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G.R. No. 196435, January 29, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOEL CRISOSTOMO Y MALLIAR, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 196435, January 29, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOEL CRISOSTOMO Y MALLIAR, Accused-Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 196435, January 29, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. JOEL CRISOSTOMO Y MALLIAR,[1] Accused–Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

“[T]he trial court’s evaluation of the credibility of the witnesses is entitled to the highest respect absent a showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would affect the result of the case.”2

On appeal is the October 22, 2010 Decision3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA–G.R. CR–H.C. No. 03832 which affirmed with modification the July 3, 2008 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Antipolo City, Branch 73 finding appellant Joel Crisostomo y Malliar guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of rape by sexual assault and one count of statutory rape.

In three separate Informations,5 appellant was charged with rape committed as follows:

Criminal Case No. 99–16235 (Rape by Sexual Assault)

That, on or about the 8th day of April, 1999, in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, with lewd designs, did then and there commit an act of sexual assault by using a lighted cigarette as an instrument or object and [inserting] the same into the genital orifice of  “AAA,”6 a minor who is six (6) years of age, thereby causing the labia majora of the vagina of said minor to suffer a third degree burn, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

Criminal Case No. 99–16236 (Rape by Sexual Assault)

That, on or about the 8th day of April, 1999, in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, with lewd designs, did then and there commit an act of sexual assault by using a lighted cigarette as an instrument or object and [inserting] the same into the anal orifice of  “AAA”, a minor who is six (6) years of age, thereby causing the perianal region of the said anal orifice of said minor to suffer a third degree burn, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

Criminal Case No. 99–16237 (Statutory Rape)

That, on or about the 8th day of April, 1999, in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, with lewd designs and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge [of]   “AAA”, a minor who is six (6) years of age; that on the same occasion that the Accused raped said minor, the accused did, then and there burn her buttocks by the use of a lighted cigarette, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

When arraigned on January 9, 2001, appellant pleaded not guilty.7   Pre–trial conference was terminated upon agreement of the parties. Trial on the merits ensued.

Factual Antecedents

The facts as summarized by the RTC, are as follows:

The victim in these cases[,] “AAA[,]” testified that at noon time of April 8, 1999, she was x x x playing x x x with her playmates whereupon she wandered by the house of accused which x x x was just below their house.  “AAA” clarified during her cross–examination that there was a vulcanizing shop owned by her father located in their house x x x and where accused was employed.  While “AAA” was at the house of accused, she claimed that her genitals and buttocks were burned with a lighted cigarette by the said accused.  “AAA” testified further that her clothes were taken off by the same accused who also took his clothes off after which he allegedly placed himself on top of her, inserted his penis and proceeded to have illicit carnal knowledge [of] the then six (6) year old girl. (TSN May 29, 2001, pp. 5–9; TSN Aug. 7, 2001, pp. 10–12.)

“BBB,” father of “AAA,” presented in court his daughter’s birth certificate (Exhibit “B”) which stated that she was born on April 4, 1993 (TSN Sept. 25, 2001, p. 4).  On the other hand, Dr. Emmanuel Reyes the Medico–Legal Officer who examined “AAA” identified his Medico–Legal Report (Exhibit “M”) and testified that the victim indeed had two (2) third degree burns in the perianal region.  Dr. Reyes testified that it was possible that the said burns were caused by a lighted cigarette stick being forced on the victim’s skin.  Moreover, Dr. Reyes confirmed that there was a loss of virginity on the part of the victim and that the same could have been done 24 hours from the time of his examination which was also on April 8, 1999. (TSN Nov. 7, 2001 pp. 11–17)

“CCC” [aunt of “AAA”] testified that x x x she x x x assisted the mother of “AAA” in bringing the victim to the Pasig General Hospital and thereafter to Camp Crame where a doctor also examined “AAA” and confirmed that the latter was indeed a victim of rape.  “CCC” testified that they then proceeded to the Women’s [D]esk to file the instant complaint against the accused. (TSN August 5, 2003 pp. 4–8)

On the other hand, [a]ccused denied the allegation of rape against him.  Accused presented his brother–in–law Rogelio Oletin who testified that he was tending the store located at the house of accused when the latter supposedly arrived from work at 10:00 [a.m.] of April 8, 1999 and slept until 5:00 [p.m.] of the same day.  According to Rogelio that is the usual routine of accused as the latter worked in the night shift schedule as vulcanizer in the vulcanizing shop owned by the victim’s father. (TSN February 3, 2006 pp. 6–8)

When accused testified on November 17, 2006, he essentially confirmed the testimony of his brother–in–law that it was impossible for him to have raped “AAA” on the date and time stated in the information as his night shift work schedule just would not permit such an incident to occur.  Accused added that he knew of no reason why the family of the private complainant would pin the crime against him. (TSN Nov. 17, 2006 pp. 9–11 & 14)

In an effort to explain the burn marks on the delicate parts of “AAA’s” body, the defense presented a supposed playmate of “AAA” in the person of Mary Pabuayan.  According to Mary, she was then 7 years old when she and two other playmates together with “AAA” and Joel [“]Liit[”] the son of accused were burning worms near a santol tree in their neighborhood on a Good Friday in the year 1999.  This Joel [“]Liit[”] supposedly lighted a straw which inadvertently burned the anal portion of “AAA’s” body.  Mary’s exact words were to the effect that “napatakan ang puwit ni “AAA”.”8ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

On July 3, 2008, the RTC rendered its Decision finding appellant guilty of three counts of rape, viz:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused Joel Crisostomo y Malliar is found GUILTY of all offenses stated in the three (3) Criminal Informations and is hereby sentenced to the following:

a)  In Criminal Information # 99–16235 and Criminal Information # 99–16236, accused is to suffer the Indeterminate Penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of Reclusion Temporal as maximum and is ordered to pay the victim “AAA” civil indemnity of P30,000.00, moral damages of P30,000.00 and exemplary damages of P15,000.00 for each of the two Criminal Informations.

b)  In Criminal Information # 99–16237, accused is to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and is ordered to pay the victim civil indemnity of P75,000.00, moral damages of P50,000.00 and exemplary damages of P30,000.00 with cost [of] suit for all Criminal Informations.

SO ORDERED.9

Aggrieved, appellant filed a Notice of Appeal10 which was given due course by the trial court in its Order11 dated February 2, 2009.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In his Brief filed before the CA, appellant raised the following assignment of error:

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED–APPELLANT GUILTY FOR THE CRIME OF RAPE (ARTICLE 266–A PAR. 1 AND ART. 267–B, PAR. 7 IN RELATION TO R.A. NO. 7610) DESPITE THE PROSECUTION’S FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.12

Appellant claimed that the trial court gravely erred when it lent full credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.  In particular, appellant insisted that the trial court erred in finding “AAA’s” testimony credible considering that she was unsure whether a match, rod or a cigarette stick, was used in burning her private parts.13   Appellant argued that “AAA” never showed signs of shock, distress, or anxiety despite her alleged traumatic experience.14   Appellant also alleged that “CCC’s” testimony should be disregarded as she was not even present when the rape incidents happened.15   He opined that “CCC” influenced her niece, “AAA,” to file the suit against him which bespoke of ill–motive on her part.  Appellant concluded that these “inconsistencies and contradictions” are enough to set aside the verdict of conviction imposed upon by the RTC.16

However, the CA gave short shrift to appellant’s arguments. The CA rendered its Decision disposing as follows:

ACCORDINGLY, the instant appeal is DISMISSED.  The assailed July 3, 2008 Decision is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION as to the penalties imposed, and to be read thus:

“1.  For Criminal Case Nos. 99–16235 and 99–16236, Joel Crisostomo is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from ten17 (8) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of Reclusion Temporal, as maximum, and ordered to pay AAA Thirty Thousand pesos (P30,000.00) as civil indemnity, Thirty Thousand pesos (P30,000.00) as moral damages, and Fifteen Thousand pesos (P15,000.00) as exemplary damages, all for each count of rape by sexual assault; and

(2)  For Criminal Case No. 99–16237, Joel Crisostomo is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua without eligibility of parole, and ordered to pay AAA Seventy–Five Thousand pesos (P75,000.00) as civil indemnity, Fifty Thousand pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages, and Thirty Thousand pesos (P30,000.00) as exemplary damages, and all the costs of suit.”

SO ORDERED.18

Hence, this appeal19 which the CA gave due course in its Resolution20 of January 6, 2011.  In a Resolution21 dated June 15, 2011, this Court required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs. In its Manifestation and Motion,22 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) informed this Court that it will no longer file a Supplemental Brief because it had already exhaustively discussed and refuted all the arguments of the appellant in its brief filed before the CA.  Appellant likewise filed a Manifestation In Lieu of Supplemental Brief23 praying that the case be deemed submitted for decision based on the pleadings submitted.

Our Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

The RTC, as affirmed by the CA, correctly found appellant guilty of two counts of rape by sexual assault and one count of rape by sexual intercourse.  Article 266–A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides:

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:
  1. Through force, threat or intimidation;
  2. When the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious;
  3. By means of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority;
  4.  When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above should be present;
2. By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an act of sexual assault by inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person.  (Emphases supplied)

When the offended party is under 12 years of age, the crime committed is “termed statutory rape as it departs from the usual modes of committing rape.  What the law punishes is carnal knowledge of a woman below 12 years of age.  Thus, the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place.  The law presumes that the victim does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years.”24 In this case, the prosecution satisfactorily established all the elements of statutory rape.  “AAA” testified that on April 8, 1999, appellant took off her clothes and made her lie down.  Appellant also removed his clothes, placed himself on top of “AAA,” inserted his penis into her vagina, and proceeded to have carnal knowledge of her.  At the time of the rape, “AAA” was only six years of age.  Her birth certificate showed that she was born on April 4, 1993.  “AAA’s” testimony was corroborated by Dr. Emmanuel Reyes who found “AAA” to have fresh and bleeding hymenal lacerations.

Likewise, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt appellant’s guilt for two counts of rape by sexual assault.  Records show that appellant inserted a lit cigarette stick into “AAA’s” genital orifice causing her labia majora to suffer a 3rd degree burn.  Appellant likewise inserted a lit cigarette stick into “AAA’s” anal orifice causing 3rd degree burns in her perianal region.

We agree with the CA that “AAA’s” “uncertainty” on whether it was a match, rod or a cigarette stick that was inserted into her private parts, did not lessen her credibility.  Such “uncertainty” is so inconsequential and does not diminish the fact that an instrument or object was inserted into her private parts.  This is the essence of rape by sexual assault.   “[T]he gravamen of the crime of rape by sexual assault x x x is the insertion of the penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into another person’s genital or anal orifice.”25   In any event, “inconsistencies in a rape victim’s testimony do not impair her credibility, especially if the inconsistencies refer to trivial matters that do not alter the essential fact of the commission of rape.”26   We also held in People v. Piosang27 that –

“[t]estimonies of child–victims are normally given full weight and credit, since when a girl, particularly if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has in fact been committed.  When the offended party is of tender age and immature, courts are inclined to give credit to her account of what transpired, considering not only her relative vulnerability but also the shame to which she would be exposed if the matter to which she testified is not true.  Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity.  Considering her tender age, AAA could not have invented a horrible story. x x x ”

Moreover, appellant’s argument that “AAA” did not manifest any stress or anxiety considering her traumatic experience is purely speculative and bereft of any legal basis.  Besides, it is settled that people react differently when confronted with a startling experience.  There is no standard behavioral response when one is confronted with a traumatic experience.  Some may show signs of stress; but others may act nonchalantly.  Nevertheless, “AAA’s” reaction does not in any way prove the innocence of appellant. As correctly pointed out by the OSG, regardless of “AAA’s” reactions, it did not diminish the fact that she was raped by appellant or that a crime was committed.28

We also agree with the CA that “CCC’s” efforts to hale appellant to the court should not be equated with ill–motive on her part.  On the contrary, we find “CCC’s” efforts to seek justice for her niece who was raped more in accord with the norms of society.  At any rate, even if we disregard “CCC’s” testimony, appellant’s conviction would still stand.  We agree with the observation of the OSG that “CCC’s” “testimony actually had no great impact on the case.  In truth, her testimony [was] composed mainly of the fact that she was the one who accompanied the mother of “AAA” in bringing “AAA” to the Pasig General Hospital and thereafter to Camp Crame and later on to the Women’s desk.”29

On the other hand, appellant’s alibi and denial are weak defenses especially when weighed against “AAA’s” positive identification of him as the malefactor.  Appellant did not even attempt to show that it was physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time of its commission.  In fact, he admitted that he lived just four houses away from the house of “AAA”.  His denial is also unsubstantiated hence the same is self–serving and deserves no consideration or weight.  The RTC properly disregarded the testimony of Rogelio Oletin (Oletin), appellant’s brother–in–law, who claimed that appellant was at his house at the time of the incident.  As appellant already admitted, his house is near the house of “AAA” hence there was no physical impossibility for him to be present at the crime scene.  Also, the RTC observed that Oletin’s testimony did not “prove beneficial to the defense.  Suffice it to state that the private prosecutor correctly noted that the said witness was always smiling and laughing when answering questions propounded to him as if making a mockery of the proceedings which his own brother–in–law was facing.”30

Pursuant to Article 266–B of the RPC, the penalty for statutory rape (Criminal Case No. 99–16237) is death when the victim is a child below seven years old.  There is no dispute that at the time the rape was committed on April 8, 1999, “AAA” was only six years old, having been born on April 4, 1993.  However, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346,31 the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be imposed on the appellant but without eligibility for parole.32   The CA thus correctly imposed the said penalty on appellant.

On the other hand, rape by sexual assault committed against a child below seven years old is punishable by reclusion temporal.33 Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and there being no other aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the proper imposable penalty shall be prision mayor34 as minimum, to reclusion temporal,35 as maximum.  The CA thus correctly imposed the penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum, for each count of sexual assault.

As regards damages, the CA correctly awarded the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages in  Criminal Case No. 99–16237 (statutory rape).  However, the award of moral damages must be increased to P75,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence.36 As regards Criminal Case No. 99–16235 and Criminal Case No. 99–16236 (rape by sexual assault), the CA likewise properly awarded the amounts of P30,000.00 as civil indemnity and  P30,000.00 as moral damages, for each count.  However, the award of exemplary damages for each count of rape by sexual assault must be increased to P30,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence.37 In addition, all damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of judgment until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The October 22, 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA–G.R. CR–H.C. No. 03832 which affirmed with modification the July 3, 2008 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 73 finding appellant Joel Crisostomo y Malliar guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of rape by sexual assault and one count of statutory rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS that the award of moral damages in Criminal Case No. 99–16237 (statutory rape) is increased to P75,000.00 and the award of exemplary damages in Criminal Case No. 99–16235 and Criminal Case No. 99–16236 (rape by sexual assault) is increased to P30,000.00 for each count.  In addition, interest is imposed on all damages awarded at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of judgment until fully paid.ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, Chairperson, Brion, Del Castillo, Perez, and Perlas–Bernabe, JJ. concur.


Endnotes:


1 Also spelled as “Mallar” or “Maliar” in some parts of the records.

2People v. Cruz, G.R. No. 201728, July 17, 2013.

3 CA rollo, pp. 92–106; penned by Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso and concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco P. Acosta and Samuel H. Gaerlan.

4 Records, pp. 338–341; penned by Judge Ronaldo B. Martin.

5 Id. at 1, 33 and 65.

6 “The real names of the victim and of the members of her immediate family are withheld pursuant to Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) and Republic Act No. 9262 (Anti–Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.)”  People v. Teodoro, G.R. No. 175876, February 20, 2013, 691 SCRA 324, 326.

7 Records, p. 179.

8 Id. at 339–340.

9 Id. at 341.

10 Id. at 344.

11 Id. at 345.

12 CA rollo, p. 39.

13 Id. at 45.

14 Id. at 46.

15 Id.

16 Id. at 47.

17 Should read as “eight” considering the intent of the CA to modify the penalty imposed by the RTC.

18 CA rollo, pp. 105–106.

19 Id. at 109.

20 Id. at 117.

21Rollo, p. 22.

22 Id. at 24–27.

23 Id. at 36–39.

24People v. Dollano, Jr., G.R. No. 188851, October 19, 2011, 659 SCRA 740, 753.

25Pielago v. People, G.R. No. 202020, March 13, 2013.

26People v. Zafra, G.R. No. 197363, June 26, 2013.

27 G.R. No. 200329, June 5, 2013.

28 CA rollo, pp. 73–74.

29 Id. at 75–76.

30 Records, p. 340.

31 AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES.  Approved June 24, 2006.

32 REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9346, Sec. 3.

33 REVISED PENAL CODE, Art. 266–B.

34 Prision Mayor – 6 years and 1 day to 12 years
Minimum – 6 years and 1 day to 8 years
Medium – 8 years and 1 day to 10 years
Maximum – 10 years and 1 day to 12 years
35 Reclusion Temporal – 12 years and 1 day to 20 years
Minimum – 12 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months
Medium – 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months
Maximum – 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years
36People v. Suansing, G.R. No. 189822, September 2, 2013.

37 People v. Lomaque, G.R. No. 189297, June 5, 2013; Pielago v. People, supra note 25.
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