When extra-marital affairs should be none of our business

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

I WOULD be bold to say this. Ordinary people do not mind much the extra-marital affairs of their leaders, as long as the public officials perform well in their official duties and functions. The only time they would be bothered by the private sins of public officials is when these get in the way of the performance of their duties.

Thus, I would argue that the moral condemnation of extra-marital affairs inhabit the mindsets mostly of the elite moralists, whom I call the “neo-Victorians.” Under the present political set-up, this has become so politicized by partisanship that it is now a breeding ground for misogyny and selective moralizing.

Critics of Leila de Lima condemn her for having an affair with her married driver, even as they dismiss Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s affair. The President himself lent his supportive voice to the normalization of Alvarez’s affair when he dismissed it as a non-issue.

On the other side of the political war are the Leila de Lima defenders who pounce on the President and the Speaker, yet were silent on de Lima’s frailties. They painted Leila as a victim of misogyny, even as Ronnie Dayan is in the same situation as Alvarez.


Defenders of Alvarez argue that de Lima is being held up for public scrutiny not for the affair with Dayan, but for her use of her relationship with him in connection with her involvement in the drug operations inside the national penitentiary, as alleged in the cases for which she is now detained.

But Alvarez is also being accused of allegedly committing acts anent to his role as a public official triggered, if not influenced, by his affair, although he is denying this. This allegedly included not only his filing of a case against Congressman Antonio Floirendo Jr., but also his order for the Congressional Spouses Foundation to vacate their office at the Batasan Complex.

Lest it be misunderstood, adultery and concubinage are both punishable offenses under our Revised Penal Code. Adultery attaches to a married woman who engages in sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband, and in full knowledge that she is married at the time that the act occurred, even if the marriage is subsequently declared void. Concubinage, on the other hand, is committed by a married man who keeps a mistress in a conjugal dwelling, or has intercourse under scandalous circumstances with a woman who is not his wife, or cohabits with her in any other place.

However, while these are considered as crimes, only the offended spouse can file a complaint against both the spouse and the paramour. A criminal proceeding is in fact terminated when the offended spouse consents to the offense, or withdraws and pardons the offenders.

It is in this regard that these crimes become problematic, in the sense that while they are considered to be acts against the people of the Philippines, in the final analysis it remains a private matter between the offending party and his or her spouse.

It is about time that we take a serious re-evaluation of these crimes.

For one, there is indeed a misogynistic element present, particularly in the penalties. The penalty for a married woman found guilty of adultery is higher than the penalty for a married man convicted of concubinage.

Furthermore, there could even be an issue of violating the equal protection clause, considering that Muslim men can have more than one wife, thereby institutionalizing concubinage in the context of marriage solemnized under Shariah law. This has led to many married men converting to Islam just to escape the legal penalties for keeping a girlfriend, and for which they are now even allowed to marry them.

There are also legal loopholes. Sexual intercourse appears to be a necessary requirement for the crimes to attach, and cannot simply be assumed, except in concubinage when the man already cohabits with his paramour.

If there is no cohabitation, then the law stipulates that mere existence of sexual intercourse is not even sufficient to convict. In order for concubinage to attach to the act, it should be proven that sexual intercourse happened under scandalous circumstances, whatever this means.

It is evident that cultural constructs and personal relationships have greatly shifted through the years, and that the institution of marriage itself has experienced shifts not only in meaning but also in how it is practiced.

Adultery and concubinage rest on the assumption that sex occurs outside the bounds of marriage. It is worrisome that the elitist moralizing by “neo-Victorians” may not end here, but may even extend into other forms of sexual relationship outside marriage, such as pre-marital sex, or gay sex, of two consenting and unmarried adults.

To use affairs outside marriage as a metric in judging the public conduct of officials must be re-examined in the light of changing times.

In the end, we should realize that there are instances when private affairs of public officials are none of our business when they do not infringe on the affairs of the state, and do not undermine the public good.

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13 Comments

    • Contreras will defend anything said and done by the Duterte administration apparently.

    • @FYI

      Yeah the guy’s a hypocrite. He claims he teaches his students to be critical thinkers, yet he himself is incredibly biased towards the Duterte administration. Heck he allows his students to post rude troll-like comments in his Facebook page as long as it supports the Duterte administration or agrees with his articles. Even here in Manila Times he called out pro-Robredo trolls for ruining our country, but says nothing about the pro-Duterte trolls plaguing the comments section here.

      I’m sad that this “professor” is “teaching” in my alma mater.

  1. The problem is, A married man that has a girlfriend is spending his family’s money on his extra martial affairs.

    Money earned from a man’s job is not solely his money. A marriage is a union that is a equal partnership by law.

    Money as well as properties earned during a marriage belongs to both so if one of them is spending the income buying gifts for a girlfriend outside their marriage then they are in violation of the law.

    Women who’s husbands cheat should hire a lawyer and sue the girlfriend for a return of the money and gifts the husband gave since half that money belonged to the wife.

    Ever wonder why congress wont pass a divorce law ?
    All the politicians would lose their wife’s, half their income and their children.

  2. Carla Balagtas on

    Digong Duterte is legally separated and has a common law wife. He is extremely effective in his job as president of the Philippines as he was as mayor of Davao city. Leni Robredo has a married lover who is also a congressman. She flaunts her relationship with him by having him carry her bag and take her picture in all her domestic and international trips, even to Africa. Leni Robredo was fired from the chairmanship of the HUDCC for gross incompetence. Most Filipinos want to fire her as vice president of the Philippines as well, because of gross incompetence and more seriously her acts that are inimical to the interests of Filipinos especially those abroad.

  3. Mario Santos on

    Most (not all) elected public officials in the Legislative Branch of the government has “extra-marital affairs”, what surprises me is that Catholic Church is mum/close-mouthed about this issue.

  4. We condemn politicians for adultery and concubinage but what about the religious people of the church committing such? Are they excuse for doing so?

    • Religious people are not exempt. They are actually shamed, removed from service and excommunicated.

  5. Yes, extra-marital affairs is none of our business. But.on the condition that the one doing it does not flaunt it publicly like it should be the norm. Keep what is private private. Being able to perform one’s job cannot be made an excuse by a public official – or for anybody else for that matter – to engage in extra-marital affair.. If he can’t help engaging in extra-marital affairs, it is his obligation to try being discreet, instead of flaunting it publicly. Flaunt it like Duterte does, for what? Just being honest, he says. Well, last time I checked, keeping discreet about private matters does not necessarily equate to dishonesty!

    • fred, am not defending du30. he has a big mouth to use to defend himself. but you are wrong, du30 does not indulge in extra-marital affairs. he is a BACHELOR, BINATA, WALANG ASAWA. go check. he might be living in with his live in partner and according to him he has 2 other girlfriends on the side but he is not indulge in extra marital affairs. his marriage was dissolved.

  6. … Ordinary people do not mind much the extra-marital affairs of their leaders, as long as the public officials perform well in their official duties and functions. The only time they would be bothered by the private sins of public officials is when these get in the way of the performance of their duties.

    Anything that anyone does within the four walls of his/her bedroom is private and personal. It’s inviolable.

  7. I am sorry but I personally believe that if De Lima is disbarred for sexual immorality, then all male lawyers especially those who turned politicians should also be made accountable. We have tolerated this double standard that only men can have affairs but women should not. That is why I have always found it hypocritical for the male opponents of De Lima to accuse her of sins they are also committing. Though i don’t like De Lima, it is preferable for me to hang her for her performance as DOJ since the NB became the drug factory during her time and the drug business still flourished inside the NB. If they want to tie her sexual immorality to the drug business, I can also tie the mistresses of government officials to corruption. This is the reason why a lot of policemen and government officials are tempted to be corrupt. They are feeding more than one family. Raising just one family is already too much. What more if you have more than one.

  8. Why NOT? If they are government officials, we, the public expect them to give good examples for the public especially the young.

    If they cannot be good examples- GET OUT OF THE PUBLIC OFFICE!!! You have no place in the government office. Just go to hell!!! We do not need you.