The Supreme Court's Third Division has acquitted two men accused of rape after it took into account differences in the victim's testimony. File photo

SC division acquits rape convicts, rejects 'Maria Clara' doctrine
Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 20, 2018 - 3:55pm
MANILA, Philippines — A division of the Supreme Court has acquitted two men of rape ina  departure from the decades-old "women's honor" doctrine that Filipino women "would not admit" abuse unless it actually happened.
The Third Division of the SC, in a decision dated Jan. 17, 2018, reversed the conviction by a Davao court of Juvy Amarela and Junard Racho for rape.
The SC, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, holds: "We have hinged on the impression that no young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she has been sexually abused, unless that is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor."
This is the essence of the "women's honor" doctrine that was entered in Philippine jurisprudence in the 1960s. 
According to the doctrine: "It is a well-known fact that women, especially Filipinos, would not admit that they have been abused unless that abuse had actually happened. This is due to their natural instinct to protect their honor. We cannot believe that the offended party would have positively stated that intercourse took place unless it did actually take place."

Raped by two men

The case stemmed from an incident in 2009, where Racho allegedly dragged a woman into a day care center and raped her.
The woman was rescued by three men, but still felt she was in danger so she fled to a neighboring house. She was later brought to the residence of Racho, her cousin's in-law.
Racho was supposed to take the woman to her aunt's place, instead "brought her to a shanty along the way against her will." Racho, the woman said, proceeded to rape her there.
The Davao Regional Trial Court Branch 11 convicted the Amarela and Racho on two different charges of rape.
The Court of Appeals, in a decision dated Feb. 17, 2016, upheld the conviction. "[O]nce a rape victim has decided to seek justice, that means she is willing to recall the dastardly detail of the animalistic act committed on her person," the court said.
Amarela and Racho brought the case to the high court.

Differing accounts  

But the SC, in weighing the appeal, took into account differences between the victim's affidavit and her testimonies in court.
"By this alone, we are hesitant to believe [her] retraction because it goes into whether it was even possible for Amarela to abduct [her] against her will," the SC noted.
The high court also questioned how the woman could identify Amarela when she said in her testimony that the incident happened in a dark place. The SC also said that the woman's account of the rape "seems unrealistic and beyond human experience."
The SC also took note of the medico-legal report that stated that the woman had no pertinent physical findings or physical injuries, despite her claims that she was punched and boxed.
"When we rely on the testimony of the private complainant in rape cases, we require that her testimony be entirely credible, trustworthy and realistic," the SC said.

'Maria Clara doctrine'

The SC also said that the "women's honor" doctrine "borders on the fallacy of non sequitur" (it does not follow).
While accounting that the doctrine held true when it was entered into the court jurisprudence "back then," the high court said that "today, we simply cannot be stuck to the Maria Clara stereotype of a demure and reserved Filipino woman."
"We should stay away from such mindset and accept the realities of a woman's dynamic role in society today; she who has over the years transformed into a strong and confidently intelligent and beautiful person, willing to fight for her rights," the SC said.
Concurring are Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Marvic Leonen and Alexander Gesmundo.
The dispositive portion of the case, however, did not mention the court throwing away the "women's honor" doctrine. 
The SC also ordered Amarela and Racho released immediately.

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