Unconstitutional love

The heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know“, said the Supreme Court when it overturned the dismissal of a 30-year old high school teacher who fell in love with, and married, her 16-year old student with the consent of his mother (at that time the minimum age of marriage for males was 16 years old, but with parental consent). But this does not apply to lawyers – especially married ones who engage in extramarital relationships with persons who are also married.

A petition for the disbarment of a well-known lawyer for “grossly immoral conduct and unmitigated violation of the lawyer’s oath” was filed by the husband of his paramour (there is no record of the lawyer’s wife having filed a similar charge against him.) It appeared that the lawyer and his paramour had been engaged in a romantic relationship even before the latter got married to the complainant. And that the lawyer even wrote a love letter to his paramour on the day of her wedding.

The lawyer did not deny having the relationship, but emphasized that it was not scandalous in character, since it was “low profile and known only to the immediate members of their respective families.”

However the Supreme Court emphasized that a lawyer may be held guilty of “grossly immoral conduct”, and thus disbarred, if he is in a “non-scandalous” romantic relationship with a person who is not his/her spouse:

“Whether a lawyer’s sexual congress with a woman not his wife or without the benefit of marriage should be characterized as ‘grossly immoral conduct’ depends on the surrounding circumstances. The case at bar involves a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who is not his wife.  It is immaterial whether the affair was carried out discreetly…”

Interestingly, the Supreme Court emphasized that the respondent lawyer is aware of Section 2 Article XV (The Family) of the Constitution, which states that “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”

In other words, all extramarital relationships unconstitutional. The usual remedy against unconstitutional acts is to seek redress from the Supreme Court. But in the case of extramarital relationships, the offended spouse cannot file a petition to compel his/her spouse to comply with his/her constitutional obligations – “No court is empowered as a judicial authority to compel a husband to live with his wife. Coverture cannot be enforced by compulsion of a writ of habeas corpus carried out by sheriffs or by any other mesne process. That is a matter beyond judicial authority and is best left to the man and woman’s free choice.”

The remedy of the offended spouse lies elsewhere – the Revised Penal Code (criminal action for concubinage or adultery), the Family Code (declaration of nullity of marriage, annulment of marriage, legal separation), and if the guilty spouse is a lawyer or other professional, revocation of license.

Decisions here and here.