Prophetic Davide (Part 1)

By Rowena Guanzon
Last updated 02:20am (Mla time) 12/19/2006

REMARKABLY, at least two of the dissenting opinions of former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. proved to be prophetic. His and Justice Florenz Regalado’s dissenting opinion in People vs. Salarza, Jr (G.R. No. 117682, August 18, 1997) could very well be the decision of the majority if Judge Benjamin Pozon who presided over the Subic rape case is sustained on appeal by the Supreme Court.


In Salarza, Justices Davide and Regalado gave their opinion that a woman who was asleep could not have given her free will to the sexual intercourse, and the accused should have been convicted. For the two Justices, deprivation of reason need not be complete, and “unconsciousness” should not be tested by a mere physical standard, i.e., whether one was asleep, conscious or alert. Rather, the Justices wrote, what is required is that the woman was “fully informed of all considerations so as to make a free and informed decision regarding the grant of consent.” Their minority opinion is that it is only when the woman is fully informed that consent may be intelligently given.


In People vs. Genosa (GR 13591, January 15, 2004), the former Chief Justice dissented from the ruling that Battered Wife Syndrome is only a mitigating circumstance which reduced the penalty but did not exculpate the accused. About two months after, Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise called the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, was passed, providing for Battered Woman Syndrome as a justifying circumstance notwithstanding that any of the elements of self defense is lacking.


These are but two of the notable decisions on gender and human rights of women and girl-children that stood out in the research for the book entitled, “The Davide Court: Its Contributions To Gender and Women’s Rights” published by the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies and supported by The Asia Foundation and USAID. The book was launched last Dec. 14 together with “Engendering the Philippine Judiciary,” which was supported by the UN Development Fund for Women-Bangkok. “Engendering” is the book project on The Gender Justice Awards.


Former Chief Justice Davide was an honored guest during the book launch in Manila Hotel. Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing gave a message, and Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Co-Chairperson of the Committee on Gender Responsive of the Judiciary gave her response. The authors of “The Davide Court” are Rowena V. Guanzon, Juline Dulnuan, F.D. Nicolas Pichay, Cecilia Papa, and Damcelle Torres. “Engendering the Philippine Judiciary” was written by Rowena V. Guanzon, Aurora de Dios, Damcelle Torres and Theresa Balayon.


The researchers and authors of “The Davide Court” hope that it will be a benchmark for future Chief Justices. While former Chief Justice Davide may not be perfect (no one is), he certainly blazed a trail in trying to mainstream gender in the Judiciary for future Chief Justices to follow or surpass, and for that he deserves recognition.


Aside from the positive quality of his decisions on cases of violence against women and girl-children, Chief Justice Davide’s term is notable for the reform of the rules of court in cases involving women and children litigants, the training of judges on gender-responsiveness, and the programs of the Committee on Gender Responsiveness of the Judiciary. He was fully aware of the gap in gender and women’s human rights awareness in the Judiciary and he took deliberate steps to bridge it. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Supreme Court, however, gender discrimination in the courts continues to be a problem in the country.


More than a thousand cases involving the human rights of women and girl-children penned by Chief Justice Davide and by other justices in his Court read by a team of enthusiastic researchers and authors to produce the book, “The Davide Court: Its Contributions to Gender and Women’s Rights.”


“The Davide Court” is a meticulous and comprehensive documentation of the extended, complicated and continuing engagement of the Philippine judiciary on one hand and the advocates of women’s human rights on the other.


The book surveys more than a thousand cases decided by the Davide Court from 1998 to 2005 involving, rape, sexual harassment, child support and other gender issues. The former Chief Justice loathed rape, judging by his high conviction rate of about 87% of the total rape cases he penned during his stay in the Supreme Court. In the year 2000 alone, former Chief Justice Davide penned 13 decisions on rape (17 if including per curiam decisions), all of them convictions. Fortunately, except for the decisions in People vs. Relox and People vs. Salarza, the Davide Court has gotten rid of the unfair “she should have” (e.g., she should have shouted, she could have fled, etc) standard in rape cases.


The book also cites some decisions of the Supreme Court before the term of former Chief Justice Davide which upheld the human rights of women. Among these are the 1988 decision in People vs. Munoz penned by Justice Abraham Sarmiento (now member of the Board of Trustees of the University of the Philippines), who wrote: “ Rape victims bear the responsibility of proving that they have been raped, that they had not invited seduction, or had not been unchaste…. On the other hand, the harsh hand of social injustice does not seem to apply to the rapists.” It was in that decision where the Supreme Court used “violence committed against women” for the first time and recognizing that it does not come in the form of physical abuse alone, and called it “gender violation.”


In 1997, Justice Florenz Regalado wrote the decision in Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Company vs. National Labor Relations Commission and De Guzman, which discussed gender discrimination at length. Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, in 1975, penned the decision in Cabaliw et al. vs. Sadora, et al., a very useful ruling for women who demand support from the conjugal partnership of gains or from their husbands or fathers of their children, including petitions for protection orders that include support under Republic Act No. 9262. In the case of Cabaliw, the Supreme Court held that the wife who was granted an award of support and who sued to recover conjugal property which was fraudulently disposed by her estranged husband has a right as judgment creditor and therefore, she is entitled to a writ of execution.


The cases cited in The Davide Court serve as a historical marker for Chief Justice Davide and his court. The discussions and critique of the legal principles applied by the Supreme Court during his term can also serve as a road map for women’s human rights advocates pushing for reform.


The decisions of former Chief Justice Davide and Justices during his term will be discussed in this column next Tuesday.


To read the books, click

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