Court/Judicial body: Supreme Court of the Philippines
Date: 11 July 2002 CRC
Provisions: Article 39: Rehabilitative care
Domestic provisions: Section 5(b), Article III, Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act: Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse shall be imprisoned. Section 31, Article XII, Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act: In cases of sexual abuse, the maximum penalty shall be imposed when the perpetrator is a parent, guardian, step parent or relative of the child victim. The imposition of an additional fine at the discretion of the court is permitted, such fine is to be administered as a cash fund by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and disbursed for the rehabilitation of the child victim.
Background: This case is an appeal by Jose Abadies y Claveria against a conviction of sexually molesting and abusing his daughter. He was found guilty of molesting the girl in the absence of the girl’s mother on various occasions. In the last instance of abuse, he had brought her to a vacant house where he molested and threatened to kill and rape her. The girl managed to escape and on arriving home revealed to her mother the final incident and all past abuses. A police report was made immediately and the accused was arrested and subsequently convicted of sexual abuse by the regional court. During his trial, a letter, which he wrote to his daughter seeking forgiveness, was also provided as evidence at his trial, along with the girl’s testimony. In the current appeal, the accused argued that the fact that the daughter had not reported the alleged abuses earlier amounted to an implied pardon of his acts and that there exists no factual basis for the trial court to consider his plea of forgiveness in the letter as an implied admission of guilt.
Issue and resolution: Sexual abuse of children. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and rejected the accused’s appeal. The judgment explained in detail the court’s process of assessing evidence in compliance with child rights laws and obligations in the Philippines. The Court also ordered the accused appellant to pay an additional fine for moral damages caused.
Court reasoning: The Supreme Court began its analysis of the appeal by reasserting the value of the oral testimony given by the girl at trial. The trial court had probed into the evidence to assess the daughter’s credibility and found that her testimony deserved full faith and credit as it was straightforward and free from contradiction as to any material point. On the other hand, the accused’s simple denial of the charges was found inherently weak and not supported by any other evidence of non-culpability. The Court rejected the argument that a pardon could be implied from the girl’s silence about previous instances of abuse. They found it was the girl’s fear which stopped her from reporting the incidents to her mother. The rules of criminal procedure provide that a pardon must be clear and express and cannot be based on a hazy deduction. Regarding the letter, the Court held that an offer of compromise or plea for forgiveness by the accused may be received in evidence as an implied admission of guilt as no one would ask for forgiveness unless he had committed some wrong. The plea for forgiveness from the accused’s letter to his daughter which was presented as evidence reflects an implied admission of guilt. Therefore, the Court concluded that the sentence is in accordance with the law and also consistent with the state’s obligation to protect children from exploitation and abuse and that the additional fine imposed is permitted by law and consistent with the legitimate aim of supporting rehabilitation of child victims under the CRC and Philippino law.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights This provision [additional fine] is in accord with Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the Philippines became a party on August 21, 1990, which stresses the duty of states parties to ensure the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of abused and exploited children in an environment which fosters their self-respect and human dignity. As a final note, we deem it relevant to stress the escalating awareness and concern for the protection of the rights of children. The need of children for special protection was given recognition by the nations of the world as early as 1924 when the assembly of the League of Nations endorsed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (commonly known as The Declaration of Geneva) which focused on children’s welfare, specifically their economic, psychological and social needs. Reaffirming the fact that children need special care and protection because of their vulnerability, and the vital role of international cooperation in securing children’s rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted on November 20, 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which incorporates the full range of human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – of children. The Convention stresses the duty of the state to take all the necessary steps to protect children from being sexually abused (as in rape, molestation and incest) or exploited (forced or induced into prostitution, pornographic performances and others). It is reassuring to note that we are not lagging far behind on the domestic front. Over the past years, Congress has enacted a number of laws relating to the protection of children’s welfare and rights, while the executive department has issued various executive orders and proclamations in order to give teeth to the implementation and enforcement of these laws. These international instruments and national legislation emphasize that the primordial consideration in deciding issues and cases involving children is the welfare and best interests of the child. For its part, the Supreme Court has issued Administrative Circular No. 23-95 enjoining trial courts to act with dispatch on all cases involving children, including but not limited to pedophilia, child labor and child abuse cases. To date, procedural rules applicable specifically to cases involving children have already been approved by the Court such as the Rules on Examination of a Child Witness, on Commitment of Children, and on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law. Our duty does not end here though. As the highest court of the land, it is incumbent upon us to give life to all these covenants, agreements, and statutes by enriching and enhancing our jurisprudence on child abuse cases, bearing in mind always the welfare and protection of children.
CRIN comments: CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC. States must take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of sexual abuse. States must also ensure children’s access to justice and provide an effective remedy for any violation of the rights of the child.
Citation: G.R. Nos. 139346-50
Link to full judgement: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2002/jul2002/139346_50.htm