SC: Anti-VAWC Protection Orders Do Not Violate Men’s Right to Due Process
November 10, 2023
The urgency of issuing a protection order is central to its purpose of protecting the aggrieved party from heightened acts of violence and harm. Nevertheless, respondents in a protection order are not denied due process as they are still apprised of the accusations against them and given the chance to explain.
Thus ruled the Supreme Court in a Decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F Leonen, denying the petition for review on certiorari filed by XXX. The petition challenged the validity of Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Act of 2003 (Anti-VAWC Act), in relation to the grant of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of a Permanent Protection Order (PPO) in favor of XXX’s former partner, AAA, and their children, BBB and CCC.
In 2007, AAA and her children filed before the RTC an Urgent Petition for Issuance of Ex-Parte Temporary Protection Order (TPO) and PPO. AAA alleged that XXX would often tell her how worthless she was, and that with his money, he could hire someone to take her life. Based on XXX’s character, AAA found it not unlikely that XXX would make true his words. AAA feared that with their children as her co-petitioners, XXX might be angered “and there is no telling what kind of traumatizing acts he will inflict upon them.”
The RTC issued a TPO in favor of AAA and her children. The TPO prohibited XXX from committing or threatening to commit against AAA and the children physical harm, harassment, and restraint on their personal liberty. XXX was also ordered to stay 200 meters away from AAA, her designated family and household members, their residence, and the children’s school. The TPO was made permanent by the RTC in 2009, prompting XXX’s recourse to the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the Anti-VAWC Act and the PPO.
In rejecting XXX’s argument that the provisions of the Anti-VAWC Act’s protection orders violate the right of men to due process of law, the Court reiterated its 2013 ruling in Garcia v. Drilon upholding the validity of the Anti-VAWC Act, where the Court said: “A protection order is an order issued to prevent further acts of violence against women and their children, their family or household members, and to grant other necessary reliefs.”
The Court added: “Since ‘time is of the essence in cases of VAWC if further violence is to be prevented,’ the court is authorized to issue ex parte a TPO after raffle but before notice and hearing when the life, limb, or property of the victim is in jeopardy and there is reasonable ground to believe that the order is necessary to protect the victim from the immediate and imminent danger of VAWC or to prevent such violence, which is about to recur.”
The Court, however, clarified that “[t]here need not be any fear that the judge may have no rational basis to issue an ex parte order. The victim is required not only to verify the allegations in the petition, but also to attach the witnesses’ affidavits to the petition.” Further, once a TPO is issued ex parte, the court requires that an order be given immediately to the respondent, directing the latter to file an opposition within five days from service.
The Court stressed that respondents of a petition for protection order should be apprised of the charges imputed to them and afforded an opportunity to present their side. “The essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of one’s defense,” held the Court.
Applying this in the case of XXX, the Court held that the immediate award of custody of minors to AAA upon the filing of a protection order did not deny XXX of the remedies provided under the rules.
The Court also reiterated that the prohibition on courts and barangay officers from unduly persuading a protection order applicant to compromise does not defy A.M. No. 01-10-5-SC, which encourages courts to promote mediation as one of the means of alternative dispute resolution.
As the Court ruled in Garcia v. Drilon, the non-referral of VAWC cases to mediation is justified as “mediation is a process by which parties in equivalent bargaining positions voluntarily reach a consensual agreement…Violence however, is not a subject for compromise. A process which involves parties mediating the issue of violence implies that the victim is somehow at fault.”
On the issue of whether XXX’s adult children can be the subject of a protection order, the Court cited Section 3(h) of the Anti-VAWC Act, which defines “children” as those below 18 years of age or older but are incapable of taking care of themselves.”
Further, the Court reiterated its 2020 ruling in Estacio v. Estacio that neither the Anti-VAWC Act nor A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC or the Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children distinguishes children as to their age when they are referred to as being covered by protection orders.
Citing Section 8(d) of the Anti-VAWC Act, which simply provides “designated family or household member[s]” as the possible beneficiaries of protection orders, the Court ruled that “when the law speaks of family members in the context of protection orders, it also covers descendants as a whole class, even those who are no longer considered ‘children’ under Section 3(h) of the law.”
In XXX’s case, the inclusion of his adult children “within the ambit of protection afforded under [the Anti-VAWC Act] cannot be denied,” held the Court. “This Court, pursuant to the State policy of protecting women and children from violence and threats to their security and safety, will not interpret a provision of [the Anti-VAWC Act] as to make it powerless and futile,” the Court stressed. [Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office]
Full text of G.R. No. 187175 (XXX v. AAA, BBB, and Minor CCC) at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/187175-xxx-vs-aaa-bbb-and-minor-ccc/