I just want to ask for an advice in behalf of my friend. She is only 17 years old, and is very much restless and confused right now. She told me that their neighbor, about 40 years of age, raped her five months ago. What happened was, her parents asked this neighbor to help them in the repairs of their roof. While her parents were out of the house to buy some materials, this neighbor went to her room and raped her. Immediately after, he left her room with a threat to harm her and their family if she would reveal what happened.
She opened up to me only now and, though still full of fear and anxiety, she is determined to file a complaint against her aggressor. But she is worried that her statements may not be accepted or even believed considering her age and the fact that she kept this information for months now. She also has no other witness, because it was only the two of them in the room when it happened. Do you think this will make things unfavorable for her, assuming she pushes through with her complaint? Please advise me on this matter.
Rape is one of the heinous crimes that, though severely penalized under our law, is still rampant in our society. Unfortunately, children more often fall victim to sexual predators perhaps because of their innocence, inexperience and tender mentality.
We deplore what happened to your friend. No one deserves to go through such amount of violence and heartlessness. She may file a complaint for rape if she so desires. As provided under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8353, otherwise known as “The Anti-Rape Law of 1997,” the crime of Rape is committed:
“(1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: (a) Through force, threat or intimidation; x x x
(2) By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an act of sexual assault by inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person.”
It is worth emphasizing that she may pursue her complaint even if five months have already passed since the aggression transpired. The crime has not yet prescribed and it is understandable that she never spoke about it until recently. Victims of crimes, such as rape, tend to withhold information to themselves for fear of their lives or for the shame it may bring them. Thus, it should not stop her from seeking justice. Neither will her age be disadvantageous for her insofar as her testimony is concerned. The age of the witness will not matter as long as she can clearly explain, describe and give details of the facts she is testifying on. Moreover, Section 20, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that all persons may be witnesses, save those mentioned under Section 21, Id., as long as they can perceive, and in perceiving, can make known their perception to others.
Lastly, her lone testimony may still be recognized and given weight. According to the Supreme Court: “x x x the testimony of a single witness may be sufficient to produce a conviction, if the same appears to be trustworthy and reliable. If credible and convincing, that alone would be sufficient to convict the accused. No law or rule requires the corroboration of the testimony of a single witness in a rape case. x x x” The High Court added, “x x x Victims of a crime as heinous as rape, cannot be expected to act within reason or in accordance with society’s expectations. It is unreasonable to demand a standard rational reaction to an irrational experience, especially from a young victim. One cannot be expected to act as usual in an unfamiliar situation as it is impossible to predict the workings of a human mind placed under emotional stress.
Moreover, it is wrong to say that there is a standard reaction or behavior among victims of the crime of rape since each of them had to cope with different circumstances. x x x” (People of the Philippines vs. Pareja,G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014)
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org