SC abandons 'woman's honor' [Maria Clara] doctrine


IBP Quezon City 2017-2019 wrote on Facebook: "The Supreme Court has abandoned the decades-old "Woman's Honor" doctrine in rape cases (i.e. that no young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she has been sexually abused, unless that is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor) in the recent case of People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, 17 January 2018.

According to the Supreme Court, more often than not, where the alleged victim survives to tell her story of sexual depredation, rape cases are solely decided based on the credibility of the testimony of the private complainant. In doing so, we have hinged on the impression that no young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she has been sexually abused, unless that is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor. However, this misconception, particularly in this day and age, not only puts the accused at an unfair disadvantage, but creates a travesty of justice.

The "women's honor" doctrine surfaced in our jurisprudence sometime in 1960. In the case of People v. TaƱo, the Court affirmed the conviction of three (3) armed robbers who took turns raping a person named Herminigilda Domingo. The Court, speaking through Justice Alejo Labrador, said:
It is a well-known fact that women, especially Filipinos, would not admit that they have been abused unless that abuse had actually happened. This is due to their 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 take place.
This opinion borders on the fallacy of non sequitur. And while the factual setting back then would have been appropriate to say it is natural for a woman to be reluctant in disclosing a sexual assault; today, 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.

In this way, we can evaluate the testimony of a private complainant of rape without gender bias or cultural misconception. It is important to weed out these unnecessary notions because an accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided of course, that the testimony is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Thus, in order for us to affirm a conviction for rape, we must believe beyond reasonable doubt the version of events narrated by the victim.

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