G.R. No. 199226, January 15, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROEL VERGARA Y CLAVERO, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
That on or about September 12, 2004, in the City of Cavite, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the stepfather of one [AAA], a minor, 9 years of age, with force and intimidation, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with said minor, [AAA], without her consent and against her will.5
AAA was born on 20 October, 1994. Her parents were not married and got separated when she was five (5) years old. Her mother then lived-in, and begot a child, with [accused-appellant]. Unlike her two other siblings by her biological father, AAA lived with her mother and [accused-appellant].
[Accused-appellant] began abusing AAA as soon as she had her first menstruation in May 2003. By the time AAA was nine (9) years old, [accused-appellant] had sexually molested her five (5) times.
The last incident of rape, which is the subject of this case, happened around 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of 12 September 2004. The 9-year old AAA was left alone in the house with [accused-appellant] and the latter’s 2-year old daughter because AAA’s mother was away working as a cook in a restaurant in a nearby place. [Accused-appellant] ordered AAA to go inside his bedroom. When there, he ordered her to embrace him and remove her shirt, pants and panty. Afraid, AAA complied. [Accused-appellant] forced himself on AAA, who pleaded, “Tama na po!” (Enough, please). Despite AAA’s pleas, however, [accused-appellant] persisted, telling her, “Eto na ang huli, pumayag ka na.” (Do as I say because this will be the last.) [Accused-appellant] inserted his penis into AAA’s vagina and made a pumping motion for twenty (20) minutes. AAA cried and resisted by punching [accused-appellant] on his shoulders, but to no avail. After satisfying his lust, [accused-appellant] ordered AAA to put on her clothes and warned her not to tell anyone about what happened.
AAA confided her ordeal to her mother’s friend, Tita, who helped her report the incident to the police authorities. AAA was also examined by Dr. Remigion R. Camerino, whose findings revealed the following:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary“>Thin circular hymen with rough edges and previous healed lacerations.On 16 January 2005, AAA gave birth to a baby boy.16 (Citations omitted.)
>(-) vaginal lacerations
>positive pregnancy test (9/15/04)
>uterus enlarged to 4 months age of gestation.”
In his defense, [accused-appellant] interposed the lone defense of alibi, alleging that he was not in their house on the day of the incident but was at work as a cook in a restaurant, less than a kilometer or about a 30-minute walk away from their house. [Accused-appellant] testified that he never had the chance to be with the victim on the day in question since his work was from 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon to 2:00 o’clock in the morning of the following day.
On cross-examination, [accused-appellant] denied having any previous misunderstanding with the victim and admitted that he could not think of a reason why AAA would impute such a serious accusation against him.18 (Citations omitted.)
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused ROEL VERGARA y CLAVERO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE as defined and punished under paragraph (1), (d) Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 8363, and accordingly sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the victim [AAA] in the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages, and the amount of P25,000 as exemplary damages.19
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTION’S FAILURE TO ESTABLISH HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.20
Rape under paragraph 3 of this article is termed statutory rape as it departs from the usual modes of committing rape. What the law punishes in statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve (12) years old. Thus, force, intimidation and physical evidence of injury are not relevant considerations; 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; the child’s consent is immaterial because of her presumed incapacity to discern good from evil. (Citations omitted.)
Time-honored is the doctrine that the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of a witness, is entitled to great weight on appeal. The reason therefor is that the trial judge enjoys the peculiar advantage of observing first-hand the deportment of the witnesses while testifying and is, therefore, in a better position to form accurate impressions and conclusions on the basis thereof.
AAA’s seemingly inconsistent behavior, such as smiling while narrating in open court about the rape, was properly explained by her, as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryQ (PROS. GARCIA): Now, a while ago, while you were testifying you kept smiling, could you please tell this Hon. Court why you were smiling?Moreover, We consider the alleged inconsistency on the place where the crime happened as a minor inconsistency which should generally be given liberal appreciation considering that the place of the commission of the crime in rape cases is after all not an essential element thereof. What is decisive is that [accused-appellant’s] commission of the crime charged has been sufficiently proved.
A: I was just trying to be brave, sir.
The alleged inconsistency is also understandable considering that AAA was only ten (10) years old at the time she testified before the trial court. Courts expect minor inconsistencies when a child-victim narrates the details of a harrowing experience like rape. Such inconsistencies on minor details are in fact badges of truth, candidness and the fact that the witness is unrehearsed. These discrepancies as to minor matters, irrelevant to the elements of the crime, cannot thus be considered a ground for acquittal. In this case, the alleged inconsistency in AAA’s testimony regarding the exact place of the commission of rape does not make her otherwise straightforward and coherent testimony on material points, less worthy of belief.
Significantly also, AAA’s testimony is supported by the medical evidence on record, which showed that she had scars in her hymen and was thus in a non-virgin state. That no fresh lacerations were found in her hymen is no indication that she was not raped on 12 September 2004. Contrary to [accused-appellant’s] contention, the old lacerations on AAA’s hymen confirm and strengthen her allegation that she had been repeatedly raped by [accused-appellant] not only on 12 September 2004, but even before. As the victim was no longer a virgin when she was raped on 12 September 2004, no new injury on her hymen could be expected. It is settled that healed lacerations do not negate rape. In fact, lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best physical evidence of defloration.
On the issue of AAA’s age, We quote the Supreme Court’s consistent ruling that “in this era of modernism and rapid growth, the victim’s mere physical appearance is not enough to gauge her exact age.” Hence, the best evidence to prove AAA’s age is her Certificate of Live Birth, which indicates that she was born on 20 October 2004 and was thus nine (9) years of age on 12 September 2004, when she was raped by [accused-appellant].
In People v. Pruna, the Supreme Court stated that in appreciating age, either as an element of the crime or as a qualifying circumstance, “[t]he best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party.”
A certificate of live birth is a public document that consists of entries (regarding the facts of birth) in public records (Civil Registry) made in the performance of a duty by a public officer (Civil Registrar).
As such, it is prima facie evidence of the fact of one’s birth and can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Obviously in this case, no such controverting evidence was adduced by the defense to question AAA’s Certificate of Live Birth.24 (Citations omitted.)
1Rollo, pp. 2-13; penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario with Associate Justices Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Danton Q. Bueser, concurring.
2 CA rollo, pp. 22-28A; penned by Judge Melchor Q.C. Sadang.
3 533 Phil. 703 (2006).
4 550 Phil. 176 (2007).
5 Records, p. 1.
6 Id. at 9.
7 TSN, June 30 and December 7, 2005.
8 TSN, June 21, 2006 and January 17, 2007.
9 Records, p. 86.
10 Id. at 88.
11 Id. at 91.
12 Id. at 65.
13 Id. at 89.
14 Id. at 90.
15 Id. at 90A.
16Rollo, pp. 3-5.
17 TSN, August 2, 2007.
18Rollo, p. 5.
19 CA rollo, p. 28A.
20 Id. at 42.
21 An Act Expanding the Definition of the Crime of Rape, Reclassifying the Same as a Crime Against Persons, Amending for the Purpose Act No. 3815, As Amended, Otherwise Known as the Revised Penal Code, and for Other Purposes.
22 G.R. No. 172372, December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 307, 314-315.
23People v. Oliva, G.R. No. 187043, September 18, 2009, 600 SCRA 834, 839.
24Rollo, pp. 7-10.
25People v. Carpio, 538 Phil. 451, 476 (2006).
26People v. Nachor, G.R. No. 177779, December 14, 2010, 638 SCRA 317, 333.
27People v. Carpio, supra note 25.
28People v. Pacheco, G.R. No. 187742, April 20, 2010, 618 SCRA 606, 618.