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[G.R. No. 132339. February 4, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOSE CAMACHO TORREJA, Accused-Appellant.



On automatic review is the decision, 1 dated November 27, 1997, of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 275, convicting appellant, Jose Camacho Torreja, of rape in Criminal Case No. 97-0050 and sentencing him to suffer the death penalty.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

On January 17, 1997, appellant was charged as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 7th day of January, 1997 in the Municipality of Las Piñas, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, a member of the Las Piñas Police, PNP, by means of force, violence and intimidation, with lewd designs, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with one BING TABERARA Y GONZALES, who was then under the custody of the Las Piñas Police, against her will and consent.


When arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.

The first witness for the prosecution was private complainant, BING TABERARA, a 16-year-old housemaid residing at Pulanglupa, Las Piñas. She testified that on January 7, 1997, her employer Yolanda Rodel brought her to the police precinct in front of the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas, and filed a complaint for qualified theft against her. She was with her grandmother who was also implicated in said crime. Bing recalled that on January 7, 1997, at about 11:00 P.M., appellant SPO3 Torreja was drinking liquor with his four (4) other companions. Appellant approached her cell, let her out and brought her to the other room where the drinking session was on-going. He asked her questions about her case and offered to help her. She said, she would be most grateful if he did. He then brought her back to her cell. She recounted that sometime thereafter, appellant once again brought her out of the cell to the office of Lt. Leyva 3 who was then not around. The office was just one arm’s length away from her cell. Once inside the office, appellant turned off the lights and kissed her. He started to undress her. She was then wearing garterized pants. Appellant, she observed, had his gun on his waist. She shouted for him to turn on the lights, but he didn’t. She remembered she rushed to the door and tried to open it but appellant stopped her and forced her to lie on the cement floor. She resisted his advances but he forced her down and lay on top of her. He forcibly tried to insert his penis into her vagina but she struggled. Eventually she felt weak so appellant succeeded in having sex with her. She recalled she felt pain. Appellant then removed his penis from inside her and she managed to stand up. When one of his companions suddenly knocked on the door, she was led back to her cell. Appellant then gave her P50 for food. Once inside her cell, she told her grandmother her ordeal. It was by then 12:00 midnight. 4

The prosecution next presented FELICISIMA BACSAL, the 50-year old grandmother of private complainant. She testified that sometime in January of 1997, Bing and she were brought to the police precinct by Bing’s employer allegedly because they stole some valuables belonging to the latter. Because the incident happened a long time ago, she could no longer recall the exact date, but she remembered they were detained for two days and two nights. She recounted when Bing was brought out of the cell for the third time by appellant. When Bing returned, she was crying and she said she was raped by Torreja. 5

On cross-examination, Felicisima testified that she heard Bing shouting for help while banging on the walls/doors of the office where Bing was being raped. 6

DR. TOMAS SUGUITAN, Medico-Legal Officer and Police Senior Inspector at the PNP, Camp Crame, Crime Laboratory Group, was presented as third witness for the prosecution. He testified that on January 8, 1997, he received a request from the Chief of the Intelligence and Investigation Bureau for Las Piñas Police Station to examine one Bing Taberara. In his genital examination of Ms. Taberara, he said he found shallow healed lacerations of her hymen more than seven days old, involving less than half of the hymen at three o’clock position. These lacerations were caused by the insertion of a hard object, possibly a penis, into the vagina. 7 He further testified that the lacerations were already healed. Nonetheless, the lacerations were compatible with his findings of forcible penetration, even if the penetration was as early as January 7, 1997. On cross-examination, Dr. Suguitan affirmed that indeed the common signs of rape by means of force or violence are lacerations of the hymen and congestion at the labia minora, or any redness and the presence of spermatozoa. He explained that there were cases where the finding of rape was based on bodily injuries but there were also cases where there were no such injuries. 8

Finally, the prosecution presented INSPECTOR LUCAS LEYBA, the Commander of the Kabayan Center at the police station, Las Piñas. He testified that on January 8, 1997, at exactly 8:00 A.M., police officers Eduardo Gillera 9 and Gil Leyba informed him that Jose Torreja raped one of the inmates. He immediately placed Torreja in a restricted area and later brought him to the office of the Chief of Police. 10

In his defense, appellant JOSE CAMACHO TORREJA testified that prior to his detention, he was assigned at Block 1 Police Station, at the area of the Bamboo Organ Church, Las Piñas. He stated that on January 7, 1997, he reported for work at around 9:00 P.M. Since Lt. Leyba, the station commander, was not around that night, he was officer-in-charge. When he arrived, he searched Lt. Leyba’s table for instructions that the latter might have left for him. He found a partial investigation report on a qualified theft case against Bing Taberara. He decided to continue the investigation and got her out of her cell. In the office of Lt. Leyba, he talked with Bing, asked if she had dinner. He gave her P50 for food. She accepted. As he asked her questions, he advised her that if she told the truth, he would try to help her, otherwise he could give her no assistance. He said Bing denied the charges against her. Unconvinced, he raised his voice and told her that she was lying. The girl then cried and confessed. He also warned her that if she continued to lie, he would personally file the charges against her. Bing got angry, protested, and insisted she was not lying. He brought her back to her cell and heard her mumble, "Lintik lang ang walang ganti" (literally, "Only lightning has no pay-back").

Appellant said that at that time he was wearing his police uniform and his gun was inside the drawer of Lt. Leyba. He vehemently denied raping Bing. He added that in 1985, he had an operation for which he had been medically advised not to engage in strenuous activities nor to carry heavy objects. Since Bing was big, raping her would have been impossible for him. Further, he said he could not rape her since that would jeopardize his retirement benefits due him in three years time. When asked why Bing would make up such a charge, he answered that he did not know. 11

Giving credence to the testimony of witnesses for the prosecution while disregarding the denial of the accused, the trial court rendered its decision on November 27, 1997, decreeing thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE; the court finds the accused JOSE CAMACHO TORREJA GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of the crime of RAPE under Article 335, par. 1 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.

ACCORDINGLY, considering the qualifying circumstance that accused is a member of the Philippine National Police and that the victim was in his custody when the crime was committed, the accused is sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty of DEATH with the means prescribed by law and to pay the victim BING TABERARA the amount of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P100,000.00) as moral damages.


Hence, this appeal where appellant assigns that the trial court erred in convicting him for the following reasons:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library







Principally, appellant questions the credibility of private complainant’s testimony. In addition, he asserts that there was lack of physical evidence sufficient to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General maintains that the evidence for the prosecution, particularly the testimony of private complainant, passes the test necessary for a conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Appellant, a police officer, employed force and intimidation against the complainant in committing the crime of rape. However, the OSG seeks modification of the judgment, insofar as the award for damages is concerned. It asks for P75,000 as civil indemnity and reduction of the award of P100,000 as moral damages to P50,000.

The principal issue for our resolution is whether the trial court erred in convicting the appellant SPO3 Jose Torreja and sentencing him to death for the rape of detainee Bing Taberara, a 16-year-old housemaid. Secondarily, we shall also consider the propriety of the amounts of civil indemnity and damages awarded to the private complainant.

First, it is well-settled that the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses is generally accorded great respect because the trial court had the opportunity to hear the witnesses and observe their demeanor as they testified under oath. Only when the trial court overlooked or misapplied some facts which could have affected the result of the case is the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses reviewed by this Court. 14 In this case, nothing on record shows that this case should fall under the exception. We agree with the trial court in its findings that complainant Bing Taberara’s testimony was straightforward and convincing, while that of the appellant consisted of bare denials which were uncorroborated and self-serving.

As found by the trial court in the decision:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Two versions were presented on what transpired inside the office of Insp. Leyba: the victim’s version that she was raped and the accused’[s] version that he merely conducted further investigation on the victim relative to the case filed against her. The [Regional Trial] Court finds the victim’s testimony to be credible and relies on her credibility as against the credibility of the accused. It is inconceivable that Bing, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident, would make up a story on the commission of rape against her and falsely testify against the accused whom she never knew before. The natural flow and logic in her testimony as well as her facial and emotional reactions to questions and answers during the hearing of the case strengthened the theory of the prosecution that the victim was raped. The defense is banking on the alleged lack of resistance exerted by the victim. This was amply explained by the victim when she testified that she was so scared of the accused’[s] gun and that the accused was so strong. Nonetheless, the status alone of the accused, being a policeman and custodian of the victim would be sufficient to cast fear and threat and influence on the victims. 15

When a woman testifies that she had been raped, and if her testimony meets the test of credibility, the appellant may be convicted on the basis of the woman’s testimony alone. 16 In this case, the defense asked the victim minute details of the rape incident, and tried to make the court believe that her inconsistency on minor details was sufficient to acquit appellant on grounds of reasonable doubt. However, a rape victim is not expected to remember every ugly detail of her ordeal. A rape victim might even unconsciously block out certain details of her humiliation and debasement. 17 The victim cried on the witness stand when she was made to recall the horrifying details of her ordeal. As borne by human nature and experience 18 such reaction is a badge of honesty, showing that she is being candid, sincere, and truthful in her testimony. The victim here testified, in this wise:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Atty. Nazal (defense counsel):chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

So the accused asked you to stand up, is that right?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And did you ask him the very reason why he was asking you to stand?

A: No, sir because I was so scared because of his gun.

Q: You just stood up?

A: He helped me in standing sir.

Q: And your jeans, is there any strap or lock in front?

A: None, sir.

Q: There is no belt?

A: None, sir.

Q:. Madam Witness, when you were standing, did you extend any assistance in removing your jeans?

A: No, sir.

Q: . . . Was your jeans totally removed from your feet?

A: Yes sir.

Q: So, when the accused pulled down the jeans you have to move in order to remove your jeans from your feet?

A: He forcibly pulled down my jeans, sir.

Q: Madam Witness, while the accused was pulling down your jeans, you just remained standing?

A: No, sir.

Q: What do you mean by no?

A: While he removed my jeans, I tried to pull it back but he forced me.

Q: But finally, he managed to pull down the jeans?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How many times Madam Witness you tried to pull up your jeans?

A: Twice, sir.,

Q: . . . What kind of panty were you wearing at that time?

A: Garter panty, sir.

Q: Is that a bikini panty?

A: No, sir."cralaw virtua1aw library

Q: Who also removed your panty, Madam Witness?

A: Also the accused.

Q: . . . You just allow the accused to pull down your panty?

A: No sir:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q: What do you mean by no?

A: I did not allow him to remove my panty, he forcibly removed it.

Q: . . . Did you try to prevent the accused in removing your panty?

A: I told him not to do what he intended to do.

Q: . . . After removing your jeans and your panty, he managed to insert his organ to your organ?

A: Yes, sir. 19

In a further attempt to discredit the complainant’s testimony, appellant suggests that she filed the case because she wanted to get even with appellant for promising that he would help her, falsely. This suggestion appears most unlikely. First, Bing did not ask for the help. In fact, it was appellant who offered to help her. 20 Second, nothing in the records supports appellant’s suggestion that she had an ill-motive to implicate him. A victim of sexual assault ordinarily would be unwilling to undergo the humiliation of a public trial, testifying on the details of a sexual assault and subjecting herself to an embarrassing ordeal were it not her intent to condemn an injustice. 21 The suggestion of the defense that a 16-year-old housemaid would brazenly accuse a policeman of raping her and lie in her testimony before the court surely taxes one’s credulity without serving the cause of the Appellant.

Bare denial is an intrinsically weak defense which must be buttressed by strong evidence of non-culpability to merit credibility. 22 Here, appellant’s bare-faced denial of the charge against him constitutes self-serving negative evidence which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declaration of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. 23

While the defense wants us to believe that complainant did not show any resistance to the sexual assault on her person, the records of this case show otherwise. We agree with the trial court that the victim was scared, intimidated, threatened and coerced by appellant. The law does not require great and irresistible coercion. What is required only is enough physical or psychological coercion to consummate the lewd design in the mind of the offender. 24 In our view, the presence of a gun in the possession of appellant and the ascendancy of a police officer over a detainee under his custody are sufficient to constitute coercion to intimidate a 16-year-old housemaid to submit to the lewd intention of the malefactor.

The defense likewise makes an issue of the lack of physical evidence such as bruises or marks on the victim’s body. Note, however, that as testified to by the medico-legal officer, 25 the healed laceration found on the victim’s genitalia was consistent with the fact that rape had taken place. Likewise, the absence of spermatozoa in the victim’s vagina would not necessarily negate the commission of rape. 26 Neither would the absence of fresh lacerations, prove that she was not raped. 27 In this case, the medico-legal officer, Dr. Tomas Suguitan, testified:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Prosecutor:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Mr. Witness, could it be possible that even an erected penis was inserted to the hymen, still the hymen would suffer no laceration at all?

A: It is possible, sir.

Q: In what way would it be possible, Mr. Witness?

A: In a highly elastic hymen sir.

Q: In this case of Bing Taberara, could it be possible that there is no laceration despite the fact that a hard penis was inserted to the vagina?

A: There are lacerations.

Q: And you said a while ago that in your report the hymen of Bing Taberara is elastic?

A: Yes sir.

Q: And you said that if the hymen is elastic, even though a hard penis was inserted to the hymen, no laceration would be caused.

x       x       x

A: There are cases where there would be no laceration even if the penis is inserted in the vagina, sir.

Q: And this happened in the case of Bing Taberara.

A: Yes sir. 28

Since the victim was under the custody of appellant who was a police officer, when he raped her, appellant’s crime is qualified under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Section 11, R.A. 7659. Hence, the trial court properly imposed the penalty therefor, which is death. 29

On the amount of damages awarded by the trial court, however, modifications are called for. The amount that should be awarded to the victim of qualified rape as civil indemnity ex delicto should be increased to P75,000 pursuant to current jurisprudence. But the amount awarded as moral damages should be reduced to P50,000 in accordance with applicable case law. 30

Four members of the Court maintain their position that capital punishment is unconstitutional. However, they submit to the decision of the majority of the Court upholding the legality of the law re-imposing the death penalty for heinous crimes.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 275, finding appellant Jose Camacho Torreja GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape qualified by the circumstance that the victim was a detainee under the custody of appellant as a member of the Philippine National Police, and imposing upon him the supreme penalty of death; is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION as to the award of damages. Appellant is ordered to pay the amount of P75,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto and the further amount of P50,000 as moral damages.

Upon promulgation of this decision, let the records of this case be promptly forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of her constitutional prerogative to grant executive clemency.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.


1. Rollo, pp. 18-29, penned by Presiding Judge Alfredo R, Enriquez.

2. Id. at 6.

3. Also referred to as "Lt. Leyba" elsewhere in the TSN, April 22, 1997, p. 7.

4. TSN, April 8, 1997, pp. 2-12.

5. TSN, June 20, 1997, pp. 7-11.

6. Id. at 20-22.

7. TSN, July 3, 1997, pp. 2-4.

8. Id. at 7.

9. Also referred to as "SPO1 Rillera" elsewhere in the TSN, August 25, 1997, p. 3.

10. TSN, July 22, 1997, pp. 1-3.

11. TSN, August 25, 1997, pp. 3-6.

12. Rollo, p. 29.

13. Id. at 49.

14. People v. Olivo, Jr., G.R. No. 130335, January 18, 2001, p. 13; citing People v. Salonga, G.R No. 128647, 329 SCRA 468, 483 (2000).

15. Decision, in Rollo, pp. 27-28.

16. People v. Supnad, G.R. Nos. 133791-94, August 8, 2001, p. 9, citing People v. Celis, G.R. Nos. 125307-09, 317 SCRA 79, 91 (1999).

17. People v. Rabosa, G.R. Nos. 119362 & 120269, 273 SCRA 142, 149 (1997).

18. People v. Cornelio Supnad, supra, note 16 at 10.

19. TSN, May 20, 1997, pp. 7-9.

20. TSN, August 25, 1997, p. 4.

21. People v. Adora, G.R. Nos. 116528-31, 275 SCRA 441, 467 (1997).

22. People v. Burce, G.R. Nos. 108604-10, 269 SCRA 293, 314 (1997).

23. People v. Victor, G.R. No 127903, 292 SCRA 186, 198 (1998).

24. People v. Zaballero, G. R. No. 100935, 274 SCRA 627, 639 (1997).

25. TSN, July 3, 1997, p. 7.

26. People v. Caballes, G.R. Nos. 102723-24, 274 SCRA 83, 94 (1997).

27. People v. Erardo, G.R. No. 119368, 277 SCRA 643, 655 (1997).

28. Supra, note 25 at 5.

29. ART. 335. When and how rape is committed.

x       x       x

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x

2. When the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities.

x       x       x

6. When committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency.

30. People v. Brandares, G.R. No. 130092, 311 SCRA 159, 169 (1999).

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