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The Legal Action To Take If You Or Your Child Needs Protection Against Verbal Abuse
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  • What are your rights if your spouse is verbally abusive to you and your child?

    This was the question Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno entertained through his Facebook page Atty. Chel Diokno Free Legal Helpdesk. Atty Diokno currently serves as chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG.

    Philippine law protects women and children against violence

    The question sender, who says she was “asking for a friend,’ narrates that her friend has an 18-year-old daughter diagnosed with depression. One major factor that contributed to her daughter’s depression was a verbally abusive father.

    “My friend wanted to run away from home but (because she) resigned from her job (she is now) dependent financially on the husband.” The message sender added that her friend’s psychiatrist asked her to leave the husband for her and her daughter’s sake.

    “What legal action can her friend take?” the message sender asked.

    According to Diokno, the law protects women and children through Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Act Against Women and Children or VAWC.

    “Pinagbabawal ng batas na ito ang psychological violence,” the lawyer explains. “Saklaw nito ang harassment ang pagdudulot ng emotional anguish sa babaeng kalaguyo o dating kalaguyo at sa mga anak nito.”

    Diokno adds that psychological violence is punishable under the law by either jail time or a fine.

    What acts are considered ‘violence against women and children?

    “Pagdating sa psychological violence against children, ang itinutukoy ng batas na children ay yung 18 years old and below,” Diokno clarifies. “Kung over 18 sila, sakop pa rin sila kung sila ay unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of physical or mental instability or condition.”

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    Outside of these conditions, a mother and her children are still protected by the provisions under VAWC if they experience abuse from the father, expounds Diokno.

    Then, citing Section 5 (h) of the Law, he enumerates the acts that constitute the crime of psychological violence and harassment:

    • Stalking or following the woman or her child in public or private places
    • Peering in the window or lingering outside the residence of the woman or her child
    • Entering or remaining in the dwelling or on the property of the woman or her child against their will
    • Destroying the property and personal belongings or inflicting harm to animals or pets of the woman or her child
    • Engaging in any form of harassment or violence

    Diokno further quotes Section 5 (i), which states that “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” is an act of violence against women and children.

    What to do if you are experiencing abuse

    Apart from filing a case against the abuser under VAWC, a mother may apply for a barangay protection order first, specified under Section 8 of the VAWC Act.

    “Maaring humingi ng Barangay Protection Order or tinatawag na BPO sa Barangay Hall,” says Diokno. “Ang BPO ay nagalalyong ilayo ang babae o pamilya at pigilan ang anumang dahas at ano mang pinasala na pwdeng gawin na nakakasakit sa kanya. Ang hindi pagsunod sa BPO ay maaring isumbong sa pulis at ito ay may karampatang parusa.”

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    The victim may proceed to the Violence Against Women Desk in her respective barangay to avail this protection.

    Diokno also recommended that the question sender’s friend consult a lawyer by checking with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), which provides legal assistance.

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