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Marital Disqualification Rule


Sec. 22Disqualification by reason of marriage. — During their marriage, neither the husband nor the wife may testify for or against the other without the consent of the affected spouse, except in a civil case by one against the other, or in a criminal case for a crime committed by one against the other or the latter's direct descendants or ascendants. (Rule 130, Rules of Court)



During the marriage may the husband or the wife testify for or against the other without the consent of the affected spouse?


As a general rule, the spouses, during the marriage, may not testify for or against the other without the consent of the affected spouse. (Sec. 22, Rule 130) This is also known as "spouses immunity".


What is the reason for the rule?

1.  There is identity of interests between husband and wife;

2.   If one were to testify for or against the other, there is consequent danger of perjury;

3.  The policy of the law is to guard the security and confidences of private life, even at the risk of an occasional failure of justice, and to prevent domestic disunion and unhappiness; and

4.  Where there is want of domestic tranquility there is danger of punishing one spouse through the hostile testimony of the other. (Alvarez vs. Ramirez, G.R. No. 143439, October 14, 2005)


● The rule forbidding one spouse to testify for or against the other is based on principles which are deemed important to preserve the marriage relation as one of full confidence and affection, and that this is regarded as more important to the public welfare than that the exigencies of the lawsuits should authorize domestic peace to be disregarded for the sake of ferreting out facts within the knowledge of strangers.


What are the exceptions to the rule?
  1. In a civil case by one against the other, or
  2. In a criminal case for a crime committed by one against the other or the latter's direct descendants or ascendants.
  3. When the testimony was made outside the marriage
  4. When the marital relations are so strained, there is no more consideration for applying the said rule. To apply the exception there must be an offense that directly attacks, or directly and vitally impairs, the conjugal relations. (Ordoño v. Daquigan)

What are the reason for the exception?

The reason for the exception is that the identity of the interest of person disappears and the consequent danger of perjury based on that identity is non-existent. And in such a situation, the security and confidence of private life which the law aims at protecting will be nothing but ideals which, through their absence, merely leave a void in the unhappy home. (Alvarez vs. Ramirez)


What are the requisites for the marital disqualification rule?
  1. Marriage is valid and existing as of the time of the offer of testimony.
  2. The other spouse is a party to the action.
  3. No consent from the spouse-litigant
  4. Not a civil case by one against the other, or a criminal case for a crime committed by one against the other or the latter's direct descendants or ascendants.

● The spouses must be legally married to each other to invoke the benefit of the rule; it does not cover an illicit relationship (People vs. Francisco, 78 Phil. 694). When the marriage is dissolved on the grounds provided for by law like annulment or declaration of nullity, the rule can no longer be invoked. A spouse can already testify against the other despite an objection being interposed by the affected spouse. If the testimony for or against the other spouse is offered during the existence of the marriage, it does not matter if the facts subject of the testimony occurred before the marriage. It only matters that the affected spouse objects to the offer of testimony.

● The testimony covered by the marital disqualification rule not only consists of utterances but also the production of documents (State vs. Bramlet, 114 SC 389).


Who may object?

Only the other spouse who is a party to the case.


May objections to the competency of a husband and wife to testify against the other may be waived? 

Objections to the competency of a husband and wife to testify in a criminal prosecution against the other may be waived as in the case of other witnesses generally. (People vs. Pasensoy, G. R. No. 140634. September 12, 2002)


When should objection to the competency of the spouse must be made?

The objection to the competency of the spouse must be made when he or she is first offered as a witness. (People vs. Pasensoy)


Cases:

People v. Castañeda 
88 SCRA 562 (1979) 

The wife can testify against the husband in a case for falsification of the wife’s signature in public documents to sell share of wife in conjugal property because it is a crime committed by the husband against the wife.


People v. Francisco
78 Phil. 694 (1947) 

Where the accused husband in his testimony imputed the commission of the crime to his wife, he is deemed to have waived his objection to the latter’s testimony in rebuttal.


Alvarez vs. Ramirez
G.R. No. 143439, October 14, 2005

The act of private respondent in setting fire to the house of his sister-in-law Susan Ramirez, knowing fully well that his wife was there, and in fact with the alleged intent of injuring the latter, is an act totally alien to the harmony and confidences of marital relation which the disqualification primarily seeks to protect. The criminal act complained of had the effect of directly and vitally impairing the conjugal relation. It underscored the fact that the marital and domestic relations between her and the accused-husband have become so strained that there is no more harmony, peace or tranquility to be preserved. The Supreme Court has held that in such a case, identity is non-existent. In such a situation, the security and confidences of private life which the law aims to protect are nothing but ideals which through their absence, merely leave a void in the unhappy home. Thus, there is no longer any reason to apply the Marital Disqualification Rule.


Bar Questions:

2006 Bar: Leticia was estranged from her husband Paul for more than a year due to his suspicion that she was having an affair with Manuel their neighbor. She was temporarily living with her sister in Pasig City. For unknown reasons, the house of Leticia‘s sister was burned, killing the latter. Leticia survived. She saw her husband in the vicinity during the incident. Later he was charged with arson in an Information filed with the Regional Trial Court , Pasig City. During the trial, the prosecutor called Leticia to the witness stand and offered her testimony to prove that her husband committed arson. Can Leticia testify over the objection of her husband on the ground of marital privilege? (5%)

Answer: No, Leticia cannot testify over the objection of her husband, not under marital privilege which is inapplicable and which can be waived, but she would be barred under Sec. 22 of Rule 130, which prohibits her from testifying and which cannot be waived (Alvarez v. Ramirez, GR No. 143439, 10/14/2005). - ???


2004 Bar: XYZ, an alien, was criminally charged of promoting and facilitating child prostitution and other sexual abuses under RA No. 7610. The principal witness against him was his Filipina wife, ABC. Earlier, she had complained that XYZ‘s hotel was being used as a center for sex tourism and child trafficking. The defense counsel for XYZ objected to the testimony of ABC at the trial of the child prostitution case and the introduction of the affidavits she executed against her husband as a violation of espousal confidentiality and marital privilege rule. It turned out the DEF, the minor daughter of ABC by her first husband who was a Filipino, was molested by XYZ earlier. Thus, ABC had filed for legal separation from XYZ since last year. May the court admit the testimony and affidavits of the wife, ABC, against her husband  XYZ, in the criminal case involving child prostitution? Reason. (5%)

Answer: Yes. The court may admit the testimony and affidavits of the wife against her husband in the criminal case where it involves child prostitution of the wife‘s daughter. It is not covered by the marital privilege rule. One exception thereof is where the crime is committed by one against the other or the latter‘s direct descendants or ascendants (Sec. 22, Rule 130). A committed crime by father against his daughter is a crime against the wife and directly attacks or vitally impairs the conjugal relation (Ordonio v. Daquigan, 62 SCRA 270 [1975])


Read:
Marital Disqualification Rule vs. Marital Privilege Rule

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