There were discussions about a proposed law which seeks to penalize the refusal or failure of “any person” to pay “legal child support.” This refers to the proposed “Child Support Enforcement Act” (House Bill No. 6079 during the 16th Congress; House Bill No. 387 during the 17th Congress), which seeks to penalize the refusal or failure of “any person” to give legal child support without justifiable cause. While the proposed law covers “any person”, reading the provisions gives the impression that it basically threatens the father of the child with imprisonment in case of failure or refusal to give support.
The proposed “Child Support Enforcement Act” was not passed. Nevertheless, there are existing laws applicable to child support in the Philippines. These are:
FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES
- (1) The spouses;
- (2) Legitimate ascendants and descendants;
- (3) Parents and their legitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;
- (4) Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;
- (5) Legitimate brothers and sisters, whether of full or half-blood; and
- (6) Brothers and sisters not legitimately related, whether of the full or half-blood, except only when the need for support of the brother or sister, being of age, is due to a cause imputable to the claimant’s fault or negligence.
Parents have the legal duty to support their children, whether legitimate or illegitimate. As to the amount, it is proportional to the resources or means of the giver and the necessities of the recipient. The father and the mother may agree on the amount and manner of payment of child support.
In the absence of such agreement, the court will decide the matter based on the applicable provisions of the Family Code. It is important to note that the decision of the court is never final, considering that support is based on the child’s needs, which may change, and the parent’s capacity to pay, which may also change.
ANTI-VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN ACT OF 2004
The “Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004“ (Republic Act No. 9262) defines specific offenses which can only be committed by the father/husband/partner against the child/wife. The Anti-VAWC law is specifically directed against men, which is what the proposed “Child Support Enforcement Act” sought to cover.
R.A. 9262 covers economic abuse. Acts of violence against women and their children include: “causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children of access to the woman’s child/children.”
The father may also be made criminally liable for acts committed with the purpose or effect of controlling or restricting the woman’s or her child’s movement or conduct. These acts include depriving or threatening to deprive the woman or her children of financial support legally due her or her family, or deliberately providing the woman’s children insufficient financial support.
These are acts penalized as separate crimes under R.A. 9262, punishable with imprisonment.