A NEW Family Court has been established in Davao City - the Branch 6-Family Court - and it is aptly handled by a female judge who is a mother and wife herself.

Judge Zarah Daquila Aguisando-Silvosa was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the judge of Branch 6-FC of Davao City on March 8, 2022.

A native of Norala, South Cotabato and a graduate of Ateneo de Davao University College of Law, Judge Silvosa relates her "vocation" as a Family Court Judge to her being a mother.

"As a mother, I want to protect and promote the welfare of my children. As a family court judge, I want the same better conditions for the youthful victims and offenders," she said.

As a wife and a Family Court Judge, she also prays for the continued happy married life for every couple.

"Though we are not living in a perfect world, but as much as possible, if only the Family Court judge could help a family and children lighten their burden, we are ready to help them in every way we can," Silvosa said.

The Family Court was created by virtue of Republic Act No. 8369 also known as the Family Courts Act of 1997. Family Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide the following cases:

a) Criminal cases where one or more of the accused is below 18 years of age but not less than nine years of age or where one or more of the victims is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, That if the minor is found guilty, the court shall promulgate sentence and ascertain any civil liability which the accused may have incurred;

b) Petitions for guardianship, custody of children, habeas corpus in relation to the latter;

c) Petitions for adoption of children and the revocation thereof;

d) Complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains;

e) Petitions for support and/or acknowledgment;

f) Summary judicial proceedings brought under the provisions of Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the “Family Code of the Philippines”;

g) Petitions for declaration of status of children as abandoned, dependent or neglected children, petitions for voluntary or involuntary commitment of children; the suspension, termination, or restoration of parental authority and other cases cognizable under Presidential Decree No. 603, Executive Order No. 56, (Series of 1986), and other related laws;

h) Petitions for the constitution of the family home;

i) Cases against minors cognizable under the Dangerous Drugs Act, as amended;

j) Violations of Republic Act No. 7610, otherwise known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act,” as amended by Republic Act No. 7658; and

k) Cases of domestic violence against:

1) Women – which are acts of gender based violence that results, or are likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women; and other forms of physical abuse such as battering or threats and coercion which violate a woman’s personhood, integrity and freedom movement; and

2) Children – which include the commission of all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, violence, and discrimination and all other conditions prejudicial to their development.

In layman's terms, the Family Court is created to protect and promote the welfare of the children who are victims of crime as well as the youthful offenders, taking into account their unique conditions or situations. It is mandated to put the best interest of the children first before everyone else's and to protect the sanctity of family life by providing a venue for any amicable settlement of family controversy.

However, as the Branch 6-Family Court is a newly established court, Judge Silvosa does not discount the challenges she is facing as its judge.

"This branch has no physical court and staff yet. So at the moment, I am an assisting judge in one of the designated Family Courts in Davao City handling newly-filed Family Court cases to acclimatize and train myself to the unique procedures in Family Courts," Silvosa said.

At the moment, Davao City has three existing designated Family Courts already, which are hearing and deciding Family Court cases, prior to her appointment.

But since Branch 6-Family is the first statutory Family Court in Davao City, she said she badly needs a space to be used as a physical court for the branch. Aside from this, she also needs a staff to assist her and for the court operation to run smoothly.

When asked how she is dealing with the humps and challenges the newly-established court is facing right now, she said admittedly, yet humbly: "By asking help from the Supreme Court as well as the Local Government Unit to provide us a space to be used as a physical court for Branch 6-FC. We are also asking the Supreme Court to issue an authority to fill up the vacancies in this branch, as well as for them to set aside a budget for the effective performance of this court in hearing and deciding cases."

However, she emphasized that she is not alone facing this dilemma as she knew that almost all of the newly-appointed Family Court judges in Mindanao have the same problem.

"But in the meantime, I am requesting for Job Orders from the LGU to assist me while I do not have regular staff yet. Pending the establishment of the physical court and appointment of staff, the staff of the court where I am an assisting judge right now is the one acting/assisting me," the lady judge said.

However, given these setbacks, she said becoming a judge is one of her dreams. "It is my gift to my parents who worked hard for us, their children, sending us to school and through their hard work, we are all professionals now."

She added that to have a healthy, peaceful, and happy life with her family is her ultimate dream.

"Especially for my child with autism to be able to achieve his ambitions and live a normal life," she ended.