Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

People of the Philippines v. Divinagracia Supreme Court of the Philippines (2018)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was found guilty by the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals of raping his daughter AAA (who was eight at the time), and of acts of lasciviousness against his other daughter BBB (age nine at the time). On appeal, the appellant argued that his guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt. He pointed to inconsistencies in witness testimonies about when his daughters told their aunt and others about the sexual abuse. The Supreme Court found that such inconsistencies are not related to the elements of the crime and do not diminish the credibility of the victim. Under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, when the victim is under 12, the elements of rape are sexual congress with a woman by a man. Through the birth records, the age of the victim was clearly under 12, and through AAA’s testimony and physical examinations by the doctor, the element of sexual congress was met. The rule is that factual findings and evaluation of witnesses’ credibility made by the trial court should be respected unless it is shown that the trial court may have overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied any fact or circumstance of weight and substance. The court refused to find AAA’s failure to tell others immediately as affecting her credibility. The court also reiterated that only the credible testimony of the offended party is necessary to establish the guilt of the accused. With respect to damages, the court overruled the lower courts, which had held that awarding damages would be a miscarriage of justice because the defendant-father was a compulsory heir to his daughters. It awarded BBB a total of P300,000 in civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages. The court awarded AAA P20,000 civil indemnity, P30,000 moral damages, and P20,000 exemplary damages because of the heinous nature of the crime. The court imposed sentences of reclus​ión perpetua (minimum of 30 years imprisonment) for the rape and 12 – 20 years imprisonment for the crime of lasciviousness.



Gardea v. R. Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape

The Appellant was convicted of raping his step-daughter on three occasions and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed the decision on the basis of lack of evidence. The prosecution’s case relied on evidence provided by the victim (deceased at the time of the trial), her nine-year-old sister, and a medical professional who examined the victim at the hospital immediately after she was raped. The defence argued that evidence provided by the victim immediately before her death was hearsay. The court held that, while under Liberian law hearsay cannot form the basis of a criminal conviction, “a dying declaration” (i.e., when a victim provides evidence concerning her or his attacker whilst at impending death in extremis) can be admitted as evidence and is not hearsay. The court also pointed out that, despite her young age, the victim’s sister’s evidence, which was admitted, was not hearsay because she was a direct witness to the attack and was subject to comprehensive cross examination. Finally, the court rejected the defence’s claims that the medical professional who inspected the victim in the hospital was not an expert witness because of her credentials that included a medical degree and over ten years of experience treating children victims of sexual violence. The conviction was upheld.



Hall v. R. Court of Appeal (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was charged for carnal abuse of a girl under the age of 12 years and buggery. On 20 April 2009, the appellant was convicted for carnal abuse (but not for buggery). On 9 November 2010 the appellant filed for leave against the conviction and the sentence. He argued in his appeal that the trial judge was obliged to give the jury a separate and distinct warning related to the dangers of convicting relying solely on the uncorroborated evidence from children (in addition to the warning she gave them in relation to the dangers of convicting relying solely on the uncorroborated evidence of complainants in sexual cases).  However, the Court decided that it’s entirely within the discretion of the trial judge to determine (taking into account the content and manner of the witness’ evidence, the circumstances of the case and the issues raised), whether to give any warning at all, and if so, in what terms. As a result, in exercising her discretion, the judge decided the girl’s age did not warrant a specific, separate warning other than the one given related to the danger of acting on uncorroborated evidence in a sexual case.



Massaquoi v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Power Massaquoi, was guilty of rape and reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 50 years imprisonment. The victim, an 11-year-old girl, stated that the appellant, 38, forced her into his room and had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her. The court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the testimony of the victim’s mother, who testified that she saw blood on the victim’s skirt and questioned the victim about the incident. The court held that the testimony qualified as an exception to the hearsay rule because statements are generally admissible “to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of statements made by child victims of abuse.” In addition, the court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the expert testimony of a physician’s assistant. The court held that even though the physician’s assistant did not have a medical degree, he qualified as an expert because of his experience with and knowledge of victims of sexual violence. The court noted that social workers trained in these areas would qualify as expert witnesses.