G.R. No. 200645, August 20, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. WENDEL OCDOL Y MENDOVA, EDISON TABIANAN, AND DANTE BORINAGA, ACCUSED. WENDEL OCDOL Y MENDOVA, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
That on the 31st day of August, 2000 at around 8:00 O’ clock in the evening, more or less, in sitio Pingag, barangay Matlang, Municipality of Isabel, Province of Leyte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, accused Wendel Ocdol y Mendova by means of force and intimidation, did lie, place on top of [AAA],4 15 years old, removed her pant(y) and succeeded in having carnal knowledge with the latter while his companions Edison Tabianan and Dante Borinaga were looking at the sexual assault of their companion Wendel Ocdol y Mendova, while pointing their knives to the lady-victim, thus, consumating (sic) the crime of rape against her will and without the consent of said [AAA], a minor.
The evidence of the prosecution shows that on August 31, 2000 at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening, AAA was sent by her mother to buy ice at the store of Shirley Guadas which is situated at Sitio Pingag, Barangay Matlang, Isabel, Leyte. While AAA was about to go home, Edision Tabianan (hereafter referred to as Edison) who was then in front of the store called AAA’s attention. Since AAA knew Edison, she went to the latter and asked what he wanted. Edison told AAA “just something” and he immediately held AAA’s arm dragging her to a darkened portion of a chapel near the store. AAA resisted but she could not move because Edison poked a knife at her. Then, AAA saw two (2) people in the place where she was dragged. She identified the two as Dante Borinaga (hereafter referred to as Dante) and Tisoy known as Wendel Ocdol (hereafter referred to as Wendel) since there was an illumination coming from the light at the pier. Dante likewise poked an arrow locally known as “indian pana” at AAA’s neck. Wendel suddenly held AAA’s hand, laid her on the ground, and removed her shorts and panty. AAA still resisted the attack by stamping (sic) her feet. Wendel took off his shorts and brief, mounted on top of AAA and inserted his penis into AAA’s vagina causing the latter to feel so much pain. Wendel also kissed AAA on the lips and fondled her breasts but the latter could not shout as Edison and Dante were respectively poking a knife and an indian pana at the victim. When the three (3) accused heard that someone was looking for AAA, Wendel immediately got up and put on his brief and shorts and three (3) accused scampered away. AAA put her panty and shorts on, and ran towards home without bringing the ice she bought from the store. When AAA arrived home, she saw her mother waiting for her at the door. She immediately went upstairs and fell asleep. The following day, AAA’s grandmother came and it was only then that AAA narrated what happened to her. Upon learning of the incident, AAA’s grandmother left and reported it to Rufino Villarino, the barangay captain of Matlang. Rufino summoned three (3) of his barangay tanods who arrested Edison and Dante. The barangay officials referred the matter to the police who picked-up the two accused for investigation. Upon advice of the policemen, AAA was brought by her mother to a doctor for medico-legal examination.
Dr. Refelina Cerillo Baje, the Municipal Officer in the Municipality of Isabel, Leyte who conducted the physical and genital examination of AAA testified that the labia minora and majora of the victim were moderately coaptated; the vaginal canal was slightly loose and admits one finger with slight resistance; there were fresh hymenal lacerations corresponding to the 2:00 o’clock, 5:00 o’clock and 10:00 o’clock position; there is presence of erythematous area surrounding the vaginal opening which could have been caused by severe friction, and she noted an abrasion at the posterior vaginal fourchette. Dr. Baje also testified that the vaginal canal which was slightly loosened had undergone some kind of stretching due to insertion of a hard object. The friction could have been caused by an object which was inserted into the vagina. According to her, AAA at the time of examination was having her period. Thus, the vaginal smear revealed absence of male seminal fluid and sperm cell even if the alleged rape incident took place a day before the examination was conducted.6
Wendel vehemently denied having raped AAA and put up the “sweetheart defense”. He testified that he first came to the Barangay Sawang Isabel, Leyte, in 1999 to visit his uncle, Winnie Mendova and stayed there until 2000. Then, he went to his home in Basey, Samar but returned to Isabel, Leyte in that same year. This time, he stayed at the house of his friend, Philip Sambilad (hereafter referred to as Philip). On August 27, 2000, Philip introduced [him] to AAA at the pier in Pingag, Isabel, Leyte until they became friends. He met AAA again on August 29, 2000 at Philip’s house when the latter came to visit him. They talked at the balcony of Philip’s house for one (1) hour and courted AAA until they became sweethearts. The next time he saw AAA was in the morning of August 30, 2000 in Philip’s house when curious onlookers milled around a captured python. AAA who was among the crowd told Wendel to meet her at the pier at 7 o’clock in the evening of that day. He acceded to AAA’s invitation and they met in a hut just beside the video “carirahan.” The hut was not lighted and there were no other people except them. There were people inside the “carirahan” but they could not see them inside the hut. When they were there, AAA embraced him first and so he returned the favor, and they kissed each other. Then, he removed his shorts and AAA also took off her shorts and panty. Wendel inserted his organ into the vagina of AAA but he was not able to penetrate because the latter felt pain. During the sexual act, AAA neither cried nor shouted. Not long thereafter, they stopped and went home. Wendel brought AAA to a store near the latter’s house and that was the last time he saw the latter. On his way home, Wendel met Philip Sambilad and he told the latter that he almost got AAA. Wendel denied the allegation that Dante and Edison were with him in the evening of August 30, 2000. Neither did he see the two on August 31, 2000. Wendel strongly denied having raped AAA as it was their agreement to meet in the evening of August 30, 2000. He only learned that he was accused of raping AAA when the police arrested him at his uncle’s house on September 1, 2000.7
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused Wendel Ocdol GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as principal for which he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, he is also ordered to indemnify the private complainant the sum of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as civil indemnity; Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages, and Twenty Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos as exemplary damages.
As against the accused Edison Tabianan and Dante Borinaga, the Court finds both accused Guilty beyond reasonable doubt as accomplices for the crime of Rape and appreciating in their behalves the mitigating circumstance of minority and after applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hereby imposes the penalty of Two (2) Years, Four (4) Months and One (1) Day of prision correccional medium as minimum to Eight (8) Years and One (1) Day of Prision Mayor, medium as Maximum, they are also ordered to indemnify the private complainant [AAA] the sum of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as indemnity; Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages and Twenty-Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos as exemplary damages and to pay the costs.
If the accused are detained, the period of their imprisonment shall be credited in full if they abide by the terms for convicted prisoners, otherwise, only four-fifths (4/5) thereof.11
All told, the testimony of AAA adequately proved that appellant had indeed raped her. AAA’s assertion of forced coitus was substantially corroborated by the medical findings on the presence of vaginal injuries. Thus, this Court is convinced that the prosecution was able to prove the guilt of appellant Wendel beyond reasonable doubt and that the trial court was correct in finding him guilty of rape.
WHEREFORE, the appeal solely filed by Wendel Ocdol y Mendova is denied for lack of merit. Accordingly, the January 16, 2003 decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 35 of Ormoc City is AFFIRMED in toto.16
It is well settled that the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grilling examination. These are important in determining the truthfulness of witnesses and in unearthing the truth, especially in the face of conflicting testimonies. For, indeed, the emphasis, gesture, and inflection of the voice are potent aids in ascertaining the witness’ credibility, and the trial court has the opportunity and can take advantage of these aids. These cannot be incorporated in the record so that all that the appellate court can see are the cold words of the witness contained in transcript of testimonies with the risk that some of what the witness actually said may have been lost in the process of transcribing. As correctly stated by an American court, “There is an inherent impossibility of determining with any degree of accuracy what credit is justly due to a witness from merely reading the words spoken by him, even if there were no doubt as to the identity of the words. However artful a corrupt witness may be, there is generally, under the pressure of a skillful cross-examination, something in his manner or bearing on the stand that betrays him, and thereby destroys the force of his testimony. Many of the real tests of truth by which the artful witness is exposed in the very nature of things cannot be transcribed upon the record, and hence they can never be considered by the appellate court.”
* Per Special Order No. 1757 dated 20 August 2014.
1 Rollo, pp. 4-17; Penned by Acting Executive Justice Pampio A. Abarintos with Associate Justices Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr. and Gabriel T. Ingles concurring.
2 CA rollo, pp. 28-34; Penned by Acting Presiding Judge Eric F. Menchavez.
3 CA rollo, p. 9.
4 Pursuant to R.A. No. 7610, “An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes;” R.A. No. 9262, “An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefore, and for Other Purposes;” Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the “Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children,” effective 15 November 2004; and People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 (2006), the real name of the rape victim is withheld and, instead, fictitious initials are used to represent her. Also, the personal circumstances of the victim or any other information tending to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, is not disclosed.
5Rollo, p. 5.
6 Id. at 6-7.
7 Id. at 7-8.
8 CA rollo, pp. 28-34.
9 Id. at 32-33; RTC Decision dated 16 January 2003 citing People v. Marcos, G.R. No. 83325, 8 May 1990, 185 SCRA 154.
10 Id. at 33 citing People v. Burgos, 421 Phil. 1006 (2001).
11 Id. at 34.
12Rollo, pp. 10-11.
13 Id. at 11.
14 Id. at 12 citing People v. Laboa, G.R. No. 185711, 24 August 2009, 596 SCRA 733, 742; People v. Dimacuha, 467 Phil. 342, 349 (2004); and People v. Del Mundo, Jr., 408 Phil. 118, 129 (2001).
15 Id. at 13-15 citing People v. Dreu, 389 Phil. 429, 435 (2000); People v. Garces, Jr., 379 Phil. 919, 937 (2000); and People v. Barcelona, 382 Phil. 46, 57 (2000).
16 Id. at 16.
17 REVISED PENAL CODE, Art. 266-A as amended by Republic Act No. 8353; People v. Barangan, 560 Phil. 811, 834 (2007) (Emphasis supplied).
18 CA rollo, p. 32; RTC Decision dated 16 January 2003; Note that there was a factual finding that accused-appellant admitted to have sex with the victim at 8:00 o’clock in the evening of 31 August 2000 during the clarificatory questioning of the RTC Judge.
19People v. Hapin, 557 Phil. 762, 776 (2007).
20People v. Barangan, 560 Phil. 811, 835 (2007).
21 People v. Batiancila, 542 Phil. 420, 431 (2007).
22People v. Barangan, supra note 20.
23 People v. Panique, G.R. No. 125763, 13 October 1999, 316 Phil. 757, 763-764.
24People v. Lardizabal, G.R. No. 89113, 29 November 1991, 204 SCRA 320, 329.
25People v. Estrada, G.R. No. 178318, 15 January 2010, 610 SCRA 222, 231 citing People v. Dalisay, G.R. No. 188106, 25 November 2009, 605 SCRA 807, 814-815.
26People v. Dion, G.R. No. 181035, 4 July 2011, 653 SCRA 117, 133.
27 G.R. No. 178485, 4 September 2009, 598 SCRA 416, 425-426 cited in People v. Dion, id. at 133-134.