Political Law

Jesus Garcia vs Judge Ray Alan Drilon

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G.R. No. 179267 – 699 SCRA 352 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Basic Principles – Equal Protection Clause – The VAWC Law is not violative of the equal protection clause

Remedial Law – Jurisdiction of Courts – The Family Court may act on issues of constitutionality of laws

In 2006, Rosalie Garcia filed a petition for a Permanent Protection Order (PPO) under R.A. 9262 against her husband Jesus Garcia. Rosalie averred that she feared for her safety and the safety of her children due to the history of violence and the imminent threat of violence from Jesus. She also prayed for the issuance of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO). The TPO was granted. Later, Rosalie moved for the renewal of the TPO. Jesus filed an opposition which was denied. Rosalie made subsequent motions for the reissuance of TPOs with manifestations that Jesus was continuously violating the previous TPOs. Judge Ray Alan Drilon of the Bacolod Family Court granted the motions of Rosalie.

While the case was still pending in the Family Court, Jesus filed a Petition for Prohibition with the Court of Appeals seeking to enjoin the Family Court from proceeding as he averred that the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 (R.A. No. 9262) was unconstitutional for being violative of the Equal Protection Clause. Jesus claimed that the VAWC law was anti-male, “husband-bashing” and a “hate-men” law. He points out that men should also be protected under the law because it is a fact that men may also be victims of spousal/domestic abuse.

Jesus also claimed that the law is vague for it makes every spousal quarrel punishable under the law.

Jesus also questioned the ex-parte issuance of the TPO against him. He argued that the same is a violation of due process. Jesus claimed: “On the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, and practically no opportunity to respond, the husband is stripped of family, property, guns, money, children, job, future employment and reputation, all in a matter of seconds, without an inkling of what happened.”

The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition on the ground that Jesus did not raise the issue of constitutionality at the earliest opportunity or at the Family Court level.

ISSUE 1: Whether or not the issue of the constitutionality of the VAWC Law was properly raised?

HELD: NO. The issue on the constitutionality of the VAWC should have been raised at the Family Court level. Jesus explained that he did not do so because the issue on constitutionality was too complex for the Family Court to resolve. Besides, in a petition for protection order, counterclaims are not allowed. Jesus considered the issue on constitutionality as a counterclaim hence he did not raise the same in the Family Court. These arguments are wrong. The Family Court is a Regional Trial Court which under the law is clothed with authority to decide on the constitutionality of laws. The issue on constitutionality is not a counterclaim. Hence, it is not barred from being raised in a Petition for PPO. (Note however that in this case, the constitutionality of RA 9262 has been settled once and for all so it is unlikely that a similar question will be raised in subsequent cases).

ISSUE 2: Whether or not R.A. 9262 is violative of the Equal Protection Clause?

HELD: NO. VAWC was based on valid classification. The Supreme Court discussed the local and global literature which led to the creation of the VAWC. The unequal power relationship between women and men; the fact that women are more likely than men to be victims of violence; and the widespread gender bias and prejudice against women all make for real differences justifying the classification under the law. Though there are men who may be victims of domestic abuse, they are few. Men, who experience violence from their spouses are much less likely to live in fear of violence at the hands of their spouses, and much less likely to experience sexual assault. In fact, many cases of physical violence by a woman against a spouse are in self-defense or the result of many years of physical or emotional abuse.

ISSUE 3: Whether or not R.A. 9262 is vague?

HELD: NO. The law does not intend to make every quarrel between spouses punishable under the law. The law particularly defined the punishable acts. The enumerations in the law were even based from the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The acts enumerated as criminal under VAWC are easily understood and provide adequate contrast between the innocent and the prohibited acts. There is nothing in the definition of VAWC that is vague and ambiguous that will confuse Jesus in his defense. They are worded with sufficient definiteness that persons of ordinary intelligence can understand what conduct is prohibited, and need not guess at its meaning nor differ in its application.

ISSUE 4: Whether or not R.A. 9262 is violative of due process?

HELD: NO. A protection order is an order issued to prevent further acts of violence against women and their children, their family or household members, and to grant other necessary reliefs. Its purpose is to safeguard the offended parties from further harm, minimize any disruption in their daily life and facilitate the opportunity and ability to regain control of their life. The rules require that petitions for protection order be in writing, signed and verified by the petitioner thereby undertaking full responsibility, criminal or civil, for every allegation therein. Since “time is of the essence in cases of VAWC if further violence is to be prevented,” the court is authorized to issue ex parte a TPO after raffle but before notice and hearing when the life, limb or property of the victim is in jeopardy and there is reasonable ground to believe that the order is necessary to protect the victim from the immediate and imminent danger of VAWC or to prevent such violence, which is about to recur. The victim is required not only to verify the allegations in the petition, but also to attach her witnesses’ affidavits to the petition.

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