SC sets guidelines on rape cases

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A NEW decision by the Supreme Court (SC) has clearly defined the aggravating and qualifying circumstances in rape cases involving minors when the elements of both statutory rape and qualified rape — which carries the heavier penalty of death — are present.

According to the SC en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez and released on Monday, a crime shall be treated as qualified rape of a minor if “twin circumstances of minority and relationship, or the age of the victim is below seven years old,” or “the accused’s knowledge of the mental disability of the victim at the time of the commission of rape” were present. 

This condition will also be applied if the victim is below the statutory age or is suffering from mental retardation comparable to a child below the statutory age.

In differentiating statutory rape from qualified rape, the top court cited the Revised Penal Code, which defined statutory rape as “carnal knowledge of a woman below 12 years of age regardless of her consent or the lack of it, to the sexual act.” Proof of force, intimidation, or consent is unnecessary in statutory rape, which carries the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Meanwhile, the aggravating circumstances under qualified rape are relationship, moral ascendancy, or influence, abuse of authority, ignominy, and personal circumstances.

“The term ‘statutory age’ in these guidelines shall mean either “below 12 years old” or “under 16 years old” depending on whether the crime of rape was committed before or after the effectivity of the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act (RA 11648), respectively,” the Court clarified. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana