To cap off International Women’s Month, we now discuss a recent Supreme Court ruling, where the SC upheld the conviction of a husband who cheated on his wife for violating the Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.
In a decision promulgated on 1 March, the SC’s First Division, through Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, upheld a conviction of a husband who co-habited with another woman and impregnated her while his wife was working in another country.
The case (docketed as G.R. No. 250219), involves a husband and his wife who were married on 29 December 2006. Out of their union, the couple had a daughter. Two years later, due to their difficult financial circumstance, the wife decided to work in Singapore to help sustain their family.
In May 2015, the wife found out that her husband was in a romantic relationship with another woman. The husband even messaged his wife not to communicate with him anymore. The wife later discovered that her husband impregnated the other woman.
On several occasions, the husband and the other woman would send the wife text messages just to spite her. The wife also found that her husband even brought the other woman to their hometown. This prompted the wife to return to the country.
The wife then learned that her husband and the other woman were cohabitating. Thus, the wife sought the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s assistance to get her daughter who was staying with her mother-in-law at that time.
In 2016, a complaint was filed against the husband for violating Section 5(i) of the Anti-VAWC Act, which 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 husband was found guilty of violating Section 5(i) for inflicting psychological violence against his wife and daughter through emotional and psychological abandonment.
The Regional Trial Court held that while the husband may not have physically abandoned his family, “but 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.”
Aggrieved, the husband brought the case to the Court of Appeals. However, the CA affirmed the RTC’s ruling. The CA even added that the husband was charged not only with deprivation of financial support, but also with abandoning his wife and daughter which may be considered as subsumed in the phrase “similar acts of omissions” under Section 5(i) of the Anti-VAWC Act.
The CA further emphasized that what constitutes abandonment is not only the physical act of separating and abandoning the wife for another woman but likewise, the emotional abandonment and alienation that the husband did made the wife suffer.
The husband then brought the case to the SC. However, the SC affirmed to the CA and the RTC that all the elements to establish a violation of Section 5(1) are present. These elements are as follows: (1) the offended party is a woman and/or her child/ children; (2) the woman is either the wife or former wife of the respondent; (3) the offender causes emotional on the woman and/or child mental or emotional anguish; and (4) the anguish is caused through public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal or emotional abuse, denial of financial support, among others.
SC said the testimonies of the wife and daughter clearly established that the husband caused mental or emotional anguish to the woman and/or child.
It also emphasized that there are several forms of abuse, the most visible form of which is physical violence. Others are sexual violence, psychological violence, and economic abuse. According to the SC, marital infidelity is one form of psychological violence.