G.R. No. 199871, June 02, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PIDLIPPINES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. WILFREDO SOLANO, JR.Y GECITA, Accused–Appellant.
R E S O L U T I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
That on or about the 22nd day of April, 2007 at around 9:00 o'clock in the morning, at Sitio Okdo, Barangay Palanas, municipality of Pilar, Province of Sorsogon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above–named accused, with lewd design, by means of force, threat and intimidation, and by employing personal violence upon “AAA,',2 a 12–year old girl, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have sexual intercourse with her against her will and without her ,consent, and after the sexual assault said accused strangled x x x “AAA,” resulting [in] the immediate death of said victim, to the damage and prejudice of her legal heirs.When arraigned on June 6, 2007, appellant entered a plea of not guilty.4
The crime is aggravated by minority of the victim being twelve years old (12) at the time of the incident.
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
To prove the charges against accused–appellant, Edwin Canon, Jr. [Edwin, Jr.] testified that in the morning of 22 April 2007, he and his brother were on their way home when he saw [appellant] chasing AAA on a grassy area located at the outskirts of their barangay. Not minding the two, they left and proceeded home. That same morning, he learned that people were looking for AAA so he told his father of what he saw. His father in turn informed the barangay officials and, after conducting a search, AAA’s lifeless body was found in a swamp near the place where Edwin, Jr. saw [appellant] chasing the victim. On cross–examination, Edwin, Jr. maintained that he was able to see and recognize [appellant] and AAA from a distance of about 50 to 60 meters before they ran towards the knee–high cogon grass area. According to him, [appellant] stopped and looked at them before running after the victim.
Meanwhile, prosecution witness Nestor Armenta [Nestor] fortified his Sinumpaang Deklaracion and claimed that in a grassy place in Barangay Palanas, he saw [appellant] holding an unconscious AAA by her armpits and [dragging] her while ‘she was facing up lying on the ground.’ Upon seeing him, [appellant] gave him a dagger look, so, he hurriedly left the place and proceeded to the barangay proper where he reported the matter to the barangay tanod.
On cross–examination, Nestor testified that he was about 9 meters away from where he saw [appellant] drag AAA. When he arrived at the town proper, he learned that there was a search for AAA so he relayed what he saw to Chief Tanod Zaldy Campo [Chief Tanod Campo] and went home. Thereafter, he was informed that the body of AAA was found in the place where he saw [appellant] dragging the victim. On further questioning, he asserted that he knew AAA because he was the caretaker of the fishpond owned by the victim’s mother. He also knew [appellant] because he was a friend of his father.
x x x x
On the other hand, Chief Tanod Campo claimed that after Edwin Canon, Sr. [Edwin, Sr.] reported the matter to them[, a] group of about 30 persons, some of whom were relatives of AAA, proceeded to the swampy area where Edwin, Jr. saw [appellant] and AAA. At around 7 o’clock in the evening, with the aid of a petromax, they saw the body of AAA buried in mud. When asked to explain the pictures taken from the crime scene, the witness described that AAA was naked when they found her and her dress was ‘tied on the neck and the panty was in one leg already.’ Being the only suspect, they proceeded to the house of [appellant’s] uncle to apprehend him. According to him, [appellant] confessed to raping and killing AAA when investigated at the barrio hall. He was remorseful and repentant when investigated and did not react when they told him that they found the body of AAA in the swamp.
On cross–examination, Chief Tanod Campo testified that x x x after his arrest, [appellant] verbalized to them his innocence and that he was the one who convinced [appellant] to surrender.
x x x x
According to [Municipal Health Officer Dr. David Daza], his examination of AAA’s genitalia showed that there was blood oozing out from her vagina which was marked with hymenal lacerations and presence of suspected spermatozoa thereby indicating that she was subjected to sexual intercourse.
[Appellant] denied that he raped and killed AAA. He maintained that on the day of the incident, he and his two cousins were at the house of his uncle, Ernesto Solano to watch over the palay. Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, he was summoned by Chief Tanod Campo and brought to the barangay hall. Thereat, [a relative of “AAA”] asked him whether he saw AAA and when he answered in the negative, [“AAA’s” relative] threw a punch at him. After that, he was instructed by his uncle to go home but at around 10 o’clock in the evening, some military men arrested him and brought him to the Municipal Hall of Pilar, Sorsogon. x x x
x x x On cross–examination, he admitted that he personally knows the family of the victim since he worked for them for less than a year. When he learned about the alleged rape of his sister by [a relative of “AAA”] sometime in the year 2000, he quit his job with them. x x x He also admitted holding a grudge against the [family of “AAA”] but denied that he knows anything about AAA’s death. He also did not know of any reason why prosecution witnesses Edwin, Jr., Edwin Sr., Nelson and Chief Tanod Campo would testify against him inasmuch as he was in good terms with them. Lastly, [appellant] admitted that the place where he was then staying can easily be negotiated by walking or any means of transportation and that he could leave the place and return to it easily.5
The accused was seen chasing the victim at the approximate time of the perpetration of the crime and at the hilly and grassy place where the victim was found;
The uncontroverted fact that the accused was seen dragging the motionless victim lying with her face up by another prosecution witness near the same place where he was also seen chasing the victim;
There was no other person last seen together with the victim;
The uncontroverted testimony of some prosecution witnesses regarding the extrajudicial confession made by the accused that he admitted raping and killing the victim and on the basis thereof he was apprehended and detained in the evening of the day of the incident in question;
The finding of the examining physician who conducted the autopsy that the victim was subjected to sexual intercourse when she was still alive manifested by several lacerations and blood found on her genitalia;
Death of the victim by strangulation and the fact that the body of the victim was found submerged in the muddy area very near the place where the accused was seen chasing the victim and likewise very near the place where the accused was likewise seen dragging the victim.
The accused admitted being angry at the [family of “AAA”] after he learned that his sister who by then was already in Manila was raped by [a relative of “AAA].7
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby finds accused WILFREDO SOLANO JR. y GECITA, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of Rape with Homicide and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without the possibility of parole.
In keeping with current jurisprudence the accused shall pay the heirs of “AAA” the amount of P50,000.00 for her death and P50,000.00 for having been raped. He is likewise held liable in the amount of P75,000.00 in moral damages and P25,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of actual damages not supported by competent proof. There having been alleged and proven the minority of the victim, the same is taken as an aggravating circumstance which presence further more entitles her heirs [to] the award of P50,000.00 in exemplary damages.
So viewed, We find no reason to overturn the findings of the RTC with respect to [appellant’s] culpability. In this case, the prosecution duly established that (1) [appellant] was seen by Edwin, Jr. chasing the victim; (2) [appellant] was also seen by Nestor chasing the victim; (3) the body of the victim was found in a swamp located near the place where Edwin, Jr. and Nestor last saw [appellant] and AAA and; (4) upon his arrest, [appellant] was remorseful, repentant and did not react when they told him that they found the body of AAA in the swamp. All these circumstances have remained unrefuted by [appellant] which indubitably demonstrate an unbroken chain of events from which a reasonable conclusion pointing to [appellant] as the culprit may be derived. From all indications, [appellant’s] culpability had been duly established by his presence at the scene of the crime and his conduct towards AAA prior to her disappearance and eventual death.10
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED and the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against accused–appellant.
x x x while no direct evidence was adduced by the prosecution, We, however, agree with the trial court that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to hold [appellant] for the special complex crime of Rape with Homicide. As proven by the prosecution, AAA was last seen in the company of [appellant] as the person chasing the victim on a grassy area located at the outskirts of their barangay. Contrary to the [appellant’s] supposition, We find that the distance of about 50–60 meters is enough for one person to recognize another person’s face. This is especially true since it had been established by one witness that [appellant] turned his face towards him x x x and that he was able to see him before AAA ran towards the knee–high cogon grass.
The same is true with respect to the accounts of Nestor. [Appellant’s] attempt to taint the truthfulness of his testimony on the mere fact that he failed to testify on ‘how he was able to reach the area’ or the reason why he was on that place at the time he saw [appellant] and AAA, finds no leg to stand on. Needless to state, the circumstances alluded [to] by [appellant] are trivial and merely refer to insignificant matters which hardly affect the credibility of the witness. What is more important is that Nelson’s testimony, which had been considered worthy of credit by the trial court, had withstood the gruelling cross–examination of the defense.17
1 Records, p. 1.
2 “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.
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
3 Records, p. 1.
4 Id. at 38.
5 CA rollo, pp. 94–98.
6 Records, pp. 135–140; penned by Judge Solon B. Sison.
7 Id. at 138.
8 Id. at 140.
9 CA rollo, pp. 92–103; penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara–Salonga and concurred in by Associate Justices Mariflor P. Punzalan–Castillo and Franchito N. Diamante.
10 Id. at 102–103.
11 Id. at 103.
12 Rollo, pp. 20–21.
13 Id. at 22–27.
14 CA rollo, pp. 31–32.
15 Id. at 32.
16 RULES OF COURT, Rule 133, Section 4.
17 CA rollo, pp. 100–101.
18Alicando v. People, G.R. No. 181119, July 31, 2013