Is it rape if she's your wife or girlfriend?

Would it still be considered rape if she is your wife or girlfriend? The answer is yes.

Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8353 (The Anti-Rape Law of 1997), defines the crime of rape as follows:

Art. 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. - 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;
b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious;
c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority;
d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.

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.

In view of the horrendous nature of rape as an affront to one's dignity and chastity, the law imposes a penalty of reclusion perpetua against the offender. (Art. 266-B, as amended by R.A. No. 8353)

Essentially, to sustain a conviction for rape through sexual intercourse, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt, namely, (i) that the accused had carnal knowledge of the victim; and (ii) that said act was accomplished (a) through the use of force or intimidation, or (b) when the victim is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or (c) by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority, or (d) when the victim is under 12 years of age or is demented. (People v. Esteban, 2014, 735 Phil. 663, 670, reiterated in People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 210435, August 15, 2018)

The law makes no mention or distinction regarding the relationship between the offender and the private complainant. Rape may committed even if the private complainant is male or female, young or old. It may also be committed against one's wife, girlfriend, sister, child, neighbor or a stranger.

In fact, there is a term in law for the use of the defense that the private complainant is the offender's girlfriend or wife. It is called the "sweetheart theory."

The Supreme Court has held in many cases that the sweetheart theory or sweetheart defense is an oft-abused justification that rashly derides the intelligence of the court in determining the factual allegations in a case of rape and this theory sorely tests its patience. For the court to even consider giving credence to such defense, it must be proven by compelling evidence. The defense cannot simply present testimonial evidence in support of the theory. Independent proof is required – such as tokens, mementos, and photographs. (People v. Manallo, 448 Phil. 149, 165; People v. Baldo, G.R. No. 175238, 24 February 2009, People v. Magbanua, 576 Phil. 642, 647-648)

Besides, even if it were true that the offender and the private complainant were sweethearts, this fact does not necessarily negate the commission of rape. Being sweethearts does not prove consent to the sexual act. Definitely, a man cannot demand sexual gratification from a fiancée, girlfriend or wife, and worse, employ violence upon her on the pretext of love. Love is not a license for lust. (People v. Manallo, 448 Phil. 149, 165, cited in People v. Yaba, G.R. No. 194946, September 3, 2014)

In People v. Casao, the Supreme Court ruled that the "sweetheart theory" in rape is not credible on the bare testimony of the accused. First, accused-appellant’s claim that he and the private complainant were lovers is self-serving. A sweetheart cannot be forced to have sex against her will – love is not a license for lust. (People v. Nogpo, G.R. No. 184791, April 16, 2009)

See People v. Manahan, 374 Phil. 77, 84 (1999), citing People v. Tismo, G.R. No. 44773, 4 December 1991; People v. Espiritu, 375 Phil. 1012, 1020 (1999), citing People v. Tayaban, 357 Phil. 494, 510 (1998), in turn citing People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 97921, 8 September 1993.

Is the sweetheart theory actually a defense? It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court has made mention of two (2) elements for a successful sweetheart defense. "In rape, the ‘sweetheart’ defense must be proven by compelling evidence: first, that the accused and the victim were lovers; and, second, that she consented to the alleged sexual relations. The second is as important as the first, because this Court has held often enough that love is not a license for lust." (People v. Bautista, G.R. No. 140278, June 3, 2004, cited in People v. Olesco, G.R. No. 174861, April 11, 2011) However, a deeper analysis of this statement shows that, at the core and at the bottom, the defense is consent, not the sweetheart theory. Whether or not the two are lovers or sex friends, the only thing that can exculpate the alleged rapist is proof that the private complainant gave consent to the sexual activity.