[G.R. NO. 175479 : July 23, 2008]
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. BIENVENIDO PAYOT, JR. y SALABAO, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
On automatic review is the Decision1 dated 12 August 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte convicting appellant Bienvenido Salabao Payot, Jr. (Payot) of raping AAA.2 The dispositive portion of the decision provides:
WHEREFORE, in the light of all the foregoing, the Court finds the accused Bienvenido Payot, Jr. y Salabao GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape as charged in the Information. Accordingly, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of RECLUSION [PERPETUA], to pay the offended party [AAA], the amount of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as exemplary damages, to suffer the accessory penalties provided for by law and to pay the costs.
In the service of his sentence, accused is entitled to the full time during which he has undergone preventive imprisonment, conformably to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
The accused shall serve his sentence entirely at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, Panabo City.
IT IS SO ORDERED.3
Payot was charged with rape in an Information dated 14 December 1999, to wit:
That on or about the 17th day of July,[sic] 1999, at 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, more or less at Barangay Jaliobong, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused, by means of force and intimidation did then and there[,] willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the complainant, [AAA], a woman[,] 16 years of age.
CONTRARY TO LAW: (Art. 335, Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. [No.] 7659).4
At his arraignment on 14 February 2000, Payot, with the assistance of his counsel entered a plea of not guilty.5 Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. The prosecution presented the victim, AAA, and Dr. Arsenia Referente (Dr. Referente), the physician who conducted an examination on AAA.
AAA testified that Payot is her elder sister's husband and that since she was 8 years old, she had been living with him together with her elder sister,6 her younger brother and Payot's two children.
AAA narrated that on 17 July 1999, after having taken their lunch together, her sister and brother went up to the mountain to harvest bananas while the two children went to sleep in one room and she in another. AAA was awakened by the pressing weight of Payot over her body, and she realized that her skirt had already been pulled up and her panties rolled down to her knees. Payot, wearing only a vest and without his underwear on, held down AAA's waist with his hands, inserted his penis into AAA's vagina and made push-and-pull movements. Payot also kissed her on the neck. AAA could not shout for help and was unable to break free as Payot was then holding a bolo with his left hand. AAA felt pain in her vagina, and later on sensed a milky substance come out of Payot's penis as if the latter had urinated inside her. AAA cried afterward. AAA also testified that the nearest house was about 75 meters away.7
A couple of months after the incident, AAA left for her friend's, BBB's,8 house to ask for help and in order to be away from Payot. BBB accompanied AAA to the Department of Social Welfare and Development which reported the incident to the police. She was then examined by Dr. Referente.9
Dr. Referente testified that she found two old healed hymenal lacerations in AAA's genitalia at 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions.10 She stated that the lacerations could have been caused by the insertion of a hard object into the vagina, possibly an erect male genital organ. She explained that the lacerations could not have been caused by masturbation or by insertion of a finger into the vagina. She, however, said that the forceful insertion of two fingers, all together measuring more than three centimeters, into the vagina might produce lacerations of such nature.11 She issued a medico-legal report containing these findings.12
The defense presented two witnesses, namely, appellant Payot himself and his friend, Urbano Sandulan (Sandulan).
Payot denied the charges against him and interposed the defense of alibi. He testified that at noon time of 17 July 1999, he had lunch with his family, AAA and her brother at his residence. At around 12:30 p.m., he asked permission from his wife to go to the barrio but before leaving, he instructed his wife to harvest some bananas. He left and headed for the house of Caridad Damian (Caridad), which is approximately ten (10) minutes away by foot, where he watched the television until 2:00 p.m. He then went to the house of Rudy Mosende for a drink of tuba and stayed there until 3:00 p.m. after which, he proceeded to go home.13
Payot also testified that he could not have held a bolo with his his left hand, contrary to AAA's testimony, because he had always used his right hand for writing and for carrying weapons. He likewise stated that he had more than once caught AAA in their house kissing her lesbian ("tomboy") friend in June 1999 for which he scolded the duo. He claimed that AAA resented this and the latter's lesbian friend allegedly angrily warned him to be careful as someday he would regret doing what he had done. Payot moreover averred that there had been instances in the past when AAA's lesbian friend slept over in their house, but after several reprimands AAA no longer slept at their house and slept instead at her lesbian friend's house.14
Sandulan testified that at around 12:30 p.m. on 17 July 1999, he was heading for Payot's house to remind the latter about their bible-sharing activity for the evening; he met Payot on his way but since the latter was then on his way to the barrio, he (Sandulan) suggested that they go to the barrio together. They parted ways at Caridad's house where Payot had planned on watching the television. Sandulan then proceeded to Rudy Mosende's house, right across Caridad's house, also to remind Mosende of the activity that evening which was going to be held at Payot's house. While there, Mosende offered him a glass of tuba. During his stay at Mosende's house, Sandulan allegedly could tell that Payot likewise remained at Caridad's house. Sandulan left for home at 1:45 p.m. and on his way, saw Payot coming from Caridad's house and taking the direction to Mosende's.15
Upholding AAA's version of the events, the trial found Payot guilty in this wise:
x x x the conclusion is ineluctable that the lacerations were caused by an erect penis. In fact when she testified, Dr. Referente confirmed that the lacerations could have been caused by an erect penis.
Now, it may be asked: When was the occasion that complaining witness had sexual intercourse?cralawred
According to her, the intercourse on 17 July 1999 was her first. Prior to this date and even after that, there is showing that she had carnal knowledge by any other men. Thus, there can be no doubt, therefore, that the erect penis of accused caused the 3:00 o'clock and 6:00 o'clock lacerations in her vagina.
The insinuation by the defense that the lacerations could have been caused by the insertion of a finger or fingers is farfetched. According to the physician, the insertion of a finger or fingers with consent cannot cause laceration. Fingers can cause laceration only if inserted with force.
x x x
And since the defense has not presented an indicium of evidence that complaining witness [AAA] was actuated by improper motive to falsely testify against the accused, her declaration is worthy of belief and credence x x x
x x x
Aside from insinuating that a lesbian caused complaining witness's lacerations, accused also interposed the defense of alibi by alleging that at the time of the commission of the crime, he was at the house of Caridad Damian viewing T.V. But trite as it is, the Court has to impress upon the accused once again the doctrine that alibi is the weakest defense an accused can concoct. It cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused. The shopworn rule is that for alibi to prosper, it is not enough to show that accused was at some place else at the time of the commission of the crime, it must also be proved by clear and convincing evidence that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime of its commission and commit the crime.
As shown by the defense, the house of Caridad Damian is only about 300 meters from the house of accused where the crime was committed. Thus, it was not physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti at the time the crime was committed and commit the crime.
The defense also wanted to impress upon the Court that the offense could not have been committed inside accused's house because at that time, his wife, children and private complainant's younger brother were present then. Although the victim testified that only the children of the accused were still in the house at the time and that they were sleeping in the other room, as accused's wife and her younger brother, Anselmo Enoy, were out in the mountain harvesting bananas, it is not impossible for accused to have committed the offense.
x x x
The prosecution has established beyond a shadow of doubt that accused has carnal knowledge of the private complainant at about 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon of 17 July 1999. It has also established that the carnal knowledge was by means of force and intimidation as he has a sharp bolo then in his possession.
x x x
Whenever rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. This is provided for under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. There being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstance shown, the minimum thereof or reclusion perpetua, should be the appropriate penalty.
Under the first circumstance of Article 266-B, the death penalty could have been imposed upon the accused as he may be considered a guardian or relative by affinity within the fourth degree and that the offended party is a minor. Although minority is alleged in the Information, there is, however, no proof that the private complainant is really a minor. The circumstances of being a guardian or relative by affinity within the fourth degree were not also alleged in the Information. Therefore, the death penalty cannot be imposed.16
The judgment was elevated to the Court for automatic review. In a Resolution17 dated 16 March 2005 of the Court in G.R. No. 161770,18 the case was transferred to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review pursuant to the Court's ruling in People v. Efren Mateo.19
In a Decision20 dated 7 June 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. The appellate court held that the prosecution was able to prove Payot's guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that AAA's testimony was clear, candid and straightforward and, thus worthy of faith and belief. Moreover, the appellate court found no ill-motive on AAA's part to falsely charge Payot with the crime of rape. In addition, medical findings supported AAA's testimony of forcible defloration.21
The appellate court gave scant consideration to Payot's contention that being right-handed, he could not have held the bolo using his left hand. It stated that Payot's being right-handed does not mean that he could not wield a bolo with his left hand. As regards Payot's defense of alibi, it maintained that even assuming that he indeed had been at Caridad's house, it would not have been physically impossible for him to be at his residence at the time of the commission of the offense as Damian's house was just nearby.22
The appellate court affirmed the award of civil indemnity in the amount of
P50,000.00 and, in addition, awarded another P50,000.00 as moral damages and deleted the grant of exemplary damages in view of the absence of aggravating circumstances.23
In the Court's Resolution24 dated 5 February 2007, the parties were required to submit their respective supplemental briefs. Payot, through the Public Attorney's Office, manifested that he will adopt all the issues and discussion in his appellant's brief25 dated 16 April 2002.26 The Office of the Solicitor General likewise manifested that it will adopt the discussions in its appellee's brief27 dated 11 February 2005 as its supplemental brief.28
The case is again before this Court for final disposition.
After a careful and meticulous review of the records of the case, the Court finds no reason to overturn the findings of facts of and conclusions commonly reached by the trial court and the Court of Appeals. The Court thus affirms Payot's guilt.
Payot reiterates his assertion that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He insists that during the time of the alleged rape, he was at Caridad's house watching television. He also contends that AAA's allegation that he threatened her with a bolo using his left hand is a mere fabrication as he had always been right-handed.
Payot's contentions are bereft of merit.
First, it should be reiterated that in a rape case, what is most important is the credible testimony of the victim. A medical examination and a medical certificate are merely corroborative and are not indispensable to a prosecution for rape. The court may convict the accused based solely on the victim's credible, natural and convincing testimony.29 In this case, both the courts are in agreement that AAA was candid, natural, forthright and unwavering in her testimony that Payot raped her. AAA's credibility is strengthened by the absence of evidence showing that she had any ill motive in testifying against Payot.
Second, Dr. Referente's report and testimony revealed that she found two old, healed hymenal lacerations at 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions. It should be noted that the examination was made in September 1999, a couple of months after the rape incident occurred in July 1999. The presence of such healed lacerations is consistent with and corroborative of AAA's testimony that she had indeed been raped by Payot months before the date of the examination. Hymenal lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best evidence of forcible defloration.30 And when the consistent and forthright testimony of a rape victim is consistent with medical findings, there is sufficient basis to warrant a conclusion that the essential requisite of carnal knowledge has been established.31
It should be pointed out that the trial court found AAA's testimony to be truthful, viz.:
x x x complainant has been living with the family of the accused since she was 8 years old. In other words, having stayed in accused's house for eight (8) years, as she was allegedly 16 years of age when the incident took place, it cannot be denied that she has been clothed, fed and treated like accused's own children. It is, therefore, highly unthinkable that complaining witness would just fabricate a charge as serious as rape, if it is not true that she became a victim of accused's lecherous act.
x x x
Nevertheless, assuming arguendo that private complainant was scolded or reprimanded and that she was angry at him, such a circumstance, the Court opines, is not sufficient reason for her to fabricate a charge of rape.34
It is a settled principle that the trial court's evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is viewed as correct and entitled to the highest respect because it is more competent to so conclude, having had the opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor and deportment on the stand, and the manner in which they gave their testimony. Unless, the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility must be respected.35
Against the overwhelming evidence of the prosecution, Payot merely interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. He claimed that on the occasion of the rape, he was somewhere else and could not have been at the scene of the crime.
Having been positively and unmistakably identified by AAA as her rapist, Payot's weak defenses of denial and alibi cannot prosper. The settled jurisprudence is that categorical and consistent positive identification, absent any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying thereon, prevails over the defenses of denial and alibi which, if not substantiated by clear and convincing proof, as in the case at bar, constitute self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.36
Alibi, like denial, is also inherently weak and easily fabricated. For this defense to justify an acquittal, the following must be established: the presence of the appellant in another place at the time of the commission of the offense and the physical impossibility for him to be at the scene of the crime. These requisites have not been met.37 Payot claims that he was at a friend's house on the occasion of the rape. Considering, however, that his friend's house is a mere ten-minute walk or about a hundred meters38 away from his own house where the rape was committed, it would have still been physically possible for him to be present at the scene of the crime at the time of its consummation.39
Anent the contention that AAA was telling a lie when she said that Payot used his left hand to hold the bolo, the Court agrees with the appellate court that this deserves scant consideration. The fact that Payot is right-handed does not absolutely cancel the possibility that at the time of the incident, he used his left hand to wield the weapon. In any event, this inconsistency, if it is at all, does not diminish the reliability and dependability of AAA's testimony.
In sum, the guilt of Payot was proven beyond reasonable doubt. The Court therefore affirms his conviction for rape in Criminal Case No. 99-77.
With respect to Payot's civil liability, the Court affirms the award of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages in favor of AAA, she being a victim of simple statutory rape.40
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 7 June 2006 of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R.-CR-HC No. 00230 is AFFIRMED.
1 CA rollo, pp. 19-39; penned by Exedcutive Judge Orlando F. Doyon.
2 The real name of the victim is withheld per R.A. No. 7610 and R.A. No. 9262. See People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, 19 September 2006, 502 SCRA 419.
3 CA rollo, p. 38-39.
4 Id. at 10.
5 Records, p. 67.
6 TSN, 12 September 2000, p. 4.
7 TSN, 12 September 2000, pp. 4-8, 19-25.
8 See note 2.
9 TSN, 12 September 2000, pp. 25-26.
10 TSN, 18 May 2001, pp. 6 - 7, 9-10.
11 TSN, 18 May 2001, pp. 13-14.
12 Exhibits A and A-1.
13 TSN, 28 September 2001, pp. 4-6; TSN, 11 January 2002, p. 3; TSN, 12 August 2002, p. 12.
14 TSN, 28 September 2001, pp. 7-10.
15 TSN, 16 September 2002, pp. 4-6, 10.
16 CA rollo, pp. 32-38.
17 Id. at 106.
18 The docket number of the instant case when first elevated to the Court.
19 G.R. NOS. 147678-87, 7 July 2004, 433 SCRA 640.
20 Rollo, pp. 5-20; penned by Associate Justice Ramon R. Garcia with the concurrence of Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Antonio L. Villamor.
21 Id. at 14, 16.
22 Id. at 17, 19.
23 Id. at 20.
24 Id. at 22.
25 CA rollo, pp. 54-66.
26 Rollo, p. 23-25; dated 19 March 2007.
27 CA rollo, pp. 91-105.
28 Rollo, pp. 26-28; dated 30 March 2007.
29 People v. Boromeo, G.R. No. 150501, 3 June 2004, 430 SCRA 533, 541.
30 People v. Limio, G.R. NOS. 148804-06, 27 May 2004, 429 SCRA 597, 609.
31 Supra at 610-611.
32 TSN, 12 September 2000, p. 6.
33 TSN, 18 May 2001, pp. 6-7, 9-10, 13.
34 CA rollo, pp. 33-34.
35 People v. Serrano, G.R. No. 137480, 28 February 2001, 353 SCRA 161, 169-171.
36 People v. Moralde, 443 Phil. 369, 383 (2003).
38 TSN, 11 January 2002, p. 3.
39 Rollo, pp. 19-20.
40 People v. Escultor, G.R. NOS. 149366-67, 27 May 2004, 429 SCRA 651, 668.