When the charge of rape may not prosper

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My sister’s friend, a boy, had been around us in the past years. It is unclear whether they had a relationship. Both of them are already of age, although the boy is just 18 years old and my sister is 24. One day, my sister’s friend met her at a restaurant somewhere in Pasay. The guy later brought her to a nearby motel, supposedly to just talk about something. My sister said she refused to go, but because of trust, she eventually agreed. The guy allegedly tried to kiss her, which she escaped by going to the comfort room where she managed to call our cousin to relay the information that her friend was attempting to rape her. She was unable to disclose her location at that point. As feared, her friend was able to succeed in having carnal knowledge of her. According to her, she remained mum the whole time for fear of being killed, as the two of them were isolated. Given these circumstances, will my sister be able to successfully prosecute her friend for the crime of rape?
Sincerely yours,
Ana Therese

Dear Ana Therese,
Two fairly recent cases decided by the Supreme Court are important in determining whether the circumstances you have relayed to us regarding the alleged rape of your sister are enough to be successfully prosecuted.
People of the Philippines vs Juan Richard M. Tionloc (G.R. No. 212193, Feb. 15, 2017), penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, clearly emphasizes:

“When the evidence fails to establish all the elements of the crime, the verdict must be one of acquittal of the accused. The basic precept applies in this criminal litigation for rape.”
xxx xxx xxx

“[T]he prosecution had to overcome the presumption of innocence of appellant by presenting evidence that would establish the elements of rape by sexual intercourse under paragraph 1, Article 266-A of the RPC (Revised Penal Code), to wit: (1) the offender is a man; (2) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; (3) such act was accomplished by using force, threat or intimidation. In rape cases alleged to have been committed by force, threat or intimidation, it is imperative for the prosecution to establish that the element of voluntariness on the part of the victim be absolutely lacking. The prosecution must prove that force or intimidation was actually employed by accused upon his victim to achieve his end. Failure to do so is fatal to its cause.


“Force, as an element of rape, must be sufficient to consummate the purposes which the accused had in mind. On the other hand, intimidation produce[s]fear that if the victim does not yield to the bestial demands of the accused, something would happen to her at that moment or even thereafter, as when she is threatened with death if she reports the incident. Intimidation includes the moral kind as the fear caused by threatening the girl with a knife or pistol” [emphasis supplied, citations omitted].

In the same case, it was clear that:

“No allegation whatsoever was made by ‘AAA’ that Meneses or appellant employed force, threat or intimidation against her. No claim was ever made that appellant physically overpowered, or used or threatened to use a weapon against, or uttered threatening words to ‘AAA.’ While ‘AAA’ feared for her life since a knife lying on the table nearby could be utilized to kill her if she resisted, her fear was a mere product of her own imagination.

There was no evidence that the knife was placed nearby precisely to threaten or intimidate her. We cannot even ascertain whether said knife can be used as a weapon or an effective tool to intimidate a person because it was neither presented nor described in court” [emphasis supplied].

Verily, in the case of People vs. Tionloc, the “fear” that was alleged by the complainant was not properly substantiated. Applying this to the circumstances you have disclosed, your sister’s actuation of being mum the whole time of the ordeal, allegedly for fear of being killed because she and her friend were in an isolated situation, may cast doubt on her allegation of rape.

Additionally, in People of the Philippines vs. Carlito M. Claro (G.R. No. 199894, April 5, 2017), penned by Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, it is further stressed that:

“[I]t is not fair and just to quickly reject the defense of consensual sexual intercourse interposed by the accused. To be noted first and foremost is that he and AAA were adults capable of consenting to the sexual intercourse. The established circumstances—their having agreed to go on a lovers’ date; their travelling together a long way from their meeting place on board the jeepney; their alighting on Rizal Avenue to take a meal together; their walking together to the motel, and checking in together at the motel without the complainant manifesting resistance; and their entering the designated room without protest from her—indicated beyond all doubt that they had consented to culminate their lovers’ date in bed inside the motel. Although she claimed that he had held her by the hand and pulled her upstairs, there is no evidence showing that she resisted in that whole time, or exhibited a reluctance to enter the motel with him. Instead, she appeared to have walked with him towards the motel, and to have entered it without hesitation. What she did not do was eloquent proof of her consent.”
xxx xxx xxx

“In every criminal case, the accused is entitled to acquittal unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.”
xxx xxx xxx

“Without the proof of his guilt being beyond reasonable doubt, therefore, the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused herein was not overcome” [emphasis supplied, citations omitted].

Evidently, while the friend of your sister has not yet raised the defense that there was consent on her part to disprove her allegations, the principles cited above should be the guide on whether or not a complaint or case filed against your sister’s friend should prosper. It is critical that the accuser is able to prove, beyond any hint of doubt, that indeed the accused committed the acts of rape complained of.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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