October 3, 2011
How to stop ex-husband's harassment
Dear Atty. Allen:
I got married in 2008 via Muslim wedding in Quiapo to my then Bangladeshi boyfriend, because he verbally promised to my parents that we will convert to Christian after a year or two. We got married in Muslim wedding for his temporary resident visa. He stayed in our home and we lived as husband and wife. He was already mean and verbally abusive of me since our first year of marriage. He was also disrespectful of my parents.
When I was already pregnant on our 2nd year together (2010), the only time I remember he gave me financial help was in the month of January when he bought us groceries, and then Php2,000 every month vs. our almost Php10,000 to Php15,000 expenses at home. Part of the expenses was because I was always on bed rest due to threatened abortion.
I found out in the latter week of June 2010 that he got married to another Muslim. He told me he will leave me but he will stay first in my home because he was still going to look for his new home. He also broke the bike I gave him and promised he will pay but he didn't. He told his second wife that he wanted my baby dead so that they could be together without any obligation from me. He also didn't want to divorce me last year because he wanted to use our marriage contract for his visa until this year, in March, when his temporary resident visa will be renewed.
He also threatened me that he will get the baby from me after I give birth and send the baby to Bangladesh because it is His Muslim right as the father. His second wife would also send me text messages out of the blue saying that I was a prostitute because I had no husband, and continuously tried me to stress me out while my baby was still inside my womb.
I pleaded them both to stop emotionally stressing me because of my condition but his wife who was two months pregnant then, who also threatened to commit abortion, continuously tried to hurt my feelings even if I was just quiet and tried to move on without creating any chaos or problem to them. I did not even ask for any assistance from my ex because they threatened me that if I ask for assistance, my ex will get my baby because it is his right. But he kept telling me that he does not want me to use the name I suggested to him for our baby in early quarter of 2010. He said he was going to use it for their baby, and he said I should not use his surname for "my" baby.
A few days after I gave birth, he went to me to try to harass me about the divorce. He kept telling me that he did not love me anymore and I should leave him alone. But I wasn't ever saying anything to them at all because from the time I respectfully asked him to leave my house and packed his things, I even told his wife to take care of him because I love him but I am letting him go because he is not happy with me.
My father got mad and almost physically hurt him for trying to intimidate me and tell me different inconsistent things like I am running after him or he kept telling me he loves his wife and he does not love me.
When they couldn't reach me thru text messaging, they tried to stress me out via email, and Facebook. They kept quiet from February to March, but they are starting again with the divorce. I have no problem with the divorce as I have told them from day 1 that I learned about his marrying another wife—because I practice the Christian faith. The second wife is also trying to persecute me with my faith and told me that she hates me because I am Christian and that I just became Muslim because of my ex.
I've been waiting for the divorce papers that my ex said he will process but it never came. My estimate is that he didnt have money to have it processed. He couldn't raise two families.
Just last week, they said they will go to Mindanao to have fix our divorce. I am waiting for it. They also do not want me to consult a lawyer and want me to follow their rules that the papers will go through the Imam only. Since September last year, I had no direct communication with them because they kept texting me bad things so my parents were the one handling my phone. Now that they are forcing me to answer yes or confirm that I will sign the divorce papers, I would just like to seek assistance about my right as a human being, as a woman, and my daughter's right, and our protection from both of them.
May I please seek your opinion and expert advice on this?
Atty. Allen replies:
I regret that I cannot answer your question on the effects of your pending Muslim divorce as these are covered by the Shar'iah Law provisions on marriage and divorce. The Shar'iah Law is applicable to marriages contracted by two Muslims and those contracted by a Muslim and a non-Muslim but solemnized according to Muslim rights. If you want to make sure that your and your baby's rights are protected during the divorce proceedings, I suggest you seek assistance from a Shar'iah lawyer.
As far as I know, there are provisions in the Shar'iah Law on support pending and after the divorce, as well as on the legitimacy of children, which are parallel to the Civil Code's. A Shar'iah lawyer should be able to advise you better on how to protect and enforce these rights according to Muslim laws.
I can understand why you welcome the divorce at this point. You have been subjected to so many different forms of violence by your ex-husband and his present wife. My concern is that no woman should put up with these abuses. There are legal recourses that abused women like you can take, not only to protect your life and your interests, but also to ensure that such abusive acts do not go unpunished.
Republic Act No. 9262, also known as Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, is a landmark piece of legislation. It acknowledges the reality that many women are trapped inside abusive relationships. And in most cases, the social expectation that women should be devoted to the relationship only empowers male aggressors and perpetuates the abuse.
Republic Act No. 9262 penalizes violence against women and their children. The law defines "violence against women and their children" as any act or a series of acts committed by any person against: 1) 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 2) against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result 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. So even if your divorce is eventually granted, you are still protected from abuse under the law. The "violence" referred to here can be physical, psychological, sexual or economic in nature.
From your letter, it is clear that your ex-husband and his present wife have been continuously committing psychological violence and economic abuse, in violation of Republic Act No. 9262. To put a stop to this, I recommend that you file a complaint with the City Prosecutor's Office where you live. If you feel that you need more assistance initially, you can also consult the Public Attorney's Office to advise you and help you with your complaint.
Aside from the penalties provided under the law, Republic Act No. 9262 also provides several levels of protection for women like you while the case is being heard. If you feel that you need urgent protection, especially against harassment by your ex-husband and present wife, you can file an application with your Barangay Captain for a Barangay Protection Order (BPO). Note that the Barangay Captain is empowered to issue the protection order based on your application alone, without requiring a confrontation between you and your aggressors. The BPO is effective only for 15 days, but this should give you enough time to apply for a Temporary Protection Order with the Regional Trial Court where your case is pending.
The TPO is also issued upon application and without the requirement of a hearing. The order is effective for 30 days. Prior to its expiration, however, the court shall hear the application and decide on whether or not a Permanent Protection Order (PPO) should be issued. If you don't have a lawyer to represent you in these hearings, the court will automatically order that Public Attorney's Office to represent you.
These protection orders can grant you any and all of the following reliefs: prohibit your aggressors from threatening to commit or committing any of the violations punishable under Republic Act No. 9262; prohibiting them from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting or communicating with you, whether directly or indirectly; remove your ex-husband from the residence, regardless of ownership of the residence; direct your aggressors to stay away from you and your family; direct him to provide support for you and your child, among others.
Your status in life should never be an excuse for putting up with any form of abuse. Remember that you always have options. And not fighting for you and your child is not one of them.
If you have questions for Atty. Allen, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atty. Allen A. Liberato is head of Corporate Legal Affairs at strategic marketing communications firm TeamAsia. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman and her law education from the University of Perpetual Help under Dean Justice Isagani A. Cruz.