SC: Marital infidelity considered ‘psychological violence’ under law protecting women

Manila, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has declared that marital infidelity is psychological violence under the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 (Anti-VAWC Act).

“Marital infidelity is one of the forms of psychological violence,” read a 12-page decision of the SC penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando on March 1.

The SC decision cited that the Sec. 5(i) of Republic Act 9262, also known as the Anti-VAWC Law) provides that the crime of violence also includes: “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 said ruling dismissed the petition for review of a man who sought to overturn the rulings of the Court of Appeals (CA) that affirmed his conviction by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which found him guilty of violating Section 5(i) of the Anti-VAWC law.

Court records show that the suspect husband and his wife were married on December 29, 2006 and had a daughter. The wife later went for Singapore in 2008 to work there. In May 2015, the wife found was in a romantic relationship with another woman. Worst, she later discovered that the other woman was pregnant with her husband’s child.

The wife later learned that her husband brought the other woman to their hometown prompting the wife to return to the Philippines.

Learning that her husband and his mistress started to cohabit, the wife sought the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in getting her daughter from her mother-in-law.

The husband was charged with violation of Sec. 5(i) of RA 9262 before the RTC in January 2016. The RTC found the man guilty of inflicting psychological violence against his wife and daughter through emotion and psychological abandonment.

The accused husband, however, offered only a denial.

The trial court found that the accused indeed committed psychological violence upon his wife by committing marital infidelity, which caused wife to suffer emotional anguish and mental suffering.

Emphasizing that marital infidelity is one of the forms of psychological violence, the High Court agreed with the CA and the RTC and ruled that all the elements to establish a violation of Sec. 5(i) were present.

These elements are: 1) the offended party is a woman and/or her child or children; 2) the woman is either the wife or former wife of the offender; 3) the offender causes on the woman and/or child mental or emotional anguish; and 4) the anguish is caused through acts of public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, denial of financial support or custody of minor children or access to the children or similar to such acts or omissions.

To establish emotional anguish or mental suffering, jurisprudence only requires that [the victim testify in court and narrate such experiences],” it said.

The court stated that the prosecution “satisfactorily established petitioner’s marital infidelity” by showing he lived with another woman who even bore him a child and abandoned his wife.

The testimony of the wife’s child showed psychological trauma “when she wept in open court upon being asked the petitioner’s infidelity” and even explained “she was deeply hurt because her father had another family and loved another woman other than her mother.”

The child was only nine years old when she made the testimony in 2015.

The accused husband was sentenced to at least two years in prison and was fined P100,000 in damages.

He is also facing court-mandated psychological counseling.