Criminal Law

AAA v. BBB GR No. 212448, Jan 11, 2018 Jurisdiction, R. A. No. 9262, Psychological Abuse

FACTS: 

Petitioner AAA and BBB were married in 2006 in Quezon City. Their union produced two children: CCC and DDD.

In May of 2007, BBB started working in Singapore as a chef, where he acquired permanent resident status in September of 2008.

AAA claimed that BBB sent little to no financial support, and only sporadically. There were also allegations of virtual abandonment, mistreatment of her and their son CCC, and physical and sexual violence. Worse, BBB supposedly started having an affair with a Singaporean woman named Lisel Mok.

The investigating prosecutor found sufficient basis to charge BBB with causing AAA mental and emotional anguish through his alleged marital infidelity.

AAA was able to secure a Hold-Departure Order against BBB. However, BBB continued to evade the warrant of arrest. 

In 2013, the Accused moved to Revive Case, Quash Information, Lift Hold Departure Order and Warrant of Arrest.

The trial court granted the motion to quash on the ground of lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the case.

The trial court ruled:

“…considering, however, his subsequent clear showing that the acts complained of him had occurred in Singapore, dismissal of this case is proper since the Court enjoys no jurisdiction over the offense charged, it having transpired outside the territorial jurisdiction of this Court.”

The prosecution’s motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of the case was denied. 

Hence, AAA sought direct recourse to this Court via the instant petition on a pure question of law. 

ISSUE: 

Whether or not Philippine courts are deprived of territorial jurisdiction over a criminal charge of psychological abuse under R.A. No. 9262 when committed through marital infidelity and the alleged illicit relationship took place outside the Philippines.

RULING:

As jurisdiction of a court over the criminal ease is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information, threshing out the essential elements of psychological abuse under R.A. No. 9262 is crucial. 

PSYCHOLOGICAL VIOLENCE

In Dinamling v. People, this Court already had occasion to enumerate the elements of psychological violence under Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262, as follows:

Section 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children. – The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

x x x x

(i) Causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children or access to the woman’s child/children.

From the aforequoted Section 5(i), in relation to other sections of RA No. 9262, the elements of the crime are derived as follows:

(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, or is a woman with whom the offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or is a woman with whom such offender has a common child. As for the woman’s child or children, they may be legitimate or illegitimate, or living within or without the family abode;

(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 such acts or omissions.

x x x x

Psychological violence is an element of violation of Section 5(i) just like the mental or emotional anguish caused on the victim. Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while mental or emotional anguish is the effect caused to or the damage sustained by the offended party. 

To establish psychological violence as an element of the crime, it is necessary to show proof of commission of any of the acts enumerated in Section 5(i) or similar such acts. And to establish mental or emotional anguish, it is necessary to present the testimony of the victim as such experiences are personal to this party. 

x x x

Contrary to the interpretation of the RTC, what R.A. No. 9262 criminalizes is not the marital infidelity per se but the psychological violence causing mental or emotional suffering on the wife. 

It is the violence inflicted under the said circumstances that the law seeks to outlaw. Marital infidelity as cited in the law is only one of the various acts by which psychological violence may be committed. 

The mental or emotional suffering of the victim is an essential and distinct element in the commission of the offense.

VENUE

In Section 7 of R.A. No. 9262, venue undoubtedly pertains to jurisdiction. As correctly pointed out by AAA, Section 7 provides that the case may be filed where the crime or any of its elements was committed at the option of the complainant. 

While the psychological violence as the means employed by the perpetrator is certainly an indispensable element of the offense, equally essential also is the element of mental or emotional anguish which is personal to the complainant. 

Section 7 of R.A. No. 9262 contemplates that acts of violence against women and their children may manifest as transitory or continuing crimes; meaning that some acts material and essential thereto and requisite in their consummation occur in one municipality or territory, while some occur in another. 

In such cases, the court wherein any of the crime’s essential and material acts have been committed maintains jurisdiction to try the case. 

Thus, a person charged with a continuing or transitory crime may be validly tried in any municipality or territory where the offense was in part committed. 

We say that even if the alleged extra­ marital affair causing the offended wife mental and emotional anguish is committed abroad, the same does not place a prosecution under R.A. No. 9262 absolutely beyond the reach of Philippine courts.

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