Being ‘sweethearts’ does not negate rape

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My best friend committed suicide three weeks ago while the hearing for the rape case she filed against her neighbor was ongoing. She was very upset over what happened to her that she has evidently been depressed since Christmas of last year. Perhaps, she got too affected by the theory of the accused that is being advocated by the defense. According to him, they are actually “sweethearts” when the rape happened. I know my best friend and I am certain that she had no romantic relationship with the accused. All the man was asserting is that they usually go home in the same jeepney together, and I am upset with how he destroys my best friend’s credibility. While not true, if we just consider them to be in a relationship, is being “sweethearts” a good defense in rape cases?
Sincerely yours,
Asther

Dear Asther,
The “sweetheart theory” as a defense for rape cases had long been treated as a weak defense. More particularly, the wisdom in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Fajardo Napudo (G.R. No. 168448, October 8, 2015) penned by former Associate Justice Arturo Brion, is very helpful in your situation:

“The sweetheart defense is a much-abused defense. As an affirmative defense, the allegation of a love affair must be supported by convincing proof other than the self-serving assertions of the accused. It cannot be given credence in the absence of evidence, such as notes, gifts, pictures, mementos or other tokens independently proving its existence; nor can it be given weight where no other witness was presented to testify that the accused and the complainant were indeed sweethearts. The sweetheart defense is considered an uncommonly weak defense because its presence does not automatically negate the commission of rape. The gravamen of the crime of rape is sexual congress of a man with a woman without her consent. Hence, notwithstanding the existence of a romantic relationship, a woman cannot be forced to engage in sexual intercourse against her will.’” [Emphasis supplied]

Palpably, not just because someone is in a relationship that the commission of rape shall be impossible or nil between the parties concerned. The gist of the offense is having carnal knowledge with a person without the latter’s consent. Moreover, in the same case it was also observed:


“[T]he fact alone that two people were seen seated beside each other, conversing during a jeepney ride, without more, cannot give rise to the inference that they were sweethearts. Intimacies such as loving caresses, cuddling, tender smiles sweet murmurs or any other affectionate gestures that one bestows upon his or her lover would have been seen and are expected to indicate the presence of the relationship. Napudo’s witnesses did not testify to any such intimacies, only to the neutral acts of two people seated together and conversing during a jeepney ride.” [Emphasis supplied]

Clearly, the defense advanced by the neighbor of your friend will likely fail if the circumstances mentioned above squarely fit your friend’s situation.

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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