PREGNANCY OUT OF WEDLOCK: THE LEGAL POINT
Love is useless unless it is shared with another. Indeed, no man is an island, the cruelest act of a partner in marriage is to say “I could not have cared less.” This is so because an ungiven self is an unfulfilled self. The egoist has nothing but himself. In the natural order, it is sexual intimacy which brings spouses wholeness and oneness. Sexual intimacy is a gift and a participation in the mystery of creation. It is a function which enlivens the hope of procreation and ensures the continuation of family relations. (Tsoi vs Court of Appeals, GR No. 119190, January 16, 1997)
The jurisprudence below illustrates the legal effect of getting pregnant out of wedlock while in the government service.
Vicky, utility worker in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Alaminos City in Pangasinan, was charged with administrative offense of disgraceful and immoral conduct.
An anonymous complaint was lodged against Vicky alleging that the latter is unmarried but got pregnant and gave birth sometime in October 2005. Accordingly, the complainant claimed that Vicky’s behavior tarnishes the image of the judiciary.
Vicky admitted that she is single/unmarried, and indeed she was pregnant and actually gave birth to a baby boy named Christian Jeon Radam on 03 November 2005 at the Western Pangasinan District Hospital, Alaminos City. The reason why she did not yet marry the father of her child Christian Jeon was that she and the child’s father have pending applications to migrate to Canada as in fact they have a mutual plan to remain unmarried. Nevertheless, she expressed her remorse and promised not to commit the same mistake and indiscretion in the future.
Judge Abella, the investigating judge, found such conduct fell short of the strict standards of Court personnel and contrary to the Code of Judicial Ethics and the Civil Service Rules. A place in the judiciary demands upright men and women who must carry on with dignity, hence Vicky is guilty of disgraceful and immoral conduct which cannot be countenanced by the Court. It accentuate that the image of the Judiciary has been affected by such conduct.
After reviewing the findings of Judge Abella, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that Vicky be absolved of the charge of immorality because her alleged misconduct, that is, giving birth out of wedlock did not affect the character and nature of her position as a utility worker. It observed that the relationship of Vicky to her alleged boyfriend did not caused prejudice to any person or has adversely affected the performance of her function as utility worker to the detriment of the public service. Subsequently, the aforesaid case was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Is Vicky administratively liable for immorality?
The Supreme Court ruled in the negative.
For purposes of determining administrative responsibility, giving birth out of wedlock is not per se immoral under civil service laws. For such conduct to warrant disciplinary action, the same must be grossly immoral, that is, it must be so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree.
Citing the case of Estrada v. Escritor, the Court emphasized that in determining whether the acts complained of constitute disgraceful and immoral behavior under civil service laws, the distinction between public and secular morality on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other should be kept in mind. The distinction between public and secular morality as expressed albeit not exclusively in the law, on the one hand, and religious morality, on the other, is important because the jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality. Thus, government action, including its proscription of immorality as expressed in criminal law like adultery or concubinage, must have a secular purpose.
For a particular conduct to constitute disgraceful and immoral behavior under civil service laws, it must be regulated on account of the concerns of public and secular morality. It cannot be judged based on personal bias, specifically those colored by particular mores. Nor should it be grounded on cultural values not convincingly demonstrated to have been recognized in the realm of public policy expressed in the Constitution and the laws. At the same time, the constitutionally guaranteed rights (such as the right to privacy) should be observed to the extent that they protect behavior that may be frowned upon by the majority.
Under these tests, two things may be concluded from the fact that an unmarried woman gives birth out of wedlock:
- if the father of the child is himself unmarried, the woman is not ordinarily administratively liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct. It may be a not-so-ideal situation and may cause complications for both mother and child but it does not give cause for administrative sanction. There is no law which penalizes an unmarried mother under those circumstances by reason of her sexual conduct or proscribes the consensual sexual activity between two unmarried persons. Neither does the situation contravene any fundamental state policy as expressed in the Constitution, a document that accommodates various belief systems irrespective of dogmatic origins.
- if the father of the child born out of wedlock is himself married to a woman other than the mother, then there is a cause for administrative sanction against either the father or the mother. In such a case, the disgraceful and immoral conduct consists of having extramarital relations with a married person. The sanctity of marriage is constitutionally recognized and likewise affirmed by our statutes as a special contract of permanent union. Accordingly, judicial employees have been sanctioned for their dalliances with married persons or for their own betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity.
In this case, it was not disputed that, like Vicky, the father of her child was unmarried. Therefore, Vicky cannot be held liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct simply because she gave birth to the child Christian Jeon out of wedlock. (Anonymous vs Radam, A.M. No. P-07-2333, December 19, 2003)