According to the Party-list group “Gabriela”, the ruling of the Supreme Court’s Third Division in the recently decided case of  People of the Philippines vs. Juvy Amarela and Junard Racho, abandoning the “Maria Clara” or the women’s honor doctrine would “open the floodgates to many more rape cases.”

“They can now go on a rampage with the knowledge that the courts will most likely dismiss the rape case,” the group said.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Gabriela Rep. Emerenciana “Emmi” de Jesus said the ruling had put the burden of proof on the rape victim.

Gabriela is wrong. Here are the reasons why:

  1. The discussion of the Maria Clara Doctrine in the ruling was a mere “obiter dictum”.

It has no connection at all. At most, it was just the ponente’s mere expression of opinion, not essential to the decision. It does not establish a precedent.

In fact, the Maria Clara Doctrine is not applicable to the case.

This Doctrine applies when the accused in rape cases had offered the argument that there was a delay on the part of the victim in reporting the alleged abuse in an effort to impair the credibility of the victim.  In the case, the accused never raised such issue.

The Court through Associate Justice Samuel R. Martirez merely emphasized the rule that the testimony of the alleged victim should be evaluated without “gender bias or cultural misconception”.

  1. The Maria Clara Doctrine is just an “oft-repeated adage” copied from one rape case to another.

While jurisprudence is replete with cases holding the oft-repeated adage that “no young Filipina would publicly admit that she had been criminally abused and ravished unless it is the truth”, no rapist was found guilty based on that pronouncement alone.

Still, the fate of the accused is left on whether the lone testimony of the victim is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and normal course of things.

Please note that the acquittal of the accused was not based on the fact that the Maria Clara Doctrine was not applicable but due to the fact that the statements of the victim in her Affidavit-complaint vis a vis her testimonies in open court were glaringly inconsistent.

  1. It is only the Supreme Court sitting en banc that could abandon a doctrine.

The Constitution provides that no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed except by the court sitting en banc.

Here, the controversial ruling was laid down by the Supreme Court’s Division.

Photo Credits: By Francinehihao – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63286742