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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 135230. August 8, 2000.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RONNIE NAVALES y VILLAFLOR, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


PANGANIBAN, J.:


Alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by a credible witness. Moreover, the assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is best undertaken by the trial judge, who had the unique opportunity to observe their conduct and demeanor on the stand.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The Case


Ronnie Navales y Villaflor appeals the July 6, 1998 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna (Branch 31) 1 in Criminal Case No. 0681-SPL, in which he was found guilty of robbery with rape.

In an Information dated February 16, 1998, Fourth Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Melchorito M.E. Lomarda charged appellant as follows: 2

"That on or about September 2, 1997, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused with intent to gain did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with violence against and intimidation of persons at knifepoint divest, take, steal and carry away the sum of FIFTY PESOS (P50.00) Philippines Currency, from Maria Neilla T. Llagas; that on the occasion of or by reason of said robbery the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, violence, intimidation and threats have carnal knowledge of said Neilla T. Llagas against her will, to her damage and prejudice."cralaw virtua1aw library

With the assistance of Counsel de Oficio Manuel Ramirez, appellant entered a plea of not guilty when arraigned on March 16, 1998. 3 Trial proceeded in due course. Thereafter, the trial court promulgated its Decision, the decretal portion of which reads: 4

"IN VIEW THEREOF, the Court finds that the prosecution represented by Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Melchorito Lomarda has duly established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt for the special complex crime of robbery with rape penalized under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. The Court finds too that the robbery was accompanied with rape and was committed with the use of a deadly weapon.

"WHEREFORE, the court hereby sentences accused Ronnie Navales y Villaflor to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; to pay the private complainant the sums of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages and P50.00 representing the money forcibly taken by accused from her. Costs against the accused."cralaw virtua1aw library

In view of the penalty imposed, the appeal was filed directly with this Court. 5

The Facts


Version of the Prosecution

In its Brief, 6 the Office of the Solicitor General narrated the facts in this wise: 7

"On September 1, 1997, MA Neilla T. Llagas, 27 years old, married with two (2) children (p. 6, TSN, May 21, 1998) and employee of Pocketbell in Ortigas, Pasig City, left their residence in San Pedro, Laguna at around 1:00 p.m. to report for work. Being a telecommunicator, she works on specific work shifts. On that day, she was assigned to the 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight shift. She left the office at around 12:15 a.m. . . . It was almost 1:00 a.m. when she got off at the highway in Barangay Landayan. (pp. 3-5, TSN, April 23, 1998).

"Neilla was alone as she walked towards the direction of their house. Her pace was somewhat slow because there were blisters on her feet. The area was sufficiently illuminated by the presence of lighted lampposts on the highway. On her way, she noticed a male stranger to her left who sat on a gutter right next to a lamppost. She did not mind the stranger and continued walking until she passed by him. When she was about ten (10) meters away from where the stranger was sitting, Neilla looked back and saw the man already in a standing position and [apparently] urinating. She continued to walk but she was again tempted to look back. She noted the distance between her and the stranger to have doubled to twenty (20) meters. Considering the distance that she had obtained, Neilla’s apprehension somewhat subsided. When she turned her head to look at the stranger once more, she was shocked to find that he was already on her left side. Although the stranger’s nearness completely frightened her, she was able to take note of his appearance: barefooted, wearing maong short pants and checkered shirt with a collar, and had almost the same height as hers (p. 6, id., May 25, 1998). As she turned left, the stranger suddenly shifted to her right side and announced a hold-up while he poked a balisong at her. (pp. 6-11, TSN, April 23, 1998).

"Neilla chose not to panic and calmly told the criminal to just get her bag and spare her from any harm. However, he insisted that Neilla should go with him to some other place. Her refusal to give in to his demand prompted him to forcibly drag her to a grassy portion surrounding the basketball court in the village. She tried to shout but no voice came out from her mouth. (pp. 13-14, TSN, April 23, 1998)chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

"The grasses in the area were as high as three (3) feet that made it very difficult for somebody so situated as Neilla to receive help. Despite the kind of situation she was in, Neilla tried to fight her assailant. During the struggle, she was able to get hold of the bladed portion of the knife that her assailant was holding. She was told to let go of the knife but she refused prompting her assailant to box her jaw. The fist blow caused Neilla to fall down. While she was lying on her back, her assailant, who talked with Visayan accent, knelt down between her thighs as he searched her bag and took the P50.00 that he found inside. When she tried to sit down, he hit her right jaw again causing her to fall to her original position. Then, he told her that since she did not have enough money, he would just rape her instead. (pp. 14-18, TSN, April 23, 1998)

"Fearing for her life, Neilla remained where she was as her assailant unbuttoned her blouse and raised her bra. The man then mashed her breast with one hand. Thereafter, he unzipped Neilla’s pants (made of soft material) and pulled it, together with her underwear, down to her ankle while her bleeding hands were across her chest to cover her bare breasts. Then, he inserted his organ into hers and made pumping motions for around three (3) minutes while pointing his balisong at the right side of her neck. (p. 19, TSN, April 23, 1998 and pp. 2-5, TSN, May 18, 1998)

"After the consummation of the odious act, the offender tied Neilla’s feet with her own pants and her hands with a cord and placed a handkerchief into her mouth. He left immediately thereafter. (p. 6, TSN, May 18, 1998)

"When she partly regained her composure, Neilla untied herself and wore her underwear. She opted to just carry her pants with her. Soon, she was running towards the direction of their house. She met her husband and some relatives at the corner near the entrance to their village. Upon learning of her ordeal, her husband and relatives accompanied her to the San Pedro Police Station to report the incident. Neilla returned to the place of the incident to point to the policemen the exact spot where she was robbed and raped. (pp. 9-10, TSN, May 18, 1998)

"On the basis of the description given by Neilla of her assailant, the authorities surmised that the culprit could be a worker at the GLV Factory located inside the village (p. 11, id.). Thus, at around 8:00 Am. on same day, Neilla, her husband and relatives, two (2) policemen and a barangay tanod proceeded to GLV Factory, a company engaged in the manufacture of plastic hangers. Boy Vasquez, GLV’s owner, gathered all his male workers (about 40 in number) at the garage where they were made to form a line and walk in a circular motion. Neilla stood near the screen door where she could not be seen but could clearly see the workers who pass[ed] the door. However, she failed to identify her assailant. (pp. 12-14, TSN, May 18, 1998).

" [O]n the early afternoon of same date, Neilla returned to the factory to identify appellant who was pointed to by Rolly Mata as the person who[m] he claimed to have seen sitting on the gutter immediately prior to the commission of the crime. During her face to face confrontation with appellant, Neilla recognized him and positively identified him as her assailant. (pp. 15-16, TSN, May 18, 1998)"

Version of the Defense

Denying the charge against him, appellant narrated the facts in this manner: 8

"Ronnie Navales testified that he was from La Carlota City, Bacolod. He came here with his neighbor to find work. He had been working at the factory for only one month. He slept at the factory. On September 2, 1997 at around 1:00 Am. he was sleeping at the factory. He went to sleep at 10:00 p.m. and woke up at 6:00 Am.

"He denied that he was sitting near the gutter at 1:15 Am. The truth is he was sleeping. He does not know Rolly Mata.

"He just saw [the victim] when she arrived at his work place on September 2, 1997. They were asked by the manager to line up by the door of the factory. They did not yet know the reason why they were told to line up. Then they were told to turn around or move in a circular motion and then were asked to move out. Then they went back to their work.

"He denied having raped her.

"Then he returned to work and faced complainant together with other workers. They were about 50. The manager told them to step out as Neilla was looking for the man who raped [her]. Neilla did not point to anyone as the perpetrator.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

"They were undressed. There were no scratches on his back or on the others.

"At 1:00 p.m. he was asked to go to the office of the manager. Her husband elbowed Neilla, and the latter cried and pointed to him as the one who raped her. (TSN, June 15, 1998, pp. 1-19)."cralaw virtua1aw library

Ruling of the RTC

Debunking the defense of denial and alibi, the trial court held that the victim positively identified appellant as the one who had forcibly taken her money and sexually abused her. It ruled: 9

"Examining the evidence on hand, the Court finds that the prosecution, in support of its charge [of] robbery with rape against the herein accused, relied heavily on the testimony of the private complainant positively identifying the herein accused as the malefactor. As the Court sees it, there is no basis to doubt the positive identification of accused by the private complainant who claimed that accused was the man who was sitting [o]n the gutter near the factory [o]n the early morning of September 2, 1997, who held her up and who raped her. Prosecution witness Rolly Mata identified and pointed to herein accused as the one whom he saw sitting on the gutter near the factory where he was working [o]n the early morning of September 2, 1997 when . . . private complainant passed by.

"As regards the positive identification made by the private complainant and her witness Rolly Mata, it is a settled rule that absent any credible evidence to prove the charge of bias and prejudice, it is presumed that the prosecution would not have imputed to the accused the crime with which he was charged unless he was guilty thereof. As held in a number of cases, the absence of any evidence as to the existence of an improper motive sustains the conclusion that no such improper motive exists and that the testimony of the witnesses, therefore, should be given full faith and credit. . . .

"On the other hand, the defense denial of the accusation leveled against accused is backed up by an alibi. Again, the Supreme Court has ruled that the defense of alibi is unavailing against the positive identification of the accused by the witnesses . . .. In sum, the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the private complainant and witness Rolly Mata who have no untoward motive to falsely testify."cralaw virtua1aw library

Assignment of Errors

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in the following: 10

"I


. . . [F]inding that the complainant had positively identified her assailant.

"II


. . . [F]inding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with rape." chanrob1es virtua1 law library

In the main, the defense raises doubts on the identification of the Appellant.

The Court’s Ruling


The appeal has no merit.

Main Issue:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Identification of the Perpetrator

Complainant testified that she was able to identify appellant as her assailant, when she and her husband went to the GLV factory several hours after the incident.

On the other hand, appellant contends that the "impartiality of the identification process" was "violated" because no other suspect was present at the time. He bewails the absence of an "impartial screening process like a police line-up." Furthermore, he avers that complainant had not been able to identify him earlier that morning when he was inside the factory with 50 other workers. 11

Appellant’s argument is not convincing. True, the "corruption of out-of-court identification contaminates the integrity of in-court identification during the trial." 12 In this case, however, we find no flaw in the complainant’s out-of-court identification of Appellant.

It has been held that "in resolving the admissibility of and relying on out-of-court identification of suspects, courts have adopted the totality of circumstances test where they consider the following factors, viz: (1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness’ degree of attention at that time; (3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and (6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure." 13 Applying this test, the Court is convinced that appellant was properly identified by the complainant before the trial.

Complainant had a good look at her assailant when the crime was committed. He approached her and announced a holdup; after taking her bag, he dragged and raped her. As the Office of the Solicitor General has observed, a man and a woman cannot be physically closer to each other than during a sexual act. 14 Under the circumstances, it was unlikely for her to have forgotten the face of Appellant.

Moreover, several hours after the crime when the details of the incident were still fresh in her memory, she was able to identify appellant because of his features. When she saw him that afternoon inside the office, there was no doubt in her mind that he was indeed her assailant. She testified thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q How were you able to identify the accused inside the office of the factory owner?

A His height, his figure, his face, the buil[d] of his body, his eyes and the way he talks." 15

The mere fact that no other suspect was inside the factory owner’s office that afternoon did not taint the identification made by complainant. Nobody prodded her to point to appellant. Nobody told her that he was the malefactor. The evidence on record shows that she knowingly and voluntarily recognized him. Verily, her conduct that afternoon supported her claim. Notwithstanding the presence of two policemen and an NBI agent inside the room, she was still afraid of appellant who was also there. She testified as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q. Where was [appellant] facing in relation to you when you pointed to him?

A. I was behind my husband and he was facing us, sir.

x       x       x


Q. Why were you hiding behind your husband?

A. I was afraid, sir.

Q. [Of] whom were you afraid?

A. [Of] him, sir.

Q. Why were you afraid of him?

A. Because of what he did to me, sir." 16

Contrary to the prosecution’s account, appellant insists that the husband of complainant prodded her to point to the former inside the office that afternoon. Appellant testified in this wise:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q. What did Neilla Llagas do when she saw you and her husband?

A. When I was sitting down, Neilla Llagas was standing in front of me and I was asked by her husband where I was working, sir.

Q. And what was your answer?

A. I told him, here in the factory of Boy Vazquez, sir.

Q. Neilla did not do anything at that time?

A. None yet, sir.

x       x       x


Q. And after her husband elbowed Neilla, what happened?

A. Neilla cried and she pointed to me as the one who raped her, sir." 17

The trial court, however, disbelieved his testimony and gave credence to complainant’s narration. In the same manner, it accepted complainant’s account that appellant was not present that morning when she went to the factory to see if her attacker was one of the workers. 18 The well-settled rule is that the assessment of the credibility of witnesses is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, because of its unique opportunity to observe them firsthand during the trial. Unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted, the trial court’s finding is accorded respect, even finality. 19

In this case, we find no reason to reverse the findings of the court a quo. Time and time again, the Court has held that no woman in her right mind would declare to the whole world that she was raped, unless she is telling the truth. 20 Moreover, appellant failed to adduce any evidence to show motive on the part of the complainant to testify falsely against him.

In any event, complainant’s testimony was corroborated by Rolly Mata, who testified that he had seen appellant in the vicinity of the crime scene where the victim was walking just before the assault.chanrob1es virtual law library

Tuason v. CA and People v.

Meneses Not Applicable

Appellant cites People v. Meneses 21 and Tuason v. GA, 22 both resulting in acquittals, because the accused were identified in a "show-up" as in the present case. 23 In that identification procedure, the suspect alone is taken by the police to face the witness. 24 Quoting Tuason v. CA, appellant argues that a "show-up" "constitutes the most grossly suggestive identification procedure now or ever used by the police."cralaw virtua1aw library

We are not persuaded. True, a "show-up" may be suggestive, but it is not by itself a sufficient reason to reject a witness’ identification of the accused. As noted earlier, courts consider the totality of circumstances in each case in resolving questions regarding out-of-court identifications. Indeed, in Meneses and Tuason, the acquittal did not arise from the mere fact that the police had resorted to this identification procedure. In Tuason, the Court held that the identification of the accused was "not spontaneous and independent" because the witness pointed to him after an NBI agent had done so. 25 In Meneses, the Court did not find the witness credible, because "while he knew appellant prior to the crime, being his uncle who for some time he was staying with, he failed to point to him as the attacker when questioned by the police immediately after the incident." 26

In the present case, no sufficient evidence was presented to show that the identification procedure was flawed. On the contrary, complainant recognized appellant when she saw him in the afternoon several hours after the incident. As discussed earlier, the totality of the circumstances in this case shows that her identification of appellant was spontaneous and independent.

Appellant’s Alibi

Raising the defense of alibi, appellant avers that he was sleeping inside the factory when the crime was committed.

This argument is not persuasive. Alibi is always viewed with suspicion, because it is inherently weak and unreliable. For this defense to prosper, it must preclude any doubt about the physical impossibility of the presence of the accused at the locus criminis or its immediate vicinity at the time of the incident. 27

In this case, the factory was near the entrance of the subdivision where the crime was committed. It was not, therefore, impossible for appellant to have been at the crime scene at the time. Furthermore, the defense failed to corroborate his account, which could have been done easily. In any event, it has been held that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the appellant by a credible witness, as in this case. 28

Crime and Punishment

Appellant was convicted under Article 294 (1) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, which provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"ARTICLE 294. Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons — Penalties. — Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against any person shall suffer:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of the robbery, the crime of homicide shall have been committed, or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or intentional mutilation or arson."cralaw virtua1aw library

In robbery with rape, the offender has an intent to take personal property belonging to another, and such intent precedes the rape.

In this case, it was shown that appellant approached the victim and announced a holdup while poking a knife at her. After taking her bag, he dragged her to an area near the village basketball court and raped her. In view of the evidence presented, the trial court was correct in convicting him of robbery with rape and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua.

The court a quo also ordered appellant to pay the victim P100,000 for civil indemnity, P100,000 for moral damages, and P50 for the money taken from her. In line with current jurisprudence, 29 appellant should be ordered to pay the victim the reduced sum of P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto. We also hold that the victim is entitled to moral damages, for the fact that she has suffered the trauma of mental, physical and psychological sufferings is too manifest to require further proof. 30 The amount, however, should be reduced to P50,000.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that the appellant shall pay the victim P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto and P50,000 as moral damages, in addition to P50 as actual damages. Costs against Appellant.

SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Melo, Vitug, Purisima and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Written by Judge Stella Cabuco Andres.

2. Records, p. 1.

3. Records, p. 56.

4. RTC Decision, p. 6; rollo, p. 29; records, p. 152.

5. The case was deemed submitted for resolution on March 1, 2000, when the Court received appellant’s Manifestation (in lieu of Reply Brief) stating that he would not file a reply brief.

6. Signed by Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez, Assistant Solicitor General Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Solicitor Mary Ann T. Vela.

7. Brief for Plaintiff-Appellee, pp. 3-9; rollo, pp. 81-87.

8. Appellant’s Brief, pp. 5-6; rollo, pp. 55-56. The Brief was signed by Atty. Teresita S. De Guzman of the Public Attorney’s Office.

9. RTC Decision, pp. 5-6; rollo, pp. 28-29.

10. Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; rollo, p. 51.

11. Appellant’s Brief, pp. 6-7; rollo, pp. 56-57.

12. People v. Teehankee, 249 SCRA 54, 95, October 6, 1995, per Puno, J. Emphasis found in the original.

13. Ibid.

14. Appellee’s Brief, p. 12; rollo, p. 90.

15. TSN, May 25, 1998, p. 24.

16. TSN, May 25, 1998, pp. 25-26.

17. TSN, June 15, 1998, p. 18.

18. She testified:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q Earlier, you testified that the first time you were asked to identify the accused, there were about 40 or so workers and not among them [was] the accused. When you were able to identify the accused when he was presented to you, was he not among those 40 or so workers earlier presented to you?

A I did not see him, sir." (TSN, May 18, 1998, p. 16.)

19. People v. Sumbillo, 271 SCRA 428, April 18, 1997; People v. Quinao, 269 SCRA 495, March 13, 1997; People v. Nuestro, 240 SCRA 221, January 18, 1995; People v. Jimenez, 302 SCRA 607, February 4, 1999; People v. Angeles, 275 SCRA 19, July 1, 1997; People v. Atuel, 261 SCRA 339, September 3, 1996; People v. Cura, 240 SCRA 234, January 18, 1995; and People v. Malunes, 247 SCRA 317, August 14, 1995.

20. People v. Cabaluna, 264 SCRA 596, November 21, 1996; People v. De Guzman, 265 SCRA 228, December 2, 1996.

21. 288 SCRA 95, March 26, 1998.

22. 241 SCRA 695, February 23, 1995.

23. Appellant’s Brief, pp. 6-11; rollo, pp. 56-61.

24. People v. Teehankee, supra.

25. Tuason v. CA, supra, p. 705, per Puno, J.

26. People v. Meneses, supra, p. 106, per Kapunan, J.

27. People v. Tulop, 289 SCRA 316, 333, April 21, 1998; People v. Pallarco, 288 SCRA 151, 166, March 26, 1998; People v. Andres, 296 SCRA 318, 337, September 25, 1998.

28. People v. Kulais Et. Al., 292 SCRA 551, 577, July 16, 1998.

29. People v. Sumalpong, 284 SCRA 464, January 20, 1998; People v. Betonio, 279 SCRA 532, September 26, 1997; People v. Adora, 275 SCRA 441, July 14, 1997.

30. People v. Ignacio, 294 SCRA 542, August 24, 1998; People v. Vergel, GR No. 128813, October 4, 1999.

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