Cause and effect
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2019 - 12:00am

This case involves an offense constituting psychological violence under RA 9262 otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Act of 2004. The question raised and answered here is whether Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the case filed by the wife against her husband for violation of said law even if the marital infidelity constituting the psychological violence of the husband was committed abroad. This is the case of Ruben and Liezel.

Ruben and Liezel are husband and wife living with the parents of Ruben. One year after their marriage and having begotten a son named Carlo, Ruben decided to work abroad as a chef while Liezel, who worked as a flight attendant, stayed behind especially because she was pregnant with their second child. Liezel and her son  Carlo continued staying with Ruben’s parents but three years later, they moved back to Liezel’s parents’ house when Liezel resumed her work as a flight attendant because Ruben sent sporadic and little financial support. Eventually Ruben stopped sending support anymore forcing Liezel to fly extra hours as flight attendant and take on additional jobs to augment her income.

Their relationship worsened when Liezel learned that Ruben was having an affair and started living in with a woman abroad. Things came to a head when Liezel and the children visited Ruben abroad and the couple had a violent altercation at the hotel room. So when Liezel returned to the Philippines, she filed a case against Ruben for violation of the VAWC law particularly his marital infidelity which she alleged, constitute psychological violence.

After the Regional Trial Court found probable cause, an Information was filed and a warrant of arrest and a hold departure order were issued against Ruben in case he would return to the Philippines.  Although not reflected in the Information, Liezel also alleged that Ruben only send little or sporadic financial support until he stopped sending it. She also said that Ruben maltreated her and her son Carlo and would sexually abuse her when he visits them here.

Since Ruben continued to evade the warrant of arrest the case was archived. Two years later however, Ruben’s counsel filed an Omnibus Motion to Revive Case, Quash the Information, Lift the Hold Departure Order and the Warrant of Arrest. The RTC granted the Motion and dismissed the case on the ground that the acts complained of, or Ruben’s marital infidelity had occurred abroad which is outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Court.

The Supreme Court however ruled that the RTC is wrong in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. According to the SC, what RA 9262 criminalizes is not the marital infidelity per se but the psychological violence causing mental or emotional suffering on the wife. It is the violence inflicted under said circumstances that RA 9262 seeks to outlaw. Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while mental or emotional anguish is the effect caused to or the damage sustained by the offended party. Marital infidelity as cited in the law is only one of the various acts by which psychological violence may be committed. Moreover, depending on the circumstances of the spouses and for a myriad of reasons, the illicit relationship may or may not even be causing mental or emotional anguish of the wife. Thus, the mental or emotional suffering is an essential and distinct element in the commission of the offense such that even if the alleged extra-marital affair causing the offended wife’s mental and emotional anguish is committed abroad, the same does not place a prosecution under RA 9262 absolutely beyond the reach of the Philippine courts (AAA vs. BBB, G.R. 212448, January 14, 2018)

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