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The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday affirmed its commitment to address issues relating to the disposition of child and family cases.

On the 25th anniversary promulgation of the implementing rules of Republic Act 8369 or the Family Courts Act law, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said the judiciary will continue to ensure unhampered access to courts by those who need it most, especially children.

He said the SC will give all the necessary assistance and support to family courts so they can effectively dispense justice and maintain the rule of law when social ills imperil the integrity of the family and rights of the child.

“Today, even as we speak, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, trafficking of persons and cybercrimes are happening in our midst. We, in the judiciary, cannot close our eyes to these unabated violations of family and child laws,” Gesmundo said in a statement.

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The Chief Justice noted that during the pandemic, the judiciary made use of technology so that courts nationwide would continue to function and give attention to cases involving women and children, especially those with applications for protection orders.

He cited decisions which refined family rights, such as the May 11, 2021 ruling in the Tan-Andal versus Andal case, where the tribunal said “psychological incapacity is neither a mental incapacity nor a personality disorder that must be proven through expert opinion”.

Likewise on Dec. 7, 2021 the court revisited the the so-called “Iron Curtain Law” and allowed illegitimate children to inherit from blood relatives.

Family Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide on criminal cases where one or more of the accused is below 18 years but not less than nine or where one or more of the victims is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense; petitions for guardianship, custody of children, habeas corpus in relation to the latter; adoption of children and the revocation thereof; complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains; and petitions for support and/or acknowledgment.

Other cases that should be handled by Family Courts are petitions for declaration of status of children as abandoned, dependent or neglected; voluntary or involuntary commitment of children; suspension, termination, or restoration of parental authority; petitions for the constitution of the family home; cases against minors cognizable under the Dangerous Drugs Act; violations of Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act); and domestic violence against women and children.

In cases of violence among immediate family members in the same household, the Family Court may issue a restraining order against the accused or defendant upon a verified application by the complainant or the victim for relief from abuse.

Under the guidance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, a Social Services and Counseling Division shall be established in each judicial region as the SC shall deem necessary based on the number of juvenile and family cases.

The court, Gesmundo said, has always upheld the best interest of the child consistent with the country’s commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (PNA)

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