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G.R. No. 210619, August 20, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CHARLES REYES Y MARASIGAN, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 210619, August 20, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CHARLES REYES Y MARASIGAN, Accused-Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 210619, August 20, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CHARLES REYES Y MARASIGAN, Accused-Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

REYES, J.:

For review1 is the Decision2 rendered by the Court of Appeals (CA) on July 10, 2013 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04374 affirming in toto the Joint Decision3 dated November 25, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 40 in Criminal Case Nos. C-02-6987 and C-02-6988, convicting Charles Reyes y Marasigan (accused-appellant) of two counts of rape committed

against AAA,4 an 11-year old daughter of his common-law wife.

Antecedents

Two separate informations for rape were filed against the accused-appellant before the RTC, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Criminal Case No. C-02-6987

“That sometime in the month of May, 2002, at Barangay Calero, City of Calapan, Province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, motivated by lust and lewd design, and by means of force and intimidation, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously did lie, and succeeded in having carnal knowledge [of] [AAA], an eleven (11) year-old[-] daughter of his common-law wife, against her will and without her consent, to the damage and prejudice of the latter.”5cralawred

Criminal Case No. C-02-6988

“That on or about the 5th day of August, 2002, at Barangay Calero, City of Calapan, Province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, motivated by lust and unchaste design, and by means of force and intimidation, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously did lie, and succeeded in having carnal knowledge [of] [AAA], an eleven (11) year-old[-] daughter of his common-law wife, against her will and without her consent, to the damage and prejudice of the latter.”6

When arraigned, the accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to both charges.

During the pre-trial conference, the prosecution stipulated and the defense admitted that the accused-appellant is the common-law husband of AAA’s mother, BBB. The defense, on its part, waived the accused-appellant’s right to stipulate facts and enter into a plea-bargaining agreement.7cralawred

Among the documentary evidence marked and offered by the prosecution were: (a) AAA’s birth certificate indicating that she was born on October 31, 1990; (b) the medical certificate, dated August 7, 2002, which was prepared by Dr. Ma. Teresita Nieva-Bolor (Dr. Nieva-Bolor), Rural Health Physician of the Calapan City Health and Sanitation Department; and (c) AAA and BBB’s affidavits.8 The defense, on its part, offered AAA’s birth certificate as sole documentary evidence.9cralawred

In the course of the joint trial, AAA, BBB and Dr. Nieva-Bolor testified for the prosecution. On the other hand, the accused-appellant and his 13-year old niece, Princess Ann Sicat (Sicat), were the defense witnesses.

Version of the Prosecution

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) summed up the prosecution’s version of the events, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

In 2002, [AAA] was an eleven (11) year old girl, having been born on October 31, 1990. She is living with her mother [BBB] and her common-law husband, [herein accused-appellant,] in their residence in Barangay Calero, Calapan City.

Sometime in May 2002, while [AAA] was alone inside the room of their house, [the accused-appellant] entered the room and touched her breasts, afterwhich, [the accused-appellant] removed her clothes, sando shirt, shorts and panty; she tried to go out of the room but [the accused-appellant] did not allow her to do so. Then, [the accused-appellant] removed his shorts and brief[s], placed himself on top of her and tried to insert his penis into her vagina causing her to feel pain; failing to insert his penis into her vagina, [the accused-appellant] put on his shorts and brief[s] and went out of the house. [AAA] also put on her clothes and proceeded to the house of their neighbor where she watched a television program. At the time of the rape incident, her mother was not in their house because she was instructed by [the accused-appellant] to go to the market; also, the mother of [the accused-appellant], who was living with them, was at the time in the house of their neighbor. Although she was able to talk to her mother after the rape incident, she did not inform her about it because she was afraid of the threat of [the accused-appellant] that the latter will kill her and her mother.

On August 5, 2002, at around four o’clock in the afternoon, [AAA] was again alone in the room of their house when [the accused-appellant] entered the room. He removed her blouse, skirt, sando shirt and panty. She was not able to do anything because [the accused-appellant] threatened to kill her and her mother. While naked, [the accused-appellant] placed himself on top of her and tried to insert his penis into her vagina. She tried to push [the accused-appellant] away but she was unsuccessful. She felt pain in her vagina when [the accused-appellant] made a push and pull motion. Thereafter, [the accused-appellant] put on his shorts and brief[s] and left her in the room[,] afterwhich, she put on her clothes. At the time of the incident, her mother was in the market while her siblings CCC and DDD were somewhere else. About one hour after the incident, her mother and her two siblings arrived but she was not able to do anything because she was afraid.

At around 8:00 o’clock in the evening, she told her mother about the rape incidents. Her mother and an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) accompanied her to the Calapan City Police Station where they reported the rape incidents.

On August 6, 2002, [Dr. Nieva-Bolor] x x x conducted a physical examination on [AAA] and issued a medical certificate with the following findings:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxx the presence of vulvar erythema, incomplete hymenal laceration and complete hymenal lacerations, possibly caused by insertion of the penis, among others, xxx incomplete healed hymenal laceration at 3:00 o’clock position and complete healed hymenal lacerations at 5, 6, 8 and 9 o’clock positions which were probably caused by masturbation, insertion of hands or objects or the insertion of a hard or erect penis during actual sexual intercourse.10 (Citations omitted)

Version of the Defense

The accused-appellant, who was then a 34-year old construction worker when he took the witness stand, vehemently denied the charges against him. He stated that he and BBB maintained a common-law relationship for two years. Thereafter, things turned sour as BBB was unemployed and indulged in gambling using the accused-appellant’s earnings. He alleged that on August 5, 2002, he was at home the whole day doing carpentry work. AAA and BBB were there as well, while the former’s three siblings were in school. That night, the accused-appellant drove BBB and her children, including AAA, away from the house. The incident earned AAA’s ire, which led her to file the complaints against him.11cralawred

Sicat, on her part, testified that she was with AAA the entire day of August 5, 2002. The accused-appellant could not have raped AAA at that time as the latter went home late at around 8:00 p.m.12cralawred

Ruling of the RTC

On November 25, 2009, the RTC rendered a Joint Decision13 convicting the accused-appellant of two counts of rape. The trial court found the motive, which according to the accused-appellant impelled AAA to file the complaints, was “too shallow, flimsy and insignificant.”14 A minor would not have risked undergoing humiliation, anxiety and public exposure if her claims were untrue. Her testimony, as regards the two rape incidents, was likewise detailed and straightforward. Besides, Dr. Nieva-Bolor’s statements to the effect that AAA sustained hymenal lacerations corroborated the latter’s allegations.15cralawred

Further, the RTC found Sicat’s testimony as biased and without credence. While claiming that she was with AAA the whole day of August 5, 2002, she also stated that she attended her classes in Calapan Central School.16cralawred

The RTC also declared that the accused-appellant’s denial of the charges against him was nothing more than self-serving negative evidence, which pales vis-à-vis AAA’s positive testimony.17cralawred

The dispositive portion of the RTC’s Joint Decision thus reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

ACCORDINGLY, finding herein accused Charles Reyes y Marasigan GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as principal by direct participation [in] two counts of Rape, punishable under paragraph 1 (a) of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of two (2) RECLUSION PERPETUA with all the accessory penalties as provided for by law. Further, the accused is hereby directed to indemnify [AAA] in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos ([P]100,000.00) as civil indemnity, the amount of Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos ([P]75,000.00) as moral damages and the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos ([P]50,000.00) as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.18chanrobleslaw

The Parties’ Arguments Before the CA

Dissatisfied, the accused-appellant assailed the above disquisition before the CA.

As regards the alleged rape incident in May of 2002, the accused-appellant claimed the absence of proof on the part of the prosecution to show that his penis actually penetrated AAA’s vagina. AAA even testified that the accused-appellant merely tried to insert his organ into hers but was unable to do so.19cralawred

Anent the rape incident on August 5, 2002, the accused-appellant pointed out that the medical examination conducted by Dr. Nieva-Bolor two days after yielded no evidence of fresh lacerations. Instead, only an incomplete hymenal laceration at three o’clock position and completely healed ones at five, six, eight and nine o’clock positions were found. How they were incurred was likewise uncertain since a regular insertion of hard objects including an erect penis, self manipulation and severe scratching due to improper hygiene could have caused the lacerations.20cralawred

The OSG, on the other hand, refuted the accused-appellant’s claims.

Relative to the rape incident in May of 2002, the affidavit executed by AAA while she was in Calapan City Police Station, and which was offered as part of the prosecution’s evidence, categorically indicated that the accused-appellant inserted his penis into the victim’s vagina, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

13.
T
Noon bang una kang hindutin ng iyong Daddy ay pumasok ang titi nito sa iyong ari?

S
Opo[,] pumasok po iyon.
14.
T
Ano naman ang naramdaman mo ng ipasok ng iyong Daddy ang kanyang titi sa iyong ari?
S
Labis po akong nasaktan.
x x x x
6.
T
Maari mo bang isalaysay ang mga pangyayari kung iyong matandaan pa?
S
… pilit niyang ipinasok ang kanyang uten sa aking maliit na puki na ako nga po ay halos mawalan ng malay o ulirat sa ginawa niyang pagpasok ng kanyang uten sa aking puki21 (Citations omitted)

As to the rape incident on August 5, 2002, AAA gave a detailed account of how the accused-appellant undressed and mounted her, then made pumping motions, which caused her to feel severe pain in her vagina.22cralawred

Dr. Nieva-Bolor found that AAA had hymenal lacerations, hence, corroborating the latter’s claims.23 Moreover, at the time of the examination, AAA’s vulva was reddish in color and Dr. Nieva-Bolor opined that sexual intercourse was among the possible causes of such condition.24cralawred

Ruling of the CA

On July 10, 2013, the CA rendered the herein assailed decision25 affirming in toto the RTC’s judgment based on the following grounds:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

[AAA’s] testimony has the ring of truth as it was given in a simple but clear and straightforward manner.

On the face of the overwhelming evidence against him, [the] accused-appellant capitalizes on the perceived absence of penetration during the first incident of rape. x x x This contention of the accused-appellant is a lie, in view of the victim’s declaration that she felt pain in her private part because [the] accused-appellant, while on top of her and doing a pumping motion, tried to insert his penis into her vagina. It must be emphasized at this juncture that an entry, to the least extent, of the labia or lips of the female organ is sufficient. In fact, remaining a virgin does not negate rape.

x x x [T]he absence of fresh lacerations in the hymen cannot be a firm indication that she was not raped. Hymenal lacerations are not an element of rape.

As regards the second count of rape committed on August 5, 2002, the testimony of the victim alone is sufficient to convict the accused-appellant. x x x:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

[AAA gave a detailed testimony that she was still wearing her school uniform when the accused-appellant entered the room, undressed and went on top of her, then made pumping motions, which caused her to feel pain in her vagina.]chanrobleslaw

The victim’s testimony, taken in its entirety, revealed a clear picture of the consummation of the crime of rape and that the accused-appellant was the author thereof. Notwithstanding this, the accused-appellant harps on the fact that the medical examination of the victim did not show fresh lacerations in the victim’s private part but only incomplete hymenal laceration at 3 o’clock position and completely healed lacerations at 5, 6, 8 and 9 o’clock positions.

In People v. Evangelio[,] the Supreme Court reiterated the rule that the absence of fresh lacerations does not prove that the victim was not raped. x x x [T]he presence of healed hymenal lacerations the day after the victim was raped does not negate the commission of rape by the accused-appellant when the crime was proven by the combination of highly convincing pieces of evidence. In addition, a medical examination and a medical certificate are merely corroborative and are not indispensable to the prosecution of a rape case.

In this case, the medical finding that [the] complainant had a [sic] incomplete hymenal lacerations at 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 o’clock positions clearly corroborated the victim’s truthful admission that she had been sexually abused by the accused-appellant.

x x x x

x x x We have long adhered to the rule that findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are accorded great respect unless it overlooked substantial facts and circumstances, which if considered, would materially affect the result of the case.26 (Citations omitted)chanrobleslaw

Issue

Unperturbed, the accused-appellant is insisting anew that he is innocent.

Both the accused-appellant and the OSG dispensed with the filing of supplemental briefs and adopted instead the same arguments they had presented before the CA.

Ruling of the Court

The Court sustains the CA’s verdict convicting the accused-appellant of two counts of rape, but modify the amount of damages imposed. Additionally, in accord with the prevailing jurisprudence, the Court imposes interests upon the damages awarded to AAA.

Article 266-A(1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, substantially states that rape is committed by a man, who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under 12 years of age or is demented. To be liable under the above provision, it is not necessary that the commission of the crime is attended by the use of force, threat, intimidation, fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority, or that the victim is deprived of reason or unconscious.

Article 266-B of the same code, on the other hand, provides that the imposable penalty for acts falling under Article 266-A(1)(d) is reclusion perpetua. However, the death penalty shall be imposed if rape is committed with aggravating or qualifying circumstances enumerated in Article 266-B therein, among which is when the victim is below 18 years of age and the offender is a common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.

The People of the Philippines v. Guillermo B. Cadano, Jr.27 discussed as follows the elements of statutory rape:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Statutory rape is committed by sexual intercourse with a woman below 12 years of age regardless of her consent, or the lack of it, to the sexual act. Proof of force, intimidation or consent is unnecessary as they are not elements of statutory rape, considering that the absence of free consent is conclusively presumed when the victim is below the age of 12. At that age, the law presumes that the victim does not possess discernment and is incapable of giving intelligent consent to the sexual act. Thus, to convict an accused of the crime of statutory rape, the prosecution carries the burden of proving: (a) the age of the complainant; (b) the identity of the accused; and (c) the sexual intercourse between the accused and the complainant.28 (Citation omitted and italics ours)chanrobleslaw

Records show that the elements of statutory rape are present in the case under review. First, AAA was 11 years old when the sordid crimes were committed. Her birth certificate was presented as evidence by both the prosecution and the defense. Second, AAA positively, categorically and resolutely testified that the accused-appellant had carnal knowledge of her on two separate occasions in May and on August 5 of 2002. Dr. Nieva-Bolor’s findings of hymenal lacerations, both healed and not, in AAA’s vagina corroborated the latter’s claims.

“The eloquent testimony of the victim, coupled with the medical findings attesting to her non-virgin state, should be enough to confirm the truth of her charges.”29 This is especially true in the case of AAA, a girl of tender age, who is not likely to fabricate a story of her own defloration which may expose her and her family to humiliation. The accused-appellant denied the charges and in his defense posited that AAA filed the complaints in anger after the former drove BBB and the children away from the house. The RTC declared this ascribed motive as too flimsy and insignificant, and we find no reason to depart from the said finding.

It is an oft-repeated doctrine that the uniform factual findings of the trial court and the CA are generally not to be disturbed unless certain substantial facts have been plainly overlooked, which if considered, might alter the result of the case.30cralawred

In the appeal before us, we find the RTC and CA’s conviction of the accused-appellant for two counts of statutory rape as amply supported by both evidence and jurisprudence. It bears clarifying though that in view of the fact that the accused-appellant is BBB’s common-law husband, the two counts of rape committed upon AAA shall be considered as qualified. For each count, the proper imposable penalty is death as provided for in Article 266-B of the RPC, as amended. However, consequent to the passage of Republic Act No. 9346,31 the imposable penalty herein is lowered to reclusion perpetua, with the offender being rendered ineligible for parole.32cralawred

While no compelling grounds exist to reverse the accused-appellant’s conviction, to conform to prevailing jurisprudence, the Court finds it proper to modify the civil indemnity and exemplary damages imposed by the courts a quo. For each of the two counts of rape, the Court awards in AAA’s favor P75,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. The courts a quo’s award of P75,000.00 as moral damages in each count of rape is, on the other, hand sustained.33 Lastly, the Court imposes an interest of six percent (6%) per annum on all the damages awarded, to be computed from the date of the finality of this judgment until fully paid.34cralawred

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 10, 2013 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04374 is AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:

(a) The accused-appellant Charles Reyes y Marasigan shall be ineligible for parole;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

(b) For each of the two counts of qualified statutory rape, the accused-appellant shall pay AAA P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages; andChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

(c) The accused-appellant is also directed to pay interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum on all the damages awarded, to be computed from the date of the finality of this judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta,* and Bersamin, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


* Acting Member per Special Order No. 1750 dated August 11, 2014 vice Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr.

1See Notice of Appeal, rollo, pp. 15-16.

2 Penned by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, with Associate Justices Leoncia R. Dimagiba and Ramon A. Cruz, concurring; id. at 2-14.

3 Issued by Judge Tomas C. Leynes; CA rollo, pp. 15-24.

4 The real name of the victim, her personal circumstances and other information which tend to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, 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.

5 CA rollo, p. 15.

6 Id. at 15-16.

7Rollo, p. 4

8 See list of Exhibits presented by the Prosecution, CA rollo, p. 8.

9 Id. at 19.

10 Id. at 70-72.

11 Id. at 20-21.

12Rollo, p. 6.

13 CA rollo, pp. 15-24.

14 Id. at 22.

15 Id. at 22-23.

16 Id. at 23.

17 Id.

18 Id. at 24.

19 Id. at 46-47.

20 Id. at 48-50.

21 Id. at 74-75.

22 Id. at 73-74.

23 Id. at 76-77.

24 Id. at 80.

25Rollo, pp. 2-14.

26 Id. at 9-13.

27 G.R. No. 207819, March 12, 2014.

28 Id.

29People of the Philippines v. Hermenigildo Delen y Escobilla, G.R. No. 194446, April 21, 2014, citing People v. Oden, 471 Phil. 638, 667 (2004).

30 Id, citing People v. Leonardo, G.R. No. 181036, July 6, 2010, 624 SCRA 166, 193.

31 AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES.

32 Supra note 27, citing Sections 2 and 3, R.A. No. 9346.

33 Id.

34 People v. Cruz, G.R. No. 201728, July 17, 2013, 701 SCRA 548, 559-560.
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