The legal wife
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Violence against women is punishable under a special law (Republic Act 9262, otherwise known as the Violence against Women and Children Act, VAWC). “Violence” under this law actually consists of psychological rather than physical violence, particularly causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or the child, like denial of financial support. Under this law, should the woman be legally married to the offender as to be entitled to financial support? This is the question answered in this case of Danny.

Danny was married to Linda. Out of their union were born four children, of whom only three are alive and who are already of legal age. Danny worked as a pilot in the Philippine Air Force and later on as a commercial pilot. Thus he was seldom seen at their home. Then he also worked as a pilot based in an African country tasked to deliver relief goods by air. He used to give Linda and their children monthly support of P10,000 to P20,000. But after more than 26 years of marriage, he suddenly ceased giving the same when Linda needed it most because of her various ailments. Later, Linda learned that Danny got married to an African woman with whom he had been living and had begotten four children.

So Linda sued Danny for bigamy and later on an  information for violation of the VAWC law was also filed against Danny before the regional trial court which issued a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) directing Danny to resume the delivery of monthly financial support to Linda in the amount of P20,000. The RTC also issued a Hold Departure Order against Danny and another order making the TPO permanent.

The original charge against Danny was for violation of Section 5 (e) par. 2 of RA 9262, but it was subsequently amended upon order of the RTC to reflect the more accurate section of said law, specifically Section 5 (i) for “abandoning Linda without any financial support thereby depriving her of her basic needs and inflicting upon her psychological and emotional suffering because of mental or emotional anguish and/or injuries.”

After pleading “not guilty” to the amended charge, trial ensued. The main witness for the prosecution was Linda, who narrated the above-mentioned facts. The physician who attended to her and her daughter also testified.

For the defense, Danny testified as the lone witness. He assailed the validity of their marriage, alleging that he never attended a marriage ceremony and that his signature in the marriage certificate was forged. He also averred that he was only in common law relationship with Linda, which produced three daughters and a son and that he gave them financial support but stopped it because he was disappointed when she instituted a criminal case for bigamy against him, which he considered as an act of ingratitude.

After trial, the RTC rendered a decision finding Danny guilty as charged and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment of three years minimum to eight years and one day maximum and to resume giving the monthly financial support. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA). So Danny filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before the Supreme Court (SC), contending that the charge against him failed to allege any of the acts punishable by Section 5 (i) of RA 9262 and that he has no obligation to financially support Linda since he never contracted marriage with her.

But the SC still affirmed the decisions of the RTC and the CA. According to the SC, the prosecution has duly proved, through clear and convincing testimonies of Linda and her daughter, that Danny committed psychological violence against Linda when he suddenly ceased giving her financial support while abroad, which caused her to experience mental and emotional suffering to the point that even her health condition was adversely affected.

On the other hand, the SC also ruled that the certified true copy of Marriage Certificate issued by the National Statistics Office serves as positive evidence of the existence of the marriage between Danny and Linda. It is admissible as evidence of its contents indicating that a marriage was celebrated between Danny and Linda about 36 years ago. Their marriage is deemed valid until declared otherwise in a judicial proceeding. Hence Danny is obliged to support Linda in an amount which shall be proportionate to the resources or means of his income and to the needs of Linda.

Besides, even assuming that Danny’s marriage to Linda is declared void ab initio by a court, Danny will not be exonerated because under RA 9262, the offender need not be related or connected to the victim by marriage as he could be someone who had a sexual or dating relationship only, or has a common law child with the victim. In this case, it is undisputed that Linda had borne four children out of their relationship.

The SC likewise declared that, if properly indicted, Danny could also be convicted of violation of Section 5(e) par. 2 for depriving or threatening to deprive Linda or her children of financial support legally due her or her family. His excuse that Linda filed a bigamy case against him is unacceptable. The filing of the bigamy charge is not for the purpose of tormenting or harassing him but of enforcing the right of Linda as legal wife, considering that he contracted a second marriage with an African woman during the subsistence of his marriage with Linda. So Danny is indeed guilty of Violation of R.A. 9262 Section 5(i). In addition to imprisonment, he should also pay a fine of P200,000 and to undergo psychiatric treatment (Reyes vs. People, G.R. L-232678, July 3, 2019).

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