By By Atty. Romulo P. Atencia
Another look on the law on rape
posted 25-Jul-2012  ·  
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Some countries still apply the death penalty in cases of aggravated rape indicating the severity with which the crime was viewed. Castration has been a punishment for rape.  In Islam, the rapist could be stoned to death.

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Why the severity of the penalty for rape? Certain cultures have historically promoted a system of honor, dishonor and shame, which was applied with particular strictness to females. A victim of rape would be considered to have lost her honorable reputation and place in society, a loss of honor which entailed shame on the woman's family group as well. In early ancient Rome, ancient China, and other cultures such as the Philippines (remember the supposed purity of the Filipina, enshrined in the adage: “Filipino custom, no touch”?), a pressure has existed which has led women to commit suicide after becoming victims of rape. Suicide of female rape victims for reasons of shame is also historically documented in Chinese and Japanese culture.

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Prison sentences for rape are not uniform. A study made by the U.S. Department of Justice of prison releases in 1992, involving about 80 percent of the prison population, found that the average sentence for convicted rapists was 11.8 years, while the actual time served was 5.4 years. Between 2002 and 2003, more than one in ten convicted rapists in Victoria, Australia, served a wholly suspended sentence, and the average total effective sentence for rape was seven years. Under the French penal code, rape is punished by a maximum of 15 years' criminal imprisonment. In Norway, a person guilty of rape is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. In Russia, Article 132 of the Criminal Code of Russia, punishes rape or coercive sexual actions without any aggravating circumstances with 3 to 6 years of imprisonment. 

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In the Philippines, before Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code was amended, rape had a penalty of reclusion temporal (imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to 20 years). In 1960, Republic Act No. 2632 was enacted amending said Article increasing the penalty to reclusion temporal maximum if committed by two or more persons. Even then, the punishment for rape was still short of life imprisonment. In 1966, Article 335 was further amended (by RA 4111) hiking the penalty to reclusion perpetua to death (People vs. Babasa, 97 SCRA 672; People vs. Manlapaz, 98 SCRA 704). In 1987, the imposition of the death penalty was prohibited by the Constitution (Section 19 (1), Art. III People vs. Muñoz, 179 SCRA 107). For some time, the penalty of death was reimposed with the passage of Republic Act No. 7659 (the heinous crimes law) in 1993. In light, however, of the passage of Republic Act No. 9346 in 2006, entitled "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines," the imposition of the death penalty has been prohibited. Hence, the maximum penalty imposable on rape became reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment), and persons convicted of offenses punished with death had their sentences reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

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As it now stands, rape carries the same penalty as heinous crimes, like: Treason (Art. 114, Revised Penal Code); Qualified piracy (Art. 123); Parricide (Art. 246); Murder (Art. 248); Infanticide (Art 255); Kidnapping and serious illegal detention (Art. 267; and Robbery with Homicide (Art 294). Too, there no longer is any distinction in the penalty for simple rape and aggravated rape, like rape committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons; when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane; when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, homicide is committed; or when the victim is under 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim

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While rape committed with the aggravating circumstances enumerated by law (such as incestuous rape, or the rape by a father of his own minor daughter) deserves universal condemnation, and justifies the imposition of the penalty of life imprisonment because of its depravity, the penalty of reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) for simple rape, i.e., committed without aggravating circumstances, exceeds reasonable limits. We do not live in 1500 BC Babylonia or in the time of Maria Clara anymore, and even if we believe in "eye for an eye" type legal systems, life imprisonment is not commensurate to the wrong done by the rapist. To illustrate -- homicide, or the taking of human life without aggravating or qualifying circumstances only carries the penalty of reclusion temporal (12 years and 1 day to 20 years). Killing is the ultimate offense against a person, as there is nothing more valuable than a person’s life. Simple rape, which is now classified also as a crime against persons, cannot be more horrible than homicide. The homicide victim remains dead forever while the rape victim may be able to eventually recover from her traumatic experience, and become a productive and respected member of society. Due to changes in societal attitudes and in our customs, the victims of rape are  no longer looked upon as dirty. So, viewed in its proper context, the present penalty for rape, which is the same penalty imposed in heinous crimes like parricide, murder, etc., is inordinate.

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So, with due respects, I call on the Honorable Congressman Cesar Sarmiento to revisit our law on rape, and file a bill reverting the penalty for unaggravated rape to reclusion temporal (12 years and 1 day to 20 years). One immediate result of the lowering of the penalty involves detention prisoners. Upon filing of a criminal Information in court for rape, public prosecutors automatically recommend “no bail” for the accused. This means that. — like the person accused of murder, parricide, qualified piracy, etc., --  the person accused of rape will already be held without bail in prison in the meantime that the rape case is being tried by the court. This could take years. For this reason, persons accused of rape usually cough out huge sums of money demanded by rape complainants, to have the case settled out of court. Never mind that the accuser really was the accused’s girlfriend who only wanted the man to marry her, or who was impelled by some other evil motive.

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Of course, I understand the reluctance of some lawmakers in filing any amendment to our law on rape. Such a bill does not assure any kickback (“SOP”) for them, unlike, say, the construction of a bridge, the concreting of a road, or the dredging of a river. Let us hope Congressman Sarmiento belongs to a different breed of legislators.

 

Atty. Romulo P. Atencia

Email add: romuloatencia@yahoo.com

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