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Sweetheart defense

Ian Alfredo



LOVE is not a license for lust.  Hence, many times, the courts had consistently rejected the sweetheart theory, when employed by the accused as a matter of defense in rape cases.

The sweetheart theory is a last-ditch, desperate (at times, hopeless) attempt of the defense to exonerate the accused from the crime of rape.  Ultimately of course, with it, he hopes to set himself scot-free.

The Supreme Court frowns upon such a particular defense as a general rule, so to speak.  In the case of People vs. Aycardo G.R. No. 168299 dated 6 October 2008, the Supreme Court said, thus:

“No sane girl would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts and subject herself to public trial or ridicule if she has not, in truth, been a victim of rape, and thus impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her.”

Corollary to this, the Supreme Court expressed in the case of People vs. Olesco G.R. No. 174861 dated 11 April 2011, to wit:

“The ‘sweetheart theory’ or ‘sweetheart defense’ is an oft-abused justification that rashly derides the intelligence of this Court and sorely tests our patience.”

In fact, even if it is found to be true – that indeed the accused and the alleged rape victim are lovers – such fact does not guarantee to exculpate the former.  The gravamen of the crime of rape is carnal knowledge of a woman against her will and without her consent.  Hence, the Supreme Court pronounced in the case of People vs. Gecomo G.R. Nos. 115035-36 dated 23 February 1996, viz:

“It should be borne in mind that love is not a license for carnal intercourse through force or intimidation.  Even granting that appellant and complainant were really sweethearts, that fact alone would not negate the commission of rape.  A sweetheart cannot be forced to have sex against her will.  From a mere fiancee, definitely a man cannot demand sexual submission and, worse, employ violence upon her on a mere justification of love.  A man can even be convicted for the rape of his common-law wife.”

But, on the other hand, it must be carefully stressed that the accused could not be convicted grounded upon the weakness of his/her defense.  In the first place, the accused is clothed with the constitutional protection of presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Regardless of such weak defense, therefore, the duty remains with the prosecution – to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Hence, in the case of People vs. Claro G.R. No. 199894 dated 5 April 2017 (where the alleged rape victim presented as her evidence the NBI medico-legal examination, which revealed glaring findings of abrasions on her left breast and contusions on her right hand) still the Supreme Court acquitted the accused – who apparently employed the sweetheart theory as his supposedly lame defense – on the sole ground of reasonable doubt.

To the Court, those abrasions and contusions could not have proven the commission of rape.  To the Court, such contusions could likewise be a possible result of consented sexual intercourse.  Human experience has shown that even in consensual acts of intimacy, in the heat of passion and rising libido, partners at times engage in awkward actuations that may undoubtedly cause a contusion or two.  Therefore, with prosecution’s not having eliminated the possibility of consensual intercourse – and thus prove rape – the accused’s constitutional safeguard to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, could not be put aside.


(Lawyer Ian Alfredo T. Magno is based in Cagayan de Oro. E-mail: ianlfredom@gmail.com)


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