Support is a two-way street

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

                Many supposed “providers” found themselves in a legal quagmire upon being charged with “economic abuse” under the anti-Violence Against Women and Children (anti-VAWC) law.

Economic abuse, in simple terms, is deemed committed through an act of “denial of financial support to a woman or her child or children” whom the perpetrator is supposed to support.

Being a social legislation, the anti-VAWC law was enacted to provide protection to the woman and her child or children against acts considered as abusive committed by the woman’s husband, partner (regardless of gender), or someone she is in a dating relationship with.

What became prevalent in Family court cases is “economic abuse” whereby the woman claims to have been “deprived of financial support”.

Is mere failure to give support a violation of the anti-VAWC law?

This column has previously written citing Acharon v People, G.R. No. 22496, November 9, 2021, that the mere failure to give support if based on justifiable reasons, does not amount to a crime. In Acharon, evidence disclosed that the accused was in jail for some other offense thus preventing him from finding a job to provide the support he was claimed to have failed to give. This is a valid excuse according to the Supreme Court which merited his acquittal.

                Recently, Acharon v People was reiterated. In XXX v People, G.R. No. 255877, which came down on March 29, 2023, it was concluded “that the commission of this crime through “denial of financial support” is mala in se and thus requires the presence of criminal intent. The mere failure to provide financial support is insufficient to support a conviction. It must be proven that the accused willfully and consciously denied financial support legally due to the woman for the purpose of inflicting mental or emotional anguish upon her.”

                Too, given that the commission of a crime must be propelled by a criminal mind, it was held in XXX v People that although a formal extrajudicial demand is not required, nonetheless, the accused must be informed “of the complainant’s need for support”, and if this column may add, “of the amount needed for the same”, before the criminal case is filed.

Finally, XXX v People underlined that the obligation to give support devolves on both spouses, not the husband or man alone. This is based on the simple rule of fairness that “support depends upon the means of the giver and the needs of the recipient”. Thus:  

“Lastly, it bears stressing that the obligation to provide support is imposed by the law mutually upon both spouses. The obligation is not a one-way street for the husband to support his wife. The wife has the identical obligation to provide support to her husband. The law certainly did not intend to impose a heavier burden on the husband to provide support for his wife, or institutionalize criminal prosecution as a measure to enforce support from him”. (XXX v People, G.R. No. 255877. March 29, 2023).

Indeed, the duty to provide support devolves on both the husband and the wife; and not the husband alone.

If “it takes two to tango”, then to “tango on” in life, both spouses must endeavor to help each other and support each other.

            (The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor, MCLE lecturer, bar reviewer and a book author. His website is