Failure to give meals on time = violence against women, children?

"Violence against women and their children" refers to any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty. (See Section 3 of Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 or Republic Act No. [RA] 9262)

"Dating relationship" refers to a situation wherein the parties live as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or are romantically involved over time and on a continuing basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary socialization between two individuals in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.

"Economic abuse" refers to acts that make or attempt to make a woman financially dependent which includes, but is not limited to the following: 1. withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds as defined in Article 73 of the Family Code; 2. deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources and the right to the use and enjoyment of the conjugal, community or property owned in common; 3. destroying household property; or 4. controlling the victims' own money or properties or solely controlling the conjugal money or properties.

"Psychological violence" refers to acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim such as but not limited to intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and mental infidelity. It includes causing or allowing the victim to witness the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a member of the family to which the victim belongs, or to witness pornography in any form or to witness abusive injury to pets or to unlawful or unwanted deprivation of the right to custody and/or visitation of common children.

One recent issue that has become popular all over the country is the alleged failure of a boyfriend to provide timely meal (or money for such purpose) to his girlfriend and their common child. There is no question that the relationship is covered by RA 9262; they are in a dating and sexual relationship and they have a common child.

The question now is this: is failure to provide timely meal (or money for such purpose) considered a crime under RA 9262, i.e., a form of violence against the woman and the child? There are two (2) views.

The first view is that it is not because "violence against a woman and her child" is a crime malum in se. It means that there must be a criminal intent and mere failure to provide meals on time is a usual scenario the family life of those who are not rich. If the answer were yes, the floodgates of hell will be opened, allowing criminal charges for a very common slice of life.

The second view is that it is. Failure to provide timely meals to one's common law wife and a common child is covered by RA 9262 which is a special law. Being under a special law, said crime is one malum prohibitum.

When an act is malum prohibitum, it is the commission of that act as defined by the law, and not the character or effect thereof, that determines whether or not the provision has been violated. The general rule is that acts punished under a special law are malum prohibitum. Being so, malice or criminal intent is completely immaterial. (G.R. Nos. 221849-50, April 04, 2016)

Since there is no clue in the deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2723, which became R.A. 9262, as to the nature of the offense (whether malum in se or malum prohibitum), the general rule may have to be resorted to. This, of course, is unless the Supreme Court declares otherwise.

If the second view is correct, the crime may be a form of psychological abuse or a form of economic abuse as discussed above.