Dear PAO,

I was informed that a child below 15 years of age is exempt from criminal responsibility. Nevertheless, the fact would remain that the child committed a wrong against us. In a situation like this, can we at least file a civil case for damages against the parents of the child offender?

Mary Ann

Dear Mary Ann,

The answer to your question is yes. To elucidate, allow us to lead your attention to the pertinent provisions of law and jurisprudence. To begin with, Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code, Article 2180 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, Section 20-D of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, and Article 221 of the Family Code of the Philippines respectively reads:

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Revised Penal Code of the Philippines

"Article 101. Rules regarding civil liability in certain cases. - x x x

"First. In cases of subdivisions 1, 2, and 3 of Article 12, the civil liability for acts committed by an imbecile or insane person, and by a person under nine years of age, or by one over nine but under fifteen years of age, who has acted without discernment, shall devolve upon those having such person under their legal authority or control, unless it appears that there was no fault or negligence on their part."

New Civil Code of the Philippines

"Article 2180. The obligation imposed by article 2176 is demandable not only for one's own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.

"The father and, in case of his death or incapacity, the mother, are responsible for the damages caused by the minor children who live in their company. X x x."

Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006

[Republic Act (RA) 9344, as amended by RA 10630]

"Section 20-D. Joint Parental Responsibility. - x x x

"The parents shall be liable for damages unless they prove, to the satisfaction of the court, that they were exercising reasonable supervision over the child at the time the child committed the offense and exerted reasonable effort and utmost diligence to prevent or discourage the child from committing another offense."

Family Code of the Philippines

"Art. 221. Parents and other persons exercising parental authority shall be civilly liable for the injuries and damages caused by the acts or omissions of their unemancipated children living in their company and under their parental authority subject to the appropriate defenses provided by law. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The foregoing provisions of law dictate the civil liability of parents with respect to the delict/damages committed by their minor children. In line with these, the Supreme Court in the case of Libi v. Intermediate Appellate Court, GR 70890, Sept. 18, 1992, penned by Associate Justice Florenz Regalado, held that parents are and should be held primarily liable for the civil liability arising from criminal offenses committed by their minor children, viz.:

"Under the foregoing considerations, therefore, we hereby rule that the parents are and should be held primarily liable for the civil liability arising from criminal offenses committed by their minor children under their legal authority or control, or who live in their company, unless it is proven that the former acted with the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent such damages. That primary liability is premised on the provisions of Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code with respect to damages ex delicto caused by their children 9 years of age or under, or over 9 but under 15 years of age who acted without discernment; and, with regard to their children over 9 but under 15 years of age who acted with discernment, or 15 years or over but under 21 years of age, such primary liability shall be imposed pursuant to Article 2180 of the Civil Code.

"Under said Article 2180, the enforcement of such liability shall be effected against the father and, in case of his death or incapacity, the mother. This was amplified by the Child and Youth Welfare Code which provides that the same shall devolve upon the father and, in case of his death or incapacity, upon the mother or, in case of her death or incapacity, upon the guardian, but the liability may also be voluntarily assumed by a relative or family friend of the youthful offender. However, under the Family Code, this civil liability is now, without such alternative qualification, the responsibility of the parents and those who exercise parental authority over the minor offender." (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Therefore, even if a child below 15 years of age is exempted by law from criminal responsibility due to his or her minority, apart from the mandated intervention to rehabilitate the minor offender, indubitably, one of the available legal remedies for an offended party is to file a civil case against the parents of such minor offender pursuant to the aforementioned parental vicarious liability.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]