G.R. No. 246231. January 20, 2021 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title:
**Allan De Vera y Ante vs. People of the Philippines: A Landmark Case on Child Abuse under R.A. No. 7610**

### Facts:

Allan De Vera y Ante was indicted under Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act) for acts of lascivious conduct upon AAA, a 16-year-old first-year college student at XXX University. De Vera pleaded not guilty, and a trial ensued. AAA reported witnessing De Vera masturbating while she was taking an examination in the university’s mini-library. De Vera, in his defense, claimed the incident was impossible due to a malfunctioning zipper and his positioning in the library. Despite his allegations and the acquittal by an ad hoc disciplinary committee in the university, the RTC convicted De Vera, a decision later modified by the CA, convicting him for violation of Section 10(a) instead, upon appeal.

### Issues:

1. Whether the CA erred in convicting the petitioner of the crime of violation of Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610.
2. Whether the act of intentional masturbation in the presence of a minor constitutes psychological abuse warrants conviction under Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610.
3. Whether inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony affect its credibility.
4. The appropriateness of the penalties and damages awarded.

### Court’s Decision:

The Supreme Court denied the petition, affirming the CA’s decision. It held that the act of masturbation in the presence of a minor constitutes psychological abuse under R.A. No. 7610, thereby affirming the conviction of De Vera. The Court emphasized that the specifics of how the act was performed and the environment in which it was executed led to a ruling that the behavior was indeed prejudicial to the child’s development and debased her dignity. The court also addressed the assessment of credibility, placing considerable weight on the victim’s testimony over the defendant’s denial. Penalties and damages were also deliberated, with the Court adjusting the amounts awarded by the CA to align with the gravity of the psychological impact on the victim and the need for deterrents against child abuse.

### Doctrine:

This case reiterates that acts constituting psychological abuse towards a child, including those not involving physical contact but are nonetheless prejudicial to their development and dignity, are punishable under Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610. It also fortifies the positioning that the child’s perception and experience in incidents of abuse hold significant weight in legal proceedings over child abuse cases.

### Class Notes:

– **Elements of Psychological Abuse under R.A. No. 7610**: The minority of the victim and acts by the perpetrator that can psychologically harm or have a detrimental effect on the child’s development.
– **Section 10(a) of R.A. No. 7610**: It expands the scope of child abuse to include acts not expressly mentioned in the law but are prejudicial to a child’s psychological and emotional development.
– **Importance of Victim’s Testimony**: In cases involving child abuse, the consistent and direct testimony of the victim is given significant credibility over denials and alibis of the accused.
– **Award of Damages**: The Court can modify damages awarded by lower courts, considering the unique circumstances of the case and the impact on the victim, to ensure proper compensation and deterrence.

### Historical Background:

R.A. No. 7610 was enacted as a response to increasing concerns over child abuse, exploitation, and discriminatory practices against children in the Philippines. This legislation broadens the definition and scope of actions considered as child abuse and enforces stricter penalties to protect children’s rights and welfare more effectively. Allan De Vera y Ante vs. People of the Philippines underscores the law’s application in psychological abuse contexts, highlighting the judiciary’s role in interpreting and enforcing laws protecting vulnerable populations, such as minors, against all forms of abuse and exploitation.


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