When we hear RA 9262 or VAWC, what immediately comes to mind is a woman or her child being abused by the woman’s husband or partner. After all, RA 9262 is called the “Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act.” It is a law that primarily protects and benefits a woman, such that a man once dared to question the constitutionality of the law for violating the equal protection clause and for being unfair to men, which ended up for naught (see Garcia vs Drilon, G.R. 179267, 25 June 2013).
Thus, the idea of a man suing a woman for violation of RA 9262 was understood to be unthinkable. But perhaps not anymore.
In the recent case of Knutson vs Hon. Flores (G.R. 239215, 12 July 2022), the Supreme Court clarified that a father may apply for a protection order under RA 9262 on behalf of his child against the latter’s mother who is alleged to have committed abuses against the child.
The case involved Randy Michael Knutson, an American citizen, his Filipina wife, Rosalina Sibal Knutson, and their minor daughter, Rhuby. Randy found out that Rosalina had been verbally and physically abusing Rhuby and had been consuming dangerous drugs in the presence of their daughter. Thus, Randy filed a petition for the issuance of a Temporary and Permanent Protection Order against Rosalina.
The trial court, however, dismissed the petition, finding that protection and custody orders under RA 9262 cannot be issued against the child’s mother for whom the benefits of RA 9262 were intended.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, it sided with the father and held that RA 9262 allows the father of the offended party, in this case, the victimized Rhuby, to apply for protection and custody orders.
First, the Supreme Court cited Section 9 (b) of RA 9262 which explicitly allows “parents or guardians of the offended party” to file a petition for protection orders. The Supreme Court noted that the law did not qualify which parent of the victim may apply for protection orders. Thus, it follows that the father, as a parent, is not disqualified from filing a petition for a protection order in favor of his child.
Second, the Supreme Court ruled that RA 9262 may also cover a situation where the mother committed violent and abusive acts against her own child.
Section 3(a) of RA 9262 defines violence against women and their children as “any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
In arriving at its conclusion, the Supreme Court also cited the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the comments of the Committee of the Rights of the Child, that “all forms of violence against children, however light, are unacceptable. x x x Frequency, severity of harm and intent to harm are not prerequisites for the definitions of violence.”
The World Health Organization said that “[v]iolence against children includes all forms of violence against people under 18 years old, whether perpetrated by parents or other caregivers, peers, romantic partners, or strangers.”
Verily, mothers may be offenders in the context of RA 9262. The Court finds no substantial distinction between fathers and mothers who abused their children that warrants a different treatment or exemption from the law. Any violence is reprehensible and harmful to the child’s dignity and development.
Thus, the Supreme Court issued the Permanent Protection Order in favor of Rhuby.
The Daily Tribune