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G.R. No. 203315, September 18, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOEY BACATAN, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 203315, September 18, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOEY BACATAN, Accused-Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 203315, September 18, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOEY BACATAN, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

REYES, J.:

For review1 is the Decision2 dated January 28, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB-CR.-H.C. No. 00635 which affirmed the Decision3 dated June 20, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City, Branch 18, convicting and sentencing accused-appellant Joey Bacatan (Bacatan) to reclusion perpetua for the crime of rape.

The Facts

On January 19, 1998, Bacatan and Danilo Mabano (Mabano) were having a drinking spree outside the house of 18-year old private complainant, AAA4. Mabano is the childhood friend of AAA’s brother, a neighbor and family friend. Bacatan, on the other hand, was a stranger to AAA until that night. When they ran out of beer, Bacatan and Mabano decided to look for a store to buy some more. Such is the only certain and undisputed episode in this present debacle because, as in other criminal cases, the parties tendered different versions of the ensuing incidents.5cralaw virtualaw library

The prosecution claimed6 that Mabano invited AAA to join them in buying beer. She declined at first but the two men prodded that storeowners will surely sell to her than to them. Sensing no evil motive cloaked behind their request, she eventually obliged. The three boarded a motorcycle with Mabano as driver while AAA sat in the middle of the two men. They were able to buy four (4) bottles of beer from a nearby store but the same was not enough. Upon Mabano’s suggestion, they proceeded to Tabunok. However, instead of heading directly to Tabunok, Mabano turned left towards a place called Pook.

In Pook, they disembarked at NAZ Beach Resort where they were offered a cottage. At that point, AAA got worried so she decided to walk away. Mabano followed her and warned that it is dangerous for her to go home alone. Bacatan then ordered AAA to board the motorcycle with a promise that they will already bring her home. Bacatan, however, diverted to a different direction and proceeded towards Litmon Talisay.

Upon arriving at Litmon Beach, Bacatan talked to an old man as Mabano held AAA. When AAA inquired from Mabano about the purpose of their stopover, the latter told her to wait for a few minutes. She saw Bacatan and the old man enter the cottage and the latter placed beer inside. AAA and Mabano thereafter joined Bacatan. Afterwards, Mabano took the beer outside and walked towards the parked motorcycle leaving AAA and Bacatan inside.

Bacatan continued drinking beer. Moments later, he pushed AAA towards the elevated portion of the cottage causing her to slump on the floor. He asked her to have sex with her. Confused, AAA asked him what was sex all about to which he replied by knocking her thigh thrice using his forefinger. Terrified, AAA brushed his hand aside and told him that such act should be done only by married couples. She tried to escape by running to the door but it failed to open as someone from the outside was seemingly holding the lock to prevent her from escaping. Bacatan then pulled her back and forced her to lie on the floor, got on top of her and endeavoured to separate her legs. She resisted by wiggling from his hold and kicking him but he was stronger. Suddenly, Mabano, wearing only his underwear, entered the cottage and asked Bacatan if he was already through.

Mabano held AAA’s hands as Bacatan removed her pants and inserted his sexual organ in her private part. After consummating his beastly act, Bacatan got up and went out of the cottage. Mabano then expressed his desire to have carnal knowledge with AAA but he changed his mind after she pleaded for him not to do so. He tried to exculpate himself by telling her that he was merely a witness to the incident. Mabano then brought her to the motorcycle with a plan to leave Bacatan behind, but they fell after running a short distance. Bacatan, who was following them, was thus able to ride and drive the vehicle. Instead of heading home, the trio returned to Tabunok where they stopped at an open store. Bacatan offered AAA softdrinks which she declined. He instructed her to sit on a bench and remarked: “I believe in provinciana.” Upon that instance, AAA’s parents and brother arrived. Apparently, they have been looking for her the entire night. Mabano immediately went inside the store as AAA ran towards her mother and told her to go to the police because she was raped by Bacatan and Mabano. AAA’s mother and brother went to the Tabunok police precinct but nobody responded to them because the policemen were sleeping.

Meanwhile, AAA’s father confronted Mabano who, before attempting to run, denied having any participation in the incident. AAA’s father called the attention of the nearby barangay tanods who arrested Mabano and brought him to the police station. Bacatan, on the other hand, was able to escape because the storeowner prevented the barangay tanods from entering the store where he hid.

AAA reported the incident to the police on the same evening and at around 1:00 to 2:00 o’clock of the following morning, she underwent medical examination by Dr. Bessie Acebes of the Don Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. The results of the examination yielded: “discharged bloody, minimal sperm identification.”

The defense proffered a whirlwind romance version.7 Bacatan claimed that he and AAA were sweethearts and that she voluntarily went with them. She even sat between him and Mabano on the motorcycle. AAA’s parents saw her board the vehicle but they expressed no objections.

The three went to Nashville Beach and ordered beer but nothing was available. They proceeded to Tabunok and then to Canton Beach. Still unable to find beer, Bacatan and AAA just decided to pass time in an open cottage while Mabano left to buy some cigarettes.

AAA asked him if he was already married. He replied that he is still single. AAA then said that she has seen him before at Esperanza when he was playing basketball. The entire time, AAA was leaning her back towards his body. They were in that position for half an hour talking about basketball. He then asked AAA if she was still single. When she replied yes, he insinuated that since they were both single, they can get married. When AAA agreed for them to be sweethearts, he kissed her. She kissed him back. She embraced him and they continued kissing for about 30 minutes. He then hinted that they should head home as it was almost midnight but AAA didn’t want to go home because her parents might scold her.

The trio proceeded to Hernando Beach located at Poblacion, Talisay where they rented a cottage and bought a crate of beer. The two men continued drinking while AAA went upstairs to rest. A few minutes later, she bid for him to go up. He complied.

AAA held his hand, hugged him and kissed his lips. He responded with an equal degree of affection. She told him to remove his clothes as well as hers and they copulated. Thereafter, Bacatan went outside to urinate. Mabano attempted to go upstairs but Bacatan forbade him causing the former to get angry and mount the motorcycle. Bacatan then told AAA to come down and they both boarded the motorcycle with Mabano driving. They fell down after a few meters prompting Bacatan to take over the steering wheel.

The trio went back to Tabunok and had refreshments at the store of Priscilla Raga (Raga). AAA and Bacatan sat beside each other; she leaned on and kept caressing him. A little later, her parents arrived. Sensing that her father was furious, Bacatan went inside the store, left his sunglasses with the owner and headed home. On October 14, 1998, he voluntarily surrendered to the police after learning that there is a warrant for his arrest in connection with a criminal case for rape filed against him.

Meanwhile, for unexplained reasons, Mabano, was able to abscond. He still remains a fugitive from justice. Only Bacatan was taken in court custody and he pleaded “Not Guilty” to the following charges, viz:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
That on January 19, 1998 at around 10:45 in the evening, more or less, at Barangay Poblacion, Tanke, Talisay, Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with lewd design and by means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, accused Joey Bacatan lie and succeed in having carnal knowledge with one [AAA], 18 years old, while accused Danilo Mabano held her hands by indispensable cooperation, against her will and consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.8
Ruling of the RTC

After due proceedings, the RTC rendered a Decision9 on June 20, 2002 finding Bacatan guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The RTC accorded weight and credibility to the testimony of AAA and rejected the sweetheart defense interposed by Bacatan, disposing thus:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
WHEREFORE, premises all considered, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered convicting accused Joey Bacatan of the crime of Rape as defined under Article 266-A and penalized under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code and he is hereby imposed [sic] to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua with the inherent accessory penalties provided by law and to indemnify the victim in the sum of [P]50,000.00 as moral damages and to pay the costs.

Let separate proceedings be conducted as soon as co-accused (Danilo) Mabano is brought within the ambit of the law. In the meantime, the case against accused (Danilo) Mabano is archived without prejudiced [sic] to its revival as soon as accused (Danilo) Mabano is apprehended. Let an alias warrant of arrest be issued against him.

SO ORDERED.10
Bacatan appealed contending that there was no evidence of force and intimidation employed upon AAA. He insisted that the intimate act that occurred was consensual and the charge of rape was filed to force him into marrying her, to save her from public humiliation and from the wrath of her parents. According to Bacatan, her failure to put up a tenacious and aggressive resistance negates the fact that Bacatan forced himself on her. She also had several opportunities to ask for help from the people near the alleged crime scene and from persons in authority they met along the way, but she didn’t.

He further argued that her medical certificate did not indicate that she sustained bruises and abrasions which are common and natural in rape cases committed thru force and intimidation especially considering that Bacatan is a stout man who stands six (6) feet tall. He questioned the failure of the prosecution to present the underwear AAA was wearing during the alleged rape. He insinuated irregularity in the mysterious appearance of AAA’s pants during trial despite its absence in the earlier proceedings and tags the same as manufactured evidence. He discredited the contents of AAA’s medical certificate since it was never testified to by the signatory himself. He also disputed the truthfulness of AAA’s first affidavit on the ground that it did not indicate the time of commission of the alleged crime.11cralaw virtualaw library

The case was directly elevated to this Court for automatic review. However, pursuant to this Court’s ruling in People v. Mateo12, the case was transferred to the CA in a Resolution dated March 27, 2006.13cralaw virtualaw library

Ruling of the CA

The CA affirmed the RTC’s ruling that the prosecution met the required quantum of evidence necessary to convict Bacatan. It also upheld the credibility of AAA’s testimony and stressed that no sensible woman will concoct a rape story and thereby put herself and her family in public disrepute. The sweetheart theory advanced by Bacatan was adjudged unavailing as it is anchored only on his self-serving allegation with no other evidence to prove the same. The decretal portion of the CA’s Decision14 dated January 28, 2011 thus read:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
WHEREFORE, the herein assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 18 dated June 20, 2002 is AFFIRMED.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.15
Hence, the present review. In our Resolution16 dated October 15, 2012, the Court required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs but, in their Manifestations,17 they waived the filing of the same and instead adopted their respective briefs filed before the CA. Bacatan lobbies for his acquittal and insists that his guilt was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court’s Ruling

The Court affirms the conviction of Bacatan. Evidence on record shows that the following elements of rape were proved beyond reasonable doubt, viz: (1) Bacatan had carnal knowledge of AAA; and (2) it was accomplished through the use of force.18cralaw virtualaw library

The first element is undisputed as it is an admission inherent in the sweetheart defense advanced by Bacatan,19 which in turn, was correctly, rejected by the courts a quo for lack of substantial corroboration.

As a rule, bare invocation of sweetheart theory cannot stand alone. To be credible, it must be corroborated by documentary, testimonial, or other evidence. Usually, these are letters, notes, photos, mementos, or credible testimonies of those who know the lovers.20cralaw virtualaw library

To substantiate the claim of whirlwind romance between AAA and Bacatan, the defense presented the testimony of people who saw them after the incident. Raga, the owner of the store in Tabunok where they had refreshments testified that AAA and Bacatan sat side by side and were affectionate towards each other because she leaned on his shoulder.21 Elizalde Labuca, a barangay tanod assigned to watch La Moderna Pawnshop across Raga’s store, narrated the same observation.22cralaw virtualaw library

These testimonies are, however, not enough to lead to the conclusion that a romantic relationship existed between Bacatan and AAA. They are mere hasty inferences based on a fleeting occurrence that do not essentially indicate the presence of a relationship. The observations made by the said defense witnesses were intermittent and spanned for merely 20 minutes.23cralaw virtualaw library

At any rate, even if it were true that they were sweethearts, a love affair does not justify rape. As repeatedly stressed by the Court, a man does not have the unbridled license to subject his beloved to his carnal desires.24cralaw virtualaw library

With the presence of the first element being settled, the prosecution only had to prove the employment of force upon AAA.

Bacatan points out that the absence of abrasions in AAA’s body negates the employment of force upon her. She also did not put up tenacious resistance neither did she cry for help during and after the alleged rape incident despite the presence of other people in nearby areas. Neither was she or her family members threatened for her to succumb to the sexual congress.

We are not persuaded. In rape cases, the law does not impose a burden on the rape victim to prove resistance because it is not an element of rape.25 Hence, the absence of abrasions or contusions in AAA’s body is inconsequential. Also, not all victims react the same way. Some people may cry out, some may faint, some may be shocked into insensibility, while others may appear to yield to the intrusion. Some may offer strong resistance while others may be too intimidated to offer any resistance at all.26 The failure of a rape victim to offer tenacious resistance does not make her submission to accused’s criminal acts voluntary. What is necessary is that the force employed against her was sufficient to consummate the purpose which he has in mind.27cralaw virtualaw library

Sufficient force does not mean great or is of such character that is irresistible; as long as it brings about the desired result, all considerations of whether it was more or less irresistible are beside the point.28cralaw virtualaw library

In any event, AAA put up resistance by kicking and wiggling out of Bacatan whose entire weight was on top of her, but he proved too strong. He even mocked her defiance by telling her she’s like a horse.

Moreover, there is no doubt that Bacatan employed that amount of force sufficient to consummate rape. At the time the crime was committed, AAA was only 18 years old, while Bacatan was a full-grown 32-year old man who stands six feet tall with stout bearing. There is thus a clear disparity of physical strength between them thus any resistance exerted by AAA proved in vain. More importantly, Mabano reduced her to helplessness when he held her hands as Bacatan inserted his sexual organ in hers. The combined might of two adult male constitutes more than sufficient force as it inescapably subdues the frailty of female strength rendering her vulnerable to their felonious appetite to fornicate.

AAA’s failure to seek help as soon as she saw other people in Tabunok cannot be taken against her. This Court has recognized that a rape victim’s actions are oftentimes overwhelmed by fear rather than by reason.29 AAA was also able to explain herself on this matter. Her testimony was aptly summarized by the RTC, thus:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
She did not know the places that they had passed by. She did not shout because she was afraid considering that something had already happened to her. She was looking for an opportunity that she could see somebody whom she could trust and tell what happened to her. x x x [W]hat matters most to her at that time was that she was alive and she was thinking of the possibility that there would be somebody whom she could confide and tell everything that had happened to her. She did not dare ask the woman who was tending the store to call the police or the barangay tanod because she noticed that Joey Bacatan and that woman were close to each other.30
Bacatan’s submission that the contents of the medical certificate cannot be considered as corroborative of the claim of rape as the signatory himself did not testify, cannot prosper. As held in People v. Alverio,31 medical evidence is dispensable evidence;32 it is not necessary to prove rape in as much the time of its commission does not constitute a material ingredient of the crime.33 These circumstances do not pertain to the details and elements that produce the gravamen of the offense that is - sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent.34cralaw virtualaw library

Further, the irregularities proffered by Bacatan bring to fore the issue of assessment of AAA’s credibility as a witness, a matter generally conceded to be within the province of the trial court having had the first hand opportunity to hear the testimony of witnesses and observe their demeanor, conduct and attitude during their presentation.35 “The age-old rule is that the task of assigning values to the testimonies of witnesses in the stand and weighing their credibility is best left to the trial court which forms its first-hand impressions as a witness testifies before it.”36 Hence, the trial court’s factual findings and evaluation on the credibility of witnesses, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are accorded the highest degree of respect and are generally conclusive and binding on this Court.37cralaw virtualaw library

By way of exception, such findings will be re-opened for review only upon a showing of highly meritorious circumstances such as when the court’s evaluation was reached arbitrarily, or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied certain facts or circumstances of weight and substance, which, if considered, would affect the result of the case.38 However, none of these exceptional instances obtain in the present case.

Besides, the Court finds that AAA’s testimony passed the two-tier qualification for credibility-it comes from a credible witness and is credible in itself, tested by human experience, observation, common knowledge and accepted conduct that has evolved through the years.39cralaw virtualaw library

The trial court judge, after observing AAA’s deportment on the witness stand, was convinced of her credibility, and held thus: “[t]here was no motive being [sic] established as to why (AAA) would concoct lies against [Bacatan] if she were not actually raped. No woman would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts and thereafter, permit herself to be subjected to a public trial, if she is not motivated by the desire to have the culprit apprehended and punished x x x, [and] unless she has been truly wronged and seeks atonement for her abuse x x x.”40 The appellate court arrived at a similar conclusion and found AAA’s narration of her ordeal to be honest, spontaneous and unshaken especially during cross-examination where she was subjected to relentless bullying of the defense counsel.

Further, AAA’s testimony is credible in itself. Upon seeing her parents and brother, AAA instantaneously reported to them that she was raped. She also instructed them to call the police. The incident was entered in the police blotter that same evening barring any chance for fabrication. In addition, the results of AAA’s medical examination conducted on the same night confirmed the presence of sperm in her private parts. During trial, she remained steadfast in her narration that Mabano held her arms as Bacatan consummated his dastardly desires.

Consequently, the Court upholds the ruling of the RTC and CA that AAA candidly and categorically recounted the manner Bacatan forced her into having sexual intercourse with her against her will.

The Court likewise affirms the penalty of reclusion perpetua meted upon Bacatan for being in accord with Article 266-A in relation to 266-B of the Revised Penal Code.41 It must be emphasized, however, that he shall not be eligible for parole pursuant to Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 which states that “[p]ersons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua, by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No. 4180, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended.”42cralaw virtualaw library

The Court sustains the moral damages awarded in the amount of P50,000.00. Moral damages are granted to rape victims without need of proof other than the fact of rape under the assumption that the victim suffered moral injuries from the experience she underwent.43cralaw virtualaw library

It is imperative to award civil indemnity which is mandatory upon the finding that rape took place.44 Considering that the crime committed is simple rape, there being no qualifying circumstances attendant in its commission, the appropriate amount is P50,000.00.45 While there is no aggravating circumstance attendant in this case, an award of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages is still proper in order to deter similar conduct and to serve as an example for public good.46cralaw virtualaw library

Lastly, in accordance with current jurisprudence,47 the damages awarded shall earn legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum to be reckoned from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, all the foregoing considered, the Decision dated January 28, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB-CR.-H.C. No. 00635 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. Accused-appellant Joey Bacatan is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of RAPE and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and ordered to pay victim AAA the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. The award of damages shall earn legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this judgment until fully paid.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Leonardo-De Castro,* (Acting Chairperson), Carpio,** Mendoza***, and Perlas-Bernabe,****JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


* Acting Chairperson per Special Order No. 1549 dated September 16, 2013.cralawnad

** Acting member per Special Order No. 1550 dated September 16, 2013.cralawnad

*** Acting member per Special Order No. 1545 dated September 16, 2013.cralawnad

**** Acting member per Special Order No. 1537 (Revised) dated September 6, 2013.cralawnad

1 Pursuant to People v. Mateo, G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640, 653-658.cralawnad

2 Penned by Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon, with Associate Justices Portia A. Hormachuelos (retired) and Socorro B. Inting, concurring; rollo, pp. 4-16.cralawnad

3 Issued by Presiding Judge Galicano C. Arriesgado; CA rollo, pp. 26-41.cralawnad

4 The name of the victim, her personal circumstances and other information which tend to establish or compromise her identity shall not be disclosed to protect her privacy and fictitious initials shall, instead, be used, in accordance with People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 (2006) and A.M. No. 04-11-09-SC dated September 19, 2006.cralawnad

5 As culled from the CA’s Decision dated January 28, 2011 and RTC’s Decision dated June 20, 2002; rollo, pp. 4-16 and CA rollo, pp. 26-41.cralawnad

6 Id.cralawnad

7 Id.cralawnad

8 CA rollo, p. 7.cralawnad

9 Id. at 26-41.cralawnad

10 Id. at 41.cralawnad

11 Id. at 106-122.cralawnad

12 G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.cralawnad

13 CA rollo, p. 164.cralawnad

14Rollo, pp. 4-16.cralawnad

15 Id. at 16.cralawnad

16 Id. at 24-25.cralawnad

17 Id. at 26-27 and 29-30.cralawnad

18 REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 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 circumstances:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

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

c) By means of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority; and

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.
19People v. Mirandilla, Jr., G.R. No. 186417, July 27, 2011, 654 SCRA 761, 772.cralawnad

20 Id. at 771-772.cralawnad

21 CA rollo, p. 33.cralawnad

22 Id. at 34.cralawnad

23 Id. at 33-34.cralawnad

24People v. Baldo, G.R. No. 175238, February 24, 2009, 580 SCRA 225, 232.cralawnad

25 Id. at 233.cralawnad

26 Id.cralawnad

27People v. Olesco, G.R. No. 174861, April 11, 2011, 647 SCRA 461, 469.cralawnad

28People v. Buban, G.R. No. 172710, October 9, 2009, 603 SCRA 205, 223-224.cralawnad

29People v. Delos Reyes, G.R. No. 177357, October 17, 2012, 684 SCRA 260, 279.cralawnad

30 CA rollo, p. 31.cralawnad

31 G.R. No. 194259, March 16, 2011, 645 SCRA 658.cralawnad

32 Id. at 669.cralawnad

33 Supra note 28, at 225.cralawnad

34People v. Dumadag, G.R. No. 176740, June 22, 2011, 652 SCRA 535, 544.cralawnad

35 Id. at 543.cralawnad

36 Supra note 27, at 469-470, citing People v. Magbanua, G.R. No. 176265, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 698, 704.cralawnad

37 Supra note 34, at 543-544.cralawnad

38 Id. at 544.cralawnad

39 Supra note 19, at 769.cralawnad

40 CA rollo, pp. 40-41.cralawnad

41People v. Sabadlab, G.R. No. 175924, March 14, 2012, 668 SCRA 237, 249.cralawnad

42 See People of the Philippines v. Dante Dejillo and Gervacio “Dongkoy” Hoyle, Jr., G.R. No. 185005, December 10, 2012.cralawnad

43People v. Tejero, G.R. No. 187744, June 20, 2012, 674 SCRA 244, 259-260.cralawnad

44 Id. at 259.cralawnad

45People of the Philippines v. Rogelio Abrencillo, G.R. No. 183100, November 28, 2012.cralawnad

46 See People v. Combate, G.R. No. 189301, December 15, 2010, 638 SCRA 797, 823.cralawnad

47 Supra note 43, at 260.
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