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  • According to the Law: Drug Addiction, Violence and Custody Battles

    Our legal expert gives us an overview of the alleged issues surrounding the Barretto-Santiago domestic feud.
    by Atty. Nikki Jimeno .
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto

    1. Can a husband file a case for domestic abuse against his wife?
    While physical abuse is more commonly committed against women, there are still husbands out there who are also physically and emotionally abused by their wives or partners. In a study conducted in the Philippines, it was discovered that husbands who are abused by their wives tend not to report the incident for fear of being ridiculed or being called “under the saya”*.

    Unfortunately, the Philippines does not yet have a law protecting battered husbands. The current law covering domestic abuse is Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (Anti-VAWC), where only women and their children are protected against the abuse committed by the husband, boyfriend, or partner, and not the other way around. But this does not mean that a wife is free to beat or hurt her husband as she pleases. A husband who has suffered beatings from his wife can still file a criminal case against her for physical injuries, or, if a weapon was used and it was clear that the wife planned to kill her husband, then a case for attempted or frustrated parricide may be filed.

    An abused or battered husband can also cite the abuse as a ground for legal separation from his wife, or, if the violent behavior is a manifestation of the wife’s psychological incapacity to perform the essential marital obligations, then it may also be a ground for the annulment of the marriage.

    2. Is drug addiction a ground for the annulment of marriage?
    Drug addiction and/or habitual alcoholism are only grounds for legal separation under the Family Code of the Philippines. On the other hand, the drug addiction may be a symptom of the spouse’s psychological incapacity to comply with the essential obligations of marriage — in which case, it would be best to get a psychological evaluation report to support the petition for annulment.

    However, if the drug addiction is simply due to bad influences surrounding the spouse, it might be best to seek help first in order to reform the addicted spouse. It may be worth a shot to see first if rehabilitation and/or psychological treatment may help him/her quit, and if you can still repair the damage the addiction caused to the marriage.


    Related article: Parental Authority and the Case of Kris, James and Bimby

    3. Can a father claim custody over the children if the mother is proven to be a drug addict?
    Under the Family Code, the custody over children below seven years of age automatically belongs to the mother. This principle is called the “exclusive maternal custody regime”, and it is based on the presumption that a mother is in the best position to take care of children in their tender years. However, this rule is not absolute.

    In several cases, the Supreme Court has held that only the most compelling reasons shall justify the court's awarding the custody of such a child to someone other than his mother, such as her unfitness to exercise sole parental authority.  The unfitness of a mother to take care of her child is determined on a case to case basis, but in the past, the following have been considered as ample grounds to deprive the mother of custody: neglect, abandonment, unemployment and immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity and being sick with a communicable disease.

    It is important to note that some of these grounds, by themselves, do not automatically mean that the mother will no longer have custody over her child; it should first be proven that, because of the presence of these circumstances, the mother is no longer fit to take care of the child.

    In that case, it must first be shown that said addiction, if proven true, causes the mother to neglect or harm her children in any manner before custody can be awarded to the husband. However, as in any case involving children, their best interests will remain the primary consideration, and the Court will have to determine which parent is in the best position to properly raise the children.

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    * Source: Coming out of the Shadows: Husbands Speak About Their Experience of Abuse in Intimate Relationships, 40 PHILIPPINE JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY NO. 2 (2007) 


    Photo by Allan Sancon, courtesy of pep.ph

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