Published 11 January 2019, The Daily Tribune
Abuse comes in many forms—physical, economic, social, or psychological. The suffering caused by one is not comparable to the anguish caused by the other. Our law recognizes the exposure of women to these types of violence and makes accessible to women different redress. Previously, we identified these remedies as barangay protection order (BPO), temporary protection order (TPO), and permanent protection order (PPO).
Most of these remedies would be applicable if the spouses or partners live together. But how would this work in this age where the husband and wife reside in different places for reason of work or study? It is no longer unusual for couples to choose to be practical in order to sustain the needs of the family. As such, one of them decides to take a job abroad, while the other stays in the Philippines to take care of the household. As per data of the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are 2.3 Million OFWs as of 2017.
Generally, only acts committed within the territory of the Philippines may be litigated and penalized here. Would this bar the victim from filing a case for VAWC? Or would the woman be required to follow her husband in another country to file a case for VAWC?
Not necessarily. Even if not living under one roof, the law still holds accountable a person who inflicts suffering to his partner. For some crimes, an offense is still considered as performed in the Philippines when one of the elements or its effects of the crime occurred here.
As a way of example, in a situation where marital infidelity is committed by the husband abroad against a woman residing in the Philippines, the latter may file a case for violation of the Anti-VAWC law before Philippine courts. Simply put, because the mental or emotional suffering caused on the wife extends to her even if her spouse is away, she may file an action under psychological abuse even if the acts were committed elsewhere. This is because R.A. 9262 prohibits, not the infidelity committed by the spouse, but its consequences and effect to the woman. However, marital infidelity, standing alone, will not suffice for the spouse to be guilty of the violation under the Anti-VAWC Act. There must still be proof that mental or emotional anguish is caused to the victim. Filing in the proper court is just the beginning of the legal battle for R.A. 9262 violations. The bigger burden for the offended party is to establish beyond reasonable doubt the commission of the alleged acts, for purposes of conviction.
Like marital infidelity, there can be other manifestations of psychological violence. The law contemplates that acts of violence committed against women and their children may manifest as transitory or continuing crimes. Despite this, an offended party may not just indiscriminately choose a venue to her liking. The case must still be brought before the Regional Trial Court, designated as Family Court, where the offended woman or her child is residing, for jurisdiction to be acquired.
The law has been liberally construed to afford women and children ample protection by making justice accessible to them so that the victim’s wound be assuaged. This construction does not necessarily dispense with due process because jurisdiction over the person of the offender must still first be obtained before the case proceeds. To experience maltreatment from a spouse is already too much suffering for a woman. To be helpless, legally, will be to aggravate the pain inflicted and the anguish caused. To avoid this situation, the law exercises liberality in the procedural aspect of R.A. 9262.
This interpretation is in keeping with the obligation of the Philippines to uphold the rights of women according to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Obviously, to obviate the need to remember these rules, one precept holds – treat everyone with kindness and exercise charity by overlooking your spouse’s defects and shortcomings. Who is perfect after all?
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