Woman's honor a fallacy? SC acquits men of rape over ‘unrealistic’ account

MANILA, Philippines – Inconsistencies in the account of a woman victim were the basis of the Supreme Court (SC) to acquit two men accused of raping her on the same day within hours of each other.

In its acquittal of the two men, the SC did not apply a decades-old doctrine called the women’s honor. Under the doctrine, women are believed not to lie about being raped because “women, especially Filipinos, would not admit that they have been abused unless that abuse had actually happened.”

The doctrine further said: “This is due to (women’s) 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 took place.”

Associate Justice Samuel Martires wrote the decision of acquittal saying the doctrine “borders on the fallacy of non-sequitur.”

“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,” Martires wrote.

Third Division members Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Lucas Bersamin, Marvic Leonen and Alexander Gesmundo concurred. The decision was promulgated on January 17.

Raped twice on the same day

Juvy Amarela and Junard Racho were convicted of rape by the Davao Regional Trial Court (RTC), later affirmed by the Court of Appeals, for sexually assaulting a housekeeper on February 10, 2009 only hours apart.

The woman’s story goes: she was watching a beauty contest at 6 pm and on her way to a public bathroom when Amarela pulled her towards a day care center.

The woman said Amarela punched her abdomen, and boxed her upper thigh, rendering her too weak to fight the man as 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 was later rescued by 3 men. Amarela fled at that point. The woman said the 3 men brought her to a hut, and fearing their bad intentions, she fled and went to the house of one Godo Dumandan, who brought her to the Racho home.

Racho’s mother instructed him to take the woman to victim to her aunt’s home. The woman said that’s when Racho brought her to a shanty and raped her once again. (READ: That thingy called rape culture)

Inconsistencies

The woman’s “inconsistent” testimonies led the SC to conclude that the prosecution “has failed to prove (the men’s) guilt beyond reasonable doubt.” 

In the first alleged rape, the SC said the woman’s claim that she was raped under a two-foot makeshift stage “seems unrealistic and beyond human experience.”

The woman said in her affidavit complaint that Amarela pulled her away from the stage of the beauty contest and into the day care. On the stand, she said Amarela pulled her while she was on her way to the bathroom, so that no other people could have seen what was happening.

The woman also admitted the place was dark, and that she did not see Amarela’s face while he was raping her. She said, however, that she saw Amarela’s face as he was pulling her towards the day care center. Amarela denied even being with the woman on that night. (READ: #BeenRapedNeverReported: Rape victims speak up online)

The woman said Amarela raped her under a 2-foot maekshift stage. “(The woman) failed to mention how exactly Amarela pulled her to the makeshift stage without any sign of struggle or resistance,” the SC said. 

“Her claim that she was forcibly brought under a makeshift stage, stripped naked, and then raped seems unrealistic and beyond human experience,” the SC said.

The SC also noted that the woman “had no pertinent physical findings/or physical injuries” despite claims she was beaten.

Medico-legal not enough

The woman’s medico-legal report found complete lacerations at two positions of her hymen. The SC cited a study that says vaginal lacerations are injuries found in both consensual and non-consensual sex.

“The absence of bruises on the woman’s thighs – where she said she was punched there twice – reinforces the theory that the woman may have had consensual intercourse,” the SC said.

In the case of Racho, he admitted to taking the woman to her aunt’s home upon his mother’s instruction but denied raping her.

“Instead of reporting the incident to the police, the woman insisted that she be brought to her aunt’s house nearby. This is way beyond human experience. If the woman had already told other people what happened, there was no reason for her not to report the incident to the proper authorities,” the SC said.

Racho said that the woman changed her mind as they were going to her aunt's hourse.  Instead, she wanted to be brought to her own home.

Racho said that he didn’t want to go too far so he left her, and he went back home.

The SC said Racho could have made an alibi of not being with the woman at all that night; the court said the mother could have also supported a cover story.

“The best defense for him was alibi which he thought he did not have to raise, given that he was telling the truth when he left the woman by herself to go home. To our mind, these are badges of truth which persuade us that Racho might be telling the truth,” the SC said.

“Henceforth, we are constrained to reverse the RTC and the CA rulings due to the presence of lingering doubts which are inconsistent with the requirement of guilt beyond reasonable doubt as quantum of evidence to convict an accused in a criminal case,” the SC said.

Amarela and Racho are ordered released from jail “unless they are being held for other lawful cause.”

In May 2017, the SC acquitted a rape convict due to insufficient evidence that the sex was not consensual, saying that abrasions and contusions could also be suffered during consensual sex. The man said the woman was his girlfriend.

Before that, the SC also acquitted a rape convict because the woman kept silent as two men raped her. The woman said it was due to fear that the men might stab her.

The SC acknowledged that decisions of the trial court are usually given deference because the judges there were the ones who got to observe the demeanor of the victims and defendants. In this case, the SC said they are forced to do away with that principle and appreciate instead facts which could have been misappreciated.Rappler.com 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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