Violence against women: Goodbye to Jesus

Patricia Evangelista
While Associate Justice Marvic Leonen upholds the constitutionality of the Violence Against Women and Children Act, he says the future may include the recognition of battered men

MANILA, Philippines – Rosalie married Jesus when she was 34.

She had a daughter when she met him. Jesus Garcia, Chinese-Filipino, owner of a number of Bacolod corporations specializing in water and drilling was 11 years older. They were married and had two more children.

In her statement to the High Court, Rosalie said she was a dutiful wife, a faithful wife. She said her life revolved around her husband. He was dominant, controlling, demanded absolute obedience from his wife and children.

She said she was forbidden prayer, that he deliberately isolated her from her friends. She said he trivialized her ambitions, made her quit law school and her job working part-time at a law office.

He was jealous, she said, of the fact his wife still catches the eye of some men. He said he would have them killed.

Rosalie said her husband had an affair with a bank manager, a woman who was godmother to one of their sons. Jesus admitted to the affair in 2004. Rosalie went to the bank and complained about the mistress. Jesus was angry, and told her to accept the affair.

Jesus controlled the family businesses, well drilling, water, services. Husband and wife were stockholders. Household and child-rearing expenses were charged to the companies. Jesus took home a monthly salary of P60,000 and was allowed unlimited cash advances and use of company credit cards. Rosalie’s share was P20,000 a month. She was banned from the corporate offices, the same company she says she helped build.


Rosalie wanted a separation. She was afraid of his threats. He said he would take the children away. He said he would leave her with nothing.

There were fights. Once, Jesus grabbed Rosalie and shook her so hard there were hematomas on her arms. Once, he hit her in the mouth until she bled. Once, he took his anger out on her daughter, the child he adopted, punched her on the chest and slapped her again and again because she told her mother what she knew of her father’s affair.

When Rosalie decided to leave Jesus, her daughter tried to stop her. The girl was afraid she would be beaten again. Rosalie’s 6-year-old son made his mother a promise—he said he would beat up his father when he was grown up.

On Dec 17, 2005, Rosalie Jaype-Garcia attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. Her son found her on the floor. Her husband Jesus fled the house and left her bleeding.

She was in the hospital for 7 days. There were no visits from her husband. She began therapy when she was released, and started taking anti-depressants.

On March 23, 2006, three months after her suicide attempt, Rosalie Jaype-Garcia filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City for the issuance of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against her husband for herself and in behalf of her 3 children.

The case

Under RA 9262, a woman can file a complaint on behalf of herself as well as her child for physical, emotional, sexual or economic abuse caused by her “intimate partner.”

The high court describes the Violence Against Women and Children Act “a landmark legislation defining and criminalizing acts of violence against women and their children perpetrated by women’s intimate partners.” 

The RTC issued a 30-day TPO on March 24. Respondent Jesus Chua Garcia was ordered to vacate the family home. He was told by the court he was not permitted within 1,000 meters of his wife, children, and members of his household. He was no longer to be permitted to enter the subdivision gates.

He was told he could not “harass, annoy, telephone, contact or otherwise communicate” with his family. His guns were confiscated, his licenses revoked. He was asked to give monthly support to his family, required to submit an accounting of all income and was ordered by the court to put up a bond “to ensure compliance.”

Rosalie complained he had not followed the demands of the order. She said he had withheld support. She claimed Garcia had attempted to kidnap their then 3-year-old son. She said he threatened her daughter and grabbed the girl by the arm.

The TPO was extended several times. Jesus Garcia filed a petition with the RTC seeking to stop the renewal of the TPO. It was denied.

A collateral attack against the law 

Garcia filed a petition before the Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of RA 9262. He said it was a discriminatory law against men, invalid for having violated  “due process and the equal protection clauses.”

The CA dismissed the petition and denied his motion for reconsideration, saying Garcia had failed to raise the constitutional issue before the RTC. They said his challenge was “a collateral attack” on the law.

Garcia went on to raise the issue before the Supreme Court, filing a petition against his wife and RTC presiding judge Ray Alan Drilon. Garcia complained to the High Court that the law was discriminatory and unjust.

He claimed RA 9262 violates due process, and “does violence to the policy of the State to protect the family as a basic social institution.”

Still constitutional

In a decision penned by Justice Perlas-Bernabe, the High Court sustained the constitutionality of RA 9262.

“The unequal power relationship between women and men,” wrote Bernabe, “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.”

Bernabe said that there was no reason to claim unconstitutionality. Rosalie Garcia was a victim. Jesus Garcia was not. The law was just.

“No concrete evidence and convincing arguments were presented by petitioner to warrant a declaration of the unconstitutionality of RA 9262, which is an act of Congress and signed into law by the highest officer of the co-equal executive department.

Four other justices wrote separate concurring decisions. 15 justices unanimously declared the law was constitutional.

Bernabe quoted former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s observation that “the history of the women’s movement against domestic violence shows that one of its most difficult struggles was the fight against the violence of law itself. If we keep that in mind, law will not again be a hindrance to the struggle of women for equality but will be its fulfillment.”

Possibility of battered men

In his separate concurring decision, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen called the petition “nothing but a cheap attempt to raise cherished fundamental constitutional principles to escape legal responsibility for causing indignities to another human being.”

Leonen at the same time opened the possibility of future cases to test the question of whether the law is offering equal protection.

He added that RA 9262 “may be challenged by male victims of abuse in intimate relationship.” It may be necessary in the future for the court to “carve another exception” if it were to “guarantee the fundamental equality before the law of women and men as well as value the dignity of every human person.” 

His concurring decision is the first instance in Philippine jurisprudence of the judiciary conceding battered men may be recognized under the law. The abuse of husbands, he says, may be an under-reported form of family violence.

“It may be said that violence in the context of intimate relationships should not be seen and encrusted as a gender issue; rather, it is a power issue.” 

“In a future case more deserving of the Court’s attention, we should be open to realities which may challenge the dominant conception that violence in intimate relationships only happens to women and children. This may be predominantly true, but even those in marginal cases deserve fundamental constitutional and statutory protection.”

He is clear that the Garcia case is not the correct test.

“The petitioner is not the victim in this case. He does not have legal standing to raise the constitutional issue.”

Rosalie, he says, is the victim. –

Domestic violence image by Shutterstock

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