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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 137991-92. June 10, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. VENTURA BELEN Y LAZALITA, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:


Appeal from the Decision 1 dated May 29, 1998 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 166, Pasig City in Criminal Case Nos. 108362-H and 108363-H, finding Ventura Belen y Lazalita guilty of the crime of rape on two counts and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua in each case.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The two (2) Informations filed against accused Ventura Belen y Lazalita read:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"CRIMINAL CASE NO. 108362-H

"That on or about the 18th day of June, 1995 in the City of Pasig, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with one Joana Lacson y Valenzuela, without her consent and against her will.

"Contrary to law."cralaw virtua1aw library

"CRIMINAL CASE NO. 108363-H

"That on or about 25th day of June, 1995 in the City of Pasig, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with one Joana Lacson y Valenzuela, without her consent and against her will.

"Contrary to law." 2

Upon arraignment, the accused, assisted by counsel de officio, pleaded "not guilty" to both charges. 3 Thereafter, a joint trial of the cases ensued. Four (4) witnesses testified for the prosecution, namely: Joana Lacson, the victim; Fe Lacson, the victim’s mother; Dr. Jesusa Nieves Vergara; and PO3 June Valencia.

Joana Lacson testified 4 that in 1995, she was a 15-year old grade six student living with her parents and two (2) younger siblings at Lupang Pari, San Miguel, Pasig City. The accused, Ventura Belen, then 52 years old, whom she claimed as "the brother of the father" of her mother, was their neighbor, residing just about three (3) houses away from their residence. She fondly called accused’s first wife as auntie Mameng. Before the rape incidents, the accused frequently visited the Lacson house to ask for food. During such visits, Joana would usually pull his gray hair.

On June 18, 1995, at around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, Joana was with her brother and sister in their house at Lupang Pari. Both her parents were away for work. While her brother was playing outside and her sister was downstairs, the accused, without knocking, entered their house. He went to the bedroom and asked Joana to pull his gray hair. Joana obliged. Then he suddenly kissed her and mashed her breast. Thereupon, he undressed her, parted her legs and inserted his penis inside her vagina. He pressed his body on her tightly while moving his buttocks up and down. In the process, she felt pain. Afterwards and before he left, he told her not to tell anyone what happened to them, otherwise, he will kill her and her entire family.

Again, at around 3:00 in the afternoon of June 25, 1995, the accused, then slightly drunk, entered Joana’s house while her parents were away. As usual, he requested her to pull his gray hair. Thereafter, he mashed her breast, undressed her and removed her panty. He parted her legs and inserted his sex organ into her vagina. Once more, he succeeded in satisfying his bestial desire, then made a similar threat.

But despite such threat, Joana, on June 27, 1995, disclosed the rape incidents to her class adviser, Mrs. Añonuevo, who, on the same day, summoned the girl’s mother, Fe Lacson, and informed her of her daughter’s ordeal.

In her testimony, 5 Fe Lacson claimed that the accused is closely related to her family and they respected him. She was aware that every time he visited their house, he usually asked Joana to pull his gray hair. After learning his dastardly acts, she wanted to kill him. On that same day, June 27, she brought Joana to the Pasig City Police Station, lodged a complaint against the accused and had her medically examined.

Dr. Jesusa Nieves Vergara, 6 of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory, testified that she conducted a physical examination on Joana. Her Medico-Legal Report 7 shows the following findings:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

"GENERAL AND EXTRAGENITAL

Fairly developed, fairly nourished and coherent female subject. Breasts are hemi-spherical with light brown areola and nipples from which no secretion could be pressed out. Abdomen is flabby and soft.

GENITAL

There is absence of pubic hair. Labia majora are full, convex and gaping with the pinkish brown labia minora presenting in between. On separating the same disclosed a congested and abraded vestibule and an elastic, fleshy-type and congested hymen with shallow, healed laceration at 3 and 9 o’clock. External vaginal orifice offers strong resistance to the introduction of the examining index finger and the virgin-sized vaginal speculum. Vaginal canal is narrow with prominent rugosities. Cervix is normal in size, color and consistency.

CONCLUSION:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Subject is in non-virgin state physically.

There are no external signs of application of any form of violence."cralaw virtua1aw library

According to Dr. Vergara, 8 the injuries in Joana’s private organ — abrasion and congestion on the external genital, particularly on the vestibule; congestion of the hymen; and lacerations at 3 and 9 o’clock positions — were caused by the forcible entry of a hard blunt object like an erected male organ. She declared that those injuries "are compatible with Joana’s allegation that she was sexually molested."cralaw virtua1aw library

PO3 June Valencia of the Pasig City Police Station, who investigated the case, testified and identified his Investigation Report regarding the rape complaint filed by Joana and her mother. 9

For his part, the accused denied the charges against him and interposed the defense of alibi. 10

He admitted that he was a frequent visitor of the victim and her family and that they have been neighbors since 1986. He also stated that Joana is the granddaughter of his first wife. He could not have raped her on June 18, 1995 and June 25, 1995. On those days, at about 8:00 o’clock in morning, he was fetched by Joey Matusa to play a card game called tong-its in the latter’s house at Lupang Pari, about eight (8) houses away from his place. They played for several hours until 12:00 noon when he went home to eat lunch. Then he returned to continue playing cards which lasted up to 5:00 in the afternoon.

When asked why he has been charged with two (2) counts of rape, the accused explained that after the death of his first wife, Mameng, who, as earlier mentioned, is a relative of the Lacsons, he married again. Since then, the Lacsons manifested ill feelings against him and every time he passed at their place, he would hear them say, "One year is not enough to get another wife."cralaw virtua1aw library

On May 29, 1998, the trial court rendered its Decision convicting the accused of the crimes charged and imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, the court finds accused, VENTURA BELEN Y LAZALITA, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged in the Informations and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua in each case and indemnify the victim, Joana Lacson, the sum of P50,000.00, also in each case, plus the costs of suit.

"SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library

Hence, this appeal.

Appellant ascribes to the trial court this lone error:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF TWO (2) COUNTS OF RAPE DESPITE THE LACK OF TENACIOUS RESISTANCE ON THE PART OF THE ALLEGED VICTIM."cralaw virtua1aw library

In pleading for his acquittal before this Court, appellant contends that the sexual contacts between him and Joana on June 18 and June 25 of 1995 were both consensual. In fact, she did not protest, nor did she say anything. He told her what to do and she obeyed him willingly. According to him, even if she was only a 6th grader, she was already 15 years old and mature enough to resist his sexual advances.

Appellant’s theory entirely contradicts his defense before the trial court that he was in another place during the incidents. This serious inconsistency obviously destroys his credibility and reinforces the version of the prosecution.

In criminal cases, the task of this Court is to ensure that the appellant’s conviction before the trial court proceeded from the strength of the prosecution’s own evidence and not on the weakness of the defense. Unless the prosecution proves the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the constitutional presumption of innocence prevails and acquittal must follow. 11 But once the presumption of innocence is overcome, it becomes inevitable for the defense to bear the burden of evidence to show reasonable doubt as to appellant’s guilt. 12

After a circumspect analysis of the evidence adduced by both parties, this Court is convinced that appellant’s guilt has been established by the prosecution’s evidence beyond indicia of doubt.

Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, before its amendment by R.A. 8353 (otherwise known as Anti-Rape Law of 1997), provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Art. 335. When and how rape is committed. — Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. By using force or intimidation;

2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and

3. When the woman is twelve years of age or is demented.

x       x       x"

Here, Joana positively and categorically identified appellant as her abuser and narrated how he sexually molested her on June 18 and 25, 1995, thus:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

"DIRECT EXAMINATION

x       x       x


Q Do you know the accused in this case?

A Yes, sir.

x       x       x


Q Do you have any relation with the accused?

A The accused is the brother of the father of my mother.

Q Now, on June 18, 1995, do you know the place where you were?

A I was in our house.

x       x       x


Q At that point and time, do you know what happened? Is there any unusual incident that happened?

A There was, sir.

Q Can you inform this court about this incident?

A The accused told me to pull his gray hair and he mashed my breasts and removed my dress, sir.

x       x       x


Q In what particular place of that house where the accused told you to remove his gray hair, mashed your breasts and removed your dress?

A In the bedroom, sir.

Q After the accused remove your clothes, what happened next?

A He removed my short and panty.

Q After your short and panty was removed, what happened next?

A He parted my thighs and then he inserted his sex organ into mine, sir.

x       x       x


Q Did the accused successfully enter his private organ into your organ.

A Yes, sir.

Q Just exactly, can you describe to this court how did the accused inserted his private part into your private part?

A He moved his buttocks up and down, sir.

Q Do you mean to tell the court how he do the pumping?

A Yes, sir.

Q At that time when the accused entered his private part, what do you feel, if any?

A It was painful, sir.

Q Why do you say that it was painful?

A Because he pressed on me tightly, sir.

x       x       x


FISCAL PAODAC

Q Where did you feel pain?

A On my sex organ.

x       x       x


Q Aside from June 18, 1995 when the accused deflowered you, was there another occasion?

A Yes, sir.

Q That was June 25, more or less, one week after the incident?

A Yes, sir.

x       x       x


Q What time when the accused arrived in your residence on June 25?

A More or less three 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, sir.

x       x       x


Q Can you now inform this court about that incident?

A Again, he let me pull his gray hair, he mashed my breasts, undressed me and removed my panty, sir.

Q After he removed your clothes together with your panty, what happened next?

A He parted my thighs, sir.

Q After that, what happened next?

A He inserted his sex organ into mine, sir.

Q Did he successfully insert his organ into your organ?

A Yes, sir.

Q At that time, what did you feel, if any?

A Painful, sir."cralaw virtua1aw library

Q Do you recall if there was anything that happened on June 25, 1995?

A Yes, sir.

x       x       x


Q After the accused succeeded in having intercourse with you, what happened next?

A He told me not to tell anybody, sir.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

Q Why? Is that all?

A He told me also that if I would tell to other people, ‘I will kill you,’ sir.

Q On the first incident that happened on June 18, 1995, did the accused also warned you?

A Yes, sir.

Q How did the accused warn you?

A Don’t tell anybody, otherwise, he will kill us, sir.

Q When you say ‘kill us,’ including your parents?

A Yes, sir." 13

Joana’s positive testimony that the appellant raped her was corroborated by the results of the physical examination conducted on her by Dr. Vergara, as stated earlier. Dr. Vergara concluded that Joana is no longer a virgin which is compatible with her claim that the appellant sexually abused her. It is well-settled that when the victim’s testimony is corroborated by the physician’s finding of penetration, there is sufficient foundation to conclude the existence of the essential requisites of carnal knowledge. 14 Lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best physical evidence of forcible defloration. 15

Appellant’s submission that Joana’s silence and failure to resist tenaciously negate the commission of rape deserves scant consideration. In this jurisdiction, the law does not impose upon a rape victim the burden of proving resistance where there is intimidation. 16 The victim categorically stated that appellant threatened to kill her and her family should she report the incidents to "other people." The workings of a human mind when placed under emotional stress are unpredictable and people react differently — some may shout, some may faint, and some may be shocked into insensibility, while others may even welcome the intrusion. 17 Intimidation is addressed to the mind of the victim and, being subjective, its presence cannot be tested by any hard and fast rule but should instead be viewed in the light of the victim’s perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the crime. 18 It even includes a moral kind of intimidation 19 where, as here, the mere existence of moral ascendancy in the person of an aggressor over a young victim could even be enough in cowering the latter to submission. 20

We also reject appellant’s alibi. Joana positively identified him. Basic is the rule that alibi is easily concocted and cannot prevail over the victim’s positive identification of her offender. 21 Weak as it is, alibi becomes even more ineffectual when the accused fails to demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time it was committed. In the instant case, appellant testified that during the incidents, he was playing tong-its in the house of Joey Matusa which is only about a few houses away from the house of Joana. Clearly, appellant failed to show that it was physically impossible for him to be at locus criminis at the time of the commission of the crimes imputed against him.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The trial court correctly imposed upon the appellant the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count of rape. Also, the award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity in favor of Joana for each count of rape is in order. In addition, we award her P50,000.00 as moral damages for each case in line with the current jurisprudence. 22

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision in Criminal Case Nos. 108362-H and 108363-H is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in the sense that appellant, for each count, is ordered to pay the victim, Joana Lacson y Valenzuela, the additional amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages.

SO ORDERED.

Panganiban and Carpio, JJ., concur.

Puno, J., on official leave.

Endnotes:



1. Penned by Judge Jesus G. Besamira.

2. Rollo, pp. 4-5.

3. RTC records, p. 30.

4. Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), October 18, 1995, pp. 2-8; TSN, March 21, 1996, pp. 2-8.

5. TSN, October 23, 1996, pp. 2-6.

6. Police Senior Inspector Chief, Medico-Legal Division, PNP Crime Laboratory.

7. RTC records, p. 8.

8. TSN, August 26, 1996, pp. 2-7.

9. Ibid., February 5, 1997, pp. 2-5.

10. Ibid., November 5, 1997, pp. 1-5.

11. People v. Mansueto, 336 SCRA 715 (2000).

12. People v. Uy, 338 SCRA 232 (2000).

13. TSN, October 18, 1995, pp. 3-7.

14. People v. Brondial, 343 SCRA 600 (2000).

15. People v. Acala, 307 SCRA 330 (1999) cited in People v. Brondial, supra.

16. People v. Historillo, 333 SCRA 615 (2000); People v. Sagucio, 277 SCRA 183 (1997).

17. People v. Malunes, 247 SCRA 317 (1995), citing People v. Cabradilla, 133 SCRA 413 (1984); People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613 (1992).

18. People v. Nogar, 341 SCRA 206 (2000).

19. People v. Barera, 262 SCRA 63 (1996).

20. People v. Nogar, 342 SCRA 206 (2000).

21. People v. Gabiana, 338 SCRA 607 (2000).

22. People v. Makilang, G.R. No. 139329, October 23, 2001, citing People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411 (1998); People v. Alba, 305 SCRA 811 (1999).

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