MANILA, Philippines – Should cases against a woman – including child abuse – be declared harassment cases and therefore illegal? They should be, says Sugar Mercado, former member of the SexBomb Dancers, as she takes to the Supreme Court what she hopes will be a landmark case for women.
Mercado, assisted by Gabriela Women’s Party, filed a petition before the SC on Friday, March 17 seeking to nullify cases in the lower court filed against her by her ex-husband, Kristofer Jay Go.
In her petition, not only is Mercado asking for the dismissal of cases against her, she is also asking the high tribunal to declare these cases as strategic lawsuit against public participation or SLAPP.
SLAPP generally means cases meant to harass or intimidate a person so that he or she is burdened with the cost and stress of legal action. In Canada and in several US states, SLAPP is a valid defense under their laws.
In the Philippines, however, SLAPP can only be used as a legal defense in environmental cases as provided for in a resolution issued by the SC in 2010 establishing the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases.
Mercado earlier secured a temporary protection order from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 86, restraining her ex-husband from communicating with her and going within a 500 meter radius of her.
“As early as August 2011, barely few months when (Mercado) and (Go) got married, at the height of jealousy, thinking that Mercado is having an affair with another man, Go brought out a gun, pointing it at petitioner and threatening to kill her,” Mercado’s petition quoted the QC court ruling.
Go also allegedly got into the habit of asking Mercado to remove her underwear every time she comes home so he could smell and check if she had sex with another man. Go argued then that he only held his wife’s underwear because she was too lazy to pick them up.
The QC court ruled then that “it is a defense that lacks substance and too paltry to engender belief and overcome the consistency of Mercado’s statement.”
The ruling also mentions Go’s repeated verbal abuse against Mercado. “In one occasion, Go publicly humiliated Mercado saying in the presence of people that Mercado has a foul-smelling vagina and does not know how to engage in sexual intercourse.”
Mercado is currently facing 9 cases before Quezon City courts, ranging from child custody and child abuse to libel, slander and indirect contempt of court.
Mercado has custody of their two minor children, but Go is fighting her for it by means of the said cases.
Go filed a case of child abuse against Mercado for uploading on Facebook a video of their daughter dancing. Go said Mercado was clearly unfit to be a mother for making their daughter dance provocatively like a “beer house dancer” and subjecting the child to humiliation. (READ: 5 #GenderIssues to ask)
Go also filed a libel complaint against Mercado for a blotter report she filed before the barangay hall during one of their fights. When that case was dismissed by a QC prosecutor, Go filed another one which prospered into a case.
Go’s brother also filed a slander complaint against Mercado for an altercation at a bar and restaurant where Mercado allegedly made a scene by cursing and then punching the brother.
Mercado’s parents Yolanda and Reynaldo are also facing an unjust vexation case filed against them by an employee of the Go family. The employee delivered gifts to the children at the Mercado household and took a video of them. Irked by the employee’s actions, Mercado’s parents apprehended the employee, ran after him and grabbed him by his shirt.
Battle for women's rights
Mercado's petition asks the Supreme Court to recognize the cases filed against her as SLAPP cases and to declare them as violence against women. (Read: Violence against women: sex, power and abuse)
Simply put, the petition wants the SC to clarify the definition of RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act to include SLAPP cases as a form of abuse penalized by the law.
“More than a decade (since the law was passed), victims remain victims. Abuse took a different form. Violence against women and children expanded and extended to other venues…victims are dragged relentlessly into the courts through civil and criminal complaints if only to ensure that they continously suffer in fear,” the petition reads.
Can Mercado's petition compel the high court to make a landmark ruling? Gabriela's legal counsel Kathy Panguban said they are confident.
"Sugar is fighting, she has a good fighting spirit. We have always maintained that violence against women will never be justified and we humbly seek the Supreme Court to recognize these other forms of abuse and violence," Panguban said. – Rappler.com