2016 (Criminal Law) Bar Exam Questions: Question 19

[Answer/discuss the question below, or see 2016 bar exam Criminal Law Instructions; 2016 Criminal Law questions: 123456789101112131415161718, and 19; See also 2016 Bar Exam: Information, Discussions, Tips, Questions and Results]


Romeo and Julia have been married for twelve (12) years and had two (2) children. The first few years of their marriage went along smoothly. However, on the fifth year onwards, they would often quarrel when Romeo comes home drunk. The quarrels became increasingly violent, marked by quiet periods when Julia would leave the conjugal dwelling. During these times of quiet, Romeo would “court” Julia with flowers and chocolate and convince her to return home, telling her that he could not live without her; or Romeo would ask Julia to forgive him, which she did, believing that if she humbled herself, Romeo would change. After a month of marital bliss, Romeo would return to his drinking habit and the quarrel would start again, verbally at first, until it would escalate to physical violence.

One night, Romeo came home drunk and went straight to bed. Fearing the onset of another violent fight, Julia stabbed Romeo while he was asleep. A week later, their neighbors discovered Romeo’s rotting corpse on the marital bed. Julia and the children were nowhere to be found. Julia was charged with parricide. She asserted “battered woman’s syndrome” as her defense

[a] Explain the “cycle of violence.” (2.5%)

[b] Is Julia’s “battered woman’s syndrome” defense meritorious? Explain. (2.5%)


  1. cycle of violence is the routine behavior or practice of the husband before, during and after the infliction of the violence against his spouse

    cannot avail of the defense due to the incomplete cycle of violence at that time

  2. The following are the cycle of violence:

    1. The tension building phase;
    2. The acute battering incident; and
    3. The tranquil loving.

    Julia cannot avail the defense of battered woman syndrome because this defense is cumulative, there must be at least two episode involving the infliction of physical harm. Hence she is liable as charge of parricide.

  3. The battered woman syndrome is characterized by the so-called cycle of violence,
    ] which has three phases:

    (1) the tension-building phase;
    (2) the acute battering incident; and
    (3) the tranquil, loving (or, at least, nonviolent) phase.

    During the tension-building phase, minor battering occurs —
    it could be verbal or slight physical abuse or another form of hostile behavior.
    The woman usually tries to pacify the batterer through a show of kind,
    nurturing behavior; or by simply staying out of his way. What actually happens is that she allows herself to be abused in ways that, to her, are comparatively minor. All she wants is to prevent the escalation of the violence exhibited by the batterer. This wish, however, proves to be double-edged, because her placatory and passive behavior legitimizes his belief that he has the right to abuse her in the first place.

    However, the techniques adopted by the woman in her effort to placate him are
    not usually successful, and the verbal and/or physical abuse worsens. Each partner
    senses the imminent loss of control and the growing tension and despair.
    Exhausted from the persistent stress, the battered woman soon withdraws emotionally.
    But the more she becomes emotionally unavailable, the more the batterer becomes
    angry, oppressive and abusive. Often, at some unpredictable point, the violence spirals
    out of control and leads to an acute battering incident.

    The acute battering incident is said to be characterized by brutality, destructiveness and,
    sometimes, death. The battered woman deems this incident as unpredictable, yet also inevitable. During this phase, she has no control; only the batterer may put an end to the violence. Its nature can be as unpredictable as the time of its explosion, and so are his reasons for ending it. The battered woman usually realizes that she cannot reason with him, and that resistance would only exacerbate her condition.

    At this stage, she has a sense of detachment from the attack and the terrible pain, although she may later clearly remember every detail. Her apparent passivity in the face of acute violence may be rationalized thus: the batterer is almost always much stronger physically, and she knows from her past painful experience that it is futile to fight back. Acute battering incidents are often very savage and out of control, such that innocent bystanders or intervenors are likely to get hurt.

    The final phase of the cycle of violence begins when the acute battering incident ends. During this tranquil period, the couple experience profound relief. On the one hand, the batterer may show a tender and nurturing behavior towards his partner. He knows that he has been viciously cruel and tries to make up for it, begging for her forgiveness and promising never to beat her again. On the other hand, the battered woman also tries to convince herself that the battery will never happen again; that her partner will change for the better; and that this good, gentle and caring man is the real person whom she loves.

    [b] Is Julia’s “battered woman’s syndrome” defense meritorious? Explain.

    No. In PP vs Genova, the SC pronounced and laid out the following guidelines for
    the battery woman’s syndrome to avail:

    Under the facts, however, she is not entitled to complete exoneration because
    there was no unlawful aggression — no immediate and unexpected attack
    on her by her batterer-husband at the time she stabbed him.

    Absent unlawful aggression, there can be no self-defense, complete or incomplete.

    First, each of the phases of the cycle of violence must be proven to have characterized
    at least two battering episodes between the appellant and her intimate partner.

    This first element seems to be present in the instant case…there is more than one
    occasion of quarrel.

    Second, the final acute battering episode preceding the killing of the batterer must have
    produced in the battered persons mind an actual fear of an imminent harm from her
    batterer and an honest belief that she needed to use force in order to save her life.

    The second element seems to be absent. The victim was drunk and asleep when
    stabbed to death.

    Third, at the time of the killing, the batterer must have posed probable — not necessarily
    immediate and actual — grave harm to the accused, based on the history of violence
    perpetrated by the former against the latter. Taken altogether, these circumstances
    could satisfy the requisites of self-defense. Under the existing facts of the present case,
    however, not all of these elements were duly established.

    This obviously is lacking.

    PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. MARIVIC GENOSA, appellant.
    G.R. No. 135981. January 15, 2004

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