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G.R. No. 167955 Formerly G.R. No. 151275 - People of the Philippines v. Armando Padilla y Nicolas

G.R. No. 167955 Formerly G.R. No. 151275 - People of the Philippines v. Armando Padilla y Nicolas

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. NO. 167955 : September 30, 2009]
(Formerly G.R. No. 151275)

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. ARMANDO PADILLA y NICOLAS, Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

For review is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated February 23, 2005 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00571 which affirmed, with modification, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 15, in Criminal Case No. 166-M-96,2 finding appellant Armando Padilla y Nicolas guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Statutory Rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of Death. The CA found appellant guilty of Qualified Rape and likewise imposed on him the penalty of Death. It reduced the awards for civil indemnity from P100,000.00 to P75,000.00 and exemplary damages from P50,000.00 to P25,000.00. In addition, the CA awarded moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00.

Consistent with the Court's decision in People v. Cabalquinto,3 the real name of the rape victim in this case is withheld and, instead, fictitious initials are used to represent her. Also, the personal circumstances of the victim or any other information tending to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, are not disclosed in this decision.

The facts of the case, as established by the prosecution, are as follows:

Around 9 o'clock in the evening of February 22, 1994, AAA was inside their house located at Marilao, Bulacan.4 With her were her father, herein appellant, her two older brothers and her sister BBB.5 She was then staying in one of the rooms because she was suffering from asthma and was taking medicine through the help of her sister, BBB.6 On the other hand, her brothers were already asleep in another room.7 After AAA took her medicine, appellant told BBB to sleep outside the room where AAA was staying.8 When BBB went outside, appellant turned off the light and proceeded to their kitchen.9 Thereafter, appellant returned to the room where AAA was staying.10 He then took off AAA's clothes and also removed his.11 He went on top of AAA and tried to insert his penis into her vagina.12 AAA resisted but appellant held her hands and boxed her left thigh twice.13 She was then rendered weak enabling appellant to successfully insert his organ inside her vagina.14 AAA felt pain, after which her vagina bled.15 While appellant's penis was inside her vagina, he made push and pull movements.16 She pleaded with appellant to stop but to no avail.17 It was in the course of her struggle against appellant's advances that she called on her sister for help.18 Thereafter, she felt something come out of his penis.19 Appellant withdrew his penis from her vagina but remained on top of her and even began touching her breast.20 It was during that compromising position that BBB entered the room and saw them.21 Appellant immediately gathered his clothes and went to the comfort room.22 Thereafter, AAA cried while BBB handed her clothes to her.23 They then slept beside each other.24

AAA did not complain nor tell her brothers about her ordeal because she was afraid as she was threatened by appellant that he will hurt them and burn their house if she relates the incident to them.25 It was only in October 1995 that she was able to tell her aunt about her experience in the hands of appellant.26 Subsequently, her aunt accompanied her to the office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) where they filed a complaint against appellant.27

On February 1, 1996, an Information28 was filed against appellant charging him before the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan with the crime of statutory rape, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 22nd day of February, 1994 in the Municipality of Marilao, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with lewd designs have carnal knowledge of said AAA, a minor who is 11 years old, against her will.

All contrary to law with an aggravating circumstance that the accused is the legitimate father of AAA.29

On arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty.30 Pre-trial conference followed.31 Thereafter, trial ensued.

On November 5, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision,32 the dispositive portion of which is as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Armando Padilla y Nicolas GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Statutory Rape described and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 7659 otherwise referred to as the Death Penalty Law, and hereby sentences him the capital penalty of DEATH.

The accused is likewise ordered to indemnify the offended party AAA damages in the amount of P100,000.00 and to pay exemplary damages in the amount of P50,000.00 to deter other sex perverts from sexually assaulting hapless and innocent girls especially their kin.

In passing, Justice Vicente Abad Santos once remarked - there should be a special place in hell for child molesters. The accused deserves a deeper pit because the child he molested was his own daughter. More than anyone else, it was he to whom the child would have looked up for

the protection of her chastity. He cynically betrayed that faith with his unnatural lechery.

SO ORDERED.33

In an Order34 dated November 6, 2001, the RTC directed the transmittal of the entire records of the case to this Court and likewise ordered the commitment of the accused to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa.

Pursuant to the Court's pronouncement in People v. Mateo,35 which modified the provisions of the Rules of Court insofar as they provide for direct appeals from the RTC to this Court in cases where the penalty imposed by the trial court is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, the case was referred to the CA for appropriate action and disposition.36

After a review of the case, the CA affirmed, with modification, the decision of the RTC convicting the appellant. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed judgment dated November 5, 2001 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 15 in Criminal Case No. 166-M-96 finding Armando Padilla y Nicolas guilty of Qualified Rape and sentencing him to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he is ordered to pay the victim the amount of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

In accordance with A.M. No. 00-5-03-SC which took effect on October 15, 2004, amending Section 13, Rule 124 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, let the entire records of this case be elevated to the Supreme Court for review.

Costs against the accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.37

The case was then elevated to this Court for review.

In a Resolution38 dated July 19, 2005, the parties were required to simultaneously submit their respective supplemental briefs if they so desire. However, both parties manifested that they are not filing their supplemental briefs as their positions in the present case had been thoroughly expounded in their respective appeal briefs which were forwarded to the CA. Thereafter, the case was deemed submitted for deliberation.

Appellant assigned the following assignment of errors in his Brief:

APPLYING THE PRUNA GUIDELINES, THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY ON ACCUSED-APPELLANT CONSIDERING THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO SUFFICIENTLY PROVE THE MINORITY OF THE COMPLAINANT AND HER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ACCUSED.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PROSECUTION HAD PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT ACCUSED-APPELLANT'S GUILT FOR QUALIFIED RAPE.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN AWARDING DAMAGES TO THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.39

As to the first assigned error, appellant avers that the death penalty may not be imposed because the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were not properly alleged and proved by the prosecution.

The Court agrees in part.

The first issue is whether or not the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were properly alleged by the prosecution.

It is clear from the Information that AAA was alleged to be a minor who was aged eleven (11) at the time of the commission of the crime and that the accused is her father. Contrary to the prosecution's asseveration, it does not matter that the private complainant's relationship with the accused was denominated as an "aggravating circumstance" and not as a "special qualifying circumstance."

The Court has repeatedly held, even after the amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure took effect,40 that qualifying circumstances need not be preceded by descriptive words such as "qualifying" or "qualified by" to properly qualify an offense.41 The Court has repeatedly qualified cases of rape where the twin circumstances of minority and relationship have been specifically alleged in the Information even without the use of the descriptive words "qualifying" or "qualified by."42 In the instant case, the fact that AAA's relationship with appellant was described as "aggravating" instead of "qualifying" does not take the Information out of the purview of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC ), as amended by Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7659 (RA 7659),43 which was the prevailing law at the time of the commission of the offense. Article 335 does not use the words "qualifying" or "aggravating" in enumerating the circumstances that qualify rape so as to make it a heinous crime punishable by death. It merely refers to the enumerated circumstances as "attendant circumstances." The specific allegation of the attendant circumstances in the Information, coupled with the designation of the offense and a statement of the acts constituting the offense as required in Sections 844 and 945 of Rule 110, are sufficient to warn appellant that the crime charged is qualified rape punishable by death.

In the present case, the attendant circumstances of minority and relationship were specifically alleged in the Information. These allegations are sufficient to qualify the offense of rape.

The next question to be resolved is whether the prosecution was able to prove appellant's relationship with AAA as well as the latter's minority.

As to AAA's relationship with appellant, the Court agrees that the prosecution was able to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. The Information alleged that appellant is the father of AAA. Appellant, in turn, admitted during trial that AAA is her daughter.46 Under prevailing jurisprudence, admission in open court of relationship has been held to be sufficient and, hence, conclusive to prove relationship with the victim.47

However, with respect to AAA's minority, the settled rule is that there must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by appellant.48 The victim's original or duly certified birth certificate, baptismal certificate or school records would suffice as competent evidence of her age.49 In the instant case, aside from the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, coupled with appellant's absence of denial, no independent substantial evidence was presented to prove the age of AAA. Neither was it shown by the prosecution that the said documents had been lost, destroyed, unavailable or were otherwise totally absent.

Anent appellant's failure to object to the testimony of AAA, regarding her age, the Court has held that the failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding the rape victim's age shall not be taken against him.50 Even the appellant's implied admission of the victim's age, in the absence of any supporting independent evidence, may not be considered sufficient to prove her age. In People v. Biong,51 the appellant testified as to the exact date when her daughter, the complainant, was born. However, the Court held that appellant's testimony falls short of the quantum of proof required to establish her age. As the qualifying circumstance of minority alters the nature of the crime of rape and increases the penalty thereof, it must be proved with equal certainty and clearness as the crime itself.52 In the present case, the Court agrees with appellant that the prosecution failed to discharge this burden.

Coming to the second assigned error, appellant questions the credibility of the victim, AAA, arguing that his constitutional right to be presumed innocent should take precedence over the unfounded claim of AAA that he raped her.

It is settled that to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused in rape cases, the courts are guided by three well-entrenched principles: (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 accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) considering that in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, 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 merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.53

Accordingly, in resolving rape cases, primordial consideration is given to the credibility of the victim's testimony.54 The settled rule is that the trial court's conclusions on the credibility of witnesses in rape cases are generally accorded great weight and respect, and at times even finality, unless there appear in the record certain facts or circumstances of weight and value which the lower court overlooked or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case.55

Having seen and heard the witnesses themselves and observed their behavior and manner of testifying, the trial court stood in a much better position to decide the question of credibility.56 Findings of the trial court on such matters are binding and conclusive on the appellate court, unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted.57 No such facts or circumstances exist in the present case.

In this case, both the RTC and the CA are in agreement that AAA's account of her ordeal in the hands of her father was categorical and straightforward.

Appellant contends that AAA had a grudge against him and, aside from that, she was influenced and even instigated by her aunt, Elena Manahan, to file the complaint against appellant because of the bitterness that Elena feels towards him. According to the appellant, this bitterness was brought about by a misunderstanding between him and Elena involving money entrusted to the latter by his wife which was supposed to be used for the construction of apartments.58 However, appellant's claim deserves scant consideration. The Court finds it incredible for private complainant to trump up a charge of rape against appellant on the simple reason that she has a grudge against the latter or that she was influenced by her aunt who harbors resentment against him. No woman would cry rape, allow an examination of

her private parts, subject herself to humiliation, go through the rigors of public trial and taint her good name if her claim were not true.59

Thus, the unfounded claim of evil motive on the part of the victim would not destroy the credibility reposed upon her by the RTC and the CA because, as the Court has held, a rape victim's testimony is entitled to greater weight when she accuses a close relative of having raped her, as in the case of a daughter against her father.60 ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Moreover, appellant's rape of private complainant was corroborated by no less than the latter's sister who is also a daughter of appellant. The rule is that where there is no evidence that the witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and his testimony is entitled to full credence.61

In addition, AAA's subsequent acts of disclosing and complaining about her molestation to her aunt and the authorities and taking immediate steps to subject herself to medical examination represent conduct consistent with her straightforward, logical and probable testimony that she was in fact raped by appellant. They represent strong and compelling factors that enhance complainant's credibility as a witness.

Against the overwhelming evidence of the prosecution, appellant merely interposed the defense of denial. Categorical and consistent positive identification, absent any showing of ill-motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter, prevails over the defense of denial.62 In the present case, there is no showing of any improper motive on the part of the victim to testify falsely against the appellant or to implicate him falsely in the commission of the crime; hence, the logical conclusion is that no such improper motive exists and that the testimony is worthy of full faith and credence. Accordingly, appellant's weak defense of denial cannot prosper.

The prevailing law at the time the crime was committed in 1994 was still Article 335 of the RPC as amended by Section 11 of RA 7659, the first paragraph of which provides as follows:

When and how rape is committed. - Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

1. By using force or intimidation;

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

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

The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x    x    x

Paragraph 7(1) of the same Article further provides that:

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

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

x    x    x

The elements of statutory rape, of which appellant was charged are: (1) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below 12 years of age.63

In the present case, the prosecution failed to prove the age of AAA, much less the allegation that she was under the age of twelve when she was raped. Thus, the Court cannot hold appellant liable for statutory rape. However, since the prosecution was able to establish, without any objection from the defense, that appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA with the use of force, he can be convicted of simple rape the penalty for which is reclusion perpetua. Appellant may not be convicted of rape in its qualified form, as to impose upon him the penalty of death, considering that, while the aggravating circumstance of relationship was proven, the prosecution failed to establish AAA's minority by independent proof.

With respect to the last assigned error, the Court agrees with the CA in awarding civil indemnity as well as moral and exemplary damages to AAA. However, since the penalty is reclusion perpetua, the civil indemnity must be reduced from P75,000.00 to P50,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence.64 Moreover, when a crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying or generic, an award of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages is justified under Article 2230 of the New Civil Code.65

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 23, 2005 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00571 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Appellant Armando Padilla is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the Crime of Simple Rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and ordered to pay the private complainant AAA the reduced amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and the increased amount of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


* On official leave.

1 Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino, with Associate Justices Roberto A. Barrios and Vicente S.E. Veloso, concurring; rollo, pp. 3-19.

2 Records, pp. 252-265.

3 G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419.

4 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 16.

5 Id.; TSN, December 11, 1996, p. 4.

6 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 16

7 TSN, December 11, 1996, p. 5.

8 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 17.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Id; TSN, December 9, 1996, p. 24.

12 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 18.

13 TSN, December 9, 1996, p. 24.

14 Id. at 25; TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 18.

15 Id. at 19.

16 TSN, December 9, 1996, p. 26.

17 Id. at 30.

18 Id. at 33.

19 Id. at 26.

20 Id. at 35.

21 Id. at 36; TSN, November 20, 1996, pp. 20-21.

22 Id. at 22; TSN December 9, 1996, p. 36.

23 Id. at 38.

24 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 26.

25 Id. at 27; TSN, December 11, 1996, p. 12.

26 TSN, November 20, 1996, p. 29.

27 Id. at 30.

28 Records, p. 1.

29 Id.

30 Id. at 12.

31 Id. at 14.

32 Id. at 252-265.

33 Id. at 264-265.

34 Id. at 267.

35 G.R. NOS. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.

36 CA rollo, p. 186.

37 Id. at 203-204.

38 Rollo, p. 20.

39 CA rollo, p. 76.

40 The amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure took effect on December 1, 2000.

41 People v. Aquino, G.R. NOS. 144340-42, August 6, 2002, 386 SCRA 391, 395.

42 Id.

43 R.A. 7659 took effect on December 31, 1993.

44 Sec. 8. Designation of the offense. - Whenever possible, a complaint or information should state the designation given to the offense by the stature, besides the statement of the acts or omissions constituting the same, and if there is no such designation, reference should be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it.

45 Sec. 9. Cause of accusation. - The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense must be stated in ordinary and concise language without repetition, not necessarily in the terms of the statute defining the offense, but in such form as is sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged, and enable the court to pronounce proper judgment.

46 TSN, March 6, 2001, p. 5.

47 People v. Biyoc, G.R. No. 167670, September 7, 2007, 532 SCRA 528, 537; People v. Macabata, G.R. NOS. 150493-95, October 23, 2003, 414 SCRA 260, 270.

48 People v. Codilan, G.R. No. 177144, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 623, 635; People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 177572, February 26, 2008, 546 SCRA 703, 725; People v. Alvarado, G.R. No. 145730, March 19, 2002, 379 SCRA 475, 488.

49 People v. Dela Cruz, supra note 48.

50 Id. at 726, citing People v. Pruna, 390 SCRA 577, 604. (2002).

51 G.R. NOS. 144445-47, April 30, 2003, 402 SCRA 366, 379.

52 People v. Dela Cruz, supra note 48, at 726.

53 People v. Pangilinan, G.R. No. 171020, March 14, 2007, 518 SCRA 358, 373.

54 People v. Noveras, G.R. No. 171349, April 27, 2007, 522 SCRA 777, 787.

55 Id.

56 People v. Balonzo, G.R. No. 176153, September 21, 2007, 533 SCRA 760, 768.

57 People v. Hermocilla, G.R. No. 175830, July 10, 2007, 527 SCRA 296, 303.

58 TSN, February 26, 2002, p. 33.

59 People of the Philippines v. Felix Ortoa y Obia, G.R. No. 174484, February 23, 2009.

60 People of the Philippines v. Daganio, 425 Phil. 186, 195 (2002).

61 People of the Philippines v. Invencion, 446 Phil. 775, 787 (2003).

62 People of the Philippines v. Quezada, 425 Phil. 877, 891 (2002).

63 People of the Philippines v. Elister Basmayor y Grascilla, G.R. No. 182791, February 10, 2009.

64 People of the Philippines v. Remeias Begino y Grajo, G.R. No. 181246, March 20, 2009; People of the Philippines v. Elmer Baldo y Santian, G.R. No. 175238, February 24, 2009.

65 People of the Philippines v. Rogelio Marcos, G.R. No. 185380, June 18, 2009.

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