[G.R. NO. 171270 : September 20, 2006]
[Formerly G.R. NOS. 153250-52]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. ALEXANDER MANGITNGIT, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
On automatic review is the Joint Decision1 dated 4 January 2002 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City, Branch 49,2 convicting appellant Alexander G. Mangitngit (appellant) of raping his daughters BBB and CCC,3 ages 15 and 12 respectively. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds accused Alexander Mangitngit guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of rape in Criminal Case No. 14972 and in Criminal Case No. 14973 and imposes upon him, pursuant to R.A. 7659 and R.A. 8353, the penalty of death in each case. Accused Alexander Mangitngit is directed to pay [BBB and CCC] the amounts of
P75,000.00 and P75,000.00, respectively, as moral damages.
The Provincial Jail Warden of Palawan is hereby directed to immediately bring and turn over accused Alexander Mangitngit to the National Penitentiary at Muntinlupa, Rizal.
Likewise, the Clerk of Court of this Court is directed to transmit and forward to the Supreme Court the records of the case, including the transcript of stenographic notes within 5 days after the 15th day following the promulgation of the judgment in these two cases.
Initiated by sworn statements of the victims, appellant was charged with three (3) counts of rape in the following Informations, to wit:
Criminal Case No. 14971
That sometime during the month of May, [sic] 1993, at around midnight, at xxx, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his own daughter [AAA],5 15 years of age, against her will and consent to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.6
Criminal Case No. 14972
That on or about the 21st day of January, [sic] 1999, at around 4:00 o'clock in the morning, at xxx, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his own daughter [BBB], 15 years of age, against her will and consent to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.7
Criminal Case No. 14973
That on or about the 29th day of January, [sic] 1999, at around 2:00 o'clock in the morning, at xxx, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his own daughter [CCC], 12 years of age, against her will and consent to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.8
At his arraignment on 17 May 1999, appellant, duly assisted by his counsel de oficio, entered a plea of not guilty to all three counts of rape. In Criminal Case No. 14971, however, private complainant AAA repeatedly failed to appear despite due notice. Appellant thus moved for the dismissal of said case invoking the right of appellant to speedy trial which the trial court granted in its Order dated 15 May 2000.9
Joint trial on the merits of Criminal Cases Nos. 14972 and 14973 ensued. In Criminal Case No. 14972, the prosecution presented as witnesses, the victim BBB and Dr. Renee A. Argubano (Dr. Argubano), Medical Officer IV of the Puerto Princesa Hospital. In Criminal Case No. 14973, CCC and Dr. Renee Argubano were the witnesses for the prosecution.
BBB and CCC were born on 11 May 1984 and 6 March 1986, respectively, to appellant and his wife ABC.10
BBB testified that at around 4 o'clock in the morning of 21 January 1999, she and three other siblings were sleeping on the floor in one of the rooms in their house in xxx, when she felt someone touching her. Their mother had left the previous day for the family farm, an hour's walk away. BBB was awakened by the touch and was surprised to see her father, appellant, touching her. BBB tried to shout in fright but was not able to because appellant held her neck with both of his hands. He then removed BBB's short pants and panty with one of his hands. After removing his own short pants and brief, appellant inserted his penis into BBB's vagina and warned her not to report the incident otherwise he would kill her. While his penis was inside BBB's vagina, appellant made "push and pull" movements. BBB cried due to the excruciating pain. After satisfying himself, appellant left her. BBB continued to cry even as her vagina hurt and oozed a little blood.11
When appellant left for the farm a little later that day, BBB went to her sister AAA's house to report her ordeal. AAA advised BBB to proceed to their aunt DDD's house in xxx.12 BBB was still in xxx when she learned of her father's arrest on 30 January 1999 for the rape of her younger sister, CCC. This encouraged BBB to disclose her own nightmare to her mother, uncle and siblings. Then, BBB reported the matter to [the] police. On 4 February 1999, BBB, CCC, AAA and their mother proceeded to the National Bureau of Investigation where their respective sworn statements13 were taken.14 BBB was fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months old at the time of the incident.15
For her part, CCC testified that at around 2 o'clock in the morning of 29 January 1999, with their mother at the family farm, she was sleeping alongside her brother on the floor in one of the rooms in their family house when appellant arrived. Appellant positioned the brother away from CCC, cleared his throat and stayed near her. CCC moved away from him in fear and tried to cover herself with a blanket. Appellant asked her why she was afraid of him. Without awaiting CCC's response, appellant embraced her and started to pull down her panty. CCC resisted and tried to pull up her panty to no avail. Appellant, now naked and holding CCC's hands, inserted his penis into her vagina. When CCC complained of pain, appellant pulled out his penis but inserted it again. While ravishing her, appellant warned CCC not to report the incident otherwise he will kill her. CCC felt something come out of appellant's penis and into her vagina. She felt pain in her vagina and felt something ooze out of it. After appellant removed his penis from her vagina, CCC cried, stood up and tried to identify what caused the wetness in her panty which in the morning she discovered was blood.16
CCC firmly declared that she was certain it was her father who raped her. Although the room was dark and the house had no electricity,17 moonlight streamed through the holes of the sawali wall and she could see the person near her. She also stated that she recognized his voice when he cleared his throat and when he spoke to her.18
The next day, while appellant was still asleep, CCC went to the family farm to fetch her mother and report the incident. Her mother cried upon hearing of CCC's suffering at the hands of appellant. With a relative, CCC's mother reported the matter to the barangay captain and later, both went to the Marine soldiers to have appellant arrested.19 CC C was only twelve (12) years and ten (10) months old at the time of the rape.20
Dr. Argubano, who conducted the physical examinations of BBB and CCC on 3 February 1999, testified that he found a laceration on the hymenal ring of BBB's vagina at the position of 3 o'clock and on CCC's vagina, a laceration also on the hymen at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. He stated that the clean-cut lacerations of the sisters, which were old and already healed, could have been caused by the insertion into the vagina of an object, most possibly a penis. Dr. Argubano explained that the lacerations of such nature normally heal in three to five days, without complication and depending on one's immune system.21 Dr. Argubano issued medico-legal certificates containing his findings.22
The trial court admitted the following documentary evidence formally offered by the prosecution: (1) medico-legal certificates of BBB and CCC; (2) photocopies of the birth certificates of BBB and CCC; and (3) sworn statement of BBB.23
Testifying as lone witness in his defense, appellant denied that he raped BBB on 21 January 1999 and CCC on 29 January 1999.24 On such dates, appellant claimed that he was in his farm in xxx, which was 30 minutes away from the family house. Appellant stated that he usually stayed and slept at the farm because he could not leave his farm animals and crops. He slept at the family house only once in two months or not at all, as he slept there only when his wife told him so. In January 1999, he had been to the family house only once, on the 17th of the month. When he arrived at the family house on said date, he noticed several cigarette butts littered around and asked his children who had slept there. Upon being apprised by the children that they allowed their friends to sleep over whenever they watched television, he told them to refrain from continuing such practice otherwise he would hit them. Appellant also discovered from CCC that BBB had left the house to go to a fiesta. Infuriated, appellant told CCC to tell BBB that she would get it from him upon her return. Appellant then left for the farm. He had not visited the family house since. He had not seen BBB and CCC since either. He only returned to the family house on 1 February 1999 only to be immediately arrested by the Marines.25
The trial court favored BBB and CCC's version of the events and convicted appellant of the crimes charged, ruling in this wise:
Ranged against this defense of denial and alibi are the declarations of complaining witnesses [BBB] and [CCC] who positively declared that their father sexually abused them on January 21, 1999 and January 29, 1999, respectively. Their testimonies were direct and straightforward and were not stained with inconsistencies. No-ill (sic) motives were imputed to them to compel them to falsely charge and falsely testify against their father. In the light of such direct and straightforward testimonies, their credibility as witness is not to be doubted. They are credible witnesses.
In contrast, Philippine jurisprudence says that the defense of denial and/or alibi can't [sic] prevail over the positive declarations of the prosecution witnesses. As held by the Supreme Court, alibi is a defense easily fabricated. Distance of the place where the accused allegedly was at the time of the incident and the place where the incident happened does not preclude the possibility that the accused committed the crime (People v. Santillan, 157 SCRA 534). In the case at bar, the farm house where Alexander Mangitngit spent his days attending to his farm lot and farm animals is but a 30-minute hike to his house at [omitted] where his children lived and where the rapes were committed. It was not impossible for Alexander Mangitngit to be there at his house [omitted] at 4:00 o'clock in the morning of January 21, 1999 and 2:00 o'clock in the morning of January 29, 1999 as he had free access thereto[,] it being his house.
x x x
In view of the foregoing considerations, this Court is led to believe that Alexander Mangitngit sexually abused his own daughters [BBB] aged 15 on January 21, 1999 and his own daughter [CCC] aged 12, on January 29, 1999.26
The judgment of conviction was elevated to the Court for automatic review. The pleadings on appeal were completed on 11 December 2003.27 In a Resolution28 dated 24 August 2004 of the Court in G.R. NOS. 153250-52,29 the cases were transferred to the Court of Appeals pursuant to the Court's ruling in People v. Mateo.30
In a Decision31 dated 14 November 2005, the Court of Appeals found no compelling reason to deviate from the findings of the trial court. It held that BBB and CCC's testimonies which were direct, straightforward, free from inconsistencies and unshaken by rigid cross-examination, duly corroborated by medical evidence on record, are sufficient to support a conviction for rape.32
In stark contrast to this, the appellate court noted that appellant only interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. Unconvinced by appellant's contention that the rape could not have possibly occurred in the presence of his other children, the appellate court emphasized the fact that lust is no respecter of time and place; the crime of rape can be consummated even when the malefactor and the victim are not alone. The appellate court likewise observed that appellant failed to demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been physically present at the place of the crime at the time of its commission. The farm at which he claimed to be at the time is a mere 30 minutes' walk from the family house where the incidents of rape transpired.33
Anent the ill motive ascribed by appellant on BBB and CCC for filing the rape cases, the Court of Appeals held that it would take the most senseless kind of depravity for a young daughter to fabricate a story which would send her father to death, only because he disciplined her.34
The Court of Appeals sustained the trial court's imposition of the death penalty ruling that the qualifying circumstances of the minority of the victims and their relationship to appellant have been specifically alleged in the information and duly proven during the trial. As appellant failed to raise any objections at the time they were offered in evidence, the photocopies of the birth certificates of BBB and CCC became primary evidence, were deemed admitted and he is bound thereby.35
The Court of Appeals however imposed an additional award of
P75,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.36
In the Court's Resolution37 dated 7 March 2006, the parties were required to submit their respective supplemental briefs. The Office of the Solicitor General manifested that it was adopting the discussions in its appellee's brief38 dated 15 September 2003 as its supplemental brief. Appellant, through the Public Attorney's Office, likewise manifested adoption of all the issues and discussion in his appellant's brief39 dated 20 May 2003. The case is again before us for final disposition.
After a careful and meticulous review of the records of the case, the Court finds no reason to overturn the findings of facts and conclusions commonly reached by the trial court and the Court of Appeals. The Court affirms appellant's conviction.
There are three guiding principles in the review of rape cases, to wit: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) considering the intrinsic nature of the crime, only two persons being usually involved, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.40 Accordingly, in resolving rape cases, primordial consideration is given to the credibility of the victim's testimony.41 If the testimony of the victim is credible, natural, convincing and consistent with human nature, and the normal course of things, the accused may be convicted solely on the victim's testimony.42
It is likewise a settled principle that the trial court's evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is viewed as correct and entitled to the highest respect because it is more competent to so conclude, having had the opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor and deportment on the stand, and the manner in which they gave their testimony. Unless the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility must be respected.43
In the cases at bar, the trial court in its joint disposition characterized BBB and CCC's testimonies as "direct, straightforward and not stained with inconsistencies."44 The trial court did not find any ill motive ascribable to the sisters that would impel them to falsely charge and testify against their father. In light of the sisters' testimonies, the trial court declared that their "credibility as a witness is not to be doubted. They are credible witnesses."45
The trial court likewise made the following observations, thus:
[BBB] was 15 years old when the alleged sexual abuse on her took place. Likewise, [CCC] was, (sic) 12 years old when the alleged sexual abuse on her took place. At such young ages and living in a rural area, these young girls are detached from a sophisticated environment. When they appeared and testified in Court, their demeanor depicts a picture that they are young innocent girls, naÃ¯ve and inexperienced in the ways of the world. For this reason and in accord with the principle enunciated by the Supreme Court that no young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she had been criminally abused and ravished unless that is the truth (People v. Aurero, 165 SCRA 130; People v. Madarang, 160 SCRA 153; People v. Bulosan, 160 SCRA 492) and coupled with the absence of proof of ill-motives on the part of BBB and CCC in charging and testifying that their father Alexander sexually abused them, this Court has to believe their account of the sexual abuse heaped on them by their own father.46
Both BBB and CCC testified in a candid, vivid and convincing manner which leaves no room for doubt that they in fact were ravished by their own father. CCC even resolutely stressed that she was certain it was her father who raped her as moonlight streamed through the holes of the sawali wall enabling her to identify him. She also recognized his voice when he cleared his throat and when he spoke to her.47
We reiterate that a rape victim's testimony against her parent is entitled to great weight since Filipino children have a natural reverence and respect for their elders. These values are so deeply ingrained in Filipino families and it is unthinkable for a daughter, or daughters in this case, to brazenly concoct a story of rape against their/her father, if such were not true.48
Moreover, courts give full weight and credence to testimonies of child-victims of rape. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth.49 It is highly improbable that 12-year old and 15-year old girl like CCC and BBB would impute a crime as serious as rape to their own father, undergo the humiliation of a public trial and put up with the shame, humiliation and dishonor of exposing their own degradation were it not to condemn an injustice and to have the offender apprehended and punished.50 More especially in BBB's case, already in her teen and self-conscious years, the embarrassment and stigma of allowing an examination of her private parts and testifying in open court on the painfully intimate details of her ravishment by her father effectively rule out the possibility of false accusations of rape.51
Appellant's contention then that BBB and CCC filed the cases because he had threatened to harm them for their respective offenses could not be believed. As held by the Court in People v. Rosario,52 "[i]t would take the most senseless kind of depravity for a young daughter to fabricate a story which would send her father to death only because he disciplined her. Verily, no child in her right mind would concoct a story of defloration against her own father and expose her whole family to the stigma and disgrace associated with incestuous rape, if only to free herself from an overweening and strict parent who only happens to enforce parental guidance and discipline."53
Besides, motives such as resentment, hatred or revenge have never swayed this Court from giving full credence to the testimony of a minor rape victim.54
Significantly, BBB and CCC's claims of sexual violations were corroborated by Dr. Argubano's medical findings which were presented to the court at the trial.55 BBB's hymen showed the old and healed lacerations at 3 o'clock while CCC's hymen, at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. As Dr. Argubano testified, they could have resulted from the insertion into the vagina of an object like a penis.56 Hymenal lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best evidence of forcible defloration.57 And when the consistent and forthright testimony of a rape victim is consistent with medical findings, there is sufficient basis to warrant a conclusion that the essential requisites of carnal knowledge have been established.58
Against the overwhelming evidence of the prosecution, appellant merely interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. He denies ever raping BBB and CCC as he claimed to be at the farm at the time of the commission of the crimes. In addition, he contends that if indeed BBB was raped while she was sleeping beside her siblings in the room, it is highly strange that none of the siblings noticed the commotion. Moreover, the floor of the room was only made of bamboo which would have surely created a noise and alerted persons nearby.59
Having been positively and unmistakably identified by BBB and CCC as their rapist, appellant's unsubstantiated and uncorroborated defenses of denial and alibi cannot prosper. The settled jurisprudence is that categorical and consistent positive identification, absent any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying thereon, prevails over the defenses of denial and alibi which, if not substantiated by clear and convincing proof, as in the cases at bar, constitute self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.60
Alibi, like denial, is also inherently weak and easily fabricated. For this defense to justify an acquittal, the following must be established: the presence of the accused in another place at the time of the commission of the offense and the physical impossibility for him to be at the scene of the crime. These requisites have not been met.61 Appellant claimed to be at farm during the commission of the crimes. Considering that the farm is a mere 30 minute walk away from the family house, as he had declared, it would have still been physically possible for him to be present at the scene of the crimes at the time of their consummation.62
Appellant's other contention that the rape could not have possibly occurred in the presence of his other children, and without the latter noticing the commotion, is likewise untenable. In the case of People v. Agsaoay, Jr.,63 wherein accused-appellant made a similar assertion, we ruled as follows:
It is not strange for appellant to have committed rape in a small room. In many rape cases that have reached this Court, we observed that rape is not always committed in seclusion. We never cease to be appalled at the extreme depravity of the rapists who are not deterred from committing their odious act even in unlikely places such as a cramped room where other family members also slept. Rape may take only a short time to consummate, given the anxiety and high risk of being caught, especially when committed near sleeping persons oblivious to the goings-on. Indeed, lust is no respecter of time or place.64
In sum, the trial court and the Court of Appeals correctly found appellant guilty of raping his daughters BBB and CCC pursuant to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code which warrants the imposition of the death penalty. The special qualifying circumstances of the victims' minority and their relationship to appellant as the latter's daughters were properly alleged in the Informations. They were also duly proven during the trial through the victims' testimonies supported by photocopies of their birth certificates which were admitted as evidence and not objected to by appellant. Having failed to dispute the contents of the photocopied birth certificates and raise a valid and timely objection against the presentation of these as secondary evidence, the same became primary evidence and deemed admitted and appellant is bound thereby.65
In view, however, of Republic Act No. 9346, which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty of reclusion perpetuawithout eligibility for parole should instead be imposed.66
With respect to appellant's civil liability, we affirm the award of
P75,000.00 as civil indemnity and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages for each case. In addition, we award BBB and CCC P75,000.00 each as moral damages in accordance with jurisprudence.67 Moral damages, separate and distinct from the civil indemnity, are automatically granted in rape cases.68
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City, Branch 49, in Criminal Cases Nos. 14972-14973, as well as the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01386, are AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Appellant ALEXANDER MANGITNGIT is sentenced, in each of the criminal cases subject of this review, to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and to pay each of the victims (to be identified in the Informations in this case), the amounts of
P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs.
Panganiban, C.J., Puno, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.
1 CA rollo, pp. 22-27.
2 Penned by Judge Panfilo S. Salva.
3 Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the "Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004," and its implementing rules, the real names of the victims are withheld and fictitious initials instead are used to represent them, both to protect their privacy. People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. 167693, 19 September 2006.
4 CA rollo, p. 27.
5 Also not her true initials.
6 Records, p. 1; Dated 18 February 1999.
7 Id. at 19; Dated 18 February 1999.
8 Id. at 36; Dated 18 February 1999.
9 Rollo, p. 5.
10 Records, pp. 88, 91; TSN, 18 October 1999, pp. 3, 8; TSN, 31 January 2000, pp. 4, 23; TSN, 15 May 2000, pp. 7, 13.
11 TSN, 18 October 1999, pp. 3-8; TSN, 31 January 2000, pp. 4-9, 20.
12 TSN, 18 October 1999, p. 9.
13 Records, pp. 8-13.
14 TSN, 31 January 2000, pp. 9-12, 22-26.
15 Rollo, p. 7.
16 TSN, 15 May 2000, pp. 7-11, 17-18, 21-22, 28.
17 Id. at 19.
18 Id. at 19, 24, 26-28.
19 Id. at 11 - 13, 22.
20 Rollo, p. 7.
21 TSN, 21 June 2000, pp. 5-6, 8-9.
22 Exhibits "A" and "A"; Records, pp. 86-87.
23 Records, p. 97.
24 TSN, 21 May 2001, pp. 13, 15.
25 Id. at 3, 5-7, 11-15, 26-28.
26 CA rollo, pp. 25-26. Emphasis in the original.
27 Rollo, p. 8.
28 CA rollo, p. 106.
29 The docket numbers of the instant cases when first elevated to the Court.
30 G.R. NOS. 147678-87, 7 July 2004, 433 SCRA 640.
31 Rollo, pp. 3-24; Penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., with the concurrence of Associate Justices Edgardo F. Sundiam and Japar B. Dimaampao.
32 Rollo, pp. 20-21.
33 Id. at 21-22.
34 Id. at 22.
35 Id. at 23.
36 Id. at 24.
37 Id. at 25.
38 CA rollo, pp. 72-93.
39 Id. at 49-59.
41 People v. Turco, Jr., supra.
42 People v. Sanchez, 426 Phil. 19, 29 (2002).
43 People v. Serrano, supra note at 41, 169-171.
44 CA rollo, p. 25.
46 Id. at 26. Emphasis in the original.
47 TSN, 15 May 2000, p. 19.
48 People v. Rosario, 455 Phil. 876, 886 (2003).
51 People v. Rosario, supra note 49.
52 455 Phil. 876 (2003).
53 Id. at 888.
54 People v. Boromeo, supra note 51, at 550.
55 Exhibits "A" and "A", Records pp. 86-87.
56 TSN, 21 June 2000, pp. 5-6, 8-9.
58 Id. at 611.
59 CA rollo, p. 58.
62 TSN, 21 May 2001, p. 3.
64 Id. at 464-465.
68 People v. Tamsi, 437 Phil. 424, 451 (2002).