MANILA — A wife who spent years looking for her husband only to find out he was living with his mistress and their 3 children finally got her vindication when the Supreme Court affirmed a ruling sentencing the man to up to 8 years in prison.
In a landmark ruling dated September 8 but made public only last week, the SC said the husband’s act of leaving the wife to live with his mistress caused emotional anguish and mental suffering, making it punishable as a form of psychological violence under Republic Act 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 (VAWC).
Among the acts penalized under section 5 of the VAWC law are those that cause mental or emotional anguish.
The law includes “marital infidelity” in the list of acts considered as “psychological violence.”
But for marital infidelity to be punishable, the high court said it must be shown that it caused emotional anguish and mental suffering on the part of the wife.
Both the Las Piñas regional trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecution was able to prove this, a position affirmed by the high court.
“Marital infidelity, which is a form of pyschological violence, is the proximate cause of AAA’s emotional anguish and mental suffering, to the point that even her health condition was adversely affected,” the Supreme Court First Division said in a decision written by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
The ruling did not mention the wife’s name. To protect her identity, ABS-CBN News will also not name the wife’s husband, the name of the mistress, nor the title of the case.
Married since 1989, the couple began experiencing problems when the husband was assigned in Zamboanga for their networking business in 2007.
The wife testified she first learned about her husband’s extra-marital affair later that year through a tip from the friends of the mistress.
She went to Zamboanga to confirm that her husband was living with the mistress, and went to the extent of having the police arrest them, only to settle a concubinage complaint through an agreement that the husband and the mistress will never see each other again.
But the husband only stayed with the wife for 2 months before abruptly leaving “without saying a word.”
The wife said she desperately looked for him and even sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
At one point, the wife filed a petition for habeas corpus thinking that the mistress was holding her husband hostage, after allegedly receiving messages from the mistress that her husband was sick and needed money, and that the mistress will allegedly kill him.
But that petition was dismissed in 2014 after NBI agents found that the husband freely left his wife to live with the mistress with whom he already had 3 children.
That revelation, according to the wife, caused her to suffer from insomnia and asthma, and she resorted to taking anti-depressant and sleeping pills.
A doctor she consulted testified the wife was in a “depressed mood” and her sleeping difficulty resulted from the relational distress in her marriage, but which did not become a pyschiatric disorder just yet.
The doctor attributed insomnia and anxiety partly to the fact that the wife could not accept the husband could no longer stay with her, and the “loss” of her husband triggered depression and anxiety.
“During the separation, there was no understanding of what had actually happened. And from her story that per 2007 until 2013, she was making an effort to actually find the husband and she was worried what was happening to the husband, it is enough to be the cause of emotional and psychological abuse,” the doctor said.
In his defense, the husband tried to deny the allegations but later on admitted having an affair with the mistress, with whom he had been staying since 2008.
In ruling in favor of the wife, the SC said the law does not require that the victim became psychologically ill due to the psychological violence inflicted by the abuser.
“Rather, the law only requires emotional anguish and mental suffering to be proven. To establish emotional anguish or mental suffering, jurisprudence only requires that the testimony of the victim to be presented in court, as such experiences are personal to the party,” it said.
The high court relied heavily on the statements of the wife that she became depressed, that she was “always hospitalized,” and that she didn’t sleep and eat until she found out that her husband was still alive.
Asked by the court what she wanted to happen, the wife said: “He must be put in jail so that he knows (sic) that he is really, he had done something wrong to me, because I love him so much, but then, he has different attitudes (sic) and he has a different answer against me (sic). I want to put him in jail, that’s all.”
On the witness stand, the wife admitted she was still “hurt” and couldn’t forget her husband, even confessing she still loves him.
But she also accepted the fact that he can no longer love her back.
“I think no more, because until now, I know he doesn’t love me anymore because he wants to stay with another woman. So, I want him to be punished so that he will know how it feels to be hurt, both of them,” she said.
The SC rejected the husband’s denial and noted that during his testimony, he said he was aware of the effect of his actions on his wife.
The SC sentenced him to jail time of between 6 months and 1 day, to 8 years and 1 day, and ordered him to pay P100,000 in fine and moral damages of P25,000.
The court also directed the husband to undergo mandatory psychological counseling or psychiatric treatment.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE RULING
While the case is not the first to declare marital infidelity as a form of psychological violence, it is the first time the SC has said the act of leaving a wife to live with the mistress and have children, which caused emotional and mental anguish, is considered a form of psychological violence.
But former SC spokesperson and criminal law professor Theodore Te cautioned against relying on the ruling for other marital infidelity cases, as it should be “read circumstantially and contextually,” based on the factual circumstances of the case.
“The decision is a division ruling which, while authoritative, may still be abandoned by the En Banc; of course, until abandoned, it is authoritative,” he added.