Standards for immorality under the law

Published by rudy Date posted on March 28, 2011

Dear PAO,

I am an unwed pregnant woman. I found out that I am conceiving a child days after I broke up with my boyfriend. I wish to keep the baby without the pressure of marrying him. Being employed in a government agency, can I possibly be charged with immorality by the Civil Service Commission?

I do hope you can answer my query because I am helpless. Thank you very much.

Dear Mylene,

The case of Anonymous, Complainant vs Ma. Victoria P. Radam, Utility Worker, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court of Alaminos City, respondent (A.M. No. P-07-2333, December 19, 2007 (formerly OCA IPI No. 07-2510-P) squarely addresses your query.

In the said case, Ma. Victoria P. Radam is single and unmarried but got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy on 03 November 2005. During that time, she was employed as a utility worker in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Alaminos City. Being employed in the judiciary and considered as a government employee, she is covered by the civil service laws. She was then charged with immorality on the ground that she got pregnant though unmarried.

The High Court addressed the matter in this wise:

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.

In Estrada v. Escritor, we 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:

(1) 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.

(2) 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 the said case, Ma. Victoria P. Radam was exonerated from administrative liability for giving birth to a son out of wedlock considering that the father of her child was unmarried like her.

Apparently, your being pregnant though you are unmarried will not make you liable for immorality if the father of your child is also unmarried.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please take note however, that all the information contained herein are based on our appreciation of the facts have given and on the assumptions we made. A different legal opinion may be given if other facts not included in your query will be discussed. –PERSIDA ACOSTA, Manila Times

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to or via text message (key in: Times dearpao and send to 2299).

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