Parents-in-law Liable for VAWC

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The enactment of RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 marked a milestone in Philippine legal history. The law is meant to protect women and their children who are the usual victims of violence in our so called patriarchal and macho society. For some, RA 9262 tilts the law even further in favour of women and men are once again relegated as antagonists. Let us be clear: RA 9262 is not anti-men but it intends to protect women and their children. Generally, though men are the usual offenders it is not always the case. There are other persons who may be held liable under VAWC as in the case of Tan vs. Spouses Tan, G.R. No. 168852, 30 September 2008.

Tan vs. Spouses Tan

Sharica Marie and Steven were married and had two children. Alleging that she was a victim of verbal, psychological and economic abuse, she filed a compliant and prayed for the issuance of a Temporary Protection Order against her husband Steven and her parents-in-law for conspiring to commit the acts in violation of RA 9262. The Regional Trial Court issued the TPO against Steven and his parents but the latter opposed claiming that they cannot be covered by RA 9262 since they are not among those mentioned by said law who can be held liable. The RTC eventually dismissed the case against the spouses. Sharica went all the way to the Supreme Court on pure question of law whether her parents-in-law can be held liable under the VAWC Law.

Liable as Conspirators

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Sharica and decreed that her in-laws may be held liable as conspirators. According to the Court: “While the said provision provides that the offender be related or connected to the victim by marriage, former marriage, or a sexual or dating relationship, it does not preclude the application of the principle of conspiracy under the RPC.” RA 9262 itself states that the provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) shall have suppletory application. Since the law is silent about the liability of a person as conspirator, the RPC will then be applied to supplement RA 9262. Yet even without applying the principle of conspiracy, the law itself states in (h) Sec. 5 that the crime can be committed by the offender by “Engaging in purposeful, knowing, or reckless conduct, personally or through another…” The Supreme Court did not uphold the view of the Regional Trial Court that the “in-laws” are not covered by RA 9262 since only those having a relationship with the victim may be held liable: What the law does not include, it excludes. To strictly read the provisions of the law may defeat its very purpose. Section 4 of the law specifically states: “This Act shall be liberally construed to promote the protection and safety of victims of violence against women and their children.” The High Court added that “the express language of R.A. No. 9262 reflects the intent of the legislature for liberal construction as will best ensure the attainment of the object of the law according to its true intent, meaning and spirit – the protection and safety of victims of violence against women and children.” The inclusion of the “in-laws” within the coverage of the law as conspirators will best promote the intent of the legislature in enacting the law, which is the protection of women and their children.

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