The 58-year-old precedent that a reputable ‘woman’s honor’ prevents her from lying about being raped was overturned by the Philippines Supreme Court on January 18, 2018. The Supreme Court acquitted Juvy Amarela and Junard Racho who were convicted in 2012 of raping a woman in Davao City in separate incidents that allegedly occurred hours apart in 2009. They were both sentenced to life in prison. The Supreme Court ordered their immediate release from prison.
On the late afternoon of February 10, 2009 a young woman, publicly identified only as AAA, and her aunt were watching a beauty contest being held at a basketball court in Davao City, Philippines. AAA said that she needed to use the bathroom, so she left to go to a nearby building that had the bathrooms. Her description of what happened after that until she arrived home around eight hours later differs radically from what Amarela and Racho describe.
AAA claims that while going through a treed area that separated the basketball court from the bathrooms, she was seized by Amarela. She said he pulled her under the stage and after punching her in the stomach he undressed her and got on top of her and inserted his penis inside her vagina. When she shouted for help Amarela fled and three men came to her rescue. However, when they took her to a hut she thought they had bad intentions so she fled.
She said that while on her way home she stopped at an acquaintances house, who took her to Racho’s house because he thought her aunt wasn’t home. In the early morning of February 11 AAA left for her aunt’s house and Racho’s mother asked him to accompany her. AAA claimed that Racho took her into a shanty against her will and after grappling her he forcibly undressed her, got on top of her, and inserted his penis into her. AAA said that he left after he was finished, and she walked home alone.
AAA said that when she arrived home her parents were asleep. The next day she told her mother and eldest brother what she said happened. They reported the incidents to the police and Amarela and Racho were arrested on February 11. Both men denied that they had assaulted AAA.
A medical examination of AAA on February 12 found no bruising on her body, no physical injuries, and she had no physical trauma normally found in a rape victim. The examination did find indications she may have recently had sexual intercourse, but it didn’t involve violence.
Amarela and Racho were charged with the separate forcible rape incidents alleged by AAA. More than three years later they were jointly tried in a bench (judge only) trial.
The prosecution’s case was based on AAA’s testimony and her positive identification of Amarela and Racho as her rapists.
Amarela testified in his defense that on February 10, 2009 he attended the fiesta celebrations in Davao City. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon he saw AAA and she asked him if he knew Eric Dumandan, who she said was her boyfriend. He said he later saw Dumandan and told him AAA was looking form him. He soon left the fiesta and after a drinking spree with his friend Asther Sanchez he felt dizzy, so Sanchez took him to the house of his elder brother Joey. Amarela said he went to sleep and didn’t wake up until six o’clock the next morning.
Anita Racho, Racho’s mother, testified that on the evening of Feb. 10 AAA arrived at her home with Godo Dumandan and she said she had been raped by three men. She said that after a while she insisted on going home and Racho left with her after her eldest son refused to take her. She said that later Racho returned home and went to sleep.
Racho testified in his defense was he was at his mother’s house on February 10 when that evening AAA arrived at the house with Dumandan. He said she “was asking for help while crying because she was allegedly raped by three persons in the pineapple plantation.” He said that after they left his house AAA didn’t want to go to her aunt’s house because she would scold her, and instead wanted to go to her parent’s house in Ventura. Racho said that because Ventura was far and it was very late he didn’t want to go with her to Ventura, and instead went home. He said that when the police came to his house on February 11 he told them that he could not have done what they alleged “because his hand is impaired while showing a long scar on his left arm.” He said it was from a hacking incident on September 21, 2008 and he had a Medical Certificate that proved he was hospitalized for ten days. His arm was in a cast for three months, not being removed until January 2009, and afterwards “his arm was still painful and he could not move it around.”
On June 26, 2012 the trial judge found Amarela and Racho guilty in the “She said, they denied case.”
Amarela was sentenced to reclusion perpetua — which is life imprisonment plus being barred for life from holding political office if he was ever released. In addition he was ordered to pay restitution to AAA of 50,000 pesos (US$1,176) in civil indemnity and 50,000 pesos (US$1,176) as moral damages. Racho was given the same sentence and restitution order.
The men appealed separately, but their appeals were consolidated in the Court of Appeals in November 2015. They argued their were substantial inconsistencies between AAA’s police statement and her trial testimony, and the trial judge failed to adequately consider the medical evidence AAA wasn’t raped by anyone, and the testimony of Amarela and Racho in their defense.
On February 17, 2016 the Philippines Court of Appeal affirmed their convictions and sentences. The Court ruled that AAA’s testimony was convincing of Amarela and Racho’s guilt under the ‘woman’s honor’ doctrine established by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in the 1960 case of People v. Tano. The Court ruled in the Tano case 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.” Since as a reputable young woman AAA wouldn’t lie she was raped, Amarela and Racho must be guilty.
The men appealed to the Philippines Supreme Court.
On January 17, 2018 the Supreme Court set-aside the convictions of Amarela and Racho and ordered their acquittal in a precedent setting ruling that overturned the ‘woman’s honor’ doctrine it had established in 1960. The Court ruled the idea a woman would be too ashamed to publicly accuse a male of rape unless it was true was outdated and false.
The Court’s ruling stated regarding the ‘woman’s honor’ doctrine: “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 court stated about the Court’s 1960 ruling presuming a woman’s truthfulness about being raped: “This opinion borders on the fallacy of non sequitor. 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. … In this way, we can evaluate the testimony of a private complainant of rape without gender bias or cultural misconception. … in order for us to affirm a conviction for rape, we must believe beyond reasonable doubt the version of events narrated by the victim.” [7-8]
The Court then stated:
“After a careful review of the records and a closer scrutiny of AAA’s testimony, reasonable doubt lingers as we are not fully convinced that AAA was telling the truth. The following circumstances, particularly, would cast doubt as to the credibility of her testimony: (1) the version of AAA’s story appearing in her affidavit-complaint differs materially from her testimony in court; (2) AAA could not have easily identified Amarela because the crime scene was dark and she only saw him for the first time; (3) her testimony lacks material details on how she was brought under the stage against her will; and (4) the medical findings do not corroborate physical injuries and are inconclusive of any signs of forced entry.” 
… Accused-appellants Juvy D. Amarela and Junard G. Racho are ACQUITTED of the charge of rape on the ground of reasonable doubt. Their IMMEDIATE RELEASE from custody is hereby ordered unless they are being held for other lawful cause.” 
Click here to read the decision in People of the Philippines Vs. Juvy D. Amarela and Junard G. Racho, G.R. Nos. 225642-43 (Philippines Supreme Court, Third Div, January 17, 2018).
1. On 6-26-2012 the exchange rate was 42.504986 Philippine Pesos per US$1. Source: www.x-rates.com.
2. Davao City is the third largest city in the Philippines, and about 900 miles southeast of Manila.
3. AAA’s age in 2009 isn’t listed in the Supreme Court’s ruling, but she was described as a young woman working as a housekeeper, and cites the medical report that listed her height as 5′-4″ and her weight at 98 pounds.