April 8, 2012
FAITH AND REASON
By: Atty. Tito R. Bundang
The website of the National Center for Victims of Crime, a nonprofit organization in the U.S. which advocates for victims’ rights, defines ‘domestic violence’ as that which constitutes willful intimidation, assault, battery, sexual assault or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one family member, household member or intimate partner against another. Simply put, it refers to violence within a home.
Apparently, this tragic occurrence is nothing new and has always been part of the dark and gloomy dimension of human evolution and experience. It is however, only today that people has become more aware of the issue of ‘domestic violence’ than in the past. Education and the understanding of its very nature have helped us to see ‘domestic violence’ as beyond an issue affecting the personal concerns of a particular family but more of a matter of public interest requiring public attention. What we viewed then as a mere ‘private affair’ not subject of interference has now become an absolute abhorrence, realizing the far-reaching and damaging effects of ‘domestic violence’ not only on the physical but also the mental, psychological, and emotional well-being of its victims.
In the Philippines, ‘domestic violence’ likewise persists, notwithstanding the passing of measures designed to prevent the commission of violence towards women and children like the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and the Child and Youth Welfare Code. Three (3) years ago, the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center reported an “alarming increase” in the incidence of ‘domestic violence’ in 2008. From 6,647 incidents of violence against women in 2007, the incidents grew to 7,864 in 2008. Crimes against children likewise increased from 6,688 in 2007 to 8,588 in 2008. In the 2002 report provided by the National Statistics and Census Board, the terms ‘violence against women’ and ‘violence against children’ cover incidents involving physical injuries, wife battering, rape, acts of lasciviousness, maltreatment, threats, child abuse, and the like.
On January 15, 2004, the Supreme Court decided the case of People of the Philippines vs. Marivic Genosa (G.R. No. 135981) and paved the way for the recognition of the novel concept of “Battered Woman Sydrome” (BWS) as giving rise to the possibility of self-defense, provided certain elements are established. In the said Genosa case, the accused admitted killing her husband but she sought for acquittal through the application of the BWS defense. During the re-opening of her case, the Court allowed testimonies from experts to show that she was subjected to repeated abuse by her husband over a period of time thereby traumatizing her and causing her state of mind to metamorphose. While the High Court still convicted her for parricide since she failed to show factual experiences that would demonstrate the essential characteristics of BWS, it made clear that it is not discounting the possibility of self-defense arising from the BWS.
With the passing however, of Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act” in March 2004, or barely a few months after the Genosa case was decided, BWS was defined and recognized straightaway. Section 26 of RA 9262 provides that, “Victim-survivors who are found by the courts to be suffering from battered woman syndrome do not incur any criminal or civil liability notwithstanding the absence of any of the elements for justifying circumstances of self-defense under the Revised Penal Code. In the determination of the state of mind of the woman who was suffering from battered woman syndrome at the time of the commission of the crime, the courts shall be assisted by expert psychiatrists/psychologists.”
Much is still to be done to prevent the occurrence of violence in the family where love and understanding are supposed to reign. The confirmation by society and the law that ‘domestic violence’ is no longer a mere private concern but a social menace that must be addressed and eradicated, is a clear giant step in the right direction. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that perpetrators of ‘domestic violence’ are punished and that there will be no more victims who if not attended to and supported, may sadly become the next generation of domestic perpetrators.