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Is the accused guilty of abuse for pointing a gun at a child?: SAN JUAN VS. PEOPLE

On March 26, 2014, a drunk Marvin L. San Juan willfully, unlawfully and feloniously threatened the life of AAA, a fifteen year old child, by poking a gun at him without any justifiable cause. This act amounts to a crime, thereby subjecting the minor to psychological cruelty and emotional maltreatment.

San Juan argued that he cannot be held liable for child abuse because the information did not allege, nor was his intention to debase, degrade, or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of AAA proven in trial.


Can the accused be held guilty of child abuse?

With respect to the act of child abuse, Section 3(b) of R.A. No. 7610  provides: 

  • (b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: 
  • Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; 
  •  Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being.


Specific criminal intent must be alleged and proved by the prosecution, and must be established by the prosecution as a fact. Meanwhile, general criminal intent is presumed from the criminal act.  It is a general rule that if it is proved that the accused committed the unlawful act charged, it will be presumed that the act was done with a criminal intention, and that it is for the accused to rebut this presumption. However, there are certain crimes of which a specific intent to accomplish a particular purpose is an essential element. This specific intent was taken into consideration by this Court in the analysis of crimes involving violation of Section 3(b )(2) of R.A. No. 7610. 

Pointing a firearm towards a minor is intrinsically cruel. 

“Certainly, the term cruelty, in its common usage, simply means suffering that is excessive and unnecessary to the purpose to be achieved by an offender. An act that is accompanied by such a cruel act can easily be determined by the manner it was executed. It does not need an inquiry into the specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child, as being referred to under the Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7610. “

Bottom Line

When the act itself is examined based on the inherent characteristic of the act itself and the manner of its execution, and it later turns out to be intrinsically cruel, there should be no need to look into the specific intent. Again, the term cruelty, when not qualified by the terms “to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child,” may still be utilized based on its common usage.

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