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Proposed law would treat cheating spouses equally

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:34:00 10/20/2009

Filed Under: Legislation, Laws, Crime and Law and Justice, Gender Issues, Justice & Rights

MANILA, Philippines ? The House committee on the revision of laws has recommended the passage of a bill that seeks to replace the crimes of adultery (for women) and concubinage (for men) with the crime of marital infidelity that would apply equally to both sexes.

The bill would also prohibit a spouse from filing a criminal complaint for infidelity if the complainant had likewise been unfaithful.

Under present law, adultery is not committed by the husband. The Revised Penal Code states that ?adultery is committed by any married woman who shall have sexual intercourse with a man not her husband.? She faces imprisonment of 2 to 4 years.

On the other hand, the Revised Penal Code defines concubinage as ?any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, or shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place...? He faces imprisonment of 6 months to 6 years.

When it comes to marital infidelity, the existing law seems biased against the woman. If the wife commits one act of adultery, she and her lover can be criminally charged.

However, the husband who commits numerous acts of marital infidelity cannot be sued by his wife for adultery. The philandering husband must be sued for concubinage.

Concubinage is also harder to prove, according to the committee, chaired by Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao.

In the proposed bill, marital infidelity is committed by any married person who has sexual intercourse with anyone other than his or her spouse. Any person who has sexual intercourse with a married person will also be held liable.

?The present law governing the infidelity of a married person is one of the laws that underlines the inequality of the sexes before the law... To equalize the rights of men and women before the law, this bill seeks to punish the infidelity of a married person under the same elements by combining the crime of adultery and concubinage into a single crime applicable similarly to both men and women,? the bill states.

The proposed legislation, a consolidation of similar bills filed by Representatives Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan, Joel Villanueva, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Narciso Santiago III, prescribes a punishment of 6 months to 4 years imprisonment.

It also proposes that the offended party will not be able to file criminal cases if he or she likewise committed marital infidelity, or if he or she abandoned the unfaithful spouse without just cause for more than one year, or if he or she does not include both guilty parties in the complaint.

The bill also proposes that Muslims and indigenous people be held liable for marital infidelity regardless of their faith and traditions.

Government officials and personnel who would be found guilty of marital infidelity will be slapped with a harsher penalty of 6 to 8 years imprisonment.

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