-A of the RPC, and Sexual Assault in relation to Section 5(b) of RA 7610 as follows:
Crime Civil Indemnity Moral Damages Exemplary Damages
Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC [Victim is of legal age] ₱20,000.00 ₱20,000.00 ₱20,000.00
Acts of lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 [Victim is a child under 12 years old or is demented] ₱50,000.00 ₱50,000.00 ₱50,000.00
Sexual Abuse or Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 [Victim is a child 12 years old and below 18, or above 18 under special circumstances] ₱75,000.00 (If penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua) ₱75,000.00 (If penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua) ₱75,000.00 (If penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua)
₱50,000.00 (If penalty imposed is within the range of reclusion temporal medium) ₱50,000.00 (If penalty imposed is within the range of reclusion temporal medium) ₱50,000.00 (If penalty imposed is within the range of reclusion temporal medium)
Sexual Assault under Article 266-A(2) of the RPC [Victim is of legal age] ₱30,000.00 ₱30,000.00 ₱30,000.00
Sexual Assault under Article 266-A(2) of the RPC in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 [Victim is a child under 12 years old or is demented] ₱50,000.00 ₱50,000.00 ₱50,000.00

Furthermore, the Court reiterated its previous rulings that (1) Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 penalizes not only child prostitution, the essence of which is profit, but also other forms of sexual abuse wherein a child engages in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct through coercion or influence and 2) that it is inconsequential that the sexual abuse occurred only once considering Section 5, Article III of RA 7610, which explicitly states that a child is deemed “exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse” when the child engages in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct for money, profit or any other consideration, or under the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group as well as Section 3(b), Article I thereof, which clearly provides that the term “child abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes sexual abuse.

The Court thus affirmed with modifications the conviction of accused-appellant Salvador Tulagan by the Regional Trial Court of San Carlos City, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA). It found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Sexual Assault under paragraph 2, Article 266-A of the RPC, in relation to Section 5(b) of RA 7610, in Criminal Case No. SCC-6210 and sentenced him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of twelve (12) years, ten (10) months, and twenty-one (21) days of reclusion temporal, as minimum, to fifteen (15) years, six (6) months, and twenty (20) days of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The Court also ordered him to pay the amounts of ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱50,000.00 as exemplary damages. It likewise found him guilty of Statutory Rape under Article 266-A(1)(d) and penalized in Article 266-B of the RPC,in Criminal Case No. SCC-6211, and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordered him to pay the victim the amounts of ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱75,000.00 as exemplary damages

The Court also directed that copies of its decision be furnished the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the Court Administrator, and the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals for their guidance and information.

Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Justice Marvic Mario Victor M. Leonen, and Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa wrote separate opinions.

SOURCE: Supreme Court (2019). SC Calls for Possible Statutory Amendments on the Maximum Penalty for Lascivious Conduct Against Minors Under RA 7610. May 22, 2019. sc.judiciary.gov.ph/3747. http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/2825/

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