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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. Nos. 146464-67. November 15, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOSE VILLANUEVA, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


PER CURIAM:


The words detestable, condemnable, abhorrent, disgusting, and abominable are not enough to describe a rape committed by a father against his own progeny. Indeed, the proliferation of incestuous rape is a revolting phenomenon in a catholic country like the Philippines. 1 It is beyond comprehension that the Filipino values, close-family-ties culture, and religious beliefs inculcated in every Filipino could in some, like herein accused-appellant Jose Villanueva (hereafter JOSE), be easily outweighed or overshadowed by beastly sexual desires — and, worse, against one’s own flesh and blood.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Four Informations docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 8355, 2 8356, 3 8357 4 and 8358 5 were filed before the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City charging JOSE with rape allegedly committed against her own daughter Gina Villanueva (hereafter GINA) as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Criminal Case No. 8355

That on October 8, 1995 at around 5:00 o’clock in the evening, more or less, at Sitio Recudo, Barangay Calanaga, Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd and unchaste design, by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his 10-year-old daughter GINA VILLANUEVA, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

Criminal Case No. 8356

That sometime in the month of September 1995, at around 12:00 noon, more or less, at Sitio Palo, Barangay Calanaga, Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd and unchaste design, by means of force, threat and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously poke a knife at her own daughter, GINA VILLANUEVA, 10 years of age, and then undress her and succeed in having carnal knowledge with her, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

Criminal Case No. 8357

That sometime in August. 1995, in the evening, at Sitio Palo, Barangay Calanaga, Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Province of Albay, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd and unchaste design, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with her own 10-year-old daughter GINA VILLANUEVA while the latter was sleeping or otherwise unconscious, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

Criminal Case No. 8358

That in the evening of April 18, 1998, at Sitio Recudo, Barangay Calanaga, Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd and unchaste design, by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his own 12-year-old-daughter, GINA VILLANUEVA, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

The cases were consolidated and jointly tried. At his arraignment on 26 March 1999, JOSE entered a plea of "not guilty" in each case. 6

At the pre-trial, the parties admitted that GINA was a minor, who was born on 23 May 1985. They further admitted the identities of the parties. 7

The witnesses presented by the prosecution were complainant GINA; Raymundo Sarga, Jr., a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigator; Vilma Villanueva, the older sister of GINA and daughter of JOSE; and Dr. Lilli-Melrose Camara, the medico-legal officer who examined GINA.

GINA testified that sometime in August 1995, at around 5:30 A.M., in their house in Palo, Calanaga, Rapu-Rapu, Albay, she woke up and saw her father JOSE standing naked in front of her with his penis erect. He forcibly removed her dress and panty, and laid down with her. She tried to avoid him by pushing him. She complained and told him that this was enough because he had already done the same to her two elder sisters. Still, JOSE persisted and inserted his penis into her vagina against her will. He then made push and pull movements, causing pain to her vagina. Thereafter, he threatened her with a knife and told her that he would kill her if she reported the matter to anyone. 8

On cross-examination, however, GINA admitted that she was unconscious at the time JOSE was satisfying his sexual desire. She clarified that she was awakened when he was undressing her. She tried to resist him, but she lost consciousness when he placed a piece of cloth on her mouth, which smelled like gin that caused her to sleep again. It was when she regained consciousness that she saw JOSE standing naked in front of her with his penis erect. GINA knew that she was raped because she felt pain inside her vagina and there was blood flowing therefrom. She also noticed something whitish coming out from JOSE’s penis. 9

GINA further declared that at the time the foregoing incident took place only she, JOSE and her younger sister Alma were in the house. Her mother and her two elder sisters were then in Tabaco, Albay, to buy something. When her mother Rosalina arrived, GINA reported to the latter the sexual assault committed by JOSE. Rosalina told GINA that she would be the one to take care of it. However, Rosalina just remained silent because she herself was also threatened by JOSE. 10

The second time JOSE raped her, according to GINA, was sometime in September 1995, at 12:00 noon. At that time, she was alone with JOSE in their house in Palo, Calanaga, Rapu-Rapu, Albay. Her mother was washing their laundry in the well, together with her younger sister; and her two elder sisters were in school. While GINA was sitting at the porch, JOSE held her two hands and pulled her to the bedroom. She pushed him and tried to free herself from his hold, but he was far stronger than her. She shouted but not loud enough because JOSE, who was holding a knife, threatened to kill her if she would create any noise. He then forcibly removed her dress and panty, mounted her, and inserted his penis into her vagina. She felt something warm come out from his penis while it was inside her vagina. 11

The third rape allegedly took place on 8 October 1995 at 5:00 P.M. in their house. On that occasion, her mother and younger sister were in their neighbor’s house, while her two elder sisters were sent out by their father on an errand to borrow a hammer from a certain Manay Rolly, whose house was very far from theirs. JOSE brought her from the porch to the bedroom. She resisted and cried, telling him to have pity on her, but he did not heed her plea. After undressing her, he placed himself on top of her and inserted his penis into her vagina. She could not shout because he placed a hand on her mouth; she just kept on crying. She did not report to her mother the incident because of JOSE’s threat to kill them. 12

The fourth time GINA was allegedly raped by JOSE was on 18 April 1998 at 8:00 P.M., also in their house in Palo, Calanaga. At that time, her mother and her 10-year-old sister were sleeping. GINA was not able to shout because JOSE placed a piece of cloth on her mouth. As in the other rape incidents, she resisted by kicking and scratching him. He, however, succeeded in removing her dress and panty and in inserting his penis into her vagina. After he finished his bestial act, he sat beside her and told her to suck his penis. She refused and he left. 13

Four days thereafter, at dawn, GINA left her parents’ house without permission. She went to her uncle Efren Sarza, who in turn brought her to her grandfather Franciso Sarza or Lolo Kikoy. With the help of Lolo Kikoy and the Barangay Captain of Sagrada, she reported the rape incidents to the NBI in Legazpi City, 14 where she executed a sworn statement. 15

Raymundo D. Sarga, Jr., testified that he was the one who took the sworn statement of GINA on 22 April 1998 at the headquarters of the NBI in Legazpi City. On the basis of GINA’s sworn statement and the medical examination conducted by a doctor from the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory at Camp Simeon Ola, Legazpi City, he filed a complaint for rape against JOSE before the Municipal Trial Court of Rapu-Rapu. 16

Vilma Villanueva testified that she was told by GINA of the four incidents of rape committed by JOSE. One time, she saw his father naked from waist down, with GINA seated near him. She and her other sister Salvacion were also raped by him. She was 12 years old when JOSE started subjecting her to a series of sexual assaults. While she was aggrieved by her father’s acts, she never thought of going to somebody to ask for help because of his threats. Since her father is already detained, she would file charges against him. 17

Dr. Lilli-Melrose Camara, a medico-legal officer of the PNP Technical Service Crime Laboratory, testified that she examined GINA sometime in April 1998. The examination results revealed that, GINA was in a non-virgin state and that she had healed hymenal lacerations at 7:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions. These lacerations could have been caused by any blunt instrument or a penis. 18

The witnesses presented by the defense were GINA’s eldest sister, Salvacion Calaes; her youngest sister, Alma Villanueva; her mother, Rosalina Villanueva; and her father, Accused-appellant JOSE.

Salvacion denied having told GINA and Vilma that she was raped by JOSE. She left their home because she had to work. GINA left their home on 21 April 1998 and testified against JOSE because the latter was very strict. She likewise asserted that Vilma could not have seen JOSE rape GINA in 1995 because she (Vilma) was then working in Tabaco, Albay, as a household helper. 19

On cross-examination, Salvacion admitted that she loved her father very much. She volunteered to testify for him because she did not want her father to suffer the same fate as that of Leo Echegaray, who was put to death by lethal injection for raping his own daughter. 20

Alma Villanueva testified that she was staying with her sister Salvacion in Panal, Tabaco, Albay, to take care of Salvacion’s children. She denied having been abused by her father. She testified that she went with her mother and father to look for GINA, who had escaped after their parents refused to grant her permission to work. Alma admitted that she loved her father so much that she did not want him to go to jail. 21

Rosalina Villanueva declared that GINA was born on 11 October 1982. She was married to JOSE on 15 August 1978. GINA never revealed to her that JOSE raped her. The testimony of GINA that she was raped by JOSE in August and September 1995 in Sitio Palo, Calanaga, Rapu-Rapu, Albay, is not true because they never resided in Sitio Palo; their house was in Sitio Recudo. For unknown reasons, GINA left their home on 21 April 1998 without asking permission from her, and they tried to look for her. When she saw GINA a week after JOSE was detained, she asked her why she filed cases against her father. GINA informed her that it was Lolo Kikoy, with whom GINA was staying, who instigated her to file the case. She did not know the motive of Lolo Kikoy in inducing GINA to file the cases against JOSE. When she asked Francisco about it the latter answered that it was because JOSE was very strict. 22

JOSE declared that GINA is his legitimate daughter with Rosalina Villanueva. He was married to Rosalina Villanueva in August 1978. He denied the four charges of rape. He declared that he could not do that to GINA; besides, they did not have a house in Sitio Palo. He could not have committed the rape on 18 April 1998 because GINA was not at home when he arrived from fishing. She attended a dance at Batan, Rapu-Rapu, Albay, which was two kilometers away from their house, and she arrived home only the following morning. Two days thereafter, she escaped presumably because he did not allow her to stay at her aunt’s house in Sto. Domingo, Albay. It was his plan to bring her back home, but her aunt Gina Sarza refused to yield custody over GINA. JOSE asserted that GINA filed these cases against him because of his refusal to allow her to live with her aunt in Sto. Domingo and to attend a dance. 23

The trial court gave full faith and credence to the testimony of GINA. It found GINA’s testimony "categorical, unequivocal, candid and straightforward." On the other hand, it found JOSE’s defense of denial "contrived and implausible." Thus, in its 2 October 2000 joint decision, 24 the trial court convicted JOSE of four counts of rape and sentenced him in each count to suffer the penalty of death and to pay GINA the amounts of P75,000 as indemnity; P50,000 as moral damages; and P20,000 as exemplary damages.

In view of the imposition of the death penalty, the case is before us for automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

In the Appellant’s Brief, JOSE contends that the trial court erred

I. . . . IN FINDING THE ACCUSED FATHER GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF QUALIFIED RAPE ON FOUR (4) COUNTS WHEN THE FOUR (4) COMPLAINTS FOR RAPE DULY SIGNED, SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BY THE OFFENDED PARTY FAILED TO ALLEGE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES.

II. . . . IN CONSIDERING THE COMPLAINTS FOR RAPE DESPITE THE LAPSE OF TIME THAT HAS OCCURRED FROM THE TIME IT HAPPENED TO THE REPORTING OF THE SAME TO THE POLICE AUTHORITIES.

In support of his first assigned error, JOSE argues that the death penalty should not be imposed on him because the sworn complaints which were the basis of the four informations did not allege the qualifying circumstances of relationship and minority.

Anent the second assigned error, JOSE posits that the delay of GINA in reporting the rape incidents puts her story in serious doubt. If the rapes actually happened, there was no reason for GINA to delay the reporting. She could even have prevented the other rapes if only she reported the rape allegedly committed in August 1995.

In his Reply Brief, JOSE further argues that the rapes have not been duly proved beyond reasonable doubt. He wonders why GINA did not escape after the first rape, but instead she tolerated his behavior and relied on him for her basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

In the Appellee’s Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) counters that JOSE’s argument on the first issue is off-tangent. The four informations upon which JOSE was arraigned and to which he entered his plea contain all the allegations of qualified rape. On the second issue, the OSG maintains that the delay of GINA in reporting the rape incidents neither created any doubt over her credibility, nor could it be taken against her, especially since the accused is her father.

At the heart of almost all rape cases is the issue of credibility of the witnesses. Such issue is resolved primarily by the trial court because it is in a better position to decide the same, having heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner of testifying. Accordingly, its findings are entitled to the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight or substance which would otherwise affect the result of the case. 25 None of the exceptions exists in the case at bar.

Through the testimony of GINA, which the trial court found to be clear and worth believing, the prosecution has adequately proved the commission of the rapes by her father JOSE. For the three rape incidents that occurred in 1995, when GINA was just 10 years of age, no proof of force and intimidation is necessary. Under the first paragraph of Article 335, Revised Penal Code, as amended, rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under 12 years old. As to the rape on 18 April 1998 when GINA was already 12 years of age, no clear evidence of force and intimidation could be found in her testimony; but she testified that she put up resistance by kicking and scratching her father. In any event, her father’s moral ascendancy and influence over her substituted for violence and intimidation. 26

Anent the first assigned error, the same is bereft of merit. JOSE was arraigned and tried not under the sworn complaints, but under the informations which alleged the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship. The informations in Criminal Cases No. 8355, 8356 and 8357 for the rapes committed in 1995 stated that GINA was 10 years old, while the information in Criminal Case Nos. 8358 for the rape in 1998 alleged that she was 12 years old. All informations specifically alleged that JOSE is GINA’s father. He was therefore fully acquainted with the nature of the crime and the qualifying circumstances attendant in its commission as to enable him to adequately prepare for his defense. Hence, his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him cannot be said to have been violated.

GINA’s minority was not only admitted by the parties at the pre-trial, but was also conclusively established by her Birth Certificate 27 issued by the Municipal Civil Registrar of Rapu-Rapu, Albay, which shows that GINA was born on 23 May 1985. Indeed, as alleged in the informations, she was 10 years old in 1995 when the first three rape incidents occurred, and 12 years old on 18 April 1998 when the fourth rape was committed against her.

Likewise, JOSE’s relationship to GINA was sufficiently proved. GINA’s testimony and her Birth Certificate show that JOSE is her father. JOSE himself and his wife Rosalina expressly admitted such fact.

And now on the second assigned of error. The silence of a rape victim or her failure to disclose her misfortune to the authorities does not prove that the charges are baseless and fabricated. The victim would rather bear the ignominy and pain in private than reveal her shame to the world or risk the rapist’s making good the threat to hurt her. 28 With more reason would a girl who was ravished by her own father keep quiet about what befell her. Thus, the delay in reporting a rape case committed by a father against his daughter due to threats is justified. 29

As to GINA’s failure to escape or leave their house after the first rape, the same could hardly undermine the charges of rape. It must be noted that she was just 10 years old then and she was still fully dependent on her father for sustenance and support. Furthermore, it is unfair to judge the action of children who have undergone traumatic experiences by the norms of behavior expected of mature individuals under the same circumstances. 30 At any rate, GINA managed to escape after the fourth rape when she was already 12 years old.

JOSE’s insinuation of ill-motive on the part of GINA to falsely accuse him of rape deserves scant consideration. We agree with the trial court that" [t]he attributed ill-will, even if the same is true, . . . [would] not drive GINA to denounce and pin down [her] father with so serious a crime that could forfeit not only his personal liberty but his human existence as well."cralaw virtua1aw library

In previous cases, we held that parental punishment or disciplinary chastisement is not enough reason for a daughter in a Filipino family to falsely accuse her father of rape. She would not subject herself to an examination of her private parts, undergo the trauma and humiliation of a public trial, and embarrass herself with the need to narrate in detail how she was raped if she was not in fact raped. 31 It takes depravity for a young girl to concoct a tale of defloration, which would put her own father on death row, drag herself and the rest of her family to a lifetime of shame, and make them the object of gossip among their classmates and friends. 32

On JOSE’s defense of denial, we have time and again ruled that mere denial cannot prevail over the positive testimony of a witness. A mere denial, just like alibi, is a self-serving negative evidence, which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declaration of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. As between a categorical testimony that rings of truth on one hand, and a bare denial on the other, the former is generally held to prevail. 33 Thus, JOSE’s denial cannot outweigh the declaration of GINA on affirmative matters.

There being proof beyond reasonable doubt that JOSE committed all the crimes charged, we have no choice but to affirm his conviction. We cannot modify the death penalty imposed by the trial court on him because the twin qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were properly alleged and adequately proved. Anent, his civil liability, the trial court’s ruling thereon stands except as to the award of exemplary damages, which must be increased from P20,000 to P25,000 pursuant to current jurisprudence.

WHEREFORE, the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City, Branch I, in Criminal Cases Nos. 8355, 8356, 8357 and 8358 finding accused-appellant JOSE VILLANUEVA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of four counts of rape and sentencing him in each case to suffer the penalty of death and to pay GINA VILLANUEVA the sum of P75,000 as indemnity ex delicto and P50,000 as moral damages is AFFIRMED, with the modification that the award of exemplary damages is increased to P25,000 in each case.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Costs de officio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Morales, Callejo, Sr. and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. People v. Cabanela, 299 SCRA 153, 155 [1998].

2. Original Records (OR), Criminal Case No. 8355, 58; Rollo, 5.

3. OR, Criminal Case No. 8356, 73; Rollo, 6.

4. OR, Criminal Case No. 8357, 65; Rollo, 7.

5. OR, Criminal Case No. 8358, 50; Rollo, 8.

6. OR, Criminal Case No. 8355, 69; OR, Criminal Case No. 8356, 78; OR, Criminal Case No. 8357, 70; OR, Criminal Case No. 8358, 56.

7. OR, Criminal Case No. 8355, 79.

8. TSN, 5 May 1999, 4-9.

9. TSN, 6 May 1999, 7-8, 11-13.

10. Id., 13-14; TSN, 5 May 1999, 5, 13.

11. TSN, 5 May 1999, 14-17; TSN, 6 May 1999, 19-23.

12. TSN, 5 May 1999, 18-21.

13. TSN, 5 May 1999, 23-26.

14. TSN, 6 May 1999, 3-5.

15. Exhibit "B," OR, Criminal Case No. 8355, 5-7.

16. TSN, 13 May 1999, 3-7.

17. TSN, 13 May 1999, 11-19, 23-27.

18. TSN, 19 May 1999, 5-9.

19. TSN, 23 July 1999, 4-9.

20. Id., 10-11.

21. TSN, 6 October 1999; 3-8, 10, 12-13.

22. TSN, 12 January 2000, 3-12.

23. TSN, 3 March 2000, 3-17.

24. OR, Criminal Case No. 8355, 137-159; Rollo, 18-40. Per Judge Romeo S. Dañas.

25. People v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 137968, 6 November 2001, citing People v. Manahan, 315 SCRA 476, 481 [1999].

26. People v. Docena, 322 SCRA 820, 830 [2000]; People v. Ardon, 354 SCRA 609, 622 [2001]; People v. Remudo, G.R. No. 127905, 20 August 2001.

27. Exhibit "A," OR, Criminal Case No. 8357, 2.

28. People v. Alvero, 329 SCRA 737, 754 [2001]; People v. Ardon, supra note 26, at 623.

29. People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613, 633 [1992].

30. People v. Alimon, 257 SCRA 658, 674 [1996]; People v. Mosqueda, 313 SCRA 694, 708 [1999]; People v. Panganiban, G.R. Nos. 138439-41, 25 June 2001.

31. People v. Gonzales, 338 SCRA 678, 688-689 [2000]; People v. Bertulfo, G.R. No. 143790, 7 May 2002.

32. People v. Cabanela, 299 SCRA 153, 161 [1998]; People v. Magdato, 324 SCRA 785, 797 [2000]; People v. Ardon, supra note 26, at 624.

33. People v. Villanueva, 339 SCRA 482, 501 [2000]; People v. Alvero, 329 SCRA 737, 756 [2000]; People v. Ugang, G.R. No. 144036, 5 May 2002.

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