Only the courts can compel ‘deadbeat’ fathers to provide child support–DOJ

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has thumbed down the plan of Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary (DSWD) Secretary Erwin T. Tulfo  to write erring fathers and compel them to provide financial support to their children under the pain of civil and criminal liabilities.

In a five-page legal opinion, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said that while “the intention is noble,” the plan might already constitute providing legal service to the minor children, which is not among the duties and functions of the DSWD under its charter.

The said function, according to Remulla, belongs to other government agencies such as the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

“After a careful study and consideration of your query, we note that the proposed act of the DSWD to write a letter to the fathers, presumably on behalf of the minor child/children, to remind them to give financial support, as ‘there are civil and criminal consequences under the law if financial support is not properly given,’ may be outside of the DSWD’s stated mandate, powers and functions under Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987, and the DSWD Citizen’s Charter of 2022…,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ legal opinion was issued in response to the letter of Tulfo seeking its position  on whether the DSWD can write a letter to the named father in the child’s birth certificate simply to remind him of his obligation under the law to provide financial support to his minor child and that his failure to do so has corresponding  civil and criminal consequences.

Tulfo’s query stemmed from reports that there are “deadbeat” fathers whose names appear in their child/children’s certificate of live birth but are remiss in providing their offspring financial support.

The DSWD chief noted that such failure on the part of the father is considered violation of the provisions of Republic Act 9262, also known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

However, the DOJ noted that the phrase, “There are civil and criminal consequences under the law if financial support is not ‘properly given’ in the proposed letter, can be likened to a demand letter to the fathers and make it appear that the DSWD is lawyering on behalf of the minor child/children.”

“Moreover, only the courts can legally compel those fathers to give financial support to their child/children pursuant to a case filed for that purpose,” the DOJ legal opinion stated.

Instead, the DOJ said the DSWD might extend assistance to the minors who have been neglected by their erring fathers in  seeking legal services in order to get the financial support, which  they are entitled to under the law.

“The DSWD may very well refer these matters to PAO or other pertinent agencies, or even to some organizations and/or institutions providing legal aid, so that their cases may be acted upon,” Remulla said.

In the event the DSWD  still decides to push through with its plan to send letters to these fathers, the justice department advised that the text of the letter should be factual in nature and  without biases.

The DOJ warned the DSWD against using language that might be construed by recipient fathers that it is acting as counsel for their children.

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