Coercion and influence
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - April 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Act of lasciviousness is a crime punishable under article 336 of the Revised Penal Code. On the other hand, lascivious conduct is punishable under Sec. 5 (b) of RA 7610. In both crimes, some form of compulsion that subdues the free exercise of the offended party’s free will like force or intimidation must be shown. How is this element proven? Is it necessary that actual force or violence be committed against the offended party? What is the difference between acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC and lascivious conduct under RA 7610? These are the questions raised and answered in this case of Ronald who is a teacher and a Citizen Army Training (CAT) commandant in a municipal high school.

 One of Ronald’s students who attracted his attention, is a 14-year-old girl, Wendy. The case happened one morning while the CAT trainees were at the Town Spring for a clean-up drive. Ronald called Wendy and asked her twice if she was determined to become a CAT officer. When Wendy answered yes, Ronald asked her to follow him to his house, keeping a distance between them.

Upon arrival at his house about 1 p.m., with no one else inside, Ronald again asked Wendy if she was really determined to become a CAT officer, to which she answered yes. Then Ronald told Wendy that he had a crush on her, that he wanted her to become his mistress and that he will give her all her needs. Thinking that it was part of the initiation rites Wendy kissed Ronald on the cheeks. Afterwards, Ronald asked Wendy to sit on the sofa and proceeded to kiss her lips then pulled her down, lifted her underwear and shirt and sucked her breast for about two minutes while she kept on crying. Ronald was prevented from satisfying his desire to have sexual intercourse with Wendy when Wendy told him that she had her menstrual period. However, he warned her not to report the incident if she wanted to become a CAT officer.

But when several female CAT officers in the school revealed Ronald’s molestation on them, Wendy finally disclosed the details of the incident, then filed the charges of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC in relation to Sec. 5 (b) RA 7610 against Ronald. After hearing both sides, the trial court convicted Ronald of said charges and sentenced him to imprisonment of three months and one day minimum, to two years and five months maximum plus moral and exemplary damages. The court gave more credence to Wendy’s straightforward and clear testimony against Ronald’s defense of denial and alibi. The RTC said that no girl would concoct such story and subject herself to trauma and embarrassment unless she is telling the truth. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals with the modified amount of damages plus civil indemnity. Ronald further appealed to the Supreme Court insisting that force and intimidation as an element of the acts of lasciviousness was not established in this case.

But the Supreme Court (SC) did not agree with Ronald. The SC clarified that force and intimidation is subsumed under “coercion and influence”  and that it exists when there is some form of compulsion equivalent to intimidation which subdues the free exercise of the offended party’s free will. The term influence means the improper use of power or trust in any way that deprives a person of free will and substitute another’s objective. Coercion on the other hand, is the improper use of power to compel another to submit to the wishes of one who wields it. 

In this case, it has been established that Ronald was able to carry out his lewd acts by asking Wendy twice if she was determined to become a CAT officer which strongly suggested that if Wendy really wanted to become a CAT officer, she should accede to his demands and allow him to commit lascivious conduct upon her person. Ronald therefore exercised influence and coercion upon Wendy in order to commit the crime against her thereby satisfying the element of force and intimidation. Besides, his moral ascendancy over Wendy as teacher and CAT commandant substitute for the use of force and intimidation. So Ronald’s conviction should be upheld not for the crime of acts of lusciousness under Article 336 but for lascivious conduct under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610 considering that she was only 14 years old at the time of the commission of the crime. Under said section, Ronald should be sentenced to suffer the indeterminate prison term of 10 years and one day as minimum, to 17 years, four months and one day as maximum plus civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages, each and fine of P15,000 with 5 percent interest per annum until fully paid (Orsos vs People, G.R. 214673, Nov. 20, 2017).

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