Published 15 February 2021, The Daily Tribune

It is not far-fetched that the pandemic that the world is currently experiencing will affect not only the country’s economy and health system, but also the basic unit of our society, i.e., the family.

Due to the far reaching and complicated challenges that this pandemic may bring to an individual, legal issues within the family may be expected and have, in fact, been subject of court suits.

Normally, members of the family live together, especially the Filipino family. We are known for having strong and close family ties. Our Constitution and Family Code are replete with provisions protecting the family and the sanctity of marriage.

In fact, under Article 68 of the Family Code, the husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.

But, is this provision inviolable in such a manner that a married person’s other constitutional rights are no longer recognized? What happens if a husband or a wife no longer wishes to live with his or her spouse? Is a court of law empowered to compel a husband and a wife to live together, or at least be the subject of visitation rights by the spouse against his or her will? These questions were resolved in  the case of  Ilusorio v. Bildner (G.R. No. 139789, May 12, 2000 ).  

The Supreme Court ruled that no court is empowered as a judicial authority to compel a husband to live with his wife.

Coverture cannot be enforced by compulsion of a writ of habeas corpus carried out by sheriffs or by any other process.

That is a matter beyond judicial authority and is best left to the man and woman’s free choice.

The Supreme Court gave credence to the Court of Appeals’ finding that there was no unlawful restraint on respondent’s liberty.

Being of sound mind, he was thus possessed with the capacity to make choices. The crucial choices revolve on his residence and the people he opts to see or live with. The choices he made may not appeal to some of his family members but these are choices which exclusively belong to him.

With his full mental capacity coupled with the right of choice, he may not be the subject of visitation rights against his free choice. Otherwise, we will deprive him of his right to privacy.

Needless to say, this will run against his fundamental constitutional right. In case the husband refuses to see his wife for private reasons, he is at liberty to do so without threat of any penalty attached to the exercise of his right.

Without a doubt, in these trying times, we must principally rely on our families to surpass the challenges that this pandemic may bring. The family usually provides a strong support system to help the members overcome difficulties.  

It is but natural to expect and show love, care and affection among family members.

However, a person’s right to privacy and freedom of choice are still respected, even that of married people.

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