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Opinion

MEL STA.MARIA | RELASYON: The Kris-James and Chiz-Heart Affairs

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

Atty. Sta. Maria is the resident legal analyst of TV5. He teaches law at Ateneo de Manila University. He co-hosts "Relayson", a radio talk show, with Ms. Luchi Cruz Valdes every Monday to Friday on Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM.

 

As Relasyon went on air last March 22, Friday, I remembered what  Teresa Stover said about  news media. She said “the current state of news media is partially to blame for the public’s general lack of information vital for responsible citizenship in a democracy. The news media has become an aspect of  show business, offering merely infotainment.”

I kept this in mind because there were two topics that I knew had nothing to do with national affairs, but which I also knew we were going to talk about on national radio.

How could we not discuss Kris and James? Or Heart and Chiz? But then again, why the hell would we?

While talking about the  Kris-James and the Chiz-Heart stories was relevant  in RELASYON, there were indeed many other appropriate and important events which were newsworthy  that could have been  discussed in our first 30-minute-segment - which is usually set aside for discussing news of national import.

But the two telenovelas do at least give us some excuse to discuss some legal matter and principles. Right now, at least on these topics, this is as good a vehicle as any to educate the public on matters beyond the personalities involved - and on matters that many people may actually find relevent to their own situations.

Let me just give some  notes  on the legal  aspects of the cases, as we do in Relasyon.

KRIS   AND  JAMES

What we saw in the Kris-James story  was  like a tele-novela: The  guy crying and  the woman crying.  Allegations of ex-spousal and child abuse  made on one side. Assertions from the other side of fabricated stories were bandied about.  And as if to complete the script, the woman was represented by a male-lawyer and the man represented by a  woman-lawyer.  Amazingly, nay amusingly,  this private  problem  even became the banner headline of one leading newspaper.   The parties did not even hesitate to keep it private because they were on TV  immediately, hurling charges against each other. It was even given a significant interview segment in a particular TV news program on prime time.  Indeed,  the power of media is such that even irrelevant stories can be transformed into national  “news” …. classic  “infotainment.”

Let’s not even talk about the adult-players here because if they really do not want to see each other,  they  can just as well tell the court about it and the issue on this Temporary or Permanent  Protection Order as to them will be as useless  as an inkless ballpen. 

What is disconcerting is the matter of the child. He is the victim in this whole  troublesome affair.

These are some legal points to consider:

A  child is illegitimate if the child is born out of wedlock.  Also, a child is illegitimate if born inside a void marriage  except in two cases: First, where the marriage is void  on the ground  of  psychological incapacity of either or both of the parties; and second,  where the  subsequent marriage is void on the ground that the judicial declaration of nullity or annulment of the first marriage  was not recorded with the proper registry prior to such subsequent marriage.  In these two exceptions, the child remains legitimate despite the nullity of marriage. In Kris and her child's case, if the marriage of Kris to James were judicially nullified because the officiating  minister had  no authority to solemnize the marriage, then the child is  illegitimate because  the situation does not fall under any of the two exceptions.

While a legitimate child shall be under the joint parental authority of  both the mother and the father, an illegitimate child  shall only be  under the parental authority of the mother. This means that the mother is the only parent who can decide for the child. While the father has no parental authority over an illegitimate child, he still has the natural, legal, moral and inherent right to exercise his visitation rights over the child. His visitation right can either be suspended or terminated depending on the seriousness of  his irresponsibility.  But mere simple negligence will not suffice to suspend or terminate.

An illegitimate child may be conferred the status of a legitimate child of the mother by  an adoption decree obtained by the mother. However, the biological father must give his consent.

The illegitimate child shall principally bear the surname of the mother. However, if the father duly acknowledges the child as his child through a public document or private handwritten statement and allows his surname to be used, the child may use  the surname of the father. A father is  obliged  to support  his illegimate child. The inheritance of an illegitimate child is only half of  the inheritance of a legitimate child.

In custody  and visitation cases  involving the  children, the  Supreme Court  has always ruled that the  inflexible criterion is  their  paramount interest. If the parents are separated, certainly,  the child should not be in the custody of the parent who has no parental instinct at all.  

In case the parents are not living together, a child below seven years of age shall be in the custody of the mother unless the court finds compelling reason to remove the child from the mother. Any agreement of joint parental custody by the separated  parents is void.  Upon reaching the age of seven years old, the child can express his or her  choice as to which parents he or she wants to be with. This expression  of choice  can be taken into consideration but is not binding.  Always, the paramount interest of the child is the determining point. Hence, if an  eight-year-old child  expressly  stated that he/she wanted to be with his irresponsible mother, the court can disregard the choice and give the child to the father. But if the father is equally irresponsible, the child can be placed in the care and custody of a guardian ad litem or an accredited child welfare agency.

The rights of the parents are  treated as secondary to the welfare of  their children.   Though parents  have a natural, moral,  and legal  preferential right to the custody and care of their children, the exercise thereof  can even be taken away if  warranted. For instance, there are  cases where the courts , to the utter shock of the contending parents,   ordered that the  children  be placed in  the care and custody  of a  qualified third party guardian ad litem  because the parents cannot act civilly with each other. Their constant quarrels, virulent recriminations, brainwashing and irresponsibility  were so detrimental to the  wholesome development of  their own children that having the latter live with them  is  not  for the children’s  best interest. There was even a case  where a child preferred the peaceful home-environment of his grandparents, such that when the  lower court  ordered that   the parents should have custody, the child threatened to  commit suicide. The Supreme Court promptly ordered the child to be returned to the caring grandparents.

CHIZ  AND HEART

Chiz is a senator of the Republic . His previous marriage was already civilly nullified. He is single for all legal intents and purposes. Heart  is a  28-year old beautiful actress. Being adults, they  are qualified to do all acts of civil life.  But the parents of the actress state  that  they are gathering evidence that the senator  has a Jekyll-an-Hyde- personality. They also claimed that their daughter has personality problems. It  is  also reported that the parents said  “since he has inveigled Heart to take his side (which she has always done with all of her prior boyfriends, indicating how unstable she is) our family has decided to disown her scandalous behavior.” In short, the parents of Heart do not like Senator Chiz.

The parents said that they intend to file a libel case against the Senator. They might also file a criminal case for “incriminating  an innocent person”.  And finally, they also plan to file a case for civil damages against the senator for meddling and disturbing their private lives.

Let me just provide some legal notes  on this case:

Personality problems or disorders may be relevant  in determining the validity of any marriage. Article 36 of the Family Code provides that “ a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations  of marriage, shall  likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes  manifest only after its solemnization.” So, if Chiz and  Heart  get married and if both are discovered to have  personality disorders  that are consistent with psychological incapacity under Article 36, the marriage  can be declared void ab inito.  I am just wondering what was the ground for the nullity of marriage  of Senator Chiz in relation to his previous nullified  marriage?

We know what libel is.   According to Article  353 of the Revised Penal Code,  it s  the  “public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.” But like any other offense, there is no crime when there is no criminal mind. So criminal intent is necessary here.

Article 363 of the Revised Penal Code punishes any person who incriminates an innocent person. This is committed by “any person who, by any act not constituting perjury, shall directly incriminate or impute to an innocent person the commission of a crime.” So what crime  has actually been imputed on the family or any member thereof by the Senator is not  clear.

Article 26 of the Civil Code provides that “every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons.” The law continues by stating  that , among others, “meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another” shall “produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief.” However, for any case based on this law to prosper, there  must be proof of malice and bad faith.  A statement of a mere opinion or belief is not necessarily meddling.

In relationships,  there  are occasions where there may be some hurt but there is really no legal remedy to answer for the hurt. In law, these situations  are known  as damnum absque injuria (injury without damage) . For example, parents cannot file a case for specific performance for a child to love them.  Generally, a wife cannot file a case for damages against her husband, and vice-versa.   A husband has no remedy to compel a wife to live with him, and vice-versa also. There is  also no such case as a mere breach of promise to marry. In all these, the remedy is  emotional in character not legal. Either there will be reconciliation or the concerned people will just have to move on with life. The Chiz-Heart case may just be  damnum absque injuria as far as Heart’s parents are concerned. But let’s see.

That’s all  for now. See you all on RELASYON. 


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