Supreme Court stands up for girl humiliated by boyfriend’s parents in 2004
A person who debases, degrades or demeans a child’s intrinsic worth and dignity as a human being can be held liable for damages under the Civil Code, the Supreme Court said in a decision on a case involving a couple who made degrading remarks against a 14-year-old girl in 2004.
In a decision promulgated in April but made public only recently, the high court’s Second Division dismissed the petition filed by a couple assailing a decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals that found them liable for damages for “harassing, intimidating and spreading false and malicious rumors” about their son’s girlfriend.
The appellate court’s ruling affirmed that of a regional trial court which ordered the couple in 2015 to pay jointly and severally P30,000 as moral damages, P20,000 as exemplary damages, and P30,000 as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.
But the high tribunal, in a 21-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, affirmed with modification the lower court’s resolution and imposed a legal interest rate of 6 percent per annum until the finality of the decision.
“[To] serve as a deterrent to future and subsequent parties from the commission of a similar offense, the exemplary damages are awarded not only to compensate respondents, but more importantly to remind the petitioners of their fundamental duty as parents, not only to rear our youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character, but also to serve as role models,” it said.
Based on court records, the couple disapproved of their son’s relationship with the victim and made malicious remarks against her in front of her classmates and schoolmates.
In addition, the boy’s mother called the victim a “flirt, prostitute, sexually aggressive and a woman with loose morals” on several occasions.
The couple, according to the girl’s parents, also spread rumors about their daughter, making them feel harassed, intimidated and exposed to repeated public ridicule and humiliation.
Their daughter, however, became depressed while her studies and standing as an honor student and student leader were affected, they added. Worse, she tried to commit suicide, prompting them to go to court.
In its ruling, the court noted that the boy’s parents tried to justify their actions by claiming parental authority over the victim.
“They are gravely mistaken. Their acts do not constitute the kind of parental authority contemplated by the Constitution as they are not [her] parents or legal guardians,” it said. “In any case, resorting to harsh and degrading methods of discipline cannot be countenanced by this court as it is contrary to public policy.” INQ
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