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G.R. No. 183827 : People of the Philippines v. Enerio Ending y Onyong

G.R. No. 183827 : People of the Philippines v. Enerio Ending y Onyong

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 183827 : November 12, 2012

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ENERIO ENDING y ONYONG, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

The controversy in this case involving incestuous rape is essentially one of credibility, a weighing of the evidence of the prosecution against that of the defense. In this regard, the settled doctrine is that the finding of the trial court on the credibility of a witness, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, is entitled to great weight and respect.1ςrνll Absent any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied material facts or circumstances, which if considered would have changed the outcome of the case, this Court finds no reason to overturn the findings of the trial court thereon,2ςrνll as in the instant case.

Enerio Ending y Onyong (appellant) assails the September 28, 2007 Decision3ςrνll of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00047 affirming with modification the October 17, 2001 Decision4ςrνll of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 13, Oroquieta City in Criminal Case Nos. 1567-13-1295, 1568-13-1296 and 1569-13-1297 finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of rape.

Factual Antecedents

In three separate Informations,5ςrνll appellant was indicted for raping his own daughter, "AAA."6ςrνll Except for the dates of occurrence, the recitals of the Informations were similarly worded. For brevity, we quote the accusatory portion in Criminal Case No. 1567-13-1295, to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

That on or about January 2, 2001 at about 3:00 in the afternoon at barangay "CCC," municipality of "DDD," province of Misamis Occidental, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with lewd designs ordered his own daughter "AAA," to help him pasture their cows at the land of her grandfather and while there accused forcibly brought her beneath [sic] a banana plantation then willfully, unlawfully and feloniously did then and there through threat, force and intimidation have carnal knowledge with [sic] his own daughter "AAA," a minor, 15 years old against her will and consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW, with qualifying circumstance of relative within the 2nd degree of consanguinity.7ςrνll

When arraigned on April 3, 2001, appellant pleaded not guilty on all the three Informations.8ςrνll Thereupon, pre-trial and trial ensued.

Version of the Prosecution

"AAA" is the second eldest in a brood of four siblings born to appellant and "BBB." At the time she testified, "AAA" was just 15 years old9ςrνll having been born on November 6, 1985.10ςrνll

"AAA" recounted that on January 18, 2000, she woke up early as it was the day of the National Elementary Achievement Test or NEAT. After taking a bath at a well near their house, she went inside her room to dress up. Shortly thereafter, her father (appellant) entered the room, embraced her and forcibly pulled the towel wrapped around her naked body. Appellant then pushed her to the floor, lowered his pants to his thigh, straddled her and inserted his penis into her vagina. She felt pain in her vagina but did not run or shout as it would be futile to do so since her mother was away attending a dawn rosary prayer while her brothers were still at the well. Besides, she was afraid because appellant was carrying a bolo and told her not to tell her mother about the incident, otherwise he would kill them both.

"AAAs" ordeal was repeated sometime in the 4th week of January 2000 at about 7:00 p.m. Appellant requested her to help in chopping dried coconut meat at the copra drier of her grandfather.11ςrνll As soon as she entered the copra drier, appellant forced her to lie down on a piece of wood, undressed her, placed himself on top of her, embraced her and then inserted his private organ into her vagina. After the assault, "AAA" went home. She still did not tell anybody about her ordeal because of her fathers threats. Unfortunately for "AAA," this sexual assault was not the last and her misfortune was still far from over.

On January 2, 2001, at about 3:00 p.m., "AAA" went to "CCC" to help her father pasture their cow. Shortly after her arrival, appellant forced her to lean on a rock while he lowered his pants. He then took off her panty, inserted his penis into her vagina, kissed her and fondled her breasts. After this latest ordeal, "AAA" again kept mum and did not tell her mother of what befell her.12ςrνll

Days after, "AAA" told her classmate "EEE" and their teacher "FFF" of what happened to her.13ςrνll After learning of appellants bestial acts committed against her student, "FFF" told the school principal about what happened to "AAA." The school principal, in turn, notified "AAAs" grandfather. It was "AAAs" grandfather who then informed "BBB" of her daughters ordeal. "FFF," together with the guidance counselor, reported the incident to the police. "AAA" submitted herself to a medical examination, the result14ςrνll of which showed the presence of old lacerations in her private parts.

Version of the Defense

Appellant testified in his own behalf and presented no other witnesses. In his Brief, he summarized his testimony thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Appellant is 47 years old, married, and a resident of "CCC," Municipality of "DDD," Misamis Occidental. He has four x x x children, one of whom is "AAA" x x x. Sometime in 1998, he and his wife sent "AAA" to the house of his parents-in-law because she had been raped by a certain "GGG," wherein a complaint had been filed before the barangay. Eventually, the said case was amicably settled. As far as the instant case is concerned, appellant could not think of any reason, why her own daughter, whom he loves so dearly would file charges of rape against him. In the first place, "AAA" was then living with her grandparents at the time the alleged incident occurred. He recounted though that sometime in 1999 during a town fiesta in Oroquieta City, he reprimanded "AAA" for seeing her boyfriend "HHH". He warned her not to see her boyfriend again. He remembered that when he scolded her, he was then armed with a scythe. During their confrontation, he slapped her. He knew that her daughter harbored ill feelings toward him.15ςrνll

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

After trial, the RTC was firmly convinced that "AAA" was telling the truth about her defilement and that it was appellant, her own father, who abused her. Thus, in its Decision16ςrνll of October 17, 2001, the RTC declared appellant guilty of three counts of rape and imposed upon him the penalty of death for each count of rape with damages.

Appellant seasonably appealed to this Court. However, pursuant to the Courts pronouncement in People v. Mateo,17ςrνll the case was transferred to the CA for intermediate review.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA, in its Decision18ςrνll of September 28, 2007, upheld the RTCs judgment of conviction after likewise being morally convinced that appellant consummated his debauched design over his daughter through intimidation, threat and force. However, considering the proscription on the imposition of the death penalty, it reduced the penalty imposed from death to reclusion perpetua, but increased the amounts of moral and exemplary damages awarded to "AAA."

Hence, the present appeal.

Issue

Raising as his lone assignment of error the argument that the court a quo erred in declaring him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of rape, appellant would have this Court disregard the testimony of "AAA." According to him, he could not have raped "AAA" at the time of the alleged incidents since she was then living with her grandparents and not with him. Also, "AAA" was ill-motivated in filing the charges against him.

Our Ruling

As appellants arguments neither impress nor convince this Court, the present appeal must perforce fail.

Appellants denial and alibi deserve no merit.

The defense of appellant is anchored on denial and alibi which do not impress belief. As often stressed, "mere denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, has no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the positive testimony of a rape victim."19ςrνll In this case, appellants testimony, particularly his denial, was not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Also, for his alibi to prosper, appellant must establish that he was not at the locus delicti at the time the offense was committed and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.20ςrνll Appellant failed to establish these elements. The fact that "AAA" was living with her grandparents did not preclude the possibility that appellant was present at the crime scenes during their commission. Appellant himself admitted that the distance between his residence and that of "AAAs" grandparents is only approximately 7 kilometers and which can be traversed by riding a pedicab in less than 30 minutes.21ςrνll In other words, it was not physically impossible for appellant to have been at the situs of the crimes during the dates when the separate acts of rape were committed. Moreover, it has been invariably ruled that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused. Here, appellant was positively identified by "AAA" as the perpetrator of the crimes without showing any dubious reason or fiendish motive on her part to falsely charge him. The contention of appellant that "AAA" was motivated by hatred because he prevented her from having a boyfriend is unconvincing. There is nothing novel in such a contrived defense. "Motives such as resentment, hatred or revenge have never swayed this Court from giving full credence to the testimony of a rape victim."22ςrνll It is a jurisprudentially conceded rule that "[i]t is against human nature for a young girl to fabricate a story that would expose herself as well as her family to a lifetime of shame, especially when her charge could mean the death or lifetime imprisonment of her own father."23ςrνll

The Court, like the courts below, finds that "AAA" was without doubt telling the truth when she declared that her father raped her on three separate occasions. She was consistent in her narration on how she was abused by her father in their own house, in the copra drier, and even in a nearby pasture land. After she was forced to lie down, appellant removed her clothes, went on top of her, inserted his penis into her vagina and threatened her with death if she would report the incidents. Hence, appellants attempt to discredit the testimony of "AAA" deserves no merit. "When credibility is in issue, the Court generally defers to the findings of the trial court considering that it was in a better position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment during trial."24ςrνll Here, there is nothing from the records that would impel this Court to deviate from the findings and conclusions of the trial court as affirmed by the CA.

Qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship duly established

Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 8353 or The Anti-Rape Law of 1997, the concurrence of minority and relationship qualifies the crime of rape. To warrant the imposition of the death penalty however, both the minority and the relationship must be alleged in the Information and proved during the trial.

In the instant case, both circumstances were properly alleged in the Informations and proved during trial. The Informations alleged that "AAA" was 15 years old when the crimes were committed. Her minority was established not only by her Certificate of Live Birth25ςrνll but also by her testimony that she was born on November 6, 1985.26ςrνll Anent "AAAs" relationship with appellant, the Informations sufficiently alleged that "AAA" is appellants daughter. This fact was likewise openly admitted by the appellant27ςrνll and further bolstered by the said Certificate of Live Birth indicating appellant as "AAAs" father. Moreover, the relationship between appellant and "AAA" became the subject of admission during the pre-trial conference.28ςrνll

The Penalty

Pursuant to Article 266-B of the RPC, the presence of the above-mentioned special qualifying circumstances increases the penalty to death. In view, however, of the passage of RA No. 934629ςrνll proscribing the imposition of death penalty, the proper penalty imposable on appellant, in lieu of death and pursuant to Section 2 thereof, is reclusion perpetua. Thus, the CA correctly sentenced appellant to reclusion perpetua. Notably, however, the assailed Decision of the appellate court failed to provide that appellant shall not be eligible for parole pursuant to Section 3 of the said law; hence, the same needs to be modified in said respect. Accordingly, appellant is declared not eligible for parole.

The Pecuniary Liabilities

The Court upholds the award of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity since this is mandatory upon conviction for rape if the crime is qualified by circumstances which warrant the imposition of the death penalty, as in this case. The award of P75,000.00 as moral damages is likewise upheld as the same is awarded without need of pleading the basis thereof, other than the fact of rape. However, the award of exemplary damages is increased to P30,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence.30ςrνll Likewise, interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed on all the damages awarded from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.31ςrνll

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The September 28, 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00047 is AFFIRMED with modifications in that appellant Enerio Ending y Onyong is declared not eligible for parole, the amount of exemplary damages awarded to "AAA" is increased to P30,000.00 for each case, and interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum is imposed on all the damages awarded from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.ςrαlαωlιbrαr

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1ςrνll People v. Saludo, G.R. No. 178406, April 6, 2011, 647 SCRA 374, 387.

2ςrνll People v. Tubat, G.R. No. 183093, February 1, 2012, 664 SCRA 712, 719.

3ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 97-110; penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez and concurred in by Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Elihu A. Ybaz.

4ςrνll Records, Vol. 2, pp. 58-61; penned by Judge Ma. Nimfa Penaco-Sitaca.

5ςrνll Information for Criminal Case No. 1567-13-1295, records, Vol. I, pp. 2-3; Information for Criminal Case No. 1568-13-1296, records, Vol. II, pp. 2-3; Information for Criminal Case No. 1569-13-1297, records, Vol. III, pp. 2-3.

6ςrνll "The identity of the victim or any information which could establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall be withheld pursuant to Republic Act No. 7610, An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence And Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation And Discrimination, And for Other Purposes; Republic Act No. 9262, An Act Defining Violence Against Women And Their Children, Providing For Protective Measures For Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefor, And for Other Purposes; and Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the Rule on Violence against Women and Their Children, effective November 5, 2004." (People v. Dumadag, G.R. No.176740, June 22, 2011, 652 SCRA 535, 538-539.)

7ςrνll Records, Vol. I, p. 2.

8ςrνll Id. at 24.

9ςrνll TSN, July 5, 2001, p. 2.

10ςrνll Id. at 3.

11ςrνll Id. at 14.

12ςrνll Id. at 4-6.

13ςrνll Id. at 7.

14ςrνll See Medical Certificate, Exhibit "A"; records, Vol. III, p. 8.

15ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 42-43.

16ςrνll Records, Vol. 2, pp. 58-61.

17ςrνll G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.

18ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 97-110.

19ςrνll People v. Perez, G.R. No. 182924, December 24, 2008, 575 SCRA 653, 678-679.

20ςrνll People v. Aycardo, G.R. No. 168299, October 6, 2008, 567 SCRA 523, 534.

21ςrνll TSN, August 27, 2001, pp. 6-7.

22ςrνll People v. Aure, G.R. No. 180451, October 17, 2008, 569 SCRA 836, 864.

23ςrνll People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 177572, February 26, 2008, 546 SCRA 703, 718.

24ςrνll People v. Veluz, G.R. No. 167755, November 28, 2008, 572 SCRA 500, 511.

25ςrνll Exhibit "B," records, Vol. I, p. 45.

26ςrνll TSN, July 5, 2001, p. 3.

27ςrνll TSN, August 27, 2001, p. 1.

28ςrνll Records, Vol. I, p. 30.

29ςrνll AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES. -

Although the incidents in this case happened in 2001 or before RA No. 9346 took effect in 2006, the law is nevertheless applicable to herein appellant in view of the principle in criminal law that penal laws which are favorable to the accused are given retroactive effect pursuant to Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code.

30ςrνll People v. Mariano, G.R. No. 168693, June 19, 2009, 590 SCRA 74, 94.

31ςrνll People v. Alverio, G.R. No. 194259, March 16, 2011, 645 SCRA 658, 670.

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