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G.R. No. 191390, April 02, 2014 - THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. JOEL DIOQUINO Y GARBIN, Accused–Appellant.

G.R. No. 191390, April 02, 2014 - THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. JOEL DIOQUINO Y GARBIN, Accused–Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 191390, April 02, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. JOEL DIOQUINO Y GARBIN, Accused–Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

On appeal is the October 15, 2009 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which affirmed the June 18, 2007 Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 55 of Irosin, Sorsogon, convicting appellant of seven counts of simple rape of 17– year–old minor ABC.3

Appellant was charged with eight counts of rape allegedly committed as follows:

Criminal Case No. 1390

That on or about the 31st day of July, 1999, at barangay Gadgaron, municipality of Matnog, province of Sorsogon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have carnal knowledge with one [ABC], a minor, against her will and without her consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

Criminal Case No. 1391

That during the period from August 1, 1999, up to August 16, of the same year, at barangay Gadgaron, municipality of Matnog, province of Sorsogon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have carnal knowledge with one [ABC], a minor, for seven (7) consecutive times, against her will and without her consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.5

Upon arraignment, appellant entered a plea of not guilty to all the charges as stated in the informations.  Trial ensued.

The trial court summarized the prosecution evidence as follows:

On July 31, 1999, at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, [ABC] went to Caloocan, Matnog, Sorsogon to attend the Induction Ceremony of the officers of the Student Council of Matnog National High School.  After the induction, there was a dance which she also attended.  Accused Joel Dioquino also attended the dance.  She finally decided to go home at 2:00 o’clock in the morning of August 1, 1999. (TSN, p. 4, May 4, 2000 & TSN, p. 2, Aug. 16, 2000).  She left the dance alone while the rest of the students coming from their place remained. (TSN, p. 3, Aug. 16, 2000)  She was on her way home when she noticed the accused standing along the road. x x x  Thereafter, near a coconut tree not far from the house of Adelina Garofil, the accused surprised her.  (TSN, p. 4, August 16, 2000).  The accused was not wearing [a] shirt at that time.  Upon seeing him half–naked, she felt afraid and she decided to move back.  However, she was not able to run away because as she was turning back, he held her by her shoulders.  She was not able to cry for help.  (TSN, pp. 6–8, ibid).  The accused boxed her on the stomach and she fell on the ground.  He gave her another blow on her stomach and she lost her consciousness.  When she came back to her senses, she found herself lying on the same place where the accused boxed her.  (TSN, p. 5, May 4, 2000).  Her pants and underwear were pulled down to her knees while her blouse was pulled up to her breasts.  She found the accused on top of her.  (TSN, p. 9, August 16, 2000)  He was naked.  His penis was still inside her vagina.  She boxed him and pinched him then she pushed him away from her.  She put on her clothes immediately and she started to run away.  But the accused was faster than her.  He was able to catch up with her and as soon as he got hold of her, he embraced and kissed her.  She tried to prevent another sexual assault by biting the accused on his right neck.  She has successfully detached herself from him.  Then, she ran towards home.  (TSN, p. 6, ibid).  Upon reaching home, she cried and rested inside her room.  At that time, only her little brothers and sisters were in their house.  (TSN, p. 7, ibid).

The second incident happened on August 2, 1999.  At around 6:00 o’clock in the evening, she delivered some goods to her mother’s store at the Matnog pier.  (TSN, p. 7, ibid).  She stayed there for about two (2) hours.  On her way home, the accused waylaid her again near the house of Adelina Garofil.  He boxed her twice on her stomach.  She fell down and lost her consciousness.  (TSN, p. 11, August 16, 2000)  When she came back to her senses, she found the accused naked on top of her with his penis still inserted inside her vagina. (TSN, p. 9, May 4, 2000).  Her shirt was pulled up to her shoulders and her pants and underwear were pulled down to her knees.  (TSN, p. 12, August 16, 2000).  He was moving his body on top of her and remained on that position for about 5 to 7 minutes after she has regained consciousness.  He was able to consummate his sexual desire with her.  She said she knew he was able to consummate because he stopped moving.  (TSN, p. 14, ibid).  She felt the same pains the way she has experienced during the first. (TSN, p. 15, ibid).  She pinched him and pushed him away from her.  She tried to put on her pants but the accused embraced her.  Then she pushed him again and ran towards home.  (TSN, p. 9, May 4, 2000).  Upon reaching home, she found her brothers and sisters already asleep.  Her parents were not around – her mother was at the Matnog pier selling goods while her father was in Manila.  And like what she did during the first time, she entered her room and slept. (TSN, p. 10, ibid).

On August 3, 1999, at about 7:00 o’clock in the evening, she came back to her mother’s store at the Matnog pier and just stayed there for a while. (TSN, p. 10, ibid).  On her way home, she noticed the accused on the same place as before – near the house of Adelina Garofil.  Upon seeing him, she took another path but the accused pursued her and was able to catch–up with her.  He boxed her on her back.  She fell down on the ground and then he pulled her up and slapped her.  (TSN, p. 11, ibid).  Thereafter, he removed her clothes.  He embraced her and removed her pants.  She tried to resist but she was overpowered by his strength.  Then he boxed her again.  She fell down and lost her consciousness.  When she regained her senses, she found him on top of her.  The place was a nipa plantation in Gadgaron, Matnog, Sorsogon.  She boxed him and asked him why he always does the same thing to her over and over again but he just smiled.  (TSN, p. 12, ibid).  Then he spanked her and warned her not to tell the incident to her mother, otherwise, he would kill them.  She noticed that his eyes were red.  She got scared.  When she got home, she did not tell her harrowing experience to anybody because of fear. (TSN, p. 13–14, ibid).

On August 4, 1999, she was visited at their house by his cousin [CCC].  At around 7:00 o’clock in the evening, [CCC] asked her to accompany him to the street going to his house because he was afraid to go alone.  [ABC] just accompanied [CCC] up to the road.  After [CCC] left, Joel Dioquino called her.  (TSN, p. 14, ibid).  She walked away but he pursued her, grabbed her by her collar and told her that she ought to go with him.  She protested but he insisted.  Joel brought her to a deserted police detachment.  (TSN, p. 15, ibid).  At the back of the detachment was the house of Oya Ading (Adelina Garofil) and x x x which was just about 15 to 20 meters away.  The accused pulled her inside the dilapidated detachment, boxed her and pushed her against the wall.  (TSN, p. 16, ibid).  Then he kissed her and removed her pants.  He held her by her shoulders and laid her down.  Then he mounted on top of her.  When she cried, he slapped her and boxed her on her stomach and she did not know what happened next.  (TSN, p. 17, ibid).  When she regained her consciousness, she found Joel Dioquino on top of her, his penis was still inside her vagina.  She pinched and pushed him.  He retaliated – he slapped her and pushed her outside the detachment.  Then she left running towards home. (TSN, p. 18, ibid).

On August 5, 1999 at around 6:00 o’clock in the evening, as she was getting the laundry from the house of her Kuya [DDD] which was about 4 to 5 meters away from her house, the accused arrived.  Upon seeing the accused, she entered the house and closed the door.  At that time, nobody was inside the house of her Kuya [DDD].  (TSN, p. 19 & 23, ibid.)  The accused pushed the door and went inside.  Then he held her by his left hand and suddenly pushed her against the wall.  He raised her clothes and kissed her breasts.  (TSN, p. 20, ibid).  He opened her shorts and laid her down.  Then he mounted on top of her and kept on kissing her breasts going downward.  Thereafter, he inserted his penis inside her vagina.  She tried to push him away but he held her by her throat.  She bit him and she was released.  Then she boxed him on his chest and tried to leave. (TSN, p. 21, ibid).  He was able to grab her by her arms but she kicked him.  As soon as she was extricated, she gathered the clothes which were scattered on the ground.  The accused left the house.  She just stayed sitting there for a while reflecting on whether she would make a revelation of what the accused was doing to her.  But she was overcome by her fears.  She was afraid that Joel Dioquino might kill them.  So she decided to keep the matter in secret.  (TSN, p. 22, ibid).

x x x x

On August 7, 1999, at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening, Joel Dioquino waylaid her again on the same place – x x x Gadgaron, Matnog, Sorsogon.  He boxed her once and she fell down. (TSN, p. 2, ibid).  He gave her another blow and she fainted.  When she regained consciousness, he was already naked and on top of her.  She felt his penis inside her vagina.  She pushed and bit him.  He requited by slapping her.  She went home running. (TSN, p. 3, ibid).

At around 9:00 o’clock in the evening of August 8, 1999, the accused waylaid her on the same place.  (TSN, p. 4, ibid).  He brought her to a welding shop.  Nobody was around.  He pushed her inside and boxed her twice on her stomach and consequently, she fainted.  When she regained her consciousness, the accused was still on top of her.  (TSN, p. 5, ibid).  He was naked and his penis was still inside her vagina.  She pushed him and she ran away while pulling up her pants.  The accused ran after her and captured her.  Then he held her hands and kept on kissing her.  She pushed and bit him and he fell on the fishpond.  Subsequently, she ran towards her house and hid inside her room. (TSN, p. 6–7, ibid).

x x x x

In the noon of August 16, 1999, while she was watching TV at the house of Oya Lazara, the accused hastily appeared.  As soon as he arrived, he placed his hands inside the neckline of her T–shirt extending to her breasts.  Then he told her, “Come with me.”  She refused and asked for help from Oya Lazara who was then sewing around.  Oya admonished Joel not to persist on his plan but Joel answered back, “You have no business to interfere.”  Then Joel pulled and dragged her going to his house which was about 50 to 60 meters away.  As soon as they arrived, he pushed her inside the house.  (TSN, p. 9, ibid).  She begged for help from Joel’s brothers but they did not heed.  Then Joel brought her by tricycle to Naburakan.  He introduced her to his relatives in Naburakan to be his wife.  She protested to the introduction and even showed to his relatives the marks on her body showing that she was just forced by Joel (TSN, p. 10, ibid) but they just ignored her.  (TSN, p. 11, ibid).  In Naburakan, Joel Dioquino and the Barangay Captain of the place made her sign, against her will, a handwritten sworn statement that she voluntarily went with Joel because they were lovers.  The handwritten statement was personally prepared by the Barangay Captain who was Joel’s uncle.  (TSN, p. 12, ibid).  At 10:00 o’clock in the evening, Joel’s father fetched them and they were brought to the police station in the Municipal Building of Matnog where she was investigated by the police.  They asked her whether she voluntarily went with Joel.  Before she could answer, Joel kicked her feet as if suggesting to her that she should answer positively the question. (TSN, p. 11, ibid).  Accordingly, she answered “Yes.”  She never had the courage to tell them that it was not voluntary on her part because she was at that time surrounded by the police and the relatives of the accused.  Her parents were not around during the investigation. (TSN, p. 12, ibid).

x x x x

ROSANNA B. GALERIA, 36 years old, married, Municipal Health Officer of RHU–Matnog and residing at Matnog, Sorsogon was presented by the prosecution for the purpose of explaining in open court her findings on the Medical Examination she conducted on [ABC]. (TSN, p. 2, December 13, 2000).

The good doctor noted that the abrasions on the chest of the victim were probably caused by fingernails scratches which could have been inflicted within twenty–four hours while the hematoma on her abdomen might have been inflicted within 12 to 36 hours from the time of the examination.  (TSN, pp. 6–7, ibid).  The 3 x 3 hematoma was probably caused by just a slight fist blow on the left part of the body of the victim. (TSN, p. 13, ibid).  She further noted that the lacerations at 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions in the gen[i]talia of the victim might have been caused by penetration.  She claimed that the victim was crying when she conducted the examination and claiming that the accused was not her boyfriend. (TSN, p. 8, ibid).6

On the other hand, appellant presented the sweetheart defense, as summarized by the CA:

Claiming to be ABC’s boyfriend, appellant took the witness stand and asserted that the alleged rapes complained against [him] were, in reality, the [mutual] acts of young lovers.  Having made love to said minor two months after she became his girlfriend, appellant [claimed] that he engaged in a string of consensual sexual encounters with ABC, with whom he eloped on August 19, 1999, at her suggestion. [They initially hid] in appellant’s house, [then] proceeded to Nabucaran, Matnog, Sorsogon, where his aunt, Rosalinda Galan, accompanied them to her brother, Jesus Garbin, [who was] then the Barangay Chairman of said locality. At the barangay hall [Jesus Garbin] prepared a handwritten document whereby ABC, by thereto affixing her signature, acknowledged the voluntariness of her elopement with appellant. Threatened with the complaint for abduction which had been, in the meantime, filed by ABC’s mother, the lovers were fetched by appellant’s parents and brought back to Barangay Gadgaron. Despite ABC’s affirmance of her free will x x x before SPO2 Romeo Gallinera, said minor’s mother purportedly concocted the rape charges [against him] because she disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with appellant.7

The RTC found appellant guilty of seven counts of rape and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua for each count.  The RTC further ordered appellant to indemnify ABC in the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as moral damages and to pay the costs.8  The RTC gave credence to ABC’s testimony which was characterized as candid, straightforward, and credible.  The medical findings that ABC suffered abrasions on her chest, hematomas on her abdomen and hymenal lacerations on her genitalia at the 3, 4, and 9 o’clock positions gave further credence to ABC’s testimony that the sexual intercourse were done with force and without her consent.  Also, the fact that ABC did not have the courage to immediately tell her parents or the police about the rape was satisfactorily explained by her.  The RTC noted that appellant successfully instilled fear upon ABC with his threat to kill ABC and her family if she told anyone about the rapes.  ABC was only with her young siblings at home since her mother was always at the pier of Matnog selling goods and her father was in Manila.9

The RTC did not give any credence to appellant’s sweetheart defense for it was admittedly not supported by any evidence of their relationship. Moreover, the existence of force and intimidation was proven by the prosecution for each of the times appellant had carnal knowledge of ABC.  ABC also satisfactorily explained that she did not voluntarily sign the document she signed before appellant’s uncle, and the positive answer she gave to the police when she was asked if she went voluntarily with appellant was not voluntary since she was surrounded by the police and appellant’s relatives at the time and her parents were not around during the police investigation.10

The CA, as aforesaid, affirmed appellant’s conviction for seven counts of rape but modified the monetary damages awarded.  It directed appellant to pay ABC P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as moral damages for each count of rape.  The CA agreed with the RTC that ABC’s testimony was candid, straightforward, and credible. In trying to impute ill motive on ABC’s testimony, appellant claimed that ABC’s mother concocted the rape charges because she disapproved of their relationship.  However, this self–serving assertion was easily debunked by his own witness, Manuel Gamit, the Barangay Chairman of Gadgaron, Matnog, Sorsogon, who testified that he helped pacify appellant who threw an uncontrollable fit because ABC’s parents were forcing him to marry their daughter.  The CA added that appellant failed to prove that they were really lovers. ABC’s supposed acknowledgment of elopement contained in a handwritten document made by appellant’s own uncle and her affirmative answer to the police investigator’s question whether she went with appellant voluntarily cannot be taken as evidence of existing relationship between ABC and appellant.  The CA held that the extra–judicial admissions, made in the absence of ABC’s parents and in the presence of appellant’s relatives and police, if given any evidentiary value at all, merely prove that she went with appellant voluntarily but does not disprove the rape.

Hence, this appeal raising the sole issue of ABC’s credibility.

The Court finds the appeal without merit.

In resolving issues pertaining to the credibility of the witnesses, this Court is guided by the following principles: (1) the reviewing court will not disturb the findings of the lower courts, unless there is a showing that the lower courts overlooked or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that may affect the result of the case; (2) the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to great respect and even finality, as it had the opportunity to examine their demeanor when they testified on the witness stand; and (3) a witness who testifies in a clear, positive and convincing manner is a credible witness.11

The trial judge, who had the opportunity of observing ABC’s manner and demeanor on the witness stand, was convinced of her credibility: “The very candid, straightforward and credible testimony of the child victim narrates with clarity and credence how on several occasions she was sexually abused by her classmate–herein accused.”12  More importantly, she remained consistent in the midst of gruelling cross examination. The defense lawyer tried to impeach her testimony but failed to do so.  We emphasize that a trial court’s assessment of a witness’ credibility, when affirmed by the CA, is even conclusive and binding, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight or influence.13  None of the recognized exceptions justifying a reversal of the assailed Decision obtains in this instance.

Furthermore, appellant’s bare invocation of the sweetheart theory cannot stand.  To be credible, the sweetheart theory must be corroborated by documentary, testimonial, or other evidence.14  Usually, these are letters, notes, photos, mementos, or credible testimonies of those who know the lovers.15  Appellant’s defense admittedly lacks these pieces of evidence.  In adopting the sweetheart theory as a defense, however, he necessarily admitted carnal knowledge of ABC, the first element of rape.  This admission makes the sweetheart theory more difficult to defend, for it is not only an affirmative defense that needs convincing proof, but also after the prosecution has successfully established a prima facie case, the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused, who has to adduce evidence that the intercourse was consensual.16  No such evidence was presented to show that the several episodes of sexual intercourse were consensual.  The medical examination done on ABC debunks any claim of appellant that he did not force himself upon ABC.

Appellant also cannot benefit from the so–called acknowledgment executed by ABC that she voluntarily went with him considering the circumstances surrounding its execution.  We note that the RTC and CA correctly considered that the acknowledgment was written by the Barangay Captain who happened to be appellant’s uncle and the acknowledgment was made without the participation of ABC and her parents.  Also, only appellant’s relatives were present during the execution of the document and during the initial police investigation wherein she was instructed to tell the police that she went with appellant voluntarily.  In any event, as observed by the CA, even if the Court gives evidentiary weight to the document, such does not disprove rape.

As to the award of damages, the Court affirms the grant by the CA to ABC of  P50,000 civil indemnity and P50,000 moral damages for each count of rape as it is in accord with prevailing jurisprudence.17  However, as a public example, to protect hapless individuals from molestation, we decree an award of exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000 in line with People v. Pabol.18  Interest at the rate of 6% per annum should likewise be imposed on all damages awarded in this case reckoned from the date of finality of this decision until fully paid.19

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated October 15, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA–G.R. CR–H.C. No. 02990 is AFFIRMED.  Appellant is further ordered to pay the private offended party exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.  Interest at the rate of 6% per annum is likewise hereby imposed on all damages awarded in this case reckoned from the date of the finality of this decision until fully paid.

With cost against the appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo–De Castro, Bersamin, and Reyes, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:


1Rollo, pp. 2–23.  Penned by Associate Justice Rebecca De Guia–Salvador with Associate Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Mario V. Lopez concurring. The assailed decision was rendered in CA–G.R. CR–H.C. No. 02990.

2 CA rollo, pp. 30–67. Penned by Judge Adolfo G. Fajardo in Criminal Case Nos.  1390–1391.

3 The victim’s real name and other personal circumstances are withheld per People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703, 709 (2006).

4 Records (Crim. Case No. 1390), p. 1.

5 Records (Crim. Case No. 1391), p. 1.

6 CA rollo, pp. 33–36.

7 Rollo, pp. 8–9.

8 CA rollo, p. 67.

9 Id. at 63–64.

10 Id. at 64–65.

11People v. Mirandilla, Jr., G.R. No. 186417, July 27, 2011, 654 SCRA 761, 771, citing Estioca v. People, 578 Phil. 853, 864 (2008).

12 CA rollo, p. 40.

13Soriano v. People, 579 Phil. 83, 97 (2008).

14 People v. Nogpo, Jr., G.R. No. 184791, April 16, 2009, 585 SCRA 725, 743.

15People v. Mirandilla, Jr., supra note 11, at 771–772, citing People v. Jimenez, 362 Phil. 222, 233 (1999).

16 People v. Mirandilla, Jr., id. at 772, citing People v. Ayuda, 459 Phil. 173, 184 (2003); C.J.S. 32–A, § 1016, p. 626; and People v. Nogpo, Jr., supra note 14, at 742.

17People v. Bang–ayan, 534 Phil. 70, 83 (2006).

18 G.R. No. 187084, October 12, 2009, 603 SCRA 522, 532–533.

19People v. Galvez, G.R. No. 181827, February 2, 2011, 641 SCRA 472, 485; People v. Alverio, G.R. No. 194259, March 16, 2011, 645 SCRA 658, 670
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