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Supreme Court: Marital infidelity is a violation of anti-VAWC law

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Supreme Court: Marital infidelity is a violation of anti-VAWC law
This file photo shows the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has held that marital infidelity is a violation of the anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act, as it falls under the law's definition of psychological abuse.

The SC said this as its First Division junked a Petition for Certiorari filed by a husband who appealed his conviction beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 5(i) of the Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-VAWC act. The man cohabited with another woman and impregnated the same while his wife was working abroad.

The said provision states that violence against women and their children is committed by “causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children or access to the woman’s child/children.”

The SC held that the local court and the Court of Appeals — which affirmed the conviction — did not err in finding the husband guilty of violating Section 5(i) of Anti-VAWC Act.

“Marital infidelity is one of the forms of psychological violence,” the court said.

Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando wrote the ruling, with concurrences from Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo (chairperson), Associates Justices Samuel Gaerlan, Ricardo Rosario and Jose Midas Marquez.

The case

After he was convicted by the lower court and the CA affirmed it, the husband elevated his case to the SC, via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

Specifically, the husband was charged before the court for “willfully, unlawfully, feloniously [depriving] his minor child of financial support legally due to the complainant [his wife] and to her minor child and abandoning them totally, causing psychological and emotional anguish to the complainant and her minor child.”

The couple were married in December 2006 and have a daughter, but due to difficult circumstances, the wife left for Singapore for work in 2008. In May 2015, the wife learned that her husband is in a romantic relationship with another woman, who was also then carrying his child.

The wife returned to the country when she learned that her husband brought the other woman to their hometown and have started to cohabit. She then sought the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in getting her daughter from her mother-in-law.

The man admitted that when his wife took their daughter from him and his mother in October 2015, he stopped giving support because he was not allowed to be near his daughter, the court document read.

Guilty verdict

“The RTC found petitioner guilty of inflicting psychological violence against [wife] and [daughter] through emotional and psychological abandonment,” the SC said.

The local court held that while he may not have physically abandoned his family, “the emotional and psychological abandonment and all the hurts and pains and distress brought about by his indiscretion as a husband are far worse than physical abandonment,” it added.

The husband elevated the ruling to the CA, but the appeals court found no merit in his petition.

The CA said the petitioner was charged not only with deprivation of financial support, but also of abandoning his wife and daughter which may be considered as subsumed in the phrase “similar acts of omissions.”

In resolving his petition, the SC said the testimonies of the wife and daughter clearly established that the husband caused mental or emotional anguish on the woman and/or child.

The high court also stressed there are several forms of abuse, of which physical violence is the most visible. Under the anti-VAWC Act, violence against women and children is defined as “any act or a series of acts…which result in or is likely to result in… psychological harm or suffering.”

Psychological violence meanwhile refers to "acts or omissions causing or likely to case mental or emotional suffering of the victim such as but not limited to… marital infidelity."

In the case at hand, the SC said the prosecution was able to establish the husband’s marital infidelity, his cohabitation with another woman, who even bore him a child. and his abandonment of his wife.

“[The daughter’s] psychological trauma was evident when she wept in open court upon being asked to narrate the petitioner’s infidelity,” it added.

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