Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Battered Woman Syndrome

I promised you in my Salt and Light blog post entitled “Coming Attractions” that I will write a lengthy article on the “Battered Woman Syndrome.” Well, here’s the article as I promised, taken from excerpts of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Marivic Genosa, a Leyteña convicted of murdering her husband for which the trial court imposed on her the death penalty. The Supreme Court’s decision is heavy reading, even for law students, but if you’re a counselor, pastor, or someone who personally knows a battered woman, you should take the time and effort in understanding it.

Republic Act 9262 or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004” defines BWS as “a scientifically defined pattern of psychological and behavioral symptoms found in women living in battering relationships as a result of cumulative abuse.” Section 26 of RA 9262 discusses the “Battered Woman Syndrome” as a defense, to wit,

Victim-survivors who are found by the courts to be suffering from battered woman syndrome do not incur any criminal and civil liability notwithstanding the absence of any of the elements for justifying circumstances of self-defense under the Revised Penal Code.

In the determination of the state of mind of the woman who was suffering from battered woman syndrome at the time of the commission of the crime, the courts shall be assisted by expert psychiatrists/ psychologists.
In layman’s terms, if an abused woman kills or inflict physical injuries on her abusive husband or live-in partner, once the trial court determines that she is suffering from the “Battered Woman Syndrome,” the court will declare her not guilty.

Even before the passage of RA 9262 into law last March 2004, the Supreme Court had already considered the “Battered Woman Syndrome” as a defense specifically in the case of Marivic Genosa. On automatic appeal of Genosa’s case to the High Court, nationally-known lawyer Katrina Legarda introduced BWS as Genosa’s defense.

The facts of the Genosa case, according to the prosecution

As the Supreme Court decision stated, the prosecution’s version of the facts are as follows:
“Appellant and Ben Genosa were united in marriage on November 19, 1983 in Ormoc City. Thereafter, they lived with the parents of Ben in their house at Isabel, Leyte. For a time, Ben’s younger brother, Alex, and his wife lived with them too. Sometime in 1995, however, appellant and Ben rented from Steban Matiga a house at Barangay Bilwang, Isabel, Leyte where they lived with their two children, namely: John Marben and Earl Pierre.

“On November 15, 1995, Ben and Arturo Basobas went to a cockfight after receiving their salary. They each had two (2) bottles of beer before heading home. Arturo would pass Ben’s house before reaching his. When they arrived at the house of Ben, he found out that appellant had gone to Isabel, Leyte to look for him. Ben went inside his house, while Arturo went to a store across it, waiting until 9:00 in the evening for the masiao runner to place a bet. Arturo did not see appellant arrive but on his way home passing the side of the Genosas’ rented house, he heard her say ‘I won’t hesitate to kill you’ to which Ben replied ‘Why kill me when I am innocent?’ That was the last time Arturo saw Ben alive. Arturo also noticed that since then, the Genosas’ rented house appeared uninhabited and was always closed.

“On November 16, 1995, appellant asked Erlinda Paderog, her close friend and neighbor living about fifty (50) meters from her house, to look after her pig because she was going to Cebu for a pregnancy check-up. Appellant likewise asked Erlinda to sell her motorcycle to their neighbor Ronnie Dayandayan who unfortunately had no money to buy it.

“That same day, about 12:15 in the afternoon, Joseph Valida was waiting for a bus going to Ormoc when he saw appellant going out of their house with her two kids in tow, each one carrying a bag, locking the gate and taking her children to the waiting area where he was. Joseph lived about fifty (50) meters behind the Genosas’ rented house. Joseph, appellant and her children rode the same bus to Ormoc. They had no conversation as Joseph noticed that appellant did not want to talk to him.

“On November 18, 1995, the neighbors of Steban Matiga told him about the foul odor emanating from his house being rented by Ben and appellant. Steban went there to find out the cause of the stench but the house was locked from the inside. Since he did not have a duplicate key with him, Steban destroyed the gate padlock with a borrowed steel saw. He was able to get inside through the kitchen door but only after destroying a window to reach a hook that locked it. Alone, Steban went inside the unlocked bedroom where the offensive smell was coming from. There, he saw the lifeless body of Ben lying on his side on the bed covered with a blanket. He was only in his briefs with injuries at the back of his head. Seeing this, Steban went out of the house and sent word to the mother of Ben about his son’s misfortune. Later that day, Iluminada Genosa, the mother of Ben, identified the dead body as that of [her] son.

“Meanwhile, in the morning of the same day, SPO3 Leo Acodesin, then assigned at the police station at Isabel, Leyte, received a report regarding the foul smell at the Genosas’ rented house. Together with SPO1 Millares, SPO1 Colon, and Dr. Refelina Cerillo, SPO3 Acodesin proceeded to the house and went inside the bedroom where they found the dead body of Ben lying on his side wrapped with a bedsheet. There was blood at the nape of Ben who only had his briefs on. SPO3 Acodesin found in one corner at the side of an aparador a metal pipe about two (2) meters from where Ben was, leaning against a wall. The metal pipe measured three (3) feet and six (6) inches long with a diameter of one and half (1 1/2) inches. It had an open end without a stop valve with a red stain at one end. The bedroom was not in disarray.

“About 10:00 that same morning, the cadaver of Ben, because of its stench, had to be taken outside at the back of the house before the postmortem examination was conducted by Dr. Cerillo in the presence of the police. A municipal health officer at Isabel, Leyte responsible for medico-legal cases, Dr. Cerillo found that Ben had been dead for two to three days and his body was already decomposing. The postmortem examination of Dr. Cerillo yielded the findings quoted in the Information for parricide later filed against appellant. She concluded that the cause of Ben’s death was ‘cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to severe intracranial hemorrhage due to a depressed fracture of the occipital [bone].’

“Appellant admitted killing Ben. She testified that going home after work on November 15, 1995, she got worried that her husband who was not home yet might have gone gambling since it was a payday. With her cousin Ecel Araño, appellant went to look for Ben at the marketplace and taverns at Isabel, Leyte but did not find him there. They found Ben drunk upon their return at the Genosas’ house. Ecel went home despite appellant’s request for her to sleep in their house.

“Then, Ben purportedly nagged appellant for following him, even challenging her to a fight. She allegedly ignored him and instead attended to their children who were doing their homework. Apparently disappointed with her reaction, Ben switched off the light and, with the use of a chopping knife, cut the television antenna or wire to keep her from watching television. According to appellant, Ben was about to attack her so she ran to the bedroom, but he got hold of her hands and whirled her around. She fell on the side of the bed and screamed for help. Ben left. At this point, appellant packed his clothes because she wanted him to leave. Seeing his packed clothes upon his return home, Ben allegedly flew into a rage, dragged appellant outside of the bedroom towards a drawer holding her by the neck, and told her ‘You might as well be killed so nobody would nag me.’ Appellant testified that she was aware that there was a gun inside the drawer but since Ben did not have the key to it, he got a three-inch long blade cutter from his wallet. She however, ‘smashed’ the arm of Ben with a pipe, causing him to drop the blade and his wallet. Appellant then ‘smashed’ Ben at his nape with the pipe as he was about to pick up the blade and his wallet. She thereafter ran inside the bedroom.

“Appellant, however, insisted that she ended the life of her husband by shooting him. She supposedly ‘distorted’ the drawer where the gun was and shot Ben. He did not die on the spot, though, but in the bedroom.”
Genosa’s version of events

The Supreme Court decision also narrated Genosa’s version of the facts in this manner:
1. Marivic and Ben Genosa were allegedly married on November 19, 1983. Prior to her marriage, Marivic had graduated from San Carlos, Cebu City, obtaining a degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and was working, at the time of her husband’s death, as a Secretary to the Port Managers in Ormoc City. The couple had three (3) children: John Marben, Earl Pierre and Marie Bianca.

2. Marivic and Ben had known each other since elementary school; they were neighbors in Bilwang; they were classmates; and they were third degree cousins. Both sets of parents were against their relationship, but Ben was persistent and tried to stop other suitors from courting her. Their closeness developed as he was her constant partner at fiestas.

3. After their marriage, they lived first in the home of Ben’s parents, together with Ben’s brother, Alex, in Isabel, Leyte. In the first year of marriage, Marivic and Ben ‘lived happily’. But apparently, soon thereafter, the couple would quarrel often and their fights would become violent.

6. Marivic testified that after the first year of marriage, Ben became cruel to her and was a habitual drinker. She said he provoked her, he would slap her, sometimes he would pin her down on the bed, and sometimes beat her.

These incidents happened several times and she would often run home to her parents, but Ben would follow her and seek her out, promising to change and would ask for her forgiveness. She said after she would be beaten, she would seek medical help from Dr. Dino Caing, Dr. Lucero and Dra. Cerillo. These doctors would enter the injuries inflicted upon her by Ben into their reports. Marivic said Ben would beat her or quarrel with her every time he was drunk, at least three times a week.

7. In her defense, witnesses who were not so closely related to Marivic, testified as to the abuse and violence she received at the hands of Ben.

7.1. Mr. Joe Barrientos, a fisherman, who was a [neighbor] of the Genosas, testified that on November 15, 1995, he overheard a quarrel between Ben and Marivic. Marivic was shouting for help and through the open jalousies, he saw the spouses ‘grappling with each other’. Ben had Marivic in a choke hold. He did not do anything, but had come voluntarily to testify.

7.2. Mr. Junnie Barrientos, also a fisherman, and the brother of Mr. Joe Barrientos, testified that he heard his neighbor Marivic shouting on the night of November 15, 1995. He peeped through the window of his hut which is located beside the Genosa house and saw ‘the spouses grappling with each other then Ben Genosa was holding with his both hands the neck of the accused, Marivic Genosa’. He said after a while, Marivic was able to extricate he[r]self and enter the room of the children. After that, he went back to work as he was to go fishing that evening. He returned at 8:00 the next morning.

7.3. Mr. Teodoro Sarabia was a former neighbor of the Genosas while they were living in Isabel, Leyte. His house was located about fifty (50) meters from theirs. Marivic is his niece and he knew them to be living together for 13 or 14 years. He said the couple was always quarreling. Marivic confided in him that Ben would pawn items and then would use the money to gamble. One time, he went to their house and they were quarreling. Ben was so angry, but would be pacified ‘if somebody would come.’ He testified that while Ben was alive ‘he used to gamble and when he became drunk, he would go to our house and he will say, ‘Teody’ because that was what he used to call me, ‘mokimas ta,’ which means ‘let’s go and look for a whore.’ Mr. Sarabia further testified that Ben ‘would box his wife and I would see bruises and one time she ran to me, I noticed a wound (the witness pointed to his right breast) as according to her a knife was stricken to her.’ Mr. Sarabia also said that once he saw Ben had been injured too. He said he voluntarily testified only that morning.

7.4. Miss Ecel Arano, an 18-year old student, who is a cousin of Marivic, testified that in the afternoon of November 15, 1995, Marivic went to her house and asked her help to look for Ben. They searched in the market place, several taverns and some other places, but could not find him. She accompanied Marivic home. Marivic wanted her to sleep with her in the Genosa house ‘because she might be battered by her husband.’ When they got to the Genosa house at about 7:00 in the evening, Miss Arano said that ‘her husband was already there and was drunk.’ Miss Arano knew he was drunk ‘because of his staggering walking and I can also detect his face.’ Marivic entered the house and she heard them quarrel noisily. Miss Arano testified that this was not the first time Marivic had asked her to sleep in the house as Marivic would be afraid every time her husband would come home drunk. At one time when she did sleep over, she was awakened at 10:00 in the evening when Ben arrived because the couple ‘were very noisy in the sala and I had heard something was broken like a vase.’ She said Marivic ran into her room and they locked the door. When Ben couldn’t get in he got a chair and a knife and ‘showed us the knife through the window grill and he scared us.’ She said that Marivic shouted for help, but no one came. On cross-examination, she said that when she left Marivic’s house on November 15, 1995, the couple were still quarreling.

7.5. Dr. Dino Caing, a physician testified that he and Marivic were co-employees at PHILPHOS, Isabel, Leyte. Marivic was his patient ‘many times’ and had also received treatment from other doctors. Dr. Caing testified that from July 6, 1989 until November 9, 1995, there were six (6) episodes of physical injuries inflicted upon Marivic. These injuries were reported in his Out-Patient Chart at the PHILPHOS Hospital.

The Battered Woman Syndrome

During the hearing on remand at the trial court level, expert witnesses Dra. Natividad Dayan and Dr. Pajarillo testified on what the Battered Woman Syndrome was. The Supreme Court decision states what BWS is as follows,
In claiming self-defense, appellant raises the novel theory of the battered woman syndrome. While new in Philippine jurisprudence, the concept has been recognized in foreign jurisdictions as a form of self-defense or, at the least, incomplete self-defense. By appreciating evidence that a victim or defendant is afflicted with the syndrome, foreign courts convey their “understanding of the justifiably fearful state of mind of a person who has been cyclically abused and controlled over a period of time.”

A battered woman has been defined as a woman “who is repeatedly subjected to any forceful physical or psychological behavior by a man in order to coerce her to do something he wants her to do without concern for her rights. Battered women include wives or women in any form of intimate relationship with men. Furthermore, in order to be classified as a battered woman, the couple must go through the battering cycle at least twice. Any woman may find herself in an abusive relationship with a man once. If it occurs a second time, and she remains in the situation, she is defined as a battered woman.”

Battered women exhibit common personality traits, such as low self-esteem, traditional beliefs about the home, the family and the female sex role; emotional dependence upon the dominant male; the tendency to accept responsibility for the batterer’s actions; and false hopes that the relationship will improve.

More graphically, the battered woman syndrome is characterized by the so-called “cycle of violence,” which has three phases: (1) the tension-building phase; (2) the acute battering incident; and (3) the tranquil, loving (or, at least, nonviolent) phase.

During the tension-building phase, minor battering occurs -- it could be verbal or slight physical abuse or another form of hostile behavior. The woman usually tries to pacify the batterer through a show of kind, nurturing behavior; or by simply staying out of his way. What actually happens is that she allows herself to be abused in ways that, to her, are comparatively minor. All she wants is to prevent the escalation of the violence exhibited by the batterer. This wish, however, proves to be double-edged, because her “placatory” and passive behavior legitimizes his belief that he has the right to abuse her in the first place.

However, the techniques adopted by the woman in her effort to placate him are not usually successful, and the verbal and/or physical abuse worsens. Each partner senses the imminent loss of control and the growing tension and despair. Exhausted from the persistent stress, the battered woman soon withdraws emotionally. But the more she becomes emotionally unavailable, the more the batterer becomes angry, oppressive and abusive. Often, at some unpredictable point, the violence “spirals out of control” and leads to an acute battering incident.

The acute battering incident is said to be characterized by brutality, destructiveness and, sometimes, death. The battered woman deems this incident as unpredictable, yet also inevitable. During this phase, she has no control; only the batterer may put an end to the violence. Its nature can be as unpredictable as the time of its explosion, and so are his reasons for ending it. The battered woman usually realizes that she cannot reason with him, and that resistance would only exacerbate her condition.

At this stage, she has a sense of detachment from the attack and the terrible pain, although she may later clearly remember every detail. Her apparent passivity in the face of acute violence may be rationalized thus: the batterer is almost always much stronger physically, and she knows from her past painful experience that it is futile to fight back. Acute battering incidents are often very savage and out of control, such that innocent bystanders or intervenors are likely to get hurt.

The final phase of the cycle of violence begins when the acute battering incident ends. During this tranquil period, the couple experience profound relief. On the one hand, the batterer may show a tender and nurturing behavior towards his partner. He knows that he has been viciously cruel and tries to make up for it, begging for her forgiveness and promising never to beat her again. On the other hand, the battered woman also tries to convince herself that the battery will never happen again; that her partner will change for the better; and that this “good, gentle and caring man” is the real person whom she loves.

A battered woman usually believes that she is the sole anchor of the emotional stability of the batterer. Sensing his isolation and despair, she feels responsible for his well-being. The truth, though, is that the chances of his reforming, or seeking or receiving professional help, are very slim, especially if she remains with him. Generally, only after she leaves him does he seek professional help as a way of getting her back. Yet, it is in this phase of remorseful reconciliation that she is most thoroughly tormented psychologically.

The illusion of absolute interdependency is well-entrenched in a battered woman’s psyche. In this phase, she and her batterer are indeed emotionally dependent on each other -- she for his nurturant behavior, he for her forgiveness. Underneath this miserable cycle of “tension, violence and forgiveness,” each partner may believe that it is better to die than to be separated. Neither one may really feel independent, capable of functioning without the other.
Effect of battery on a woman victim

The Supreme Court, based on the testimonies of the expert witnesses, summarized the effects when a woman is abused over a period of time, to wit,
Because of the recurring cycles of violence experienced by the abused woman, her state of mind metamorphoses. In determining her state of mind, we cannot rely merely on the judgment of an ordinary, reasonable person who is evaluating the events immediately surrounding the incident. A Canadian court has aptly pointed out that expert evidence on the psychological effect of battering on wives and common law partners are both relevant and necessary. “How can the mental state of the appellant be appreciated without it? The average member of the public may ask: Why would a woman put up with this kind of treatment? Why should she continue to live with such a man? How could she love a partner who beat her to the point of requiring hospitalization? We would expect the woman to pack her bags and go. Where is her self-respect? Why does she not cut loose and make a new life for herself? Such is the reaction of the average person confronted with the so-called ‘battered wife syndrome.’”

To understand the syndrome properly, however, one’s viewpoint should not be drawn from that of an ordinary, reasonable person. What goes on in the mind of a person who has been subjected to repeated, severe beatings may not be consistent with -- nay, comprehensible to -- those who have not been through a similar experience. Expert opinion is essential to clarify and refute common myths and misconceptions about battered women.

The theory of BWS formulated by Lenore Walker, as well as her research on domestic violence, has had a significant impact in the United States and the United Kingdom on the treatment and prosecution of cases, in which a battered woman is charged with the killing of her violent partner. The psychologist explains that the cyclical nature of the violence inflicted upon the battered woman immobilizes the latter’s “ability to act decisively in her own interests, making her feel trapped in the relationship with no means of escape.” In her years of research, Dr. Walker found that “the abuse often escalates at the point of separation and battered women are in greater danger of dying then.”

Corroborating these research findings, Dra. Dayan said that “the battered woman usually has a very low opinion of herself. She has x x x self-defeating and self-sacrificing characteristics. x x x [W]hen the violence would happen, they usually think that they provoke[d] it, that they were the one[s] who precipitated the violence[; that] they provoke[d] their spouse to be physically, verbally and even sexually abusive to them.”
The Supreme Court ruling

After the Leyte trial court heard and elevated the records of the testimonies of the expert witnesses, the Supreme Court ruled, among others,
The defense fell short of proving all three phases of the “cycle of violence” supposedly characterizing the relationship of Ben and Marivic Genosa. No doubt there were acute battering incidents. In relating to the court a quo how the fatal incident that led to the death of Ben started, Marivic perfectly described the tension-building phase of the cycle. She was able to explain in adequate detail the typical characteristics of this stage. However, that single incident does not prove the existence of the syndrome. In other words, she failed to prove that in at least another battering episode in the past, she had gone through a similar pattern.

How did the tension between the partners usually arise or build up prior to acute battering? How did Marivic normally respond to Ben’s relatively minor abuses? What means did she employ to try to prevent the situation from developing into the next (more violent) stage?

Neither did appellant proffer sufficient evidence in regard to the third phase of the cycle. She simply mentioned that she would usually run away to her mother’s or father’s house; that Ben would seek her out, ask for her forgiveness and promise to change; and that believing his words, she would return to their common abode.

Did she ever feel that she provoked the violent incidents between her and her spouse? Did she believe that she was the only hope for Ben to reform? And that she was the sole support of his emotional stability and well-being? Conversely, how dependent was she on him? Did she feel helpless and trapped in their relationship? Did both of them regard death as preferable to separation?

In sum, the defense failed to elicit from appellant herself her factual experiences and thoughts that would clearly and fully demonstrate the essential characteristics of the syndrome.

The Court appreciates the ratiocinations given by the expert witnesses for the defense. Indeed, they were able to explain fully, albeit merely theoretically and scientifically, how the personality of the battered woman usually evolved or deteriorated as a result of repeated and severe beatings inflicted upon her by her partner or spouse. They corroborated each other’s testimonies, which were culled from their numerous studies of hundreds of actual cases. However, they failed to present in court the factual experiences and thoughts that appellant had related to them -- if at all -- based on which they concluded that she had BWS.

We emphasize that in criminal cases, all the elements of a modifying circumstance must be proven in order to be appreciated. To repeat, the records lack supporting evidence that would establish all the essentials of the battered woman syndrome as manifested specifically in the case of the Genosas.
Mitigating circumstances in Genosa’s favor

However, the Supreme Court considered certain factors (“psychological paralysis as well as passion and obfuscation”) as mitigating circumstances in Genosa’s favor, to wit,
Based on the explanations of the expert witnesses, such manifestations were analogous to an illness that diminished the exercise by appellant of her will power without, however, depriving her of consciousness of her acts. There was, thus, a resulting diminution of her freedom of action, intelligence or intent. Pursuant to paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code, this circumstance should be taken in her favor and considered as a mitigating factor.

In addition, we also find in favor of appellant the extenuating circumstance of having acted upon an impulse so powerful as to have naturally produced passion and obfuscation. It has been held that this state of mind is present when a crime is committed as a result of an uncontrollable burst of passion provoked by prior unjust or improper acts or by a legitimate stimulus so powerful as to overcome reason. To appreciate this circumstance, the following requisites should concur: (1) there is an act, both unlawful and sufficient to produce such a condition of mind; and (2) this act is not far removed from the commission of the crime by a considerable length of time, during which the accused might recover her normal equanimity.

Here, an acute battering incident, wherein Ben Genosa was the unlawful aggressor, preceded his being killed by Marivic. He had further threatened to kill her while dragging her by the neck towards a cabinet in which he had kept a gun. It should also be recalled that she was eight months pregnant at the time. The attempt on her life was likewise on that of her fetus. His abusive and violent acts, an aggression which was directed at the lives of both Marivic and her unborn child, naturally produced passion and obfuscation overcoming her reason. Even though she was able to retreat to a separate room, her emotional and mental state continued. According to her, she felt her blood pressure rise; she was filled with feelings of self-pity and of fear that she and her baby were about to die. In a fit of indignation, she pried open the cabinet drawer where Ben kept a gun, then she took the weapon and used it to shoot him.

The confluence of these events brings us to the conclusion that there was no considerable period of time within which Marivic could have recovered her normal equanimity. Helpful is Dr. Pajarillo’s testimony that with “neurotic anxiety” -- a psychological effect on a victim of “overwhelming brutality [or] trauma” -- the victim relives the beating or trauma as if it were real, although she is not actually being beaten at the time. She cannot control “re-experiencing the whole thing, the most vicious and the trauma that she suffered.” She thinks “of nothing but the suffering.” Such reliving which is beyond the control of a person under similar circumstances, must have been what Marivic experienced during the brief time interval and prevented her from recovering her normal equanimity. Accordingly, she should further be credited with the mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation.

It should be clarified that these two circumstances -- psychological paralysis as well as passion and obfuscation -- did not arise from the same set of facts.

On the one hand, the first circumstance arose from the cyclical nature and the severity of the battery inflicted by the batterer-spouse upon appellant. That is, the repeated beatings over a period of time resulted in her psychological paralysis, which was analogous to an illness diminishing the exercise of her will power without depriving her of consciousness of her acts.

The second circumstance, on the other hand, resulted from the violent aggression he had inflicted on her prior to the killing. That the incident occurred when she was eight months pregnant with their child was deemed by her as an attempt not only on her life, but likewise on that of their unborn child. Such perception naturally produced passion and obfuscation on her part.
The Supreme Court’s epilogue in the Genosa case

In its Epilogue, the Court eloquently stated its concern for the safety of battered women but admitted its hands were tied by the existing provisions of the Revised Penal Code on self-defense and justifying circumstances. The Court said, to wit,
Being a novel concept in our jurisprudence, the battered woman syndrome was neither easy nor simple to analyze and recognize vis-à-vis the given set of facts in the present case. The Court agonized on how to apply the theory as a modern-day reality. It took great effort beyond the normal manner in which decisions are made -- on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence applicable to the proven facts. To give a just and proper resolution of the case, it endeavored to take a good look at studies conducted here and abroad in order to understand the intricacies of the syndrome and the distinct personality of the chronically abused person. Certainly, the Court has learned much. And definitely, the solicitor general and appellant’s counsel, Atty. Katrina Legarda, have helped it in such learning process.

While our hearts empathize with recurrently battered persons, we can only work within the limits of law, jurisprudence and given facts. We cannot make or invent them. Neither can we amend the Revised Penal Code. Only Congress, in its wisdom, may do so.

The Court, however, is not discounting the possibility of self-defense arising from the battered woman syndrome. We now sum up our main points. First, each of the phases of the cycle of violence must be proven to have characterized at least two battering episodes between the appellant and her intimate partner. Second, the final acute battering episode preceding the killing of the batterer must have produced in the battered person’s mind an actual fear of an imminent harm from her batterer and an honest belief that she needed to use force in order to save her life. Third, at the time of the killing, the batterer must have posed probable -- not necessarily immediate and actual -- grave harm to the accused, based on the history of violence perpetrated by the former against the latter. Taken altogether, these circumstances could satisfy the requisites of self-defense. Under the existing facts of the present case, however, not all of these elements were duly established.
The bottom line in Genosa’s case

Considering everything, the Supreme Court thus ruled that the Battered Woman Syndrome as defense could not be applied to Genosa. However, as pointed out above, the Court considered two mitigating circumstances (and no aggravating circumstance), and thus reduced her penalty from death to to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum; to 14 years, 8 months and 1 day of reclusion temporal as maximum. For time already served, the Court ordered Genosa’s release from the Correctional Institution for Women.

Note: Besides the post above, I have also writtten several other articles about spousal abuse, domestic violence, etc. Please take time to read the following:

Hope and help for the battered woman (2): RA 9262 essential provisions
Hope and help for the battered woman (3): RA 9262 Protection Orders
Hope and help for the battered woman (4): Emotional abuse / psychological violence
Hope and help for the battered woman (5): Biblical response to abuse; evangelical Christians are best husbands – University of Virginia study
Mediation not applicable to domestic violence cases

12 comments :

Anonymous said...

What if the battered woman had no choice but to live with the husband for a long time, say more than 20 years for fear of being ridiculed by relatives and friends and for fear of losing her children? What do you call this kind of behavior and how should this situation be stopped?

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

There are various reasons why a woman remains in an abusive relationship despite years of abuse.

According to Mary Ann Dutton in her book Dynamics of Domestic Violence: Understanding the Response from Battered Women:


1. Many women believe they cannot leave because “He can’t live without me.” They may fear that he will have a nervous breakdown, commit suicide, or lose his job.

2. She may believe that the children need a father, rationalizing that an abusive father is better than no father at all.

3. Many women fear that they will be killed if they leave an abusive relationship. Studies indeed show that battered women are more likely to be killed after leaving an abusive relationship.


According to Neil Jacobson:

1. Abused women convince themselves that things are going to get better.

2. The decision to leave an abusive husband and the actual process of doing so can be arduous, stretching over months or even years. Shame, self-blame, emotional dependence, fear of increased physical violence and the woman’s inability to “give up her dream of having a normal, loving relationship” can stop a woman from leaving.

3. Violence paired with love creates an almost unbreakable emotional connection called “traumatic bonding.”


According to the Women’s Legal Bureau and NCRFW

1. To maintain the good reputation of the man.

2. Some segments of society believe that wife-beating is part of the hazards of getting married; it’s just natural for women to get beaten up.

3. She pities the man because nobody else understands him, like she does.

4. If she improves herself, she won’t get beaten.

5. She’s afraid to be alone and lonely.

6. She doesn’t know she has rights not to be beaten.

7. It’s a family affair and others shouldn’t meddle.


8. He might lose his job if she calls the police.


According to Dr. Lenore Walker, a woman even with good education or successful career can get caught up in an abusive relationship. (Last year for example, an internationally known television host and book publisher admitted she was a battered wife.) This is because the woman gets trapped in what Dr. Walker has described below as the three stages of the Cycle of Violence.

1. Tension building stage: Tensions may be anything from a bad day to major life changes. All relationships have periods of tension. But in abusive relationships, the abuser’s need for power and control underlie anger and blaming. The tension continues to escalate.

2. Violent outburst stage: Abusers may hit, attack, verbally assault, threaten or scream at their partners. Domestic violence is a crime of power and control, not passion out of control.

3. Honeymoon (loving and contrite) stage: abuser is sorry, feels guilty, and pursues the woman with flowers, gifts, dates and romance, as in beginning of relationship.


Without outside help, a battered woman will not have the calmness of mind and the strength of will to leave an abusive relationship. She needs the intervention of family members, close friends, the help of counselors and of government agencies.

Anonymous said...

Dear Atty:

I have tried seeking help from relatives. Thank you very much for your advice. I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

dear atty,
i want to ask if it is allowed in dubai, UAE to be converted into an Islam and then married another girl from the philippines..the person i am talking about is my husband, we've been in the philippines for 8 years with 2 kids. is thier marriage valid? in Dubai or in the Philippines?

troubled wife

Anonymous said...

i mean....we've been married for 8 years in the philippines with 2 kids. is their marriage valid? in Dubai or in the philippines?

troubled wife

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

In terms of marriage, family, succession, parental authority, etc, Filipino Muslims are not governed by the Family Code of the Philippines, but by Presidential Decree 1083 or the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws.” Thus, the essential requisites of a marriage in the Family Code and in PD 1083 are different.

Art.180 of PD 1083 expressly excludes Filipino Muslims from being charged with the crime of bigamy under the Revised Penal Code. Please take note that the Supreme Court, in its Estrada vs. Escritor ruling, noted in passing that the constitutionality of Art.180 of PD 1083 has not yet been challenged. Some quarters have said that Art. 180 should be declared unconstitutional since it gives undue preference to the Muslim religion over and above other religions.

PD 1083 in Articles 164 up to 168 created the Jurisconsult on Islamic Law. Part of his function is to render legal opinions regarding any questions relating to Muslim law. You can check with the Jurisconsult if your husband has complied with the requirements for conversion to Islam, and how you can protect your rights and those of your children. You may try to contact the Jurisconsult through the Office of Muslim Affairs or through the Philippine government portal at www.gov.ph.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your advice atty. i will still keep in touch you..

Troubled wife

Anonymous said...

dear atty Galacio,
if my husband abroad is supporting my 2 children,then he is planning to have a vacation here in the phils. can he take my children away from me? because he said, he is the one supporting them, so why cant he have them instead. But he will not be the one to care of them, but his parents in pampanga. i am now in cebu, with my parents.
we just arrived here last april, because, theres no reason of staying their in his parents house, when infact he is in abroad, has another woman whom he aknowledge that they are married already, he was converted into a muslim and they had 1 child.. he just give a support for his chilren( 2yrs old & 8 yrs old) last april 20T, may 15T, june 10T.. my problem is his financial support is getting smaller evry month. How can we get a child support from him, that is sustainable. and 1 thing i keep on sending him an email.. "support or deport.." because you ATTY, worst can to worst, if he will abandon us.. i will tell the DFA of UAE that his PRC license is FAKE.. what do you think will happen then.. please help me.. i dont know what to do?

troubled wife

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

troubled wife

1. Please read my article in this blog entitled “Support for abandoned woman and family.” Please look for the link in the sidebar. Please also read my RA 9262 articles also in this blog, especially the discussion on Protection Orders.

Essentially, through a Protection Order, you can compel your husband to support you and your children. When your husband comes home, you should immediately file a petition for a Protection Order and also ask the court to issue a Hold Departure Order so that your husband will not be able to leave the country while the case is going on.

The problem however is that your husband’s employment is in another country. As of now there is no mechanism by which a court judgment here in the Philippines can be automatically enforced in another country. So even if you get a Protection Order requiring your husband to support you and your children on a monthly basis, there will be a problem once he leaves the country. One proposal that you can ask the judge to consider is for your husband to give you a sizeable amount (a one time payment) or some property by which you and your children can use to live on your own. Meaning, after your husband gives this amount or property, you will not have to depend on your husband anymore.

You can try to get free legal help from the IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines) chapter in your town or city, OR from the PAO (Public Attorneys Office). You can also ask the DSWD in your town or city for help in filing a petition for Protection Order.

2. As to the issue of your husband’s second marriage: Your husband has converted to Islam. Filipino Muslims are not covered by the Family Code but by the Code of Muslim Personal Laws. This law expressly exempts Muslims from being charged with bigamy.
3. As to the issue of custody of your children, the balance of the law is in favor of the woman. Please read my article “Custody battles over children: what determines fitness of a parent over another?” Please look for the link in the sidebar.

One of your kids is above seven years of age. Under the FC, that chidl can choose which parent he or she wants to live with. If the parent chosen by the child is unfit, however, the court can intervene. This is provided for by Article 213 FC which states:

In case of separation of the parents, parental authority shall be exercised by the parent designated by the Court. The Court shall take into account all relevant considerations, especially the choice of the child over seven years of age, unless the parent chosen is unfit.
No child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.


4. If you want people to pray for you for whatever your needs are, please follow this link to a prayer room for men and women: http://womentodaymagazine.com/chat/share.html

Anonymous said...

Dear Atty. Galacio,

Thank you so much...

Troubled wife

Anonymous said...

the process of my annullment will be 2 years this coming january,unfortunately my lawyer got illed so i have to find a new one.i would like to ask how much would i pay the new lawyer to continue the case?the case on ly reach up to the fiscal' office.how long will it still take to finish the case since i'm outside the country and could not stay for long to wait for the hearings.please let me hear from you asap.thanks!

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

When you said your annulment case only reached up to the fiscal’s office, do you mean to say that your petition was referred to that office by the Family Court judge? After the fiscal has completed and submitted his report on whether collusion exists or not, the court will then proceed with the hearing of the petition.

You did not indicate as to where your petition was filed. There are places where the court docket (number of cases handled) is not that heavy. Also, lawyers do not have control over the court’s schedule and thus cases like yours may take some time to finish. In general, Family Courts, because of their wide jurisdiction, are overburdened with the number of cases they are handling. Please take note also that it is not guaranteed that your petition will be granted by the court.

You can negotiate with lawyers as to their professional fees. Since your petition is already in court (which means that the paperwork is already there), you might be able to find lawyers who may agree on payment per pleading and per hearing only.