Criminal Law

XXX vs AAA, BBB, and Minor CCC

Can't share this digest on Facebook? Here's why.

image_printPrint this!

G.R. No. 187175 – Criminal Law – Special Penal Laws – R.A. No. 9262; VAWC Law – The Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act is Constitutional

Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judiciary; Judicial Power – Judicial Review – Power to Declare Statutes Unconstitutional; When Proper – Constitutionality of Laws – Issue on Constitutionality Must Be Properly Pleaded and Raised at the Earliest Opportunity

XXX, who was married to EEE, started an extra-marital affair with AAA in 1982. XXX and AAA had three children: BBB (1986), CCC (1990), and DDD (1989).

In 2007, AAA filed charges against XXX for violations of the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act or VAWC (RA 9262). At the time of the filing, BBB was already of age while CCC was still a minor and DDD had already succumbed to cancer. One of the cases filed by AAA was a Petition for Protection Order (PPO) with Support and Support Pendente Lite. There were also separate criminal complaints for VAWC but only the charge for economic abuse was filed in court.

AAA alleged that she had been the victim of a long running abuse (physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, and economic) by XXX.

Upon filing of the PPO, a temporary protection order (TPO) was issued against XXX. The TPO provided, among others, that XXX must:

a. stay away from AAA and their children;

b. desist from inflicting any harm or threats upon AAA, her children, her witnesses, and other household members;

c. provide Php279k monthly support pendente lite to AAA and her children.

Likewise issued by the court was a directive to XXX for him to file an Answer. XXX filed an Answer. Thereafter, he also filed a Motion to Dismiss.

In February 2008, the trial court issued an Order cancelling the previously granted support pendente lite as well as the scheduled trial dates. The trial court explained that the issue of support, which was merely an incident in the PPO under the VAWC law, had already become moot when CCC reached the age of majority in January 2008. All other parts of the TPO was however made permanent. XXX was further directed to turn over two vehicles to AAA.

XXX filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 directly with the Supreme Court. XXX raised the following questions:

ISSUES:

  1. Whether or not RA 9262 is constitutional.
  2. Whether or not RA 9262 violates the equal protection clause.

HELD:

1. The SC refused to rule on the constitutionality of RA 9262 (but went on to discuss its constitutionality anyway) on the ground that XXX failed to raise the issue at the earliest opportunity and had in fact improperly pleaded the issue. Here, XXX claimed that the issue on constitutionality was not being raised the first time on appeal before the SC and that he had raised the issue in his motion to dismiss. However, it must be noted that prior to filing the motion to dismiss, XXX filed an Answer to the PPO and the issue of constitutionality was not raised therein. Further, a close reading of XXX’s motion to dismiss revealed that he did not explicitly question the constitutionality of RA 9262.

The SC likewise reiterated the ruling in Garcia vs. Drilon: “Courts will not anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it.” Hence, a question of constitutionality must be brought up at the earliest opportunity. If the same is not raised in the pleadings, it usually follows that it may not be raised during the proceedings, and if not raised in the proceedings will therefore not be deliberated upon on appeal.

2. The SC again reiterates, as ruled in Garcia, that RA 9262 does not violate the equal protection clause. It rests on a valid classification. 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.

SIDE ISSUES:

1. Does the immediate issuance of a TPO upon the filing of a PPO violate due process as it immediately penalizes the respondent without even having his day in court?

No. The urgency of issuing a protection order is central to the purpose of RA 9262 of protecting the aggrieved party from heightened acts of violence and harm or even death. There is no due process violation here because the respondent is still properly apprised and is given the opportunity to explain. The grant of a TPO ex parte does not violate the right to due process. Just like a writ of preliminary attachment which is issued without notice and hearing because the time in which the hearing will take could be enough to enable the defendant to abscond or dispose of his property, in the same way, the victim of VAWC may already have suffered harrowing experiences in the hands of her tormentor, and possibly even death, if notice and hearing were required before such acts could be prevented. It is a constitutional commonplace that the ordinary requirements of procedural due process must yield to the necessities of protecting vital public interests, among which is protection of women and children from violence and threats to their personal safety and security.

2. Does the immediate grant of custody over children to the petitioner via a TPO deprive the respondent the right to seek remedies under the Rule on Custody of Minors and Writ of Habeas Corpus in Relation to Custody of Minors?

No. The concomitant reliefs provided by a protection order were expanded by the SC in Garcia to restrict the alleged perpetrator’s access to the aggrieved party, making it possible for courts to award temporary custody of minors to promote their best welfare.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ordinarily, in petitions under AM No. 03-04-04-SC (Rule on Custody of Minors and Writ of Habeas Corpus in Relation to Custody of Minors),¬†courts will not allow temporary custody pending trial (See Masbate vs. Relucio). But in petitions for PPO, the court may allow temporary custody.

3. Why should the PPO include protection for the children BBB and CCC when they are already of age?

The law does not distinguish as to what age must children be protected or not protected by TPOs or PPOs. The law protects the descendants of the petitioner. In fact, the TPO / PPO may even cover / protect non-minor relatives like ascendants and siblings  of the petitioner even if they do not live with the petitioner or non-relatives like household members of the petitioner.

Read full text.

image_printPrint this!

Leave a Reply