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G.R. No. 192239, June 05, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RICARDO PAMINTUAN Y SAHAGUN, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 192239, June 05, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RICARDO PAMINTUAN Y SAHAGUN, Accused-Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 192239, June 05, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RICARDO PAMINTUAN Y SAHAGUN, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

The Court decides the appeal filed by accused-appellant Ricardo Pamintuan y Sahagun from the Decision1 dated November 24, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 03449.

On September 6, 2004, accused-appellant was charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila  with the crime of rape under Article 266-A, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353.  The accusatory portion of the Information stated:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
That sometime in September 2003, in the XXX, Philippines, the accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly commit abusive acts and [lascivious] conduct upon the person of AAA,2 a minor, 11 years old, by then and there dragging her inside the room, kissing her on the lips and breast, undressing her and inserting his penis in her vagina and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of her against her will and consent thereby gravely endangering her survival, normal development and growth.3nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge.4  During the trial of the case, the prosecution put forward the following witnesses: (1) AAA, the victim; (2) Maria Cristina E. Viray, the Bantay Bata 163 social worker; (3) Police Officer (PO)1 Aireen Talattad;5 and (4) Dr. Merle Tan.

AAA testified that accused-appellant was her uncle since the latter was the cousin of her father, BBB.  He was also the common-law husband of her mother, CCC, as her parents had already separated.  She could not recall when accused-appellant and CCC started to live together.  He would stay in AAA’s house in XXX then he would return to his house in Bulacan.  AAA related that in September 2003, accused-appellant started to sexually abuse her inside their house.  He pulled her to her mother’s room when nobody else was around.  He touched her breasts and her vagina.  Afterwards, accused-appellant was able to insert his penis into her organ.  He was only able to insert his penis halfway but the same hurt AAA.  She cried and fought back by boxing him but he continued to assault her.  He also kissed her lips and licked her vagina.  She said that she did not bleed after she was raped.6  Accused-appellant succeeded in abusing her seven times.7

AAA said that she revealed the incident to her sister, DDD, who informed their aunt, EEE, who was the sister of their father.  AAA was then vacationing at EEE’s house when the latter learned about the incident.  EEE forbade AAA from going back home in XXX.  She did not tell CCC about her ordeal because she was afraid of accused-appellant.  According to AAA, her cousin told her that whenever the accused gets drunk, he would pour gasoline in their house and threaten to burn it.8  AAA presented in court her birth certificate, which showed that she was born on November 6, 1992.9

On cross-examination, AAA stated that she filed the case against accused-appellant because he did rape her.  Prior to that, she recalled an incident when he was even caring towards her.  Back then, she was not yet angry with him.10

Maria Cristina E. Viray testified that AAA and EEE went to the Bantay Bata 163 office on May 28, 2005.  They asked for assistance regarding the rape case filed against accused-appellant.  She made them fill up a form to provide an account of the incident.  In her account, AAA narrated that at around September to October 2003, accused-appellant dragged her into a room, pulled up her clothing, and kissed her breasts.  AAA boxed accused-appellant in the chest.  He then took off AAA’s shorts and panty and undressed himself.  Afterwards, there was a penetration of AAA’s vagina.11  Viray stated that she did not conduct a detailed interview of AAA anymore so as not to further traumatize her.  She asked AAA if she was willing to go forward with the case and the latter answered in the affirmative.  Viray added that she was convinced that AAA was indeed raped by the accused-appellant.12

The testimony of PO1 Aireen Talattad was dispensed with after the parties stipulated that she was the investigator on the case, that she caused the preparation of the Sinumpaang Salaysay of AAA, and that she could identify AAA and accused-appellant.13

Dr. Merle Tan testified that she was a consultant at the Child Protection Unit of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) in Manila.14  She presented in court a medical certificate dated December 29, 2003 issued by the PGH, which was the Final Medico Legal Report Number 2003-12-0061.15  As AAA was already interviewed by the police, she only asked additional clarifying questions.  She inquired from AAA if the latter already had a boyfriend or if there were other perpetrators of the sexual assault.  AAA answered both questions in the negative.  As to the medico-legal report, the impression that Dr. Tan noted down was that there was “[n]o evident injury at the time of examination but medical evaluation cannot exclude sexual abuse.  Further investigation, such as witnessed account or careful questioning of the child is required.”16

On cross-examination, Dr. Tan stated that when she examined AAA in December 2003, she did not see any injury at all, not even healing injuries.  According to her, however, the same may be explained by the rate with which an injured hymen can heal.  Dr. Tan further informed the trial court that in rape cases, different injuries could be inflicted upon the victim, depending on a number of factors.  Said factors include the degree of force used in inflicting the injury, the size of the blunt object, and the method with which the injury was caused.  Dr. Tan also stated that some studies in the United States suggest that if the perpetrator of the rape is not a stranger to the child victim, the injuries inflicted on the latter are a little bit less serious.  If there was an insertion in the vagina of a minor child, the resultant injury, if any, would depend on how the insertion was done.  Moreover, an insertion would not necessarily lead to a laceration in the hymen in view of the changes occurring in the body of a female child.  As the estrogen production in the child’s body increases, the hymen becomes more stretchable and elastic.  Thus, even with seven insertions, the presence of a laceration would depend on how the insertion was done and the length of the healing time, if there were injuries inflicted.17

For his defense, accused-appellant testified that AAA was his niece as he was the cousin of AAA’s father.  He was also the common-law husband of AAA’s mother, CCC.  Accused-appellant denied AAA’s accusation of rape against him.  He stated that CCC’s children had a grudge against him, as they did not want him to live with their mother.  He also said that a cousin of his, named Marie, likewise held a grudge against him and CCC.18

The Ruling of the RTC

On June 17, 2008, the RTC of Manila, Branch 38, adjudged19 accused-appellant guilty of statutory rape and sentenced him thus:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, this Court finds that the prosecution was able to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt in committing the crime of Rape under Article [266-A], par. 1 [of] the Revised Penal Code in relation to Republic Act 8353, and hereby sentences Ricardo Pamintuan Y Sahagun to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; further, to indemnify [AAA], the amount of Fifty Thousand (Php50,000.00) Pesos, as civil indemnity; the amount of Fifty Thousand (Php50,000.00) as moral damages, and to pay the costs.20


The RTC found that AAA was only about 11 years old when she was raped by accused-appellant.  The trial court gave more weight to her testimony, which was found to be categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and delivered in a frank manner.  The trial court also downplayed the absence of injuries on the part of AAA as a result of the sexual abuse, citing rulings of the Court that such may be attributed to numerous factors and that the hymen of the victim need not be penetrated or ruptured for rape to be consummated.  On the other hand, accused-appellant’s unsubstantiated defense of denial was disregarded by the trial court.  Accused-appellant was only convicted of statutory rape punishable by reclusion perpetua as the qualifying circumstance of relationship, i.e., that he was the common-law husband of AAA’s mother, was not alleged in the information.

Accused-appellant appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals.21

The Decision of the Court of Appeals

On November 24, 2009, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the RTC in this wise:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the instant appeal is DISMISSED.  The June 17, 2008 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 38 is AFFIRMED in toto.22
The Court of Appeals was convinced that the elements of the crime of rape had been proven in this case.  The appellate court gave more weight to AAA’s testimony as compared to the bare denial of accused-appellant.  The Court of Appeals also rejected the argument of accused-appellant that the absence of external signs, indicating that AAA was sexually abused, negated her claim of rape.  The appellate court ruled that carnal knowledge, unlike its ordinary connotation of sexual intercourse, does not necessarily require that the vagina be penetrated or that the hymen be ruptured.  As the relationship of AAA to accused-appellant was not specifically alleged in the information, the Court of Appeals held that no qualifying circumstance was attendant in the case.

The Ruling of the Court

On appeal23 before this Court, accused-appellant again pleads for his acquittal, arguing that “the trial court gravely erred in rendering a verdict of conviction despite the fact that [his] guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.”24  Accused-appellant insists that the medical findings and the testimony of Dr. Merle Tan belied AAA’s claim that she was raped seven times.  Accused-appellant points out that if he indeed sexually assaulted AAA seven times, she must have sustained genital injuries or trauma.  However, none was found by Dr. Tan.  As the gravamen of the offense of rape is sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, accused-appellant posits that the absence of gynecological injuries negated AAA’s accusation of rape.

The Court sustains the conviction of accused-appellant.

The crime of rape is defined under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

ART. 266-A.   Rape, When and How Committed. — Rape is committed —

1. By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

a. Through force, threat or intimidation;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

b. When the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

c. By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

d. When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.
Article 266-A(1)(d) provides the definition of the crime of statutory rape, the elements of which are: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that such a woman is under twelve years of age or is demented.

The element of carnal knowledge was established by the testimony of AAA.  Her identification of accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the sexual attack was positive, consistent and steadfast; her narration of the incident, detailed and straightforward.  When she was recounting her ordeal before the trial court, she was overcome with emotion and shed tears on more than one occasion.  She did not waver in her stance even as she underwent cross-examination by the counsel for the defense.  These factors impress upon us that AAA’s claim against accused-appellant was not at all fabricated.

Jurisprudence teaches that testimonies of child victims are given full weight and credit, for when a woman or a girl-child says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed.  Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity.25  Moreover, we held in People v. Oden26 that “the spontaneity with which the victim has detailed the incidents of rape, the tears she ha[d] shed at the stand while recounting her experience, and her consistency almost throughout her account dispel any insinuation of a rehearsed testimony.”

Contrary to accused-appellant’s protestations, the testimony of AAA that she was raped seven times was not actually contradicted by the medical findings of Dr. Tan.  This much is distinctly clear from the conclusion reached by Dr. Tan in the medico-legal report, which we quote:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

IMPRESSIONS

No evident injury at the time of examination but medical evaluation cannot exclude sexual abuse.  Further investigation, such as witnessed account or careful questioning of the child[,] is required.27 (Emphasis ours.)

Nowhere in the medico-legal report was there a definitive statement from Dr. Tan that AAA could not have been subjected to sexual abuse.  If the above quoted statement was not clear enough, Dr. Tan took the time to explain her findings in her testimony before the trial court.  In essence, Dr. Tan explained that in rape cases, an insertion in the vagina of a minor child victim would not necessarily result in an injury, such as a laceration of the hymen.  The presence or absence of injuries would depend on different factors, such as the forcefulness of the insertion, the size of the object inserted, the method by which the injury was caused, the changes occurring in a female child’s body, and the length of healing time, if indeed injuries were caused.  Thus, the fact that AAA did not sustain any injury in her sex organ does not ipso facto mean that she was not raped.

The Court has often held that “full penetration of the vaginal orifice is not an essential ingredient, nor is the rupture of the hymen necessary, to conclude that carnal knowledge took place; the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis that is capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge.”28  We also said in People v. Opong29 that:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

In People v. Capt. Llanto, citing People v. Aguinaldo, we likewise affirmed the conviction of the accused for rape despite the absence of laceration on the victim’s hymen since medical findings suggest that it is possible for the victim’s hymen to remain intact despite repeated sexual intercourse.  We elucidated that the strength and dilatability of the hymen varies from one woman to another, such that it may be so elastic as to stretch without laceration during intercourse; on the other hand, it may be so resistant that its surgical removal is necessary before intercourse can ensue.

x x x x

It also bears stressing that a medico-legal report is not indispensable to the prosecution of a rape case, it being merely corroborative in nature.  The credible disclosure of AAA that appellant raped her is the most important proof of the commission of the crime. (Citations omitted.)

In this case, AAA was carefully questioned by the respective counsels for the prosecution and the defense and the trial court judge herself.  AAA consistently incriminated accused-appellant as the person who sexually abused her by inserting his penis into her vagina, although a full penetration was not accomplished.  To our mind, AAA’s testimony clearly proved the element of carnal knowledge.

The accused-appellant’s bare denial of the crime charged is insufficient to exculpate him.  Well established is the rule that “a mere denial, without any strong evidence to support it, can scarcely overcome the positive declaration by the victim of the identity and involvement of appellant in the crimes attributed to him.”30  The Court also finds unconvincing the reason ascribed by accused-appellant on the part of AAA to accuse him of rape, i.e., that AAA and her siblings disapproved of him as their mother’s common-law husband.  We find this argument flimsy and totally bereft of any corroboration.  We already ruled that “[m]otives such as resentment, hatred, or revenge have never swayed this Court from giving full credence to the testimony of a minor rape victim.  Further, ill motives become inconsequential if the rape victim gave an affirmative and credible declaration, which clearly established the liability of the accused.”31

As regards the age of AAA, the prosecution presented her certificate of birth to prove that she was born on November 6, 1992.  Thus, at the time of the commission of the crime in September 2003, AAA was only a few months shy of being 11 years old.

With respect to the imposable penalty in this case, the Court affirms the judgment of the RTC that accused can only be convicted of statutory rape punishable by reclusion perpetua.  Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 9346,32 provides:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

Art. 266-B. Penalties. — Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x x x x

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

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

The age of AAA was duly alleged and proven in this case.  However, AAA’s relationship with accused-appellant, i.e., that accused-appellant was the common-law spouse of her mother, was not specifically alleged in the information.  Although this circumstance was proven during trial, the same cannot qualify the crime committed.  We held in People v. Ramos33 that “[a]s a special qualifying circumstance of the crime of rape, the concurrence of the victim’s minority and her relationship to the accused must be both alleged and proven beyond reasonable doubt.”

We also affirm the trial court’s award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages.  However, the award of exemplary damages is in order.  The Court had occasion to rule in People v. Arcillas34 that:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

According to the Civil Code, exemplary damages may be imposed in criminal cases as part of the civil liability “when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.”  The law permits such damages to be awarded “by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages.”  Accordingly, the [Court of Appeals] and the RTC should have recognized the entitlement of AAA to exemplary damages on account of the attendance of her minority and the common-law relationship between him and her mother.  It did not matter that such qualifying circumstances were not taken into consideration in fixing his criminal liability, because the term aggravating circumstances as basis for awarding exemplary damages under the Civil Code was understood in its generic sense. x x x. (Citations omitted.)

We also stated in People v. Nebria35 that the award of exemplary damages in rape cases is proper in order to protect the young from sexual exploitation and abuse.  Thus, we further award P30,000.00 as exemplary damages in light of current jurisprudence.36

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated November 24, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 03449 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION that exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 is awarded.  Accused-appellant is likewise ordered to pay legal interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of 6% per annum from the date of finality of this Decision.  No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, CJ., (Chairperson), Bersamin, Villarama, Jr., and Reyes, JJ., concur


Endnotes:


1Rollo, pp. 4-21; penned by Associate Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos with Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas Peralta and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., concurring.cralawlibrary

2 The real name of the victim and those of her immediate family or household members are withheld to protect the victim’s identity and privacy pursuant to Section 29 of Republic Act No. 7610, Section 44 of Republic Act No. 9262, and Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC.  See our ruling in People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 (2006).

Thus, the minor victim in this case shall be referred to as AAA.  The designation BBB shall refer to her father, while CCC shall refer to her mother.  DDD and EEE shall indicate the names of her elder sister and aunt, respectively.  XXX shall denote the place where the crime of rape was allegedly committed.cralawlibrary

3 Records, p. 2.cralawlibrary

4 Id. at 17.cralawlibrary

5 Also referred to as PO1 Aileen Taladtad in other parts of the records.cralawlibrary

6 TSN, June 1, 2005, pp. 2-15.cralawlibrary

7 Id. at 9; TSN, January 9, 2006, p. 6.cralawlibrary

8 Id. at 12-19.cralawlibrary

9 Records, p. 93.cralawlibrary

10 TSN, January 9, 2006, pp. 3-4.cralawlibrary

11 TSN, April 3, 2006, pp. 3-6.cralawlibrary

12 Id. at 10.cralawlibrary

13 Records, p. 68.cralawlibrary

14 TSN, December 7, 2006, p. 2.cralawlibrary

15 Id. at 5; records, p. 72.cralawlibrary

16 Id. at 6-8.cralawlibrary

17 Id. at 9-11.cralawlibrary

18 TSN, January 25, 2008, pp. 3-7.cralawlibrary

19 CA rollo, pp. 19-26; penned by Judge Ma. Celestina C. Mangrobang.cralawlibrary

20 Id. at 26.cralawlibrary

21 Records, p. 117.cralawlibrary

22Rollo, p. 21.cralawlibrary

23 CA rollo, pp. 122-124.cralawlibrary

24 Id. at 45.  Accused-appellant and plaintiff-appellee opted not to file any supplemental brief. (Rollo, pp. 35-38 and 40-43). They instead adopted their respective briefs filed before the Court of Appeals. (CA rollo, pp. 43-54 and 79-90).cralawlibrary

25People v. Corpuz, 517 Phil. 622, 636-637 (2006).cralawlibrary

26 471 Phil. 638, 667 (2004).cralawlibrary

27 Records, p. 72.cralawlibrary

28People v. Trayco, G.R. No. 171313, August 14, 2009, 596 SCRA 233, 249-250.cralawlibrary

29 G.R. No. 177822, June 17, 2008, 554 SCRA 706, 726.cralawlibrary

30People v. Nieto, 571 Phil. 220, 236 (2008).cralawlibrary

31People v. Opong, supra note 29 at 723.cralawlibrary

32 An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.cralawlibrary

33People v. Ramos, 442 Phil. 710, 732 (2002).cralawlibrary

34 G.R. No. 181491, July 30, 2012, 677 SCRA 624, 637-638.cralawlibrary

35 440 Phil. 572, 588 (2002).cralawlibrary

36People v. Batula, G.R. No. 181699, November 28, 2012, 686 SCRA 575, 590.
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