Marriage and Privacy
by Atty. Karissa Tolentino

Scared of getting married? Does being married justify a spouse in ransacking drawers or cabi nets of the other for any telltale evidence of marital infidelity?

Cecilia entered the clinic of her husband, Alfredo, and forcibly opened the drawers and cabinet and took 157 documents consisting of private correspondence between Alfredo and his alleged paramours, such as greeting cards, cancelled checks, diaries, photographs, and Alfredo’s passport. She seized these documents and used the same in the legal separation and disqualification from the practice of medicine case that she filed against Alfredo. Can Cecilia legally use the documents and papers as her evidence of his husband’s infidelity?

The Supreme Court held in the case of Cecilia Zulueta v. Court of Appeals and Alfredo Martin (G.R. No. 107383, February 20, 1996), that the documents and papers in question are inadmissible in evidence. The constitutional injunction declaring “the privacy of communication and correspondence [to be] inviolable” is no less applicable simply because it is the wife (who thinks herself aggrieved by her husband’s infidelity) who is the party against whom the constitutional provision is to be enforced. The only exception to the prohibition in the Constitution is if there is a “lawful order [from a] court or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.” Any violation of this provision renders the evidence obtained inadmissible “for any purpose in any proceeding.”

The high court further stated that “[t]he intimacies between husband and wife do not justify any one of them in breaking the drawers and cabinets of the other and in ransacking them for any telltale evidence of marital infidelity. A person, by contracting marriage, does not shed his/ her integrity or his right to privacy as an individual and the constitutional protection is ever available to him or to her.”

Indeed, our right to privacy and other fundamental rights will not diminish by contracting marriage. (To be continued)

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