Psychological violence is an intentional conduct

Psychological violence is an intentional conduct
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Dear PAO,

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My former girlfriend, with whom I have a minor child, filed a complaint against me for violation of Section 5(i) of Republic Act (RA) 9262, citing my failure to provide additional funds for our child’s tuition. She claims this has caused her mental anguish. Our problem started after she decided to transfer our child to an expensive school, a move I opposed due to the high tuition that I could not afford. Despite this, I still contribute to our child’s tuition on top of the regular monthly allowance, though my contributions are insufficient given my limited income. Is my mere failure to provide additional support punishable under the said law?

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Ronald

Dear Ronald,

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Before the Supreme Court promulgated its decision in Acharon vs. People (GR 224946, Nov. 9, 2021), through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, mere proof of mental or emotional anguish suffered by the woman and/or her child or children as a result of the acts of the accused constituted a violation of RA 9262. However, in the case of Acharon, the Supreme Court introduced the concept of criminal intent. This means that to convict the accused under Section 5(i) of RA 9262, it must be shown that the denial (and not mere failure or inability) to provide financial support was purposely intended to cause the woman or child mental or emotional anguish.

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This concept was reiterated in the latest decision in the case of XXX v. People, GR 256759, Nov. 13, 2023, penned by Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr., viz.:

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“Verily, psychological violence is defined as any intentional conduct that seriously impairs another person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats. It includes a range of behaviors that encompass acts of emotional abuse and controlling behavior. These often coexist with physical and sexual violence by intimate partners and are acts of violence in themselves. It is thus an indispensable element of violation of Section 5(i) of RA 9262.

“In Acharon v. People, the Court En Banc, through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, expounded that the crime contemplated under Section 5(i) of RA 9262 is mala in se, despite it being a special penal law x x x

“It is not enough, therefore, for the woman to experience mental or emotional anguish or for her partner to deny financial support that is legally due her. In order for criminal liability to arise under Section 5(i) of RA 9262, insofar as it deals with ‘denial of financial support,’ there must, therefore, be evidence on record that the accused willfully or consciously withheld financial support legally due the woman for the purpose of inflicting mental or emotional anguish upon her.” (Emphasis in the original)

Applying the foregoing to your situation, it is clear that your mere failure to provide sufficient financial support for your child is not enough to convict you for violation of Section 5(i) of RA 9262. Your former girlfriend has the burden of proving that you have the intent of inflicting mental or emotional anguish upon her by your willful denial (and not mere failure or inability) to provide financial support for your minor child. Otherwise, your acquittal must ensue.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated on.


Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]



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