By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star), April 20, 2016
This case of Fred and Medy resolves the issue of whether RA 9262 violates the constitutional provisions on equal protection and due process of law particularly about the protection orders from the barangay and the courts to prevent the commission of further acts of violence against women and children perpetrated by the husband, former husband or any person who has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom the woman has a common child.
Fred is a Chinoy who married Medy when he was already 46 years old while Medy was only 34 years old. They begot two boys, Jay and Jon and an adopted daughter, Gina who was a natural child of Fred with another woman. The couple had their family businesses involving deep wells which they incorporated with the two of them as the major stockholders although Fred holds the controlling interests even if it was Medy who helped raise the business to millions of pesos.
Medy is a dutiful and faithful wife while Fred is dominant, controlling and demanding of absolute obedience from her and the children. He forbade Medy to pray and isolated her from friends. When Medy decided to study law, and worked in a law office, Fred prevailed upon her to just stay at home because she is still attractive and may catch the eye of some men whom he even threatened to kill.
Their relationship turned for the worse when Fred had an affair with the branch manager of a bank although he explained to Medy that he was just using the woman because of their accounts with the bank. But his infidelity spawned a series of fights between them that left Medy emotionally and physically wounded because of the injuries inflicted by Fred upon her and even on their daughter Gina who gave to Medy the text messages of Fred’s paramour. When Medy decided to leave Fred, Gina asked her to stay for fear that she and her brothers would be tortured by Fred. In fact Jay even said that when he grows up he would beat up his father because of his cruelty to their mother.
Because of all these physical and emotional turmoil, Medy tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrist. But she was saved by Jay who found her bleeding and brought her to the hospital. Fred however never visited and showed pity or apologized to her. Upon recovery she decided to file administrative charges against the bank manager which drove Fred to pack up and leave them for good.
While Medy is ready to accept her separation from Fred, she is afraid that he would take her children from her and deprive her of financial support. In fact, since Fred absolutely controls their companies, Medy merely draws a monthly salary of P20,000 as against Fred’s P60,000. Since their monthly household expenses amounted to about P200,000, she was forced to pay them with her credit cards. In fact Fred even forbade her to hold office where all the businesses of their companies are conducted.
Under this situation, Medy already filed for herself and in behalf of her children a verified petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for the issuance of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against Fred pursuant to RA 9262, claiming that she was a victim of physical abuse, emotional, psychological and economic violence as a result of Fred’s marital infidelity and threats of deprivation of financial support and custody of her children.
Finding reasonable grounds to believe that Medy and her children are in imminent danger of violence from Fred, the RTC granted the TPO effective for 30 days. The effectivity and the contents of the TPO were extended and amended because of the legal maneuverings of Fred, until five months later when the RTC issued its last TPO effective every 30 days after its expiration until the main case is resolved, Said TPO ordered Fred (1) not to threaten or commit any acts of violence, harass, annoy or contact, personally or through another person, Medy and the children, her relatives household help, and security guard, and not to enter the subdivision. Fred was also ordered: (1) to deliver financial support of P200,000 a month and P50,000 for rental as well as support in arrears; (2) to allow Medy the continued use of their vehicles or provide another vehicle from their companies; (3) not to dissipate any conjugal assests or real properties in his name or in the name of the conjugal partnership.
After receiving the said TPO, Fred appealed the same to the Court of Appeals (CA) claiming, among others, that since RA 9282 is intended to prevent and criminalize spousal abuse, which could very well be committed by either husband or wife, gender alone is not enough to deprive the husband/father of the remedies under the law, as it would be a violation of the equal protection clause. Was Fred correct?
The CA, and subsequently the Supreme Court, said no. Equal protection of the laws is not a guaranty of equality in the application of the laws upon all citizens of the State. It allows classification based on substantial distinctions constituting real differences between men and women particularly: the unequal power relationship between women and men where women are more likely than men to be victims of violence; and the gender bias and prejudice against women where women are considered more inferior to men and therefore discriminated against. The classification is also related to the purpose of the law which is to uphold the dignity of women and children, and equally applies to all women and children who are victims of violence and abuse, as well as to existing and future conditions, for as long as the security and safety of women and their children are threatened by violence and abuse (Garcia vs. Garcia etc. G.R. 179367, June 25, 2013)