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G.R. No. 183696 - People of the Philippines v. Nelson Arraz

G.R. No. 183696 - People of the Philippines v. Nelson Arraz

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 183696 : October 24, 2008]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. NELSON ARRAZ, Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

CARPIO, J.:

This is an appeal from the 23 November 2007 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02357. The Court of Appeals affirmed the 15 June 2006 Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, in Criminal Case No. RTC 04-907 finding appellant Nelson Arraz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of qualified rape with the modifications that (1) the death penalty be reduced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole; and (2) the awards of moral damages and exemplary damages be reduced to P50,000 and P25,000, respectively.

The prosecution charged appellant with raping his 14-year old niece in an Information that reads:

That on or about the 20th day of April 2003, at around three o'clock in the morning in Sitio Libtong, Barangay Lupi, Tinambac, Camarines Sur, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously through force and intimidation has carnal knowledge with her [sic] niece, [AAA],3 fourteen years old, against her will, to her damage and prejudice.

The crime is committed with the following attendant aggravating/qualifying circumstances:

The victim is under eighteen years of age and the offender is a relative by consanguinity within the third civil degree.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.4

Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty. During the pre-trial, appellant admitted that AAA is his niece. Thereafter, trial ensued.

The prosecution presented AAA, who was born on 2 January 1989 as shown in her birth certificate, and thus was only 14 years old when the rape happened. AAA testified that on 20 April 2003, she went to sleep at 8:00 in the evening. Then, at 3:00 a.m. of the following day, she was awakened because appellant was kissing her. Appellant held her hand and placed himself on top of her. AAA fought but appellant was much stronger than her. Appellant removed AAA's shorts and inserted his penis into her vagina which made her feel pain causing her to cry. Afterwards, appellant threatened to kill AAA if she would report what happened to her. AAA did not inform her grandmother about the rape because AAA believed that her grandmother would side with appellant, being her grandmother's favorite son. AAA instead reported the incident to someone whom she believed to be a member of the New People's Army (NPA) because she wanted appellant dead. The alleged member of the NPA turned out to be an officer of the Philippine Army who brought AAA to the Department of Social Welfare and Development of Tinambac.

The prosecution likewise presented Dr. Jane Perpetua Fajardo (Dr. Fajardo), Medico Legal Officer of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), who testified that she conducted a medico genital examination on AAA. Dr. Fajardo found an old healed hymenal laceration at 6:00 o'clock position, which is most commonly caused by sexual intercourse.

The defense presented appellant and his mother as witnesses. Appellant denied the charges against him, stating, among others that at the time of the commission of the crime, he stayed at his house taking care of his sick wife, then tended to his carabao, and thereafter attended the reading of the Pasyon. However, appellant admitted that at around 12 midnight of 21 April 2003, he tried to kiss AAA's lips but nothing happened afterwards. Appellant claimed that he was tempted to kiss AAA because he saw her lying on a bed alone and he was drunk then. Appellant further alleged that AAA filed the present criminal case because she was probably angry at him for trying to kiss her on the lips.

Appellant's mother, Gloria Arraz, essentially testified that she did not notice anything unusual about AAA at around the time of the rape and that AAA did not inform her about the rape.

The trial court convicted appellant of rape defined and penalized under paragraph 1(a) of Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353. The trial court pertinently ruled as follows:

In the case at bar, the information alleges that the rape was committed "on or about the 20th day of April, 2003." In this regard, Section 11 of Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure provides, as follows:

"Sec. 11. Date of commission of the offense. - - It is not necessary to state in the complaint or information the precise date the offense was committed except when it is a material ingredient of the offense. The offense may be alleged to have been committed on a date as near as possible to the actual date of its commission.

The discrepancy should likewise be disregarded because the accused testified and admitted that he went to the house where [AAA] was staying at 12 midnight of April 21, 2003 and that when he saw [AAA] lying in bed alone and being drunk at that time, he was tempted. He also admitted that he tried to kiss [AAA] on said date. x x x Moreover, such mistakes or inaccuracies are of no moment as the factual issue now before this court is whether the rape incident happened or not. As emphatically enunciated by the Supreme Court in a number of cases, "in rape cases, the date is not an essential element of the crime and, therefore, need not be accurately stated."

x x x

Although the accused claims that he only tried to kiss [AAA], such denial crumbles in the face of the positive testimony of [AAA] and the physical evidence showing that sexual intercourse was committed on her. The physical evidence shows that she had an old hymenal laceration at 6:00 o'clock position, complete with edges rounded and non-coaptable. The hymenal orifice was wide (2.5 cm. in diameter) as to allow complete penetration by an average-sized adult Filipino male organ in full erection without producing injury.

x x x

The court finds the testimony of [AAA] clear and free from serious contradiction. Although it appears that she did not shout or cry out for help while the accused was trying to force himself upon her, this does not diminish her credibility. People react in different ways. x x x The reason given by [AAA] why she did not shout or cry for help was that she believed that her grandmother would side with the accused. x x x5

The dispositive portion of the 15 June 2006 Decision6 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the prosecution having proven the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape as defined and penalized under letter (a) paragraph 1 of Art. 266-A of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Rep. Act 8353 in relation to Art. 266-B thereof.

Accordingly, the accused NELSON ARRAZ is hereby sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH, and to indemnify the victim, [AAA], in the amount of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.7

On appeal, appellant contended that the trial court erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He claimed that (1) there was a discrepancy in the date of the commission of the crime; (2) AAA did not display any unusual behavior after she was allegedly raped; (3) it was impossible to rape AAA considering that she was sharing the room with her grandmother who was only two meters away from her and was separated only by a curtain; and (4) AAA did not make an outcry when her grandmother was so near when the rape happened.

The Court of Appeals rejected appellant's contentions. The appellate court held that the "perceived discrepancy in the date of the commission of the rape is inconsequential." The date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. The Court of Appeals went on to explain the discrepancy in the date by stating that the crime was committed in the early morning of 21 April 2003, which is already considered a new day or the next day after [AAA] went to sleep at around 8:00 o'clock in the evening of 20 April 2003.

The fact that AAA did not shout or make an outcry does not diminish her credibility, for such failure to shout for help does not negate rape. AAA was only 14 years and 3 months old at the time she was raped and is the niece of appellant. Thus, it cannot be denied that appellant exercised a great amount of influence and wielded authority over AAA.

The Court of Appeals also found unmeritorious appellant's claim of impossibility to commit the crime of rape in the presence of other persons. The presence of people has never deterred the commission of rape.

The Court of Appeals also held that there is no standard form of behavioral response when one is confronted by a shocking or a harrowing experience. AAA's reporting of the incident to someone she believed to be a member of the NPA, and not to her grandmother because appellant was the latter's favorite, may be considered a normal reaction.

The Court of Appeals gave credence to AAA's testimony rather than appellant's bare denial. AAA's testimony was simple, candid and straightforward.

The dispositive portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from, convicting accused-appellant NELSON ARRAZ of the crime of qualified rape, is thereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that (1) the penalty of death be reduced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility to [sic] parole; and (2) the awards of moral damages and exemplary damages are reduced to P50,000.00 and P25,000.00, respectively.

SO ORDERED.8

Hence, this appeal.

The sole issue in this case is whether appellant is guilty of rape defined and penalized under Article 266-A9 in relation to Article 266-B10 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

The appeal has no merit.

The lower courts did not err in giving credence to the testimony of AAA. AAA clearly and straightforwardly testified that appellant raped her, thus:

Q Aside from kissing you, what else did your Tio Nelson do to you?cralawred

A He held my hand and placed himself on top of me.

Q What did you do when you said your Tio Nelson got held [sic] of your hand and went on top of you?cralawred

A I fought him but he was much stronger than me.

Q While your Tio Nelson was on top of you, what action did he take after that?cralawred

A And he continued on kissing me.

Q What else did he do, aside from kissing you?cralawred

A He inserted his penis inside my vagina.

x x x

Q Awhile ago you said that the penis of Nelson Arraz was inserted in your vagina, kindly tell us what did you feel while you were in that situation?cralawred

A It was painful.

Q And what did you do since you feel painful [sic] in that situation?cralawred

A I cried.

Q Can you still remember for how long Nelson Arraz was on top of you, after Nelson Arraz moved on top of you what happened next?cralawred

A I could not remember, Sir.

Q And while Nelson Arraz inserted his penis into your vagina and he was on top of you, what did Nelson Arraz do?cralawred

A He continued on kissing me.11

To support AAA's charge of rape, the prosecution presented the testimony of Dr. Fajardo, Medico Legal Officer of the NBI, who conducted a medico genital examination on AAA. Dr. Fajardo found an old healed hymenal laceration at 6:00 o'clock position. She stated that based on experience and studies, 90 to 95% of such lacerations are caused by sexual intercourse. Hymenal lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best evidence of forcible defloration.12 Since AAA's clear, positive and straightforward testimony is consistent with Dr. Fajardo's medical findings, the prosecution sufficiently established the element of carnal knowledge.

While appellant admits kissing AAA on the lips around the time of the commission of the rape, appellant denies raping AAA. Appellant's flimsy denial cannot prevail over AAA's positive identification of appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. Moreover, appellant gravely failed to show material facts which the trial court overlooked or misunderstood and which could alter appellant's conviction. Well-settled is the rule that the Court accords great respect and full weight to the trial court's findings, unless the trial court overlooked substantial facts which could have affected the outcome of the case.13 Appellant's claims involve minor or trifling matters that do not warrant a reversal of the decision of the lower courts.

First, the Court sustains the lower courts in holding that the date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. Even a variance of a few months between the time in the Information and that established by the evidence during the trial has been held not to constitute a serious error warranting the reversal of a conviction on that ground.14

Second, as the Court of Appeals ruled, lust does not respect time and place. There is no rule that rape can be committed only in seclusion. In several cases, the Court has found that venues of rape have been inside a house where there were other occupants;15 in a room adjacent to where the victim's family members were sleeping;16 or even in a room which the victim shared with the accused's sisters.17

Third, AAA's failure to shout for help during the rape is not fatal to the charge of rape. Considering that at the time of the rape AAA was only 14 years old and that appellant is AAA's uncle, appellant undeniably exercised moral ascendancy over AAA and intimidated AAA into submission. Failure to shout or offer tenacious resistance did not make voluntary AAA's submission to appellant's lust.18 Besides, physical resistance is not an essential element of rape.19

Fourth, the Court agrees with the Court of Appeals in ruling that there is no uniform behavior expected of victims after being raped. Different people react differently to a given situation, and there is no standard form of behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange or startling or frightful experience.20 In this case, AAA did not tell her grandmother about the rape incident because she firmly believed that her grandmother would side with appellant, being her favorite son. Instead, AAA deemed it right, under the circumstances, to report it to someone whom she believed to be a member of the NPA.

Considering that the Court finds no reversible error on the finding of appellant's guilt for the crime of rape, the Court of Appeals correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346.21

However, the Court modifies appellant's civil liability. He is still ordered to pay AAA P75,000 as civil indemnity and P25,000 as exemplary damages. The Court increases from P50,000 to P75,000 the award of moral damages in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence.22

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the 23 November 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02357 with the MODIFICATION that the moral damages shall be P75,000.

SO ORDERED.

 

Endnotes:


* Per Special Order No. 527.

** As replacement of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno who is on official leave per Special Order No. 528.

1 Rollo, pp. 2-19. Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam, with Acting Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr. and Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, concurring.

2 CA rollo, pp. 16-29. Penned by Judge Freddie D. Balonzo.

3 Per this Court's Resolution dated 19 September 2006 in A.M. No. 04-11-09-SC, as well as our ruling in People v. Cabalquinto (G.R. No. 167693, 19 September 2006, 502 SCRA 419), pursuant to Republic Act No. 9262 or the "Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004" and its implementing rules, the real name of the victims and their immediate family members other than the accused are to be withheld and fictitious initials are to be used instead.

4 Rollo, p. 3.

5 CA rollo, pp. 23-26.

6 Id. at 16-29.

7 Id. at 28.

8 Rollo, p. 19.

9 ART. 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 circumstances:

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; andcralawlibrary

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.

10 ART. 266-B. Penalties. - Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x    x    x

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:

1) When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim;

x    x    x

11 Rollo, pp. 15-16.

12 People v. Mangitngit, G.R. No. 171270, 20 September 2006, 502 SCRA 560.

13 People v. Montinola, G.R. No. 178061, 31 January 2008, 543 SCRA 412.

14 People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 172373, 25 September 2007, 534 SCRA 140, 146.

15 People v. Talaboc, 326 Phil. 451 (1996) citing People v. Guibao, G.R. No. 93517, 15 January 1993, 217 SCRA 64, People v. Dabon, G.R. No. 102004, 16 December 1992, 216 SCRA 656, People v. De los Reyes, G.R. No. 85771, 19 November 1991, 203 SCRA 707, People v. Viray, No. L-41085, 8 August 1988, 164 SCRA 135.

16 People v. Talaboc, 326 Phil. 451 (1996) citing People v. Codilla, G.R. NOS. 100720-23, 30 June 1993, 224 SCRA 104.

17 Id. citing People v. Villorente, G.R. No. 100198, 1 July 1992, 210 SCRA 647.

18 People v. Alberio, G.R. No. 152584, 6 July 2004, 433 SCRA 469, 475.

19 Id.

20 People v. Talaboc, 326 Phil. 451 (1996).

21 An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.

22 People v. Crespo, G.R. No. 180500, 11 September 2008; People v. Dela Torre, G.R. No. 176637, 6 October 2008; People v. Dela Paz, G.R. No. 177294, 19 February 2008, 546 SCRA 363, 386; People v. Javier, G.R. No. 172970, 19 February 2008, 546 SCRA 328, 333; People v. Barcena, G.R. No. 168737, 16 February 2006, 482 SCRA 543, 561.

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