“Harsh provisions”, like imprisonment, await non-custodial parents who refuse and neglect to pay child support if the proposed measure by Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Ruiz Daza becomes law.
Daza’s House Bill (HB) No. 44, entitled “An Act Ensuring Child Support and Penalizing Parental Refusal or Neglect Thereof”, “will have more teeth than any other similar existing or proposed law” as it imposes criminal liability on the non-payment of child support in cases when the parents separate.
During the initial deliberation on the proposed Child Support Responsibility Act bills on Monday, Feb. 6, by the House Committee on Welfare of Children, the lawmaker lamented the “substantial number” of single-parent households in the Philippines, which his bill, quoting a 2018 study commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), said is around 14 million households, or 14 percent to 15 percent of the estimated 94 million Filipinos then.
“In the version of my bill, I had harsh provisions in there like imprisonment . . . Make the law talagang magkaroon ng ngipin para matakot ‘yun (to really have teeth to scare the) non-custodial parent para magbayad, magbigay (to pay, to give)”, Daza explained.
“If they don’t willfully provide child support, they can go to jail”, he added, while lamenting that non-payment of child support continues to be a “perennial problem” despite already existing child support provisions in the Family Code.
Under HB 44, non-custodial parents shall pay an amount not lower than P6,000 every month, regardless of their income or lack thereof, although the final amount shall be determined by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the courts.
“Willful failure” to pay child support, however, for two months or an outstanding amount due of P30,000 shall be liable under the proposed law.
Filipinos living overseas will also face penalties provided for in inter-country agreements.
But while first offenders will be granted probation, succeeding offenses will lead to imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than four years and a fine of not less than P100,000 or not more than P300,000 at the discretion of the court.
READ: Solon to House: Strengthen laws on child support
The penalty of imprisonment ranging from one day to 12 years and/or a fine not less than P100,000, but not more than P300,000 at the discretion of the court shall likewise be imposed on various other violations of the proposed measure, including conspiring with a government employee.
Apart from the payment of a “minimum across-the-board amount of child support”, the bill also stipulates that gender won’t be a factor in evaluating cases, so even mothers can be compelled to give child support if they abandoned their children.
Child support will also be integrated “with issuance of government permits, licensing, and other documentary issuances of the government,” and a hold departure order could be “immediately issued upon the first default of payment of child support, as determined by barangay and police authorities”.
DSWD Assistant Bureau Director Miramel Garcia-Laxa expressed support for the bill, sharing that it was even a priority legislative agenda of the agency.
“We are really supporting these various bills that would ensure that those children who are left behind and not supported by the other parent would be ensured of their support. Basically, this is their right as the children of their parents,” she said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) PBGen. Matthew Bacay, deputy director the personnel and records management, stressed that “failure to pay child support is considered a form of violence against children” as this was provided for under Republic Act (RA) No. 9262, which called economic abuse a form of violence against women.
Bacay added that “providing financial support to providing financial support to the children is a primary responsibility of the parents.”
The official reported that from 2018 to 2023, the PNP has recorded 3,684 cases of economic violence against RA 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act.
Of the 3,684 cases of economic violence, 1,365 reach the courts, 1,441 are undergoing preliminary investigation at the prosecution office, 739 are under police investigation, and 139 are referred to other agencies such as the DSWD.