Published 9 June 2023, The Daily Tribune

In the recent case of Jacinto v. Fouts (GR 250627, 7 December 2022), the Supreme Court ruled that Republic Act 9262, or the Violence against Women and their Children Act, applied to lesbian relationships, thus benefiting women victimized by their female partners.

The case originated from an incident in 2018 where Jacinto was accused of assaulting her live-in partner, Fouts. A criminal case for violation of RA 9262 was filed against Jacinto, who argued that RA 9262 did not apply to lesbian relationships and sought to have the case dismissed.

RA 9262 defines violence against women and their children as “any act or series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which resulted in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse, including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

The trial court rejected Jacinto’s argument, saying that RA 9262 applied to any person, regardless of gender, who has had a sexual or dating relationship with a woman. Citing the case of Garcia v. Drilon (GR 179267, 25 June 2013), the court held that the use of the gender-neutral term “person” in the law’s provisions encompassed lesbian relationships.

Jacinto went to the Supreme Court and argued that the trial court was wrong in its interpretation of RA 9262. According to her, such interpretation would unjustly protect one woman in a relationship while denying the other woman the same protection. Jacinto also argued that the Supreme Court’s statement regarding lesbian relationships in Garcia v. Drilon was simply an obiter dictum that was not binding to the present case. An obiter dictum is a remark made, or opinion expressed, by a judge in his decision upon a cause by the way, that is, incidentally or collaterally, and not directly upon the question before him, or upon a point not necessarily involved in the determination of the cause, or introduced by way of illustration, or analogy or argument (Dee v. Harvest All Investment Limited, 807 Phil. 572, 583, 2017).

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s interpretation that RA 9262 applied to lesbian relationships. It disagreed with Jacinto’s argument that the statement regarding lesbian relationships was a mere obiter dictum. The Court noted that one of the issues raised in Garcia was the supposed discriminatory and unjust provisions of RA 9262 which were likewise violative of the equal protection clause. Thus, the Court’s discussion as to the applicability of the law to lesbian relationships was clearly a resolution of the issue raised in Garcia and not a mere obiter dictum or an opinion of the Court.

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