Wife may testify vs her husband if marital relations are strained

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My sister, Marian, married Nestor. However, their relationship lasted only for four years, and they separated. Nestor became a drunkard, and whenever he is intoxicated, he creates trouble either by harming my sister or harassing my father. One time, Nestor chanced upon my father. Nestor accused my father of meddling with his life, hence, his marriage with my sister failed. My father belied his accusations. Their arguments resulted in a fist fight. The incident was witnessed by Marian. My father eventually filed a criminal complaint against Nestor. Marian supported him by executing a written testimony. Nestor laughed when he saw that Marian took side with my father and claimed that the testimony of his wife, Marian cannot be used against him. Is this true?    Adelina

Dear Adelina,
The general rule is the husband or the wife cannot testify against the other during their marriage. This is provided under Section 22, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court:

“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”.

The rationale behind this rule was discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Alvarez vs. Ramirez(G.R. No. 143439, October 14, 2005, Ponente: the Honorable former Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez):

“The reasons given for the rule are the following:

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.

“But like all other general rules, the marital disqualification rule has its own exceptions, both in civil actions between the spouses and in criminal cases for offenses committed by one against the other. Like the rule itself, the exceptions are backed by sound reasons which, in the excepted cases, outweigh those in support of the general rule. For instance, where the marital and domestic relations are so strained that there is no more harmony to be preserved nor peace and tranquility which may be disturbed, the reason based upon such harmony and tranquility fails. In such a case, identity of interests disappears and the consequent danger of perjury based on that identity is non-existent. Likewise, in such a situation, the security and confidences 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.”

In the case of Marian, she will not be disqualified by reason of marriage if she will testify against Nestor because the situation falls exactly under the exemptions provided by the 1997 Revised Rules of Court. Their marital relations are already strained because of their separation in fact; hence, no more harmony or tranquility of the marriage will be disturbed if she will testify.

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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