SC clears woman of child abuse, jails her for 10 days


CASE DIGEST: [G.R. No. 226991. December 10, 2018] ERLINDA ESCOLANO Y IGNACIO, PETITIONER, V. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

Petitioner was charged with violation of Sec. 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610. Petitioner pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.

AAA testified that he was 11 years old at the time of the incident; that on May 29, 2009, at around eleven o'clock in the morning, he and his two brothers: BBB, 9 years old, and CCC, 8 years old, were flying paper planes from the third floor of their house when the planes landed in front of the house of Perlin, the daughter of petitioner. Perlin uttered "putang ina" directed at CCC.

The following day, the siblings saw Perlin in front of their house. Private complainants got three ketchup sachets from their refrigerator and threw these at her. However, Perlin went inside their house so it was petitioner who was twice hit instead by the sachets. Petitioner exclaimed, "Putang ina ninyo, gago kayo, wala kayong pinag-aralan, wala kayong utak, subukan ninyong bumaba dito, pakakawalan ko ang aso ko, pakakagat ko kayo sa aso ko."

When DDD confronted petitioner, the latter uttered "nagpuputa ka, puta-puta ka. " Petitioner then went inside her house, came out with a bolo, and threatened DDD, "walang demanda demanda sa akin, basta bumaba kayo dito lahat, papatayin ko kayong lahat. Tatagain ko kayo, papatayin ko kayo." The incident left private complainants terrified. They only went downstairs when they had a companion; and they no longer played as they usually did. BBB and CCC corroborated AAA's testimony that they threw ketchup sachets at Perlin because she uttered bad words against CCC.

The RTC and the CA agreed to convict. It held that the acts of petitioner caused untoward repercussions in the life and dignity of private complainants. The incident made hostile the environment for private complainants where they could no longer freely live and enjoy their childhood and were forced to move out. Private complainants were even deprived of their chance to play games and enjoy leisure time within their own home.

ISSUE: WHETHER THE CA ERRED IN AFFIRMING PETITIONER'S CONVICTION OF VIOLATION OF SECTION 10(A) OF R.A. NO. 7610.

HELD: The petition is PARTIALLY meritorious. WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. Erlinda Escolano y Ignacio is GUILTY of Other Light Threats under Article 285 of the Revised Penal Code. She is hereby sentenced to suffer the straight penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) days of arresto menor and to pay the costs of suit.

Well settled is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. Nevertheless, here, one of the exceptions exists – that the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts. To finally resolve the factual dispute, the Court deems it proper to tackle the factual question presented.

Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610 requires an intent to debase, degrade, or demean the intrinsic worth of a child victim.

Verily, Sec. 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610, in relation thereto, Sec. 3(b) of the same law, highlights that in child abuse, the act by deeds or words must debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being. Debasement is defined as the act of reducing the value, quality, or purity of something; degradation, on the other hand, is a lessening of a person's or thing's character or quality; while demean means to lower in status, condition, reputation or character.

When this element of intent to debase, degrade or demean is present, the accused shall be convicted of violating Sec. 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610, which carries a heavier penalty compared to that of slight physical injuries or other light threats under the RPC.

In this case, the Court finds that the act of petitioner in shouting invectives against private complainants DOES NOT constitute child abuse under the foregoing provisions of R.A. No. 7610. Petitioner had NO INTENTION to debase the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child. It was rather an act carelessly done out of anger. The circumstances surrounding the incident proved that petitioner's act of uttering invectives against the minors AAA, BBB, and CCC was done in the heat of anger.

Also, the utterances against private complainants were made because there was provocation from the latter. AAA, BBB, and CCC were throwing ketchup sachets at petitioner's daughter Perlin.The subsequent profanities and alleged hacking gestures were NOT directed against private complainants.

It must be emphasized that the alleged hacking gestures and the expression "putang ina mo" were not specifically directed to the children; rather, these were made against DDD, their mother.

Notably, DDD filed a separate criminal complaint for grave threats against petitioner because petitioner brandished a bolo against her. The present case is only concerned with the acts committed by petitioner against private complainants; and not those committed against DDD which purportedly constituted grave threats.

Further, DDD conceded that the profanity hurled by petitioner was directed at her. The expression "putang ina mo" is a common enough utterance in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. In fact, more often, it is just an expletive that punctuates one’s expression of profanity.

Thus, it cannot be held with moral certainty that the purported hacking gestures and profanities subsequently hurled by petitioner were intended for private complainants.

Petitioner committed the crime of other light threats.


Nevertheless, though the prosecution failed to prove the intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth of private complainants, petitioner still uttered insults and invectives at them.  Petitioner merely intended that private complainants stop their rude behavior. Thus, petitioner committed the crime of Other Light Threats under Article 285(2) of the RPC.

In grave threats, the wrong threatened to be committed amounts to a crime which may or may not be accompanied by a condition. In light threats, the wrong threatened does not amount to a crime but is always accompanied by a condition. In other light threats, the wrong threatened does not amount to a crime and there is no condition.

Here, the threat made by petitioner of releasing her dogs to chase private complainants was expressed in the heat of anger. Petitioner was merely trying to make private complainants stop throwing ketchup sachets at her. However, instead of doing so, private complainants still continued to throw ketchup sachets against petitioner, which infuriated the latter causing her to utter invectives against private complainants.

Given the surrounding circumstances, the offense committed falls under Article 285, par. 2 (other light threats) since: (1) threat does not amount to a crime, and (2) the prosecution did not establish that petitioner persisted in the idea involved in her threat.

Assuming arguendo that private complainants were also affected and distressed by the threat made by petitioner against DDD in brandishing a bolo, such act is still within the ambit of Other Light Threats under Article 285 (1). Thus, for threatening private complainants, petitioner is criminally liable for Other Light Threats under Article 285 of the Revised Penal Code. She must suffer the straight penalty of imprisonment of 10 days of arresto menor and to pay the costs of suit.

[1] Gepulle-Garbo v. Spouses Garabato, et al., 750 Phil. 846, 854-855 (2015).
[2] Carbonell v. Carbonell-Mendes, 762 Phil. 529, 537 (2015).
[3] Section 3(b), Article I, Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, Republic Act No. 7610, June 17, 1992.
[4] Jabalde v. People, 787 Phil. 255, 269-270 (2016), citing Black's Law Dictionary 430 (8th ed. 2004) and Webster's Third New International Dictionary 599 (1986).
[5] Under Sec. 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610, the offender shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period; while under the RPC, if the offender commits slight physical injuries or other light threats, he shall suffer the penalty of arresto menor.
[6] 707 Phil. 11 (2013).
[7] G.R. No. 217764, August 7, 2017.
[8] Jabalde v. People, supra note 25, at 269-270.
[9] Pader v. People, 381 Phil. 932, 936 (2000), citing Reyes v. People, 131 Phil. 112, 120 (1969).
[10] Caluag v. People, 599 Phil. 717, 727 (2009).

Popular Posts