CASE BrieF NO. 2018-0035

CASE: AAA vs. BBB [G.R. No. 212448 January 11, 2018]

PONENTE: AssociateJustice Noel Gimenez Tijam

SUBJECT:

  1. Remedial Law:
    i. Motion to quash information – effect
    ii. Jurisdiction
  2. Criminal Law:
    i. R.A. 9262 – Psychological abuse – elements

“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.”


FACTS:        AAA and BBB were married. Their union produced two children: CCC and DDD.

In 2007, BBB started working in Singapore, where he acquired permanent resident status in 2008.

AAA claimed that BBB sent little to no financial support, and only sporadically. This allegedly compelled her to fly extra hours and take on additional jobs to augment her income as a flight attendant. There were also allegations of virtual abandonment, mistreatment of her and their son CCC, and physical and sexual violence. To make matters worse, BBB supposedly started having an affair with a Singaporean woman named Lisel Mok with whom he allegedly has been living in Singapore. In 2011, AAA and BBB had a violent altercation at a hotel room in Singapore during her visit with their kids.

An Information for violation of R.A. No. 9262 was filed. A warrant of arrest was issued against BBB. AAA was also able to secure a Hold-Departure Order against BBB who continued to evade the warrant of arrest. Consequently, the case was archived.

In 2013, an Omnibus Motion to Revive Case, and Quash Information was filed on behalf of BBB. Granting the motion to quash on the ground of lack of jurisdiction and thereby dismissing the case, the RTC reasoned:

Here, while the Court maintains its 28 October 2011 ruling that probable cause exists in this case and that [BBB] is probably guilty of the crime charged, 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 prosecutor filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied by the RTC. Aggrieved, AAA sought direct recourse to the Supreme Court via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court on a pure question of law. AAA argues that mental and emotional anguish is an essential element of the offense charged against BBB, which is experienced by her wherever she goes, and not only in Singapore where the extra-marital affair takes place; thus, the RTC of Pasig City where she resides can take cognizance of the case.

In his Comment, BBB contends that the grant of the motion to quash is in effect an acquittal; that only the civil aspect of a criminal case may be appealed by the private offended party; and. that this petition should be dismissed outright for having been brought before this Court by AAA instead of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) as counsel for the People in appellate proceedings.

ISSUES:

A) Whether or not the Court should entertain the petition of AAA without the representation of the Office of the Solicitor General.
B) Whether the grant of BBB’s motion to quash the information amounts to acquittal.
C) Whether the question of whether or not the RTC has jurisdiction in view of the peculiar provisions of R.A. No. 9262 is a question of law.
D) Whether the RTC has jurisdiction over an offense constituting psychological violence under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, committed through marital infidelity, when the alleged illicit relationship occurred or is occurring outside the country?

RULING:

A) In the interest of substantial justice, the Court proceeded to entertain the Petition filed by AAA.

In AAA’s motion for extension of time, it was mentioned that she was awaiting the OSG’s response to her Letter requesting for representation. Since, the OSG was unresponsive to her plea for assistance in filing the intended petition, AAA filed the present petition in her own name before the lapse of the extension given her by this Court.

Under the circumstances, the ends of substantial justice will be better served by entertaining the petition if only to resolve the question of law lodged before this Court. In Morillo v. People of the Philippines, et al., (2015) where the Court entertained a Rule 45 petition which raised only a question of law filed by the private offended party in the absence of the OSG’s participation, we recalled the instances when the Court permitted an offended party to file an appeal without the intervention of the OSG. One such instance is when the interest of substantial justice so requires.

B) Morillo v. People of the Philippines, et al., (2015) differentiated between dismissal and acquittal, thus:

Acquittal is always based on the merits, that is, the defendant is acquitted because the evidence does not show that defendant’s guilt is beyond a reasonable doubt; but dismissal does not decide the case on the merits or that the defendant is not guilty. Dismissal terminates the proceeding, either because the court is not a court of competent jurisdiction, or the evidence does not show that the offense was committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the court, or the complaint or information is not valid or sufficient in form and substance, etc. The only case in which the word dismissal is commonly but not correctly used, instead of the proper term acquittal, is when, after the prosecution has presented all its evidence, the defendant moves for the dismissal and the court dismisses the case on the ground that the evidence fails to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty; for in such case the dismissal is in reality an acquittal because the case is decided on the merits. If the prosecution fails to prove that the offense was committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the court and the case is dismissed, the dismissal is not an acquittal, inasmuch as if it were so the defendant could not be again prosecuted before the court of competent jurisdiction; and it is elemental that in such case, the defendant may again be prosecuted for the same offense before a court of competent jurisdiction.

The grant of BBB’s motion to quash may not therefore be viewed as an acquittal, which in limited instances may only be repudiated by a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 upon showing grave abuse of discretion lest the accused would be twice placed in jeopardy.

C)      The question of whether or not the RTC has jurisdiction in view of the peculiar provisions of R.A. No. 9262 is a question of law. Thus, in Morillo, the Court reiterated that:

The jurisdiction of the court is determined by the averments of the complaint or Information, in relation to the law prevailing at the time of the filing of the complaint or Information, and the penalty provided by law for the crime charged at the time of its commission. Thus, when a case involves a proper interpretation of the rules and jurisprudence with respect to the jurisdiction of courts to entertain complaints filed therewith, it deals with a question of law that can be properly brought to this Court under Rule 45.

The Court is not called upon in this case to determine the truth or falsity of the charge against BBB, much less weigh the evidence, especially as the case had not even proceeded to a full-blown trial on the merits. The issue for resolution concerns the correct application of law and jurisprudence on a given set of circumstances, i.e., 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.

D)      In Dinamling v. People [2015]  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 R.A. 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.

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.

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. Otherwise stated, 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. Moreover, depending on the circumstances of the spouses and for a myriad of reasons, the illicit relationship may or may not even be causing mental or emotional anguish on the wife. Thus, the mental or emotional suffering of the victim is an essential and distinct element in the commission of the offense.

In criminal cases, venue is jurisdictional. Thus, in Trenas v. People [2012] the Court explained that:

The place where the crime was committed determines not only the venue of the action but is an essential element of jurisdiction.1âwphi1 It is a fundamental rule that for jurisdiction to be acquired by courts in criminal cases, the offense should have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients should have taken place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.

As correctly pointed out by AAA, the case may be filed where the crime or any of its elements was committed at the option of the complainant. Which 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.

What may be gleaned from Section 7 of R.A. No. 9262 is that the law 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; it being understood that the first court taking cognizance of the same excludes the other. 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.

It is necessary, for Philippine courts to have jurisdiction when the abusive conduct or act of violence under Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 in relation to Section 3(a), Paragraph (C) was committed outside Philippine territory, that the victim be a resident of the place where the complaint is filed in view of the anguish suffered being a material element of the offense. In the present scenario, the offended wife and children of respondent husband are residents of Pasig City since 2010. Hence, the RTC of Pasig City may exercise jurisdiction over the case.

Certainly, the act causing psychological violence which under the information relates to BBB’s marital infidelity must be proven by probable cause for the purpose of formally charging the husband, and to establish the same beyond reasonable doubt for purposes of conviction. It likewise remains imperative to acquire jurisdiction over the husband. What this case concerns itself is simply whether or not a complaint for psychological abuse under R.A. No. 9262 may even be filed within the Philippines if the illicit relationship is conducted abroad. 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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THINGS DECIDED:

A) The grant of a motion to quash may not be viewed as an acquittal, which in limited instances may only be repudiated by a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 upon showing grave abuse of discretion lest the accused would be twice placed in jeopardy.

B) 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.

C) It is necessary, for Philippine courts to have jurisdiction when the abusive conduct or act of violence under Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 in relation to Section 3(a), Paragraph (C) was committed outside Philippine territory, that the victim be a resident of the place where the complaint is filed in view of the anguish suffered being a material element of the offense.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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