My brother-in-law ran off with his former girlfriend, leaving my sister and their 6-month-old daughter without a single centavo. We believe that they will migrate to Singapore. My sister has been hearing rumors about my brother-in-law’s illicit affairs, but I guess she chose to believe his denials. Now, she is in a lot of distress and she is considering filing a case against him even just to ensure that their daughter will get support, but she feels she is running out of time. Can my sister prevent him from getting a passport or can she seek issuance of a hold-departure order so as to prevent him from leaving the country?
The right to travel is a right entrenched in our very Constitution. It may not be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law (Section 6, Article III, 1987 Philippine Constitution).
For this reason, we believe that your brother-in-law may not be prevented outright from leaving the Philippines if he so desires to exercise his right to travel because his right is guaranteed by the supreme law of the land. Only if it is shown that his travel contradicts the interest of our national security, public safety or public health or if there is a lawful order from the courts may he be prevented from traveling.
We would want to emphasize also that your sister may only obtain a hold-departure order if she has already filed a criminal case against her husband and the same is pending before the Regional Trial Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over the case (Supreme Court Circular No. 39-97).
Insofar as her desire to prevent him from getting a passport, we believe that at this point it may not prosper because she must establish that there is a lawful basis or a legal ground thereto. It is expressly provided for under Section 8 of Republic Act. 8239, or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 that: “The application for passport may be denied, canceled or restricted only on the following grounds: (a) Denial of Passport: (1) On orders of the court, after due notice and hearing, to hold the departure of an applicant because of a pending criminal case; (2) When so requested by the natural or legal guardian, if the applicant is a minor; (3) When the applicant has been found to have violated any of the provisions of this Act; (4) Such other disqualification under existing laws. (b) Cancellation: (1) When the holder is a fugitive from justice; (2) When the holder has been convicted of a criminal offense: Provided, That the passport may be restored after service of sentence; or (3) When a passport was acquired fraudulently or tampered with. x x x”
If, ultimately, what your sister wants is to ensure financial support from her husband because the latter fails or refuses to provide the same, she may consider filing an action for support before the Regional Trial Court, which sits as a Family Court with jurisdiction over the place where she and their daughter reside. If his failure or refusal is so grave that it already amounts to economic abuse, she may consider filing a complaint for violation of the provisions of Republic Act 9262, or more commonly known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org