Published 29 January 2021, The Daily Tribune

One of the general characteristics of criminal law is Territoriality, which means that penal laws of the Philippines are enforceable only within its territory, subject to certain exceptions.

Article 2 of the Revised Penal Code enumerates several instances where extra-territorial application of Philippine penal laws may be allowed, such as: committing offenses in a Philippine ship or airship, forging any coin or currency note or obligation of the Philippines and introducing the same in the territory or committing crimes against national security and the law of nations. The offenses enumerated above even if committed outside the Philippine territory may be tried in the Philippines because its pernicious effects are felt in the Philippines.

In AAA vs. BBB (G.R. No. 212448, January 11, 2018), the Supreme Court expounded on this concept of extra-territorial application when it sought to answer the question:

“May Philippine courts exercise jurisdiction over an offense constituting psychological violence under Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, committed through marital infidelity, when the alleged illicit relationship occurred or is occurring outside the country?”

In 2006, AAA and BBB got married in Quezon City, Philippines. The couple had 2 children in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

In May 2007, BBB started working in Singapore as a chef, where he acquired permanent resident status in September 2008. Meanwhile, AAA stayed in the Philippines.

AAA claimed, among others, that BBB started having an affair and have been living with a Singaporean woman in Singapore. Things came to a head on in April 2011 when AAA and BBB had a violent altercation at a hotel room in Singapore during her visit with their kids.

AAA sued BBB for psychological violence under the VAWC Law on the ground of marital infidelity. The prosecution charged BBB with violation of Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262.

The RTC however quashed the Information against BBB, reasoning that: “the acts complained of him [BBB] had occurred in Singapore, dismissal of this case is proper since the Court enjoys no jurisdiction over the offense charged, it having transpired outside the territorial jurisdiction of this Court.”

AAA sought direct recourse to the Supreme Court who gave merit to her petition.

Citing Dinamling v. People, the High Court reiterated that psychological violence is an element of violation of Section 5(i) just like the mental or emotional anguish caused on the victim. Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while mental or emotional anguish is the effect caused to or the damage sustained by the offended party.

The Supreme Court thus ruled that even if the alleged extra-marital affair causing the offended wife mental and emotional anguish is committed abroad, Philippine Courts have jurisdiction over Psychological Violence under R.A. 9262. It was explained that what the law punishes is the violence against women and their children, not the marital infidelity per se.

The Supreme Court added that acts of violence against women and their children may manifest transitory or continuing crimes, hence, a person charged with a continuing or transitory crime may be validly tried in any municipality or territory where the offense was in part committed.

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