Judge dismisses rape case against Catholic priest
NABUNTURAN, Compostela Valley, Philippines—A regional trial court judge here dismissed on Wednesday a rape case that was re-filed by a 26-year-old mother against the former parish priest of this town.
The complainant’s lawyer immediately slammed Judge Hilarion Clapis’s decision, calling it “a malversation of the law,” and threatened to file charges against the judge in the Supreme Court.
Clapis, the executive judge of the 11th Regional Trial Court branch 3, ruled against a recent decision of the Department of Justice supporting the re-filing of the rape charge against Father Melvin dela Cuesta. Two provincial prosecutors had dropped the rape charge against Dela Cuesta in 2006.
The recent DOJ order issued by Undersecretary Leah Tanodra-Armamento said there was enough reason to believe the complainant, a former parish worker, because “no woman in her right mind would openly acknowledge the violation of her person and allow the examination of her private parts if she has not been raped.”
But during Wednesday’s hearing of a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, Clapis decided to trash the charge against the priest. Clapis said he agreed with the 2006 ruling of then Compostela Valley prosecutors Alejandro Enriquez and Teodulfo Vega that there was not enough reason to charge Dela Cuesta.
“Indeed, there was something wrong with the complaint.… The element of guilt beyond reasonable doubt was not firmly established,” Clapis said in his decision.
Luwill Al-ag, the complainant’s lawyer, said Clapis’ decision “was already at the back of his mind even before the proceedings had started.”
“We have laid down all our cards. He dismissed the complaint even before he was able to take jurisdiction over the personality of the accused. He did not follow his mandate as based on the Rules of Court,” Al-ag said.
Al-ag also questioned Clapis’ failure to issue an arrest warrant 10 days after the filing of the information against the priest. Prosecutor Graciano Arafol Jr. filed the charge sheet last August 15.
But Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, Dela Cuesta’s counsel, said in his argument that the complainant failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that rape was indeed committed.
He told the court nothing in the complainant’s affidavits that showed she really struggled against the sexual advances allegedly committed by his client.
“The normal behavior of a woman facing sexual advances against her will is to shout for help. But in this case she did not show any, even when the alleged place of incident was just two meters from where other people were. If she really resisted, it would show by means of scratches or bruises,” Gonzaga said.
“If indeed, there were sexual advances, I’m very sure it was not rape. It could be just consensual sex,” he added.
Clapis said he was ready to resign if his decision was proven wrong.
“This decision was not just a malversation of the law. It was an obvious circumvention of the provisions of the law,” Al-ag said, adding they will file an appeal before the Court of Appeals, “so justice could be served.”
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