Online posting of ex-girlfriend’s nude photos invites criminal action

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I was in a four-year relationship with a man whom I met in my first job after college. We were in a happy-sad kind of relationship, even if I often caught him communicating with and seeing other women without my knowledge. I finally broke up with him in 2014. When he learned that I am already getting married this year, he sent me horrific nude photos of a woman with my face glued on them and threatened that he will send them to all our friends, including my husband-to-be, if I will not call off my wedding. He even told me he can make more of those that will look so real that I will be humiliated to my bones. He is a graphic artist and I am afraid that my reputation will be damaged because of what he can do. I can prove that he was the one who sent me the photos. Do I have a cause of action against him under Republic Act 9262?

Sincerely yours,
MJ

Dear MJ,
A situation similar to yours had been ruled upon by the Supreme Court speaking through the former Associate Justice Roberto Abad in the case of Rustan Ang v. Court of Appeals and Irish Sagud (G.R. No. 182835, 20 April 2013), where it was held that the ex-boyfriend who sent the alleged naked picture to the woman indeed violated Section 5 (h) (5) of Republic Act 9262 or the Law Against Violence on Women and their Children. The case defined thus:

Section 5 identifies the act or acts that constitute violence against women and these include any form of harassment that causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to a woman. Thus:


SEC. 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children. The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

x x x x

h. Engaging in purposeful, knowing or reckless conduct, personally or through another, that alarms or causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to the woman or her child. This shall include, but not be limited to, the following acts:

x x x x

5. Engaging in any form of harassment or violence;

The above provisions, taken together, indicate that the elements of the crime of violence against women through harassment are:

1. The offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship with the offended woman;

2. The offender, by himself or through another, commits an act or series of acts of harassment against the woman; and

3. The harassment alarms or causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to her. [Emphasis supplied]

In this case, the Supreme Court said:

…the court cannot measure the trauma that Irish experienced based on Rustan’s low regard for the alleged moral sensibilities of today’s youth. What is obscene and injurious to an offended woman can of course only be determined based on the circumstances of each case. Here, the naked woman on the picture, her legs spread open and bearing Irish’s head and face, was clearly an obscene picture and, to Irish a revolting and offensive one. Surely, any woman like Irish, who is not in the pornography trade, would be scandalized and pained if she sees herself in such a picture. What makes it further terrifying is that, as Irish testified, Rustan sent the picture with a threat to post it on the Internet for all to see. That must have given her a nightmare.

Thus, in your situation, the fact that your ex-boyfriend harassed you by devising such nude pictures in order to stop your marriage and that it may have caused you substantial distress and anxiety, you may pursue a criminal action against him using the above-stated provision of the law and the mentioned jurisprudence.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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