Rosalie Jaype-Garcia (private respondent) filed, for herself and in behalf of her minor children, a verified petition before the RTC of Bacolod City for the issuance of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against her husband, Jesus C. Garcia (petitioner), pursuant to R.A. 9262. She claimed to be a victim of physical abuse; emotional, psychological, and economic violence as a result of marital infidelity on the part of petitioner, with threats of deprivation of custody of her children and of financial support.
Finding reasonable ground to believe that an imminent danger of violence against the private respondent and her children exists or is about to recur, the RTC issued a TPO effective for thirty (30) days.
Claiming that petitioner continued to deprive them of financial support; failed to faithfully comply with the TPO; and committed new acts of harassment against her and their children, private respondent filed another application for the issuance of a TPO ex parte.
The RTC issued a TPO, effective for thirty (30) days.
Petitioner filed before the CA challenging (1) the constitutionality of R.A. 9262 for being violative of the due process and the equal protection clauses, and (2) the validity of the modified TPO issued in the civil case for being “an unwanted product of an invalid law.”
The CA dismissed the petition for failure of petitioner to raise the constitutional issue in his pleadings before the trial court in the civil case, which is clothed with jurisdiction to resolve the same.
In defending his failure to attack the constitutionality of R.A. 9262 before the RTC of Bacolod City, petitioner argues that the Family Court has limited authority and jurisdiction that is “inadequate to tackle the complex issue of constitutionality.”
Whether or not the Family Court has jurisdiction on the issue of constitutionality of a statute.
Family Courts have authority and jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of a statute.
At the outset, it must be stressed that Family Courts are special courts, of the same level as Regional Trial Courts. Under R.A. 8369, otherwise known as the “Family Courts Act of 1997,” family courts have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of domestic violence against women and children. In accordance with said law, the Supreme Court designated from among the branches of the Regional Trial Courts at least one Family Court in each of several key cities identified.
To achieve harmony with the first mentioned law, Section 7 of R.A. 9262 now provides that Regional Trial Courts designated as Family Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases of VAWC defined under the latter law, viz:
SEC. 7. Venue. – The Regional Trial Court designated as a Family Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and their children under this law. In the absence of such court in the place where the offense was committed, the case shall be filed in the Regional Trial Court where the crime or any of its elements was committed at the option of the complainant.
Inspite of its designation as a family court, the RTC of Bacolod City remains possessed of authority as a court of general original jurisdiction to pass upon all kinds of cases whether civil, criminal, special proceedings, land registration, guardianship, naturalization, admiralty or insolvency. It is settled that RTCs have jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of a statute, “this authority being embraced in the general definition of the judicial power to determine what are the valid and binding laws by the criterion of their conformity to the fundamental law.” The Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare the constitutionality or validity of a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation not only in this Court, but in all RTCs. We said in J.M. Tuason and Co., Inc. v. CA that, “plainly the Constitution contemplates that the inferior courts should have jurisdiction in cases involving constitutionality of any treaty or law, for it speaks of appellate review of final judgments of inferior courts in cases where such constitutionality happens to be in issue.” Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution reads in part as follows:
SEC. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:
x x x
2. Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
a. All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.
x x x x
Thus, contrary to the posturing of petitioner, the issue of constitutionality of R.A. 9262 could have been raised at the earliest opportunity in his Opposition to the petition for protection order before the RTC of Bacolod City, which had jurisdiction to determine the same, subject to the review of this Court.