The law that protects the guilty

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There are certain provisions of law that people might consider weird. One particular law in our Revised Penal Code might have earned a certain degree of notoriety among law students and lawyers not just because of its subject but because of the absence of penalty imposable upon the doer. This particular article does not in fact penalise but protects the person who “committed” it. There have been several attempts to repeal this law including the one filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the senate. The most recent attempt to have this law obliterated is the filing of the Gabriela Partylist Representatives of House Bill 100 last 30 June 2016. This law is of course Art. 247 of the Revised Penal Code which states: Death or physical injuries inflicted under exceptional circumstances. — Any legally married person who having surprised his spouse in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another person, shall kill any of them or both of them in the act or immediately thereafter, or shall inflict upon them any serious physical injury, shall suffer the penalty of destierro. If he shall inflict upon them physical injuries of any other kind, he shall be exempt from punishment. These rules shall be applicable, under the same circumstances, to parents with respect to their daughters under eighteen years of age, and their seducer, while the daughters are living with their parents.Any person who shall promote or facilitate the prostitution of his wife or daughter, or shall otherwise have consented to the infidelity of the other spouse shall not be entitled to the benefits of this article.

Under this article, if it will be shown that the killer spouse committed the act because of his rage or anger upon discovering his or her spouse having sexual intercourse with another person, he will not have any criminal liability. Distierro or banishment is not meant to penalise him or her but to intended as a protection from retaliation or vendetta from the relatives of the deceased. It can only be surmised that the article exempts the surprised spouse from any criminal liability because he was the one who was wronged by the sexual act between his spouse and the paramour. He or she is then given the benefit of defending himself from the dishonour. According to Senator Santiago in her explanatory note, the present article goes against R.A. 7610 or the Special Protection for Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and R.A. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004. Certainly, death will be too much a penalty for a wife who has sexual intercourse with another man and this law allows the husband to take the law into his own hands and becomes the prosecutor, judge, and executioner. The good senator also likened this provision with the “honour killings” practised among some communities or culture groups abroad. The Gabriela echoed these in the new bill they recently filed in the Lower House. While some agree that a spouse should avenge his dishonour others might be horrified by the thought of killing a person by reason of sexual infidelity and it merely reinforces the patriarchal system in our country. The reaction of the male dominated congress is not known. It can be inferred from the fact that the article has not been amended yet despite several bills since 2010, that congress is not keen on approving the repeal.

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