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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 119957. September 23, 1996.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RODOLFO BAWAR y LABOG, Accused-Appellant.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT GENERALLY NOT DISTURBED ON APPEAL; EXCEPTIONS. — Settled is the rule that an appellate court will generally not disturb the assessment of the trial court on matters of credibility, considering that the latter was in a better position to appreciate the same, having heard the witnesses themselves and having observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial, unless the trial court has plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value, which if considered may affect the result of the case (People v. Bantisil, 249 SCRA 367 [1995]), or in instances where the evidence of record fails to support or substantiate the lower court’s findings of fact and conclusions, or where the disputed decision is based on a misapprehension of facts (People v. Godoy, 250 SCRA 676 [1995]).

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY HER FAILURE TO REVEAL THE ASSAULT ON HER VIRTUE TO HER HUSBAND IMMEDIATELY AFTER IT HAS HAPPENED ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE IS NO THREAT TO HER LIFE. — Telling too is the fact that complainant did not reveal the incident to her husband immediately upon returning home the following morning, on the excuse that she was afraid to do so. According to complainant, she and her husband did not talk to each other, although they took breakfast together and she dealt with him in a normal way. It is quite unnatural for a woman not to reveal the assault on her virtue immediately after it has happened especially when there is no threat to her life (People v. Mejeas, 168 SCRA 33 [1988]; People v. Cuartero, 195 SCRA 285 [1991], or when there is no restraint on her liberty, as in this case. Viewed in its entirety, complainant’s behavior after the alleged rape incident is totally inconsistent with the charge of rape.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY HER FAILURE TO REPORT THE INCIDENT TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES NOTWITHSTANDING THAT HER LIFE WAS IN NO DANGER. — Complainant’s failure to immediately report the incident to the authorities seriously affects her narration. It is undisputed that no report to the police or municipal authorities was made by complainant only 7 days after the commission of the alleged offense, notwithstanding the fact that her life was in no danger as accused-appellant did not threaten to kill her if she did reveal the incident. According to complainant she was prompted to file the case when her husband told her "inapagtaksilan siya" and also because "naging masama po ako sa tingin ng aking mga kapit-bahay." From her testimony we can gather that she filed the case because she thought that it would be better to cry "rape" and bring suit to salvage and redeem her honor, rather than have her reputation sullied in the community by being bruited around and stigmatized as an adulterous woman.

4. ID.; ID.; FLIGHT OF THE ACCUSED; AN INDICATION OF GUILT; EXCEPTION. — The circumstance of accused-appellant’s alleged escape can not be said to be indicative of guilt as claimed by the prosecution. Flight must not always be attributed to one’s consciousness of guilt (People v. Mancas, 215 SCRA 291 [1992]; People v. Morre, 217 SCRA 236 [1993]). In the instant case, a week after accused-appellant’s confrontation with complainant before the police, he left Marinduque to stay with his in-laws, and then he finally transferred to Cavite, because he was being visited, "inalooban", every night by the three Montiano brothers (tsn, Nov. 28, 1994, pp. 5, 6). Thus, his, escape or flight from Marinduque was impelled by the instinct of self-preservation.

5. ID.; ID.; WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY; TESTIMONY OF THE OFFENDED PARTY IN CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY SHOULD NOT BE RECEIVED WITH PRECIPITATE CREDULITY. — It is a well settled doctrine that in crimes against chastity the testimony of the offended party should not be received with precipitate credulity (People v. Graza, 196 SCRA 512 [1991]; People v. Dulay, 217 SCRA 132 [1993]). It behooves the court to exercise the greatest degree of care and caution in the consideration and analysis of a complainant’s testimony. We have carefully analyzed the testimony of complainant Librada which the trial court adjudged to be credible, and find that her version of the rape incident appears to be implausible, if not fabricated, preposterous on crucial points, obviously contrived, unnatural and not in accordance with the ordinary course of nature and the ordinary habits of life, to such a degree that we can not but reject her testimony.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; THE TIME AND PLACE OF OCCURENCE OF THE ALLEGED RAPE MAY BE CONSIDERED TO PROVE WHETHER OR NOT THE CRIME WAS COMMITTED. — First, considering the time and place of the alleged occurrence, we are inclined to believe that the coital liaison between accused-appellant and complainant was mutually arranged, planned, and agreed upon, and not by pure chance. The incident happened at 12 o’clock midnight when presumably everybody in the house was asleep and nobody was expected to arrive at any time thereabouts and in the house of complainant’s parents-in-law. According to complainant, after she fell asleep on the "papag" in her house, due to her having imbibed tuba, she was carried by her sister-in-law Leticia and brother Fortunato to the house of her parents-in-law. Her husband was left in their house. It is quite perplexing how accused-appellant could have known complainant was at her parents-in-law’s house at that particular time, with her husband conveniently distanced, had there been no previous agreement between them, because even Leticia (complainant’s sister-in-law) declared that at the time complainant was brought to the house of her parents-in-law, Accused-appellant had already left complainant’s house. Then, the place was very dark and there were other persons sleeping in the house. Given this setting, we do not see how accused-appellant would have dared and succeeded in entering the house and thence locate complainant in the dark without much difficulty, lie on top of her and have sexual intercourse with her, unless of course there was an agreement. Accused-appellant testified that he knew the woman he was having sexual intercourse was complainant because he pricked her from under the house and they talked.

7. ID.; ID.; ID.; THE COMPLAINANT’S UNNATURAL CONDUCT DURING THE ALLEGE RAPED AND HER NONCHALANT BEHAVIOR IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ASSAULT NEGATES THE CHARGE OF RAPE. — Second, complainant’s behavior after she allegedly regained consciousness negates her accusation. Complainant testified that she was awakened when she felt somebody was, on top of her, his organ inserted into hers and he was jerking on her. Thinking it was her husband, she held his hands. Her conduct seems odd, if not incredible and quite unnatural, contrary to human nature and experience. The normal reaction of a woman under the circumstances would be to open her eyes and find out who was on top of her. Her claim that she thought it was her husband is far fetched and inspires nothing but disbelief. Complainant, as the wife could have easily discerned with comparative ease that the man on top of her was not her husband, by his built, weight, hands, scent, manner and style in the sexual act. The fact that complainant did not resist the sexual advances, but instead held accused-appellant’s hands, virtually reveals that she welcomed and enjoyed the intercourse. And this, of course, does not occur unless the woman knows the man with whom she was having intercourse. The conduct of the victim immediately following the alleged assault is of utmost importance so as to establish the truth or falsity of the charge of rape. The behavior of complainant after the incident is perplexing and appears contrary to the natural reaction of woman outraged and robbed of her honor. A rape victim’s natural reaction upon regaining consciousness would be to rush out to seek help as soon as she can, sometimes even before the aggression is ended. In the case at hand, complainant’s reaction seemed to be too placid and unconcerned notwithstanding her alleged traumatic ordeal. After the incident, complainant was composed, casual, nonchalant, and was not disturbed at all by her supposedly harrowing experience in the hands of Accused-Appellant. She did not show any sign of having had traumatic experience. Leticia, complainant’s sister-in-law and called to the witness stand by the prosecution, testified that after accused-appellant scampered away, complainant sat, carried her son, and just cried. It was only when her sister-in-law approached complainant that she contrived her story.

8. ID.; ID.; BURDEN OF PROOF; CONVICTION OF THE ACCUSED MUST REST NOT ON THE WEAKNESS OF THE DEFENSE BUT ON THE STRENGTH OF THE PROSECUTION. — It is a fundamental principle in rape cases that the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and can not be allowed to draw its strength from the weakness of the evidence for the prosecution (People v. Dulay, 217 SCRA 132 [1993]; People v. Bacolod, 196 SCRA 786 [1991]. Thus, in People v. Capilitan (182 SCRA 313, 320 [1990], it was held: It is possible that the accused-appellant really raped the complaining witness, but the court is not persuaded to the point of moral certainty, which is the high standard of proof required for conviction. The defense may be weak but the prosecution is weaker, and the rule is that conviction must rest not on the weakness of the defense but on strength of the prosecution. So often has it been said that it is better for one hundred criminals to go free than one innocent man to be convicted. That is the reason why we require the constitutional presumption of innocence to be offset only by the most persuasive proofs that will establish the guilt of the accused beyond the whisper of doubt.


D E C I S I O N


MELO, J.:


Accused-appellant Rodolfo Bawar y Labog seeks reversal of the decision dated March 2, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of the Fourth Judicial Region (Branch 38, Boac, Marinduque) in its Criminal Case No. 27-94 finding him guilty of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and the accessory penalties thereof.

The information dated June 7, 1994 charged:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 15th day of August 1985, at around 12 o’clock in the evening, in barangay Canat, municipality of Boac, province of Marinduque, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused entered the house of the mother-in-law of complainant Librada Opis-Montiano, where the latter was sound asleep, and once inside, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie on top of complainant and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of the complainant against her will, and to her damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

(p. 9, Rollo.)

The prosecution’s version of the commission of the crime charged was ventilated through its witnesses, complainant Librada Opis-Montiano and her sister-in-law, Leticia Montiano, and would tend to show the following incidents:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

At about 5 o’clock in the afternoon of August 15, 1985, complainant Librada Opis-Montiano and her husband were at their residence in Can-at, Boac, Marinduque. Sometime later, Constancia Monreal, complainant’s would-be "Kumadre" and her husband Rufino Mandia arrived together with complainant’s father Mariano Opis, her brother Fortunato Opis, and aunt Pureto Lasac to offer her a gift (magadulot) as was the tradition for being the godmother or sponsor in the baptism of Monreal’s son.

The above named persons then started drinking tuba. Later in the evening, Accused-appellant Rodolfo Bawar and his wife Rosalinda arrived and joined the merrying group. After drinking four glasses of tuba, complainant allegedly felt dizzy and fell asleep on a "papag." As complainant’s house was small and filled with guests, complainant was brought by her brother Fortunato Opis and sister-in-law Leticia Montiano to the house of complainant’s parents-in-law some 30 to 35 meters away.

At about 12 o’clock midnight, complainant said that she was awakened by the weight of a man on top of her and having sexual intercourse with her. Thinking that it was her husband, complainant held the man’s hands. At about this time, complainant’s 7-month old son, who was lying beside her awoke and began crying. Leticia Montiano, complainant’s sister-in-law who was sleeping on the other side of the wall separating her and complainant was also awakened. Fearing that the child might have been pressed by complainant, Leticia stood up and lit a kerosene lamp and by its light, which illumined the room, complainant then discovered and realized that the man who was having sexual intercourse with her was not her husband but her neighbor, herein accused-appellant Rudy Bawar. She reproached him saying, "Bakit ako pa ang iyong inaglahi wala naman akong masamang inagawa sa iyo" as she tightened her hold on his hands and refused to release him. Accused-appellant, however, poked a small bolo at her neck and threatened to kill her if she will not let go his hands. Fearing for her life, complainant released accused-appellant’s hands, who then in haste, ran out of the house naked, carrying along his shorts.

Leticia, complainant’s sister-in-law, by the rays of the kerosene lamp she had lighted, saw accused-appellant on top of complainant naked and having sexual intercourse with her, as complainant lay face up, skirt pulled up, without panties, and holding accused-appellant’s hands, uttering at the same time some words.

When accused-appellant left, Leticia approached complainant, and the latter tearfully told her, "Ate, bakit ako pa ang inaglahi in Pareng Rudy, wala naman akong ipinakitang masama sa kanya." Leticia did not answer but cried. Complainant then told Leticia, "Ate, hindi ko kagustuhan yoon — Hindi ko pinagtataksilan ang kapatid mo" .

The next morning, complainant went home. On her arrival, her husband was there but she did not tell him about what accused-appellant had done to her. It was not until three days after the incident that she told him about the same, allegedly because she was afraid he will hurt her. Neither did Leticia reveal the incident to her brother for the same reason.

True enough, after complainant’s husband learned of the incident, he got mad and quarreled with complainant, suspecting that she and Bawar were in fact lovers.

Seven days after the incident, complainant lodged a complaint against accused-appellant before the police authorities of Boac to prove to her husband that what happened was not of her own liking. After the case was filed, Accused-appellant and his family left Marinduque for Cavite.

Accused-appellant, on the other hand, presented a different version. The sexual congress between him and complainant on the date and time alleged in the information is not denied, rather it is said that the act was free and voluntary on their part because they were lovers. He narrated that at around 6 o’clock in the evening of August 15, 1985 he was in the house of complainant together with his wife and other persons on the occasion of the gift offering to complainant as the baptismal sponsor of Monreal’s son. He and the other guests, including complainant, were drinking tuba. As complainant was going around the house entertaining the guests, Accused-appellant had a chance to talk with her clandestinely. During their short conversation, they agreed that complainant would feign drunkenness and she would then be taken to the house of her father-in-law some 30 to 35 meters away. He would then follow her at 12 o’clock that night and there they would enjoy each other’s body. He would make his presence known by pricking her from under the floor and when complainant is awakened, Accused-appellant would go up the house.

At about 10 P.M. or thereafter, Accused-appellant left complainant’s house and at midnight proceeded to the house of complainant’s father-in-law, Marciano Opis, to see the victim, as agreed upon. Upon reaching the place, he went under the house, pricked complainant, who, acknowledging his arrival, told him to go up the house. Accused-appellant went up and finding complainant had no underwear, laid down beside her and they then started their sexual congress.

In the midst thereof, complainant’s son woke up crying, prompting complainant’s sister-in-law, Leticia, who was awakened, to light a kerosene lamp. Afraid that the sister-in-law would catch them, he pleaded for complainant to release his hands from her tight hold and then he carried his pants and went home.

Accused-appellant is now before us praying for reversal on the ground that the evidence of the prosecution does warrant or support the judgment of conviction.

A reading of the trial court’s decision reveals that the pronouncement of guilt is entirely based on the testimony of complainant Librada Opis-Montiano that she was raped, that she and accused-appellant were not lovers, and that she did not voluntarily agree to perform the sexual act with him. Relying upon and giving full credence to her testimony, the trial court concluded that the guilt of the accused-appellant had thereupon been established by proof beyond reasonable doubt. We cannot sit easy with such pronouncement.

Settled is the rule that an appellate court will generally not disturb the assessment of the trial court on matters of credibility, considering that the latter was in a better position to appreciate the same, having heard the witnesses themselves and having observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial, unless the trial court has plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value, which if considered may effect the result of the case (People v. Bantisil, 249 SCRA 367 [1995]), or in instances where the evidence of record fails to support or substantiate the lower court’s findings of fact and conclusions, or where the disputed decision is based on a misapprehension of facts (People v. Godoy, 250 SCRA 676 [1995]).

In the case at bar, we feel that we may depart from the general rule.

Since coition is admitted, the only real issue is whether the victim gave her consent thereto, the determination of which rests on the credibility of complainant’s testimony as the only witness to the alleged occurrence.

It is a well-settled doctrine that in crimes against chastity the testimony of the offended party should not be received with precipitate credulity (People v. Graza, 196 SCRA 512 [1991]; People v. Dulay, 217 SCRA 132 [1993]). It behooves the court to exercise the greatest degree of care and caution in the consideration and analysis of a complainant’s testimony.

We have carefully analyzed the testimony of complainant Librada which the trial court adjudged to be credible, and find that her version of the rape incident appears to be implausible, if not fabricated, preposterous on crucial points, obviously contrived, unnatural and not in accordance with the ordinary course of nature and the ordinary habits of life, to such a degree that we can not but reject her testimony.

Librada, when asked how the alleged sexual assault transpired testified on direct examination as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. While you were drinking, what happened next?

A. After I consumed 4 glasses of tuba, I felt dizzy and I slept at the "papag" .

Q. While you were sleeping at the "papag" what happened next?

A. I fell asleep there, sir.

Q. What happened next after you fell asleep?

A. When I regained consciousness I felt that somebody was on top of me and his organ was inserted in my organ and he was jerking on me, sir.

Court — to the witness:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. What time was that?

A. 12 Midnight, your honor.

Atty. Lomarda — continuing:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. While that person was jerking his body, what did you do?

A. I held his hand because I thought that he was my husband, sir.

Q. What happened next?

A. When my son beside me woke up, somebody lighted a gas lamp.

Q. Did you know who lighted the gas lamp?

A. Leticia Montiano, sir. My sister-in-law.

Q. What happened next when Leticia lighted the gas lamp?

A. After Leticia Montiano lighted the gas lamp, I recognized that the person on top of me was Rodolfo Bawar.

x       x       x


Q. When you recognized that it was not your husband who was on top of you but Rudy or Rodolfo Bawar, what did you do, if any?

A. I did not release his hand from my hold but he poked a small bolo on my neck and threatened me that he will kill me.

Q. What did you do when Bawar poked a small bolo on your neck and threatened to kill you?

A. Out of fear, I released his hand from my hold, sir.

x       x       x


Q. When you let go off the accused Bawar, what happened next?

A. He ran outside the house carrying with his hand his shorts (bitbit niya and kaniyang shorts).

Q. What else happened?

A. When my son was already crying, I carried him and Leticia approached us.

Q. When your sister-in-law approached you, what happened next?

A. I spoke to may sister-in-law and I told her, "Ate, bakit ako pa ang inaglahi in Pareng Rudy, wala naman akong ipinakitang masama sa kaniya."cralaw virtua1aw library

Q. What did Leticia tell you, after such query?

A. She cried and I told her that is not my liking. "Ate, hindi ko kagustuhan yoon. Hindi ko pinagtataksilan and kapatid mo."cralaw virtua1aw library

Court: to the witness:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. Are you impressing the court that on that occasion at 5 P.M. your husband was not inside the house?

A. He was at the house, your honor.

Q. Even at midnight, he was at the house?

A. My husband was then at the small house watching the animals, sir.

(tsn, Aug. 29, 1994, pp. 6-9.)

On cross-examination, complainant declared:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Atty. Go — to the witness:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. When you found out that it was not your husband who was on top of you, did you call for your husband’s assistance?

A. No sir, because I was afraid of him.

Q. You did not call the name of your sister-in-law Leticia Montiano?

A. No sir.

Q. After you felt somebody on top of you . . . I reform.

Q. After your sister-in-law lighted the gas lamp and you found out that it was not your husband on top of you, did you push that person?

A. After the lighting, I did not push him. I held his hand. When I did not release his hand, he stated: "Pag hindi mo ako bitawan ay papatayin ko ikaw", simultaneously poking a bolo on my neck.

Q. On what part of the house did you sleep that night?

A. At the sala outside the bedroom. There was a door opening but without a curtain.

x       x       x.

Court — to the witness:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. When you were sleeping, in relation to your head, where was the door?

A. My head was towards the door, your honor.

Q. In relation to Leticia’s head, where was the door?

A. Her feet was near the door while my head was towards the door, your honor.

Q. So that Leticia has to get up in order to see what was outside the door?

A. Yes, your honor.

(tsn, ibid., pp. 12-15.)

From the above testimony, we are convinced that accused-appellant had sexual intercourse with complainant with the latter’s full and knowing consent. There are a number of circumstances culled from the testimonial evidence on record that amply demonstrates and which strongly convince us that no rape was committed.

First, considering the time and place of the alleged occurrence, we are inclined to believe that the coital liaison between accused-appellant and complainant was mutually arranged, planned, and agreed upon, and not by pure chance. The incident happened at 12 o’clock midnight when presumably everybody in the house was sleep and nobody was expected to arrive at any time thereabouts and in the house of complainant’s parents-in-law. According to complainant, after she fell asleep on the "papag" in her house, due to her having imbibed tuba, she was carried by her sister-in-law Leticia and brother Fortunato to the house of her parents-in-law (tsn., Aug. 29, 1994, p. 3). Her husband was left in their house (tsn., ibid, p. 9, Aug. 31, 1994, pp. 20-21). It is quite perplexing how accused-appellant could have known complainant was at her parents-in-law’s house at that particular time, with her husband conveniently distanced, had there been no previous agreement between them, because even Leticia (complainant’s sister-in-law) declared that at the time complainant was brought to the house of her parents-in-law, Accused-appellant had already left complainant’s house. (tsn., Aug. 30, 1994, p. 11; tsn., Aug. 31, 1994, p. 15).

Then, the place was very dark and there were other persons sleeping in the house. Given this setting, we do not see how accused-appellant would have dared and succeeded in entering the house and thence locate complainant in the dark without much difficulty, lie on top of her and have sexual intercourse with her, unless of course there was an agreement. Accused-appellant testified that he knew the woman he was having sexual intercourse was complainant because he pricked her from under the house and they talked.

We are, therefore, inclined to believe accused-appellant’s version that there was an agreement between him and complainant to meet. The positive allegations of accused-appellant that they planned the meeting for sexual congress were not successfully refuted by complainant. Her rebuttal testimony consisted of plan denials.

Second, complainant’s behavior after she allegedly regained consciousness negates her accusation. Complainant testified that she was awakened when she felt somebody was on top of her, his organ inserted into hers and he was jerking on her. Thinking it was her husband, she held his hands. (tsn., Aug. 29, 1994, p. 7). Her conduct seems odd, if not incredible and quite unnatural, contrary to human nature and experience. The normal reaction of a woman under the circumstances would be to open her eyes and find out who was on top of her. Her claim that she thought it was her husband is far fetched and inspires nothing but disbelief. Complainant, as the wife could have easily discerned with comparative ease that the man on top of her was not her husband, by his built, weight, hands, scent, manner and style in the sexual act. The fact that complainant did not resist the sexual advances, but instead held accused-appellant’s hands, virtually reveals that she welcomed and enjoyed the intercourse. And this, of course, does not occur unless the woman knows the man with whom she was having intercourse.

Third, it is admitted that accused-appellant employed no force of whatever nature or form on complainant in order to carry out his desires. Complainant merely testified that accused-appellant poked a small bolo on her neck and threatened to kill her only after she refused to release her hold on him. Even this statement of complainant is plainly contrived, for how can accused-appellant suddenly produce a bolo if his hands were held tightly by complainant.

According to complainant she discovered and came to know that the man on top of her was accused-appellant and not her husband, only when a lamp was lighted. Yet, she did not make an outcry or shout for help, in order to attract the people sleeping in the house. She did not push, kick, slap, nor scratch the face of her attacker. It baffles the mind why complainant remained lying there, still holding tightly on, to the man’s hands and refusing to release them until he allegedly threatened to kill her with a bolo poked at her neck. It was the man who wanted to disengage from the coupling, not complainant, who did not even attempt the least effort to disentangle from and terminate the coitus. The behavior of complainant does not seem to be the normal behavior of one who felt her honor was being assaulted. For a woman to hold on to a man who has penetrated her without her consent is far from normal. The natural tendency of a woman in such a situation is to push, shove or otherwise terminate and break body contact, instead of prolonging the same by holding on the supposed rapist’s hands. Very likely, complainant was then experiencing orgasm.

The conduct of the victim immediately following the alleged assault is of utmost importance so as to establish the truth or falsity of the charge of rape. The behavior of complainant after the incident is perplexing and appears contrary to the natural reaction of woman outraged and robbed of her honor. A rape victim’s natural reaction upon regaining consciousness would be to rush out to seek help as soon as she can, sometimes even before the aggression is ended. In the case at hand, complainant’s reaction seemed to be too placid and unconcerned notwithstanding her alleged traumatic ordeal. After the incident, complainant was composed, casual, nonchalant, and was not disturbed at all by her supposedly harrowing experience in the hands of Accused-Appellant. She did not show any sign of having had a traumatic experience. Leticia, complainant’s sister-in-law and called to the witness stand by the prosecution, testified that after accused-appellant scampered away, complainant sat, carried her son, and just cried (tsn., Aug. 30, 1994, p. 5). It was only her sister-in-law approached complainant that she contrived her story, thusly:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q. What else happened?

A. When my son was already crying, I carried him and Leticia approached us.

Q. When your sister-in-law approached you, what happened next?

A. I spoke to my sister-in-law and I told her, "Ate, bakit ako pa ang inaglahi ni Pareng Rudy, wala naman akong ipinakitang masama sa kaniya."cralaw virtua1aw library

Q. What did Leticia tell you, after such query?

A. She cried and I told her that is not my liking. "Ate, hindi ko kagustuhan yoon. Hindi ko pinagtataksilan and kapatid mo."cralaw virtua1aw library

(tsn, Aug. 29, 1994, p. 9.)

Telling too is the fact that complainant did not reveal the incident to her husband immediately upon returning home the following morning, on the excuse that she was afraid to do so (tsn. Aug. 29, 1994, pp. 15, 16). According to complainant, she and her husband did not talk to each other, although they took breakfast together and she dealt with him on a normal way (tsn, ibid, pp. 16, 17). It is quite unnatural for a woman not to reveal the assault on her virtue immediately after it has happened especially when there is no threat to her life (People v. Mejeas, 168 SCRA 33 [1988]; People v. Cuartero, 195 SCRA 285 [1991], or when there is not restraint on her liberty, as in this case. Viewed in its entirety, complainant’s behavior after the alleged rape incident is totally inconsistent with the charge of rape.

Complainant’s failure to immediately report the incident to the authorities seriously affects her narration. It is undisputed that no report to the police or municipal authorities was made by complainant only 7 days after the commission of the alleged offense, notwithstanding the fact that her life was in no danger as accused-appellant did not threaten to kill her if she did reveal the incident.

According to complainant she was prompted to file the case when her husband told her "inapagtaksilan siya" (tsn, ibid, pp. 19-20) and also because "naging masama po ako sa tingin ng aking mga kapit-bahay" (tsn, ibd., p. 11).

From her testimony we can gather that she filed the case because the thought that it would be better to cry "rape" and bring suit to salvage and redeem her honor, rather than have her reputation sullied in the community by being bruited around and stigmatized as an adulterous woman.

The circumstance of accused-appellant’s alleged escape can not be said to be indicative of guilt as claimed by the prosecution. Flight must not always be attributed to one’s consciousness of guilt (People v. Mancas, 215 SCRA 291 [1992]; People v. Morre, 217 SCRA 236 [1993]). In the instant case, a week after accused-appellant’s confrontation with complainant before the police, he left Marinduque to stay with his in-laws, and then he finally transferred to Cavite because he was being visited, "inalooban", every night by the three Montiano brothers (tsn, Nov. 28, 1994, pp. 5, 6). Thus, this escape or flight from Marinduque was impelled by the instinct of self-preservation.

In the light of the evidence and established facts of record, the Court holds that the prosecution has failed to successfully rebut and overcome the presumption of innocence in favor of Accused-Appellant.

It is a fundamental principle in rape cases that the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and can not be allowed to draw its strength from the weakness of the evidence for the prosecution (People v. Dulay, 217 SCRA 132 [1993]; People v. Bacolod, 196 SCRA 786 [1991]). Thus, in People v. Capilitan (182 SCRA 313, 320 [1990]), it was held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

It is possible that the accused-appellant really raped the complaining witness, but the court is not persuaded to the point of moral certainty, which is the high standard of proof required for conviction. The defense may be weak but the prosecution is weaker, and the rule is that conviction must rest not on the weakness of the defense but on the strength of the prosecution. So often has it been said that it is better for one hundred criminals to go free than one innocent man to be convicted. That is the reason why we require the constitutional presumption of innocence to be offset only by the most persuasive proofs that will establish the guilt of the accused beyond the whisper of doubt.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and accused-appellant RODOLFO BAWAR Y LABOG is hereby ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt. His immediate release is ordered unless there is any other valid cause for his continued deprivation of liberty.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

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