Amending the marital infidelity law

Inequalities in the law are no more harshly evident than  in the Revised Penal Code’s definition of marital infidelity and legal sanctions on perpetrators. Since 2013 a number of bills have been pending in Congress, seeking  to  amend if not to repeal Articles 333 and 334 of the RPC  to correct the imbalance in the treatment of men and women found guilty of the crime.


The National Commission for Women is in the forefront of a movement to amend laws that discriminate against women but favor men. In its agenda during the current 16th Congress the NCW is pushing Congress to check the imbalance. Representatives Emmi A. de Jesus and Luzviminda C. Ilagan go beyond amending laws as they are authors of HB 4377 which ask for the repeal of the offensive articles.


The NCW defines marital infidelity as “a violation or breach of good faith and confidence by one or both spouses to the matrimonial vows. It is also a major spousal pressure that eventually causes the breakdown of marriage as a foundation of the family.”


Under marital infidelity, a breach of the marital relationship by a married woman constitutes adultery, and that by a married man is called concubinage.


The NCW says present laws on adultery and concubinage under the RPC “both constitute marital infidelity, but these are seen as discriminatory and nebulous. While both aim to punish marital infidelity of the spouses, there is higher burden put on wives than on husbands. This disparity in the treatment of the law is seen in the evidentiary requirement for the two crimes and there is a huge underlying difference if the infidelity was committed by the male or female spouse.”


For the wife, adultery means catching her in just one act of sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband – provable through circumstantial evidence;  while for the husband, the  evidentiary requirement for concubinage is higher by proving that the sexual intercourse with a woman who is not his wife is


1) committed under scandalous circumstances;

2) that he is keeping another woman in the conjugal home, or

3) and that he is cohabiting with her in another dwelling.


Our present law also imposes higher penalty on  married women who commit infidelity as compared to married men. The penalty for women ranges from two years, four months and one day to a maximum of  six  years, while the penalty for men ranges from only six  months and one day to a maximum of  four  years and two months.


Says the NCW: “The disparity in treatment stems from gender biases that use double standards in being more lenient thus seemingly accepting the infidelity  of men as normal, but more stringent on women who are expected to be faithful to their  husbands no matter what. These discriminatory provisions in the law should be amended.”


Existing laws or policy issuances call for amending the Articles 344 and 334. Section 12 of RA 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) provides for the amendment or repeal of laws that are discriminatory to women.  The 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article II on Declaration of Principles and State Policies provides that the State “recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”


Article 2(g) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requires the State to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against women. Article 16 also calls on the State Parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and ensure equality of men and women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.


NCW posits that marital infidelity should remain an illegal act because it is not only a crime against the other spouse but also a breach to the marital vows. “Marriage is a special contract such that it is a three-party agreement that involves the spouses and the State. Although the personal rights of the spouses are involved, the State also considers itself as an offended party, not because of a breach of public order but because of the violation of marital vows which the State itself protects.”


It is hoped that the 16th Congress will act on the pending bills on marital infidelity.


A new book, Mass Media and People Power: A Brief History of Philippine Communication, was launched June 19 on the occasion of the inauguration of the #MediaSeum at the Philippine Information Agency on Visayas Ave., Quezon City.


Gemma Cruz Araneta and Secretary Sonny Colomba Jr. led the ribbon cutting for the #MediaSeum, which now houses communication and media artifacts. The #MediaSeum is a project of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and UNESCO.


Mass Media and People Power: A Brief History of Philippine Communication, is the 31st book authored or edited by former journalist and communication professor Dr. Crispin C. Maslog, senior consultant of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication. He was recently elected chair of the Board of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), which just moved its headquarters to Manila.


The book gives a bird’s eye view of the evolution of Philippine media,— from ancient times to the present. It includes discussion on the early Philippine media — the folk media, sometimes referred to as indigenous media.


The history of mass media, as we know them today — books, journals, newspapers, radio, film, television — from 1593 to today follows in another chapter.


The historic role of mass media in the two People Power Revolutions in 1986 and 2001 and in the sixth military coup attempt against the Cory Aquino administration is discussed in detail in four chapters. In 2001, the newest media — the social media — played a crucial part.


“These recent events of historic proportions deserve to be highlighted for the sake of our youth who were not yet born at the time,” Dr. Maslog stresses in his preface.


“Our People Power Revolution inspired other peoples to follow and demand democracy for their peoples,” Dr. Maslog adds, citing the cases of People Power movements in South Korea, Chile, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, from 1987 to 1989.


The #MediaSeum soft launch and book launching event was attended by icons of Philippine media and communication students, including a big delegation of 20 students from Batangas State University.

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