[Blueboard] Domestic Violence and the Law

polsci at admu.edu.ph polsci at admu.edu.ph
Fri Mar 12 13:32:55 PHT 2004

Domestic Violence and the Law
by Jennifer Santiago Oreta
Department of Political Science

Studies conducted during the 70’s and the early 80’s reveal that in most cases, 
Filipinas are “content with their lot and accepted the traditional ascribed 
roles of homemakers.” (Torres, 1989) Filipinos are socialized in the belief 
that the woman’s place is in the home and the man’s place is to support or 
provide the financial needs of the family.  Generation after generation, this 
belief system has continued. 

The traditional notion of Filipinas is to preserve marriage at all cost.  Women 
do not come forward even if their partners are already physically abusing 
them.  Some reasons given why some women refuse to leave are:

° The partner might still change for the better.
° She still loves the man despite everything.
° She can’t have a broken family; she’s doing it for the children.
° She can’t support the children by herself.
° She doesn’t want her parents to blame her for the break-up of marriage.
° She’s afraid of what the man might do to her.
° The man might take her kids.
° She probably deserves the beating.
° She does not want to tarnish the good reputation of the man.
° It’s natural for women to be beaten.
° Nobody else can understand her man, she pities him.
° If she improves, she won’t get beaten.
° She’s afraid to be alone and lonely.
° She’s not familiar about her rights.
° It’s a family affair, others should not meddle.
° The man might lose his job if she calls the police.
° She was brought up to think that pleasing the man is her  responsibility.
° She’s used to it.

Aside from all these myths, domestic violence persists also because of the 
prevailing legal environment.  In cases of conflict between husband and wife, 
the law leans heavily on spousal reconciliation. The primary consideration is 
the salvation of marriage at all cost.  For instance, the Family Code (Art. 58) 
recommends a “cooling-off” period of six-months for a couple who files for 
separation.  This cooling-off period applies regardless of what the grounds for 
separation are.  It even applies to cases where the conflict stems from 
domestic violence. Domestic violence is a catch-all phrase that refers to 
marital rape, wife battering, incest, and others.  


	RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 is a landmark legislation because 
it redefines “rape” as a crime against persons rather than a crime against 
chastity. Rape now becomes a public crime, as opposed to the old law that 
regarded it as a private crime (crime against chastity). However, the law is 
still vague when the persons involved are legally married.   Marriage, 
seemingly, makes the husband incapable of rape, and gives him wholesale 
authority over his wife’s body, making her a mere possession. 

Still, Chapter 3 Art 266-C of RA 8353 declares the effect of pardon in 
marriage.  “
The subsequent forgiveness by the wife 
 shall extinguish the 
criminal action or the penalty imposed.” A public crime (rape) can, apparently, 
be extinguished by an individual through the act of forgiveness.   Marriage 
absolves the criminal act committed against a person. 

Marital rape is as rampant as ordinary rape. In a US study conducted by Diana 
Russel (1990), more than one in every seven women have been raped in 
marriage.   It must be noted that rape has a broader definition in US 
jurisprudence.  One does not have to physically resist the aggressor to be 
considered raped.  When the wife submits to have sex out of fear due to verbal 
threat or deprivation of certain necessities, the act is considered rape.	

Another effort by the Philippine Government to protect rape victims is the 
passage of Republic Act 8505 on February 13, 1998.  The law provides for the 
giving of assistance and protection to rape victims.  It mandates the 
establishment of Rape Crisis Centers in every province and provides them with 
the necessary budget. 
Wife battering  

>From January to September 2001, data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) 
Women’s and Children’s Desk reveal that wife battering accounts for 55.1% of 
reported cases of violence against women. 

In the same period, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 
helped a total of 5,504 battered women.  As of November 2001, a study by the 
NCRFW shows that the largest group of battered women are within the age-group 
of 18-25 years old. Majority of them blame themselves for the abuses committed 
against themselves and their children. 


The common understanding of incest is that it is a carnal or sexual 
relationship between persons who are closely related by blood or legal 
relations. It is commonly seen as an act of using power or taking advantage of 
a minor’s trust by someone who is greater in age.  E. Sue Blume defines incest 
as “the imposition of sexually inappropriate acts, or acts with sexual 
overtones, or any use of a minor to meet the sexual/ emotional needs of one or 
more persons who derive authority through on-going emotional bonding with that 
child.” (Dimacali-Bartolome, Tin, “Taking the lid off incest,” in  Parents.)    

Incest thrives in secrecy.  Most often, victims are too ashamed to admit that 
they were taken advantaged of.  The honor of the family and the fear of being 
looked with disdain and being ostracized prevent one from coming out in the 

The 1997 Anti-Rape law allows other people, aside from the victim, to file 
charges on behalf of the victim.  The parent/s, the Women Crisis Intervention 
Centers, and concerned government agencies like DSWD and the PNP can file 
charges against the perpetrator if the victim is afraid to file it 
him/herself.  However, “most incest cases still do not prosper because victims 
themselves file affidavits of desistance.” (Interview:  Antoinetta Rellin, 
Coordinator of Lihok Pilipina) 

High profile cases (e.g. Carlson’s suicide, Kris & Joey break-up) called the 
attention of the public to domestic violence.   Domestic violence was 
categorized under the broad term ‘physical injuries.’ The passage of the Anti-
Violence Against Women (VAW) and their Children Act of 2004 by the 11th 
Congress before it adjourned this year was considered a victory of women’s 
rights advocates.  VAW advocates had been pushing for this bill since the 9th 
Congress.  This victory has been largely credited to the Abanse Pinay sectoral 
representative Patricia Sarenas.  The law covers any act of violence committed 
by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, girlfriend or live-
in partner.  It also includes violence against “her child whether legitimate or 

The bias of the State is to protect marriage and family at all cost. I agree 
that indeed there is a need to further strengthen the bond between husband and 
wife. There are threats, however, that need to be acknowledged.  Among them is 
the issue of domestic violence, which includes rape, battering, and incest. Due 
to the increasing cases of domestic violence, the VAW is considered a landmark 
legislation to protect women and children in family relations.  It aims to 
break the prevalent notion among law enforcers and the courts that domestic 
violence is a private matter to be settled between parties, and that there is 
no law that explicitly punishes it. 

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