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The Sweetheart Doctrine and its Inapplicability

in Modern Philippine Jurisprudence

Josiah Immanuel P. Balgos

Love. It is inherent in every human being, whether they acknowledge
or deny it. It is noted in the Philippine 1987 Constitution’s Preamble1,
“We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a
just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations,
promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our
posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth,
justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.”

whereas the word “Love” itself seems not appropriate to even exist in the
1987 Constitution, and yet, there it stands, despite legal debates and
arguments. The word "Love", in the 1987 constitution, as human love is
ultimately perceived of, means the highest and strongest expression of the
will of an individual, or a form of metaphoric glue that binds the nation
together in times of calamity or war. As it is present in the Constitution, it is
occasionally considered as a form of inherent consent in times of crime.

According to the United Nations, there are only 52 countries that

criminalize rape within the institution of marriage, which pertains to the fact
that marital rape is not even reflected as rape in more than 140 countries
across the globe. Evidently, there is no existing crime of marital rape in the
Revised Penal Code.

The crime of rape, pursuant to Art. 266-A in the Philippine Revised

Penal Code2, as amended by Republic Act 8353 or The Anti-Rape Law of
1997, states that:

“Article 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

a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;
c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and;
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.

Preamble ,The 1987 Constitution, The Constitution Of The Republic Of The Philippines
Art. 266-a, Philippine Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 8353
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.

Now the second paragraph of the provision states that any person,
who under any circumstances commits the act of sexual assault to the
victim. Any person, as the law has stated, would be committing rape if there
was no consent given, but as stated by M.J. Anderson3,
“the crime of rape is perhaps even more problematic for all concerned when the
assailant is someone known and trusted by the victim-such as a friend, a relative, or worst
of all, a spouse. It is obviously most difficult to prove lack of consent in a spousal rape
situation, and frequently victims of spousal rape will not report the crime”

A short history of the mentality of the acceptance of Marital Rape in

many parts of the world is known as “Spousal Privilege”. Spousal Privilege
or Marital Exemption stemmed from a British Chief Justice by the name of
Sir Matthew Hale, he quotes from his book entitled “History of the Pleas of
the Crown”4:
“The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife,
for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this
kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract”

Hale’s statement, at that time, was led to the false belief that a
woman’s consent is inherent from the moment they entered into the
contract of marriage with their spouse, based off from centuries-old notions
that women were a form of chattel to their husbands. The view of women
improved during the Industrial Age, as there were additional rights provided
for women, such as permitting them to be a part of the work force that was
usually dominated by males and retain the income they have earned from
their labor.

That is how the Sweetheart Doctrine came into being in Philippine

Courts to be used as a defense.

The Sweetheart Theory, or Doctrine, for some,

Anderson, M.J., Lawful Wife, Unlawful Sex-Examining The Effect Of The Criminalization Of Marital Rape In
England And The Republic Of Ireland, Engaged Scholarship@CSU, 1995
Hale, Sir William, p.628, Historia Placitorium Coronae, 1st American Edition, Vol.1, 1847