THE Supreme Court’s (SC) Third Division granted the motion filed by Ronie de Guzman for the extinguishment of two counts of rape filed by private complainant Juvilyn Velasco, on account of their subsequent marriage.

The High Court ordered that de Guzman be released from imprisonment. It earlier ruled for the appellant to suffer life imprisonment for each count of rape.

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“We find the marriage between appellant and private complainant to have been contracted validly, legally and in good faith, as an expression of their mutual love for each other and their desire to establish a family of their own,” the Court said in a five-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura.

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Renato Corona, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Mariano Del Castillo and Jose Mendoza.

Based on court records, de Guzman and Velasco got married on August 19, 2009 inside the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City. The wedding was officiated by Reverend Lucas Dangatan of Jeruel Christ-Centered Ministries, Inc.

A month before the marriage, or on July 20, 2009, the SC affirmed his conviction on two counts of rape.

In absolving de Guzman, the SC held that his subsequent marriage to his victim effectively extinguished his criminal liability, citing Articles 89, in relation to Articles 344 and 266-C of the Revised Penal Code.

“On several occasions, we applied these provisions to marriages contracted between the offender and the offended party in the crime of rape, as well as in the crime of abuse of chastity, to totally extinguish the criminal liability of and the corresponding penalty that may have been imposed upon those found guilty of the felony,” the court said.

The SC said De Guzman’s case was first in 36 years, noting that the last suit bearing similar circumstances was decided by the court in 1974 in People v. Velasco, G.R. No. L-28081.

It also said that based on the documents submitted, including certificate of marriage and copies of pictures taken after the ceremony, it found the union of de Guzman and his victim to be valid.

“Given public policy considerations of respect for the sanctity of marriage and the highest regard for the solidarity of the family, we must accord appellant (De Guzman) the full benefits of Article 89, in relation to Article 344 and Article 266-C of RPC,” it added.

De Guzman was sentenced in November 2000 by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court to two life imprisonments for the rape of Velasco twice in May and August of 1996 in Taguig, City.

The victim, who is a relative of de Guzman’s then live-in partner, was only 14 years old at the time. Nine months after the first rape incident, the victim gave birth to a baby boy in February 1997.

In his defense, de Guzman claimed the victim was his girlfriend although their relationship had always been kept secret for he was then living with his common-law spouse, Marissa.

As it happened, the victim shared the same house with Marissa, the former being an orphan who grew up in the care of Marissa’s mother. (JCV/Sunnex)