Warning: The following article contains descriptions of violence and domestic abuse.
ON JULY 13, 2022, former UAAP courtside reporter Agatha Uvero accused her ex-boyfriend, PBA player and former UP standout Paul Desiderio, of physical and emotional abuse.
In her tweets, Uvero outlined a series of horrific acts allegedly done by Desiderio to her during their relationship. These include:
1) Strangling her until she almost threw up,
2) Gripping her face “so hard to cause bruises”,
3) Grabbing Uvero’s hands and using them to hit her,
4) Throwing her into “a table, a bed, and a wall”,
5) Biting her, and then subsequently strangling her as not to “leave a mark”,
6) Hitting her face into a car window,
7) Kicking her body twice while she lay on the floor after strangling her, and
8) Locking her in a room under threat of death.
Uvero further stated that the strangulation and throwing her into a table occurred while she was two months pregnant.
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These acts, if proven, are clear violations of Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act, better known as VAWC (pronounced “vahw-see”).
What is VAWC, and how does it apply to Agatha's allegations against Paul Desiderio?
VAWC is a law enacted in 2004 to specifically address violence committed against women and children. It defines “violence against women and their children” as any act or series of acts committed by any person against the following: A woman who is his wife or former wife; a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship; a woman with whom he has a common child, or against a woman’s child, whether legitimate or illegitimate.
As you can see from the definition, the law was meant to protect women in the context of romantic relationships. A recent Supreme Court case has even extended VAWC protection to women in illicit relationships.
Note that VAWC protects women against not only physical violence, but also sexual, psychological, and even economic abuse. The protection is so extensive that even exposing a woman to the abuse of her pet was enough to constitute psychological violence under the law.
Desiderio’s alleged acts against Uvero all fall squarely as physical violence. The act of locking her in a room under the threat of death and more abuse is arguably psychological violence, especially if coupled with Uvero’s claim that she has sustained PTSD from the abuse she has “endured under him.”
VAWC carries with it a penalty of jail time to up to twelve years.
VAWC’s constitutionality has previously been questioned before — naturally, by a man who repeatedly abused his wife. The arguments against its validity revolved around the equal protection clause of the Philippine constitution, since the law only protects women and their children to the exclusion of husbands and boyfriends.
The Supreme Court dispensed of this argument and stated that the VAWC was constitutional because of the historically “unequal power relationship between men and women” and since women are more “usual” and “most likely” victims of violence.
Another interesting tidbit about VAWC is that it allows “Battered Woman Syndrome” as a defense for victims who fight back against their abusers. Under Section 26 of VAWC, victim-survivors who are found to be suffering from “battered woman syndrome” do not incur any criminal and civil liability. To determine such, the courts usually are assisted by expert psychiatrists and psychologists.
If you’re a guy and want to make some lame joke about “battered husband syndrome,” now’s not the time. In fact, you can just keep it to yourself because it’s not funny. In a tweet by journalist and podcast host Ceej Tantengco, there has been at least “1 publicized case of domestic abuse by a PBA player PER YEAR since 2018.” Desiderio, if allegations are true, is just the latest in a possibly disturbing trend that has to stop.
It's time we talk about this issue more. Domestic violence is not an issue that women have to face alone in the dark corners of society’s silence. It’s an issue we all have to face. Atin 'to.
Mickey Ingles is a leading sports lawyer working in the law firm of Ingles Laurel Calderon. He wrote the country's first and only book on sports law, Laws for Sports and the Sporty. He also teaches Emerging Issues in Sports Law in the Ateneo Law School, and is the author of Alinam, a fantasy novel published by Summit Media.