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Supreme Court affirms that marital infidelity is a form of psychological violence and may be punishable under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act [Araza v. People, G.R. No. 247429 (08 September 2020)]

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court upheld a trial court finding that marital infidelity may constitute psychological violence and thus be punishable under Section 5(i) of Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (“Anti-VAWC Act”) .


The Supreme Court found Jaime Araza guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 5(i) of Anti-VAWC Act.


Court proceedings began with an information against Jaime Araza for committing acts of psychological abuse upon his wife, aliased AAA, committing acts of marital infidelity by having an affair with another woman, and begetting three illegitimate children with the latter, thus causing his wife emotional anguish and mental suffering. Evidence was presented that AAA learned of her husband’s affair; that the affair ceased but later resumed; and that the other woman sent AAA messages telling her that her husband was sick and needed money for medicines and threatening to kill her husband; and that her husband sired children with his mistress. AAA alleged that these caused her emotional and psychological suffering; that she suffered insomnia and asthma; and at the time the complaint was filed, she had been taking anti-depressant and sleeping pills to cope with her severe emotional and psychological turmoil brought about by her husband’s infidelity and having children with his mistress.


The accused husband offered only a denial.


The trial court found that the accused indeed committed psychological violence upon his wife AAA by committing marital infidelity, which caused AAA to suffer emotional anguish and mental suffering.


On review, the Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the trial court. Citing the definition of “psychological violence” in the Anti-VAWC Act, it found that the Information against the accused contained the recital of facts necessary to constitute the crime charged. It clearly stated that: (a) the offended party is the wife of the offender; (b) the offended party sustained emotional anguish and mental suffering; and (c) such anguish and suffering is inflicted by the offender when he had an extramarital affair with his mistress and had three (3) illegitimate children with her.


The Court explained that psychological violence is an indispensable element of violation of Section 5(i) of the Anti-VAWC Act. Equally essential is the element of emotional anguish and mental suffering, which are personal to the complainant. Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while emotional anguish and mental suffering are the effects caused to or the damage sustained by the offending party. The law does not require proof that the victim became psychologically ill due to the physical violence done by her abuser. Rather, the law only requires emotional anguish or mental suffering.


In this case, the Court found that marital infidelity, which is a form of psychological violence, is the proximate cause of the offended party’s emotional anguish and mental suffering, to the point that even her health condition was adversely affected.


Finding that the prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime of psychological violence through his acts of marital infidelity which caused mental or emotional suffering on the part of AAA, the Supreme Court convicted him for violating section 5(i) of the Anti-VAWC Act.