SC ruling on rape may lead to more abuses of women, group says

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(Updated to include statement of SC spokesperson Theodore Te)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) ­— A women's group fears the Supreme Court decision acquitting two men accused of rape in Davao City will embolden perpetrators to abuse more women.

"They can now go on rampage with the knowledge that courts will most likely dismiss rape cases," women's group GABRIELA Alliance of Women said in a statement Tuesday.

A 20-page Supreme Court (SC) decision on January 17 acquitted two men from Davao City, namely Juvy Amarela and Junard Racho, of rape as the High Court reversed the decision of lower courts which sentenced the two to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

The victim accused the two men of raping her separately, five hours apart.

In its decision, the SC said there were doubts in the victim's story.

One is the inconsistency between her affidavit-complaint and her testimony in court.

In her testimony, the victim said Amarela pulled her inside a daycare center while she was on her way to an isolated comfort room. The victim was watching a local beauty contest in a basketball court.

However, the victim said in her affidavit that a drunk Amarela pulled away from the beauty contest stage to the daycare center.

The Supreme Court also said the medico legal findings do not corroborate "physical injuries and are inconclusive of any signs of forced entry."

"A medico-legal's finding are at most corroborative because they are mere opinions that can only infer possibilities and not absolute necessities," the decision read.

In their plea to the Court of Appeals, Amarela and Rancho said although there were other witnesses, the only testimony on record was that of the victim, which the two accused claimed "does not conform to common knowledge and to ordinary human experience."

Associate Justice Samuel Martires, who penned the decision, said in the past, rape cases were decided based on the credibility of the victim.

This is based on the "women's honor" doctrine, which appeared in a decision sometime in 1960.

The doctrine said Filipino women "would not admit that they have been abused unless that abuse had actually happened ... due to their natural instinct to protect their honor."

But the SC said this should not be the case today, as they should do away with the "Maria Clara stereotype" of a "demure and reserved Filipina woman."

"We, should stay away from such mindset and accept the realities of a women'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 decision read.

But GABRIELA Secretary General Joms Salvador said the social status of women today or their willingness to fight for their own rights do not make them immune from rape or other sexual attacks.

"The reasoning that the Supreme Court used flies in the face of actual rise of reported and unreported rapes, sexual harassment, bullying, trafficking, and other crimes against women," Salvador said.

She added the SC decision will only add to the layer of hardships women face in legal processes, which include addressing their attackers and reliving the trauma in public, such as when they are testifying before the court.

But the decision does not necessarily abandon the doctrine, according to SC spokesperson Theodore Te.

"Only SC En Banc can abandon a doctrine under Article VIII, Section 4 (of the Constitution)," Te said in a tweet, Wednesday.


The case was decided by the Supreme Court third division, composed of five justices: Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Marvic Leonen, Alexander Gesmundo, and Martires, who penned the decision.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported 4,605 cases of rape, acts of lasciviousness, attempted and incestuous rape against women in 2016.

READ: One person raped per hour in PH — report