Criminal Law

PEOPLE v. AMARELA and RACHO G.R. No. 225642-43 January 17, 2018 Rape, The “Women’s Honor” Doctrine

FACTS:

[AAA] is single, a housekeeper and a resident of  Davao City.

[AAA] testified that on February 10, 2009, at around 6:00 o’clock in the evening, she was watching a beauty contest with her aunt at a basketball court where a make-shift stage was put up. The only lights available were those coming from the vehicles around.

She had the urge to urinate so she went to the comfort room beside the building of the Maligatong Cooperative near the basketball court. She was not able to reach the comfort room because Amarela suddenly pulled her towards the day care center. She was shocked and was no match to the strength of Amarela who pulled her under the stage of the day care center. He punched her in the abdomen which rendered her weak. Then Amarela undressed her. She tried to resist him but he was stronger. He boxed her upper thigh and she felt numb. He placed himself on top of her and inserted his penis inside her vagina and made a push and pull movement.

She shouted for help and then three men came to her rescue [so] Amarela fled.

The three persons brought her to a hut. But they closed the hut and had bad intentions with her. So she fled and hid in a neighboring house. She was brought to the Racho residence and herein accused Racho was told by his mother to bring her to her aunt’s house instead.

[AAA] said that [Racho] brought her to a shanty along the way against her will. She was told to lie down. When she refused, [Racho] boxed her abdomen and she felt sick. She resisted by kicking him but he succeeded in undressing her. He, then, undressed himself and placed himself on top of [AAA]. [Racho] then inserted his penis into [AAA]’s vagina. After consummating the act, [Racho] left her. So [AAA] went home alone.

The RTC found AAA’s testimony, positively identifying both Amarela and Racho, to be clear, positive, and straightforward. Hence, the trial court did not give much weight to their denial as these could not have overcome the categorical testimony of AAA. As a result, Amarela and Racho were convicted

The RTC found Juvy D. Amarela  and Junard G. Racho guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) different charges of rape.

ISSUE:

Discuss the “women’s honor” doctrine.

Whether the identity of the was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

RULING:

The Supreme Court in its Ruling stated that:

The “women’s honor” doctrine surfaced in our jurisprudence sometime in 1960. In the case of People v. Tana,  the Court affirmed the conviction of three (3) armed robbers who took turns raping a person named Herminigilda Domingo. The Court, speaking through Justice Alejo Labrador, said:

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.

This opinion borders on the fallacy of non sequitor. And while the factual setting back then would have been appropriate to say it is natural for a woman to be reluctant in disclosing a sexual assault; 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.

In this way, we can evaluate the testimony of a private complainant of rape without gender bias or cultural misconception. It is important to weed out these unnecessary notions because an accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided of course, that the testimony is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Thus, in order for us to affirm a conviction for rape, we must believe beyond reasonable doubt the version of events narrated by the victim.

In an appeal from a judgment of conviction in rape cases, the issue boils down, almost invariably, to the credibility and story of the victim and eyewitnesses. It has since become imperative that the evaluation of testimonial evidence by the trial court be accorded great respect by this Court; for it can be expected that said determination is based on reasonable discretion as to which testimony is acceptable and which witness is worthy of belief. 

It has often been noted that if there is an inconsistency between the affidavit and the testimony of a witness, the latter should be given more weight since affidavits being taken ex parte are usually incomplete and inadequate. We usually brush aside these inconsistencies since they are trivial and do not impair the credibility of the rape victim. In this case, however, the version in AAA’s affidavit-complaint is remotely different from her court testimony. 

If we were to take into account AAA’s initial claim that Amarela pulled her away from the vicinity of the stage, people facing the stage would easily notice that a man was holding a woman against her will. Thus, AAA’s version that she was on her way to the rest room, instead of being pulled away from the crowd watching the beauty contest, would make it seem that nobody would notice if AAA was being taken away against her will. If indeed AAA was on her way to the rest room when she was grabbed by Amarela, why does her sworn statement reflect another story that differs from her court testimony?

To our mind, AAA’s testimony could have been concocted to just make her story believable rather than sticking to her original story that Amarela introduced himself and pulled her away from the stage. We cannot say that this inconsistency is simply a minor detail because it casts some doubt as to whether AAA was telling the truth – that she was abducted against her will before she was raped.

Although we cannot acquit Amarela solely based on an inconsistency, this instance already puts AAA’s credibility in question. Again, we must remember that if we were to convict based solely on the lone testimony of the victim, her testimony must be clear, straightforward, convincing, and consistent with human experience. We must set a high standard in evaluating the credibility of the testimony of a victim who is not a minor and is mentally capable.

Second, we also find it dubious how AAA was able to identify Amarela considering that the whole incident allegedly happened in a dark place. In fact, she had testified that the place was not illuminated and that she did not see Amarela’s face

From AAA’s testimony, we are unsure whether she was able to see Amarela given the lighting conditions in the crime scene. In her re-direct examination, AAA clarified that she identified Amarela while she was being pulled to the day care center. Even so, the prosecution failed to clarify as to how she was able to do so when, according to AAA herself, the way to the day care center was dark and covered by trees. Thus, leaving this material detail unexplained, we again draw reservations from AAA’s testimony.

Proving the identity of the accused as the malefactor is the prosecution’s primary responsibility. The identity of the offender, like the crime itself, must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, the first duty of the prosecution is not to prove the crime but to prove the identity of the criminal, for even if the commission of the crime can be established, there can be no conviction without proof of identity of the criminal beyond reasonable doubt

Undeniably, the defenses of denial and alibi are commonly raised in rape cases. Nevertheless, we have dismissed such defenses for being inherently weak, self-serving, and, more often than not, uncorroborated. To recall, Racho did not deny that he accompanied AAA to her aunt’s house, but he said he left her when AAA insisted that she wanted to go home. Racho’s mother corroborated this part of the story. To our mind, if the denial and alibi are readily available, Racho could have easily raised these defenses and denied that AAA ever came to the house. His mother could have likewise covered up this story, but she did not and confirmed that Racho was with AAA that night. If indeed Racho raped AAA that night, the best defense available for him was alibi which he thought he did not have to raise, given that he was telling the truth when he left AAA by herself to go home. To our mind, these are badges of truth which persuade us that Racho might be telling the truth.

In the end, what needs to be stressed here is that a conviction in a criminal case must be supported by proof beyond reasonable doubt or moral certainty that the accused is guilty. Absolute guarantee of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict a person of a criminal charge but there must, at least, be moral certainty on each element essential to constitute the offense and on the responsibility of the offender. Thus, the prosecution has the primordial duty to present its case with clarity and persuasion, to the end that conviction becomes the only logical and inevitable conclusion.

The prosecution in this case miserably failed to present a clear story of what transpired. Whether AAA’s ill-fated story is true or not, by seeking relief for an alleged crime, the prosecution must do its part to convince the court that the accused is guilty.

But here we cannot ascertain what happened based on the lone testimony of AAA. It should have been the prosecution’s duty to properly evaluate the evidence if it had enough to convict Amarela or Racho.

The Court is constrained to reverse the R TC and the CA rulings. Amarela and Racho are entitled to an acquittal, as a matter of right, because the prosecution has failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

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