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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 144495-96. March 12, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. LEONARDO S. PASCUAL, Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


PANGANIBAN, J.:


The testimony of a rape victim, if credible and convincing, may be the sole basis of a judgment of conviction. Furthermore, the exact date and time of the commission of the crime need not be alleged in the information.cralaw : red

The Case


Leonardo S. Pascual appeals the Decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City (Branch 16) dated June 30, 2000, in Criminal Cases Nos. 8384-16 and 8395-16, convicting him of two (2) counts of rape. The dispositive portion of the assailed judgment reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, after meticulously weighing the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, the Court is morally convinced beyond reasonable doubt the accused Leonardo Pascual committed the crimes of rape as charged in the two Criminal Cases. He is hereby sentenced to each of the crimes committed the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA with all its accessory penalties; to pay the private complainant civil indemnity in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) and moral damages in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00); and to pay costs." 2

Two Complaints, both dated February 18, 1998, 3 charged appellant with rape, allegedly committed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Criminal Case No. 8384-16

"That sometime the month of August, 1997, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the this Honorable Court, the herein accused by means of force and intimidation and with a knife, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the herein complainant, against her will and in their own residence." 4

Criminal Case No. 8385-16

"That sometime the month of June, 1997, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the herein accused by means of force and intimidation and with a knife, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the herein complainant, against her will and in their own residence." 5

Assisted by his counsel, Atty. Felix Salvador, appellant pleaded not guilty to the rape charges during his arraignment on April 14, 1998. 6 After a joint trial of the cases, the court a quo rendered the assailed Decision.

The Facts


Version of the Prosecution

The Office of the Solicitor General, in its Brief, 7 presents the prosecution’s version of the facts as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Virginia Pascual, fourteen (14) years old, single, student and presently under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), testified that in June, 1997, she was living in their house with her brothers, sisters, her father and a cousin at Barangay 18, Laoag City. She is the seventh (7th) among nine (9) children, three (3) boys and six (6) girls. Four (4) of them are living with her in the family home: Lorna, seven (7) years old, Susan, nine (9) years old, Emy, twelve (12) years old, and Leonardo, Jr., seventeen (17) years old. Their mother was living in Hawaii with the other children. She would usually sleep with Lorna; while Susan, with Emy.

"Their father worked as a driver of a passenger jeepney plying the route from Laoag City to Vintar, Ilocos Norte and vice-versa. The passenger jeepney is owned by the barangay captain of Barangay No. 18, Laoag City, Onofre Gaspar whose wife is the cousin of her mother.

"One evening, in June, 1997, she was in her room at the second floor of their house with sister Lorna, doing her assignment on a table near the bed when her father came and told her to stop working on her assignment. He was holding a knife. He sent her sister Lorna to get a glass of water from the refrigerator at the ground floor.

"After Lorna had left, appellant covered Virginia’s mouth with a pillow and laid her down. She saw him tuck the knife on his waist. She was afraid and was not able to shout because her mouth was covered by a pillow. While she was lying down, her father removed her shorts and panty. He spread her legs apart, went on top of her and inserted his penis into her vagina (it was on record that tears were rolling down the cheeks of the witness). While the penis of his father was inside her vagina, she felt warm liquid. Thereafter, her father stayed on top of her for a while. He was still in that position when her sister Lorna holding a glass of water, entered the room. When her father noticed the presence of Lorna, he stood up and put on his pants. She felt pain in her vagina. He told her and Lorna, ‘If people will come to know about this matter, I will kill you.’

"Again, on the night of August 25, 1997, Virginia slept with her sisters: Emy, Susan and Lorna in the room of their father because her room with Lorna was occupied by the visitors of her cousin Ellaine Guerrero.

"She was awakened when her father entered the room where she was sleeping side by side with her sisters on the floor. He switched on the light and he laid beside Lorna. After a while he transferred Lorna and laid beside her (Virginia). He then removed his pants and proceeded to remove her shorts and panty. She was afraid and crying. Her sisters were not awakened. He went on top of her, inserted his penis into her vagina, and moved his buttocks up and down. After satisfying his lust, he stood up and put on his pants.

"Because of her experience, she lost her appetite. She could not eat for a long time. She could not concentrate on her studies. She left their house in January, 1998 and stayed in the house of her ‘barkada’ Rowena Balantac at Balatong, Laoag City. She revealed to Rowena Balantac what her father did to her on June, 1997 and in August, 1997. Rowena informed her that her father was looking for her and that she (Rowena) would be blamed if something would happen to her. Virginia told Rowena that she did not want to return home because her father would rape her again. Her aunt Lolita Gaspar learned from Rowena what happened to her. After returning to their house at Barangay 55, Bulangon, Laoag City, Virginia was asked by her aunt Lolita Gaspar if the information she got from Rowena was true. Virginia told her aunt it was true. Barangay Captain Onofre Gaspar, the husband of Lolita, also asked her if what his wife told him was true. Virginia told him it was true.

"Dr. Lorna Castillo, Medical Officer of the Governor Roque Ablan, Sr. Memorial Hospital, Laoag City, examined Virginia Pascual on February 2, 1998 and reduced her findings in writing. She found that the victim’s hymen had old healed lacerations at 3:00 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions. A laceration is considered old when it happened ten (10) days or more before examination. The insertion of a penis into the victim’s vagina in June, 1997 and August 1997 would be sufficient to cause the lacerations." 8 (Citations omitted)

Version of the Defense

Appellant denies the charges and presents his version of the facts in his Brief, 9 as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In the months of the alleged commission of the subject incident, he was working as a driver plying the route of Laoag-Vintar and vice versa. He starts driving every 7:00 o’clock in the morning and usually stops at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening. During his trips, his daughter Virgie would ride along until she reaches Ilocos Norte National High School where she is a first year high school student. There was no day in June nor August that herein accused-appellant failed to ply his usual route.

"Being the eldest among his daughters, he expected herein private complainant to be the one responsible for doing the household chores such as cooking and taking care of her younger sisters. However, herein private complainant preferred to hang around with friends and go to other places instead of staying home and helping in the household chores. Thus, the accused usually whipped her and bumped her head. This disciplinary method had been inflicted upon her since she was in Grade IV. Whenever he punished her, she would say, "Fuck your mother, I wish you would be dead" .

"Jimmy Guerrero took the witness stand to corroborate the version of the accused.

"Jimmy is twenty nine (29) years old and the first cousin of Virgie, their respective mothers being sisters. He knows the accused Leonardo Pascual being the father of herein private complainant because they resided in the same house in June 1997 and even before he was fifteen (15) years old.

"They all resided in the same house where there are three (3) rooms upstairs and four (4) rooms downstairs. In June 1997, the accused was staying in one (1) room together with his three (3) daughters while herein private complainant stayed in a separate room.

"Jimmy surmises that the instant charged were hatched on account of the constant punishment imposed by the accused upon his children every time they committed mistakes." 10 (Citations omitted)

The Trial Court’s Ruling

The trial court explained its ruling as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The testimony of the private complainant was simple and forthright. She appeared very confident without any hesitation in declaring in court that she was raped by her father-accused on the two occasions alleged in the two criminal complaints, though she was aware that if convicted her father would be sentenced to death thru lethal injection. She must be telling the truth.

x       x       x


"The defense tried to prove that the motive of the private complainant is to take revenge against the accused for all the maltreatment she received from her father. The court cannot believe that a daughter could prevaricate just to take revenge knowing that her accusations would certainly lead to the penalty of death to a father who reared her for 14 years. Again, the accusation must be true." 11

Hence, this appeal. 12

The Issue


In his Brief, appellant submits the following assignment of errors for our consideration:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

"I.


The trial court gravely erred in convicting the accused-appellant of the crimes charged despite the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

"II.


Granting arguendo that accused is guilty of a crime, the court a quo erred in convicting him despite the failure of the prosecution to state the facts constituting the crime charged in the criminal complaint in violation of his constitutional right to be informed of the charges against him." 13

The Court’s Ruling


The appeal has no merit.

Main Issue

Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence

Challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution evidence, appellant avers that the non-presentation of the eyewitnesses who allegedly saw the rape incidents renders the testimony of the victim highly dubious. He argues that it is imperative for the prosecution to produce these eyewitnesses to corroborate the charges of private complainant and to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. On this basis, he claims that the testimony of the complaining witness will not suffice to sustain a conviction.

We are not convinced. In a rape case, the prosecution is not bound to present witnesses other than the victim herself, as the accused may be convicted solely on her testimony, provided it is credible, natural, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature and the course of things. 14 To be sure, corroborative testimony is not essential to warrant a conviction for rape. 15

The long-standing rule is that when a victim of rape says she was violated, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that it was inflicted on her. So long as her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on the sole basis thereof. 16

In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime, oftentimes the only evidence that can be offered to prove the guilt of the perpetrator is the testimony of the offended party herself. Thus, her lone declaration of facts, if found credible, would be sufficient to sustain a conviction. 17

In this regard, we may well point out the time-tested doctrine that a trial court’s assessment of the credibility of a witness is entitled to great weight. It may even be conclusive and binding if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence. 18 We have carefully perused the records of the case and found no such material fact or circumstance as would obscure, much less reverse, the factual findings of the trial court.

As correctly observed by the RTC, the testimony of the victim on the alleged rape incidents was clear, consistent and descriptive of the grievous fate she had suffered in the hands of her own father. The veracity of her testimony was even bolstered by the attempt of appellant to seek her forgiveness, as well as her resolve to pursue the case even if it would mean his death. She testified thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Q Did your father ever ask forgiveness from you assuming that your narration is true?

A He did, sir.

Q When was that?

A When we came here and also a while ago before the hearing today, sir.

Q And what did you tell your father?

A None, sir.

Q What else did he ask you?

A He said: ‘Why can’t you not forget me, my daughter, it is a pity for your brothers and sisters who doesn’t anybody to care for them’

(witness is crying)

Q Assuming that your narration is true, madam Witness, and, if this Honorable Court will in the long run believe your story, do you know the penalty to be imposed upon your father?

A Yes, sir.

Q What?

A Death penalty through lethal injection.

Q And, assuming again, Madam Witness, that your story is true being your father who have taken cared (sic) of you for fourteen (14) years, do you still want him to undergo that lethal injection? and die?

A Yes, sir. 19

On the other hand, the bare denial by appellant cannot overcome the positive and categorical declarations of the victim. Moreover, his plea for her forgiveness may be deemed as no less than an indicium of guilt. 20 Certainly, the victim who was only a teenager at the time would not have filed a rape charge against anyone, much less her own father, if it were not true. 21 It is highly improbable for a young girl with no record of sexual perversity to fabricate against her own father a story that may imperil his life or liberty. 22

Indeed, the evil in a rapist has no conscience, and the beast in him may bear no respect for time and place, driving him to commit rape anywhere, even in a house where there are other occupants. 23 It is an accepted rule in criminal law that rape may be committed even when the offender and the victim are not alone. In fact, rape has been committed in the same room where other family members were also asleep. 24 Verily, the argument that the crime cannot be committed in a house where other members of the family reside or may be around is a contention that has long been rejected by this Court.25cralaw:red

Second Issue

Time of Commission of the Offense

Appellant likewise contends that the Complaints charging him with rape do not state the exact dates when it allegedly took place. He asserts that the failure of the prosecution to inform him thereof is a violation of his right to be informed of the nature of the charges against him. He adds that such failure prevented him from preparing for his defense, as he could not have determined where he was or what he was doing when the crimes charged were supposedly being committed.

We disagree. It has been held that the exact date or time of the commission of rape is not an essential element of the crime. 26 Furthermore, the failure of the prosecution to specify the exact date or time when it was committed did not make the information or complaint defective on its face. 27 On this note, we need only to restate the ruling of this Court in People v. Awing, 28 in which we explained as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Section 11 of Rule 110 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure is quite clear. It is not necessary that the precise time the act was committed be alleged in the complaint or information, except when "time is a material ingredient of the offense."cralaw virtua1aw library

"In People v. Pagpaguitan, we have held that the exact date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. In fact, the precise time when rape takes place has no substantial bearing on its commission. As such, the date or time need not be stated with absolute accuracy. Indeed, we have held that the allegations that rapes were committed ‘before or until October 15, 1994,’ ‘sometime in the year 1991 and the days thereafter,’ and ‘on or about and sometime in the year 1988,’ constitute sufficient compliance with Rule 110, Section 11.

"That the information in this case alleged that rape took place on or about November 1996 is sufficient to inform appellant of the charge against him in Criminal Case No. 39, 870-97. Note that during direct examination, appellant stated that he had sexual intercourse with private complainant six (6) times in November 1996. Under cross-examination, he modified his answer a bit and owned four (4) instances of coitus with the victim during November 1996. These declarations clearly show that appellant properly understood the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 39, 870-97, and had the opportunity to prepare his defense, alleging that the sexual acts were consensual. We find that appellant cannot now validly complain that he was taken by surprise by the charge against him." 29 (Citations omitted)

An information charging the accused with an offense is valid, so long as it distinctly states the statutory designation of the offense, as well as the acts and the omissions constituting it. With respect to the time and date of the commission of the crime, Rule 110, Section 6 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, states that a complaint or an information is sufficient if it states, among others, the approximate time of the commission of the offense. 30

Having successfully and satisfactorily established the fact that appellant had sexual intercourse with his daughter against her will at or about the time alleged in the criminal Complaints, the prosecution has established beyond moral certainty that he is guilty of the rape charges. 31

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED, and the assailed Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Laoag City (Branch 16) in Criminal Cases Nos. 8384-16 and 8385-16 AFFIRMED. Costs against appellant.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Melo, Vitug, Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, pp. 22-31; penned by Judge Conrado A. Ragucos.

2. Assailed Decision, p. 10; rollo, p. 31; records, Vol. 1, p. 121.

3. Rollo, pp. 10-13; signed by Complainant Virgie S. Pascual and certified by Asst. City Prosecutor David C. Frez.

4. Rollo, p. 10; records, Vol. 1, p. 1.

5. Rollo, p. 12; records, Vol. 2, p. 1.

6. Records, Vol. I, p. 27.

7. Rollo, pp. 85-106; This was signed by Assistant Solicitor General Carlos N. Ortega, Assistant Solicitor General Amy C. Lazaro-Javier and Solicitor Romeo R. Ramolete.

8. Appellee’s Brief, pp. 3-9; rollo, pp. 90-96.

9. Rollo, pp. 47-60. This was signed by Attys. Bartolome P. Reus, Amelia C. Garchitorena and Jubeth P. Lopez of the Public Attorney’s Office.

10. Appellant’s Brief, pp. 5-6; rollo, pp. 53-54.

11. Assailed Decision, pp. 7-9; rollo, pp. 28-30; records Vol. I, pp. 118-120.

12. This case was deemed submitted for resolution on November 19, 2001, upon receipt by this Court of Appellee’s Brief. The filing of a reply brief was deemed waived, as none had been filed within the reglementary period.

13. Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; rollo, p. 49; original in upper case.

14. People v. Lusa, 288 SCRA 296, March 27, 1999; People v. Ignacio, 294 SCRA 542, August 24, 1998.

15. People v. Deleverio, 289 SCRA 547, April 24, 1998.

16. People v. Ambray, 303 SCRA 697, February 25, 1999.

17. People v. Gallo, 284 SCRA 590, January 22, 1998.

18. People v. Reduca, 301 SCRA 516, January 21, 1999; People v. Alitagtag, 309 SCRA 325, June 29, 1999; People v. Napiot, 311 SCRA 772, August 5, 1999; People v. Tahop, 315 SCRA 465, September 29, 1999; People v. Celis, 317 SCRA 79, October 20, 1999; People v. Paraiso, 319 SCRA 422, November 29, 1999; People v. Merino, 321 SCRA 1999, December 17, 1999.

19. TSN, June 5, 1998, p. 17.

20. People v. Taneo, 284 SCRA 251, January 16, 1998.

21. People v. Calayca, 301 SCRA 192, January 20, 1999.

22. People v. Fuensalida, 281 SCRA 452, November 6, 1997.

23. People v. Agbayani, 284 SCRA 315, January 16, 1998.

24. People v. Perez, 296 SCRA 17, September 24, 1998.

25. People v. Poñado, 311 SCRA 529, July 28, 1999.

26. People v. Lim, 312 SCRA 550, August 17, 1999; People v. Malapo, 294 SCRA 579, August 25, 1998.

27. People v. Magbanua, 319 SCRA 719, December 3, 1999.

28. G.R. Nos. 133919-20, February 19, 2001, per Quisumbing, J.

29. Ibid., pp. 8-9.

30. People v. Sandilla, G.R. No. 137696, January 24, 2001.

31. People v. Espejon, G.R. No. 134767, February 20, 2002.

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