Supreme Court upholds decision: Cheating that causes anguish counts as psychological violence and is against the law

Image: Star Cinema / Viva Films
Image: Star Cinema / Viva Films

Stories about cheating husbands who leave their wives for another are hardly uncommon in the Philippines. Yet as the Supreme Court has affirmed, marital infidelity that results in emotional anguish counts as a form of violence that is subject to penalties under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Act.

The Supreme Court upheld their conviction in 2020 of a man who cohabited with another woman and impregnated her while his wife was working abroad, causing the latter emotional anguish.

In a decision released today, the Supreme Court’s First Division, through Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, denied the petition for review on the case of the man, identified as XXX, affirmed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision in 2019 and resolution in 2020.

The High Court found the man guilty of violating Section 5(i) of VAWC which counts as a crime of violence against a woman or a child “causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children of access to the woman’s child/children.”

XXX was sentenced to six months to eight years in prison, and was ordered to pay a fine of PHP100,000 (US$1,849) and PHP25,000 (US$460.01) in moral damages.

Emphasizing that marital infidelity is one of the forms of psychological violence, the Supreme Court said it agreed with the CA and the Regional Trial Court (RTC) that all the elements to establish a violation of Sec. 5(i) were present. These elements included the following: 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.

Court records showed that XXX and his wife, AAA, were married on December 29, 2006 and had a daughter, BBB. AAA later relocated to Singapore in 2008 to work as an Overseas Filipino Worker. In May 2015, AAA found XXX was having an affair with another woman, CCC, and discovered that the other woman was pregnant with her husband’s child.

AAA later learned that XXX brought CCC to their hometown, prompting AAA to return to the country. Learning that her husband and his mistress were living together, AAA sought the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in getting her daughter BBB from her mother-in-law.

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

The Supreme Court reiterated that there are several forms of abuse, the most visible form of which is physical violence. Other forms include sexual violence, psychological violence, and economic abuse.

The court ruled that the prosecution was able to prove XXX’s marital infidelity, his cohabitation with CCC who even bore him a child, and his abandonment of AAA.

It added that their daughter BBB’s psychological trauma was evident when she took the stand at nine years old in 2015, weeping in open court when she was asked to recount her father’s infidelity. 

“BBB explained that she was deeply hurt because her father had another family and loved another woman other than her mother, BBB,” the Court wrote.


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