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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 172962 : July 08, 2010]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ROMEO REPUBLO, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N


LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated January 31, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00348, which affirmed in toto the Decision2 dated April 15, 2002 of the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 128 in Criminal Cases No. C-54755 to 54757 convicting accused-appellant Romeo Republo of two counts of rape and one count of attempted rape.

Three Informations were filed against the accused-appellant:

Criminal Case No. C-54755

That sometime in the morning of September 1997 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with lewd design and by means of force and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie and have sexual intercourse with one AAA, a minor of 12 years old, against the latter's will and without her consent.3

Criminal Case No. C-54756

That sometime in the afternoon of September 1997 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design and by means of threats and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attempt to have sexual intercourse with one AAA, a minor of 12 years old, thus commencing directly by overt act, the commission of the crime of "RAPE" as a consequence, but the herein accused was not able to perform all the acts of execution which should constitute the said felony, by reason or causes other than his own spontaneous desistance, that is, the victim was  able to [run] outside the room.4

Criminal Case No. C-54757

That sometime in the evening of September 1997 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design and by means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie and have sexual intercourse with one AAA, a minor of 12 years old, against the latter's will and without her consent.5

On December 7, 1998, accused-appellant pleaded NOT GUILTY to the three criminal informations, which were tried jointly.6

The prosecution's version of the facts, culled from the testimonies of witnesses AAA, her mother BBB, Police Officer (PO) 3 Constantino Guerrero, and Dr. Tomas Suguitan, is as follows:

In 1997, BBB went to New Guinea Republic, West Africa, to work, leaving her daughter, AAA, with the family of her older sister, RRR, in a house they were renting in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.  The accused-appellant is RRR's husband.

All three incidents happened sometime in September 1997, on three different dates.  The first incident occurred at around 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday, when then 11-year old AAA was awakened from her sleep by accused-appellant.  Only AAA and accused-appellant were in the house at that time.  Accused-appellant, who was wearing only his shorts, pulled her blanket, forced her to lie down and undressed her.  Upon removing her shorts, accused-appellant inserted his penis inside her vagina.  He then left.7

The second incident happened at around 3:00 p.m., two days later. While AAA was doing her schoolwork inside her room, accused-appellant entered the room and immediately went on top of her.  However, as the daughter of accused-appellant was inside the house, AAA was able to run outside.  AAA went to her aunt LLL's house.8  Aunt LLL is the wife of BBB's brother.The latter was not in his and LLL's house at the time AAA went there.

Around two days later, AAA was preparing to sleep with accused-appellant's children at around 10:00 p.m.  AAA laid down beside the three children.  When the accused-appellant's three children were already sleeping, accused-appellant laid down beside AAA, and threatened her not to tell anybody about what was happening, or else he would kill her family.  AAA was afraid and believed that accused-appellant would execute his threat as she knows that "he is a bad man."  Accused-appellant then removed her shorts and inserted his private part into hers.9

BBB learned of these incidents on July 24, 1998, when she had already returned to the Philippines.  On that night, AAA asked her what "rape" was.  As AAA was still so young, BBB was reluctant to tell her what was meant by the word rape. AAA, however, insisted and, when BBB finally told her, BBB inquired why she was asking about the same.  AAA told her that it already happened to her when accused-appellant went on top of her ("pinatungan").  BBB immediately went to the house of accused-appellant, but he was out on a drinking spree.  She confronted her sister, RRR, who claimed that she did not know anything of the matter.10

BBB then had AAA medically examined.11  The third prosecution witness, Dr. Tomas D. Suguitan, whose competence and expertise had been admitted by the defense, observed that AAA had two healed shallow lacerations at 2 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions of her hymen.  Dr. Suguitan concluded that AAA was in a non-virgin state when she was medically examined.  AAA told Dr. Suguitan that she was sexually abused by accused-appellant.12

On August 10, 1988, BBB and AAA went to the police station to give their statement.  Fourth prosecution witness PO2 Guerrero took the statements of AAA and BBB regarding the incidents.13

The defense presented accused-appellant Republo as its lone witness.  Republo denied having raped AAA.  Instead, he believed that the rape charges were filed against him in order to teach him a lesson, as there were several incidents that allegedly infuriated BBB, to wit:

On November 15, 1997, accused-appellant purportedly caught AAA sitting on the lap of her boyfriend, and they were embracing each other.  The following morning, he talked to AAA and told her that she was too young to be in a romantic relationship.  Resenting this advice, AAA replied to him in a disrespectful manner.  Accused-appellant got so annoyed with AAA that he kicked her twice at her thighs. AAA ran to her aunt LLL's house and told her about the incident.  LLL confronted accused-appellant.  Accused-appellant told LLL that he caught AAA with her boyfriend the previous night. There was also another time when accused-appellant was drunk that he quarreled with BBB.  During this quarrel, accused-appellant destroyed some of BBB's furniture and appliances.  He uttered the following words against BBB and AAA: "YUNG ANAK MO, GUSTONG MAG-ARAL SA IYO, MAKATI KA, MAY ASAWA KANG TUNAY, NAGLALANDI KA LANG, IKAW, MAKATI KA, NAGMANA KA SA INA MO."  BBB later on told accused-appellant that the rape cases were filed in order to teach him a lesson.14

Accused-appellant claims that AAA began living with them only in November 1997.  AAA's grandfather had just died at that time, and the parents of AAA asked accused-appellant and RRR to take care of AAA and her sister, MMM.

On April 15, 2002, the RTC of Caloocan City rendered its Decision convicting accused-appellant, the dispositive portion of which read:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused Romeo Republo guilty beyond reasonable doubt for two (2) counts of Rape [in] Criminal Cases Nos. CO 54755 [and] 54757, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of reclusion perpetua in each cases and indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one day maximum of prision correccional as minimum to eight (8) years minimum of prision mayor as maximum under Criminal Case No. C-54756. Accused is likewise ordered to indemnify the private complainant the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 for civil damages for each count of consummated rape. The accused is entitled to the benefits of his preventive imprisonment.

The City Warden of Caloocan City is hereby ordered to commit the person of the accused to the National Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City, to serve his sentence.15

The RTC held that the straightforward testimony of AAA and the impartial findings of the medico-legal officer led it to believe that accused-appellant committed the crimes charged.  The RTC likewise found the credibility of accused-appellant doubtful, finding it unbelievable his claim that AAA filed complaints for two counts of rape and one count of attempted rape merely because accused-appellant maltreated her when she rudely answered him after he warned her to be careful about her relationship with her alleged boyfriend.

Accused-appellant appealed the three convictions to this Court, where the cases were originally docketed as G.R. No. 154292-94.  However, pursuant to the Decision of this Court in People v. Mateo,16 which modified the provisions of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure insofar as they provide for direct appeals to this Court in cases where the penalty imposed is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, the cases were transferred to the Court of Appeals for appropriate action and disposition.17  Upon transfer, the cases were docketed as a single case as CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00348. On January 31, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC Decision in toto.18

Accused-appellant appealed to this Court anew,19 with both parties manifesting that they will no longer file supplemental briefs, as the issues had already been thoroughly discussed in the Appellee's and Accused-Appellant's Briefs filed in the original appeal that was transferred to the Court of Appeals.20

In said Accused-Appellant's Brief, Republo specified the following assignment of errors:

I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE PROSECUTION'S WITNESSES['] INCREDIBLE TESTIMONIES.

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF TWO (2) COUNTS OF RAPE AND ONE (1) COUNT OF ATTEMPTED RAPE WHEN HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.21

In insisting that AAA's testimony was incredible, the accused-appellant, in his brief, focuses on two arguments:

  1. Accused-appellant points out that BBB entrusted the custody of AAA to BBB's mother and niece.  This allegedly being the case, accused-appellant contends that it is highly inconceivable for AAA's grandmother to let the children of BBB stay in accused-appellant's house considering that BBB specially provided for an apartment for her mother and her children.  There was therefore no need for AAA to live with the accused-appellant considering that she had a place of her own.22]

  2. Accused-appellant points out that AAA had testified that she informed her aunt, LLL, about the rape incidents, but the latter did not do anything about said information.  Accused-appellant added that "[i]t would be reasonable to presume that [LLL] did not find any reason to believe the allegations of [AAA] against the accused-appellant. Otherwise, [LLL] would have relayed the matter to [AAA]'s grandmother."23

Accused-appellant's first argument is apparently meant to support his alibi, that he and AAA supposedly lived in the same house only in November 1997 upon the request of AAA's parents after AAA's grandfather died.  Citing the following portion of BBB's cross-examination, accused-appellant contends that it is highly inconceivable for AAA's grandmother, who was entrusted with the custody of AAA, to let the children of BBB stay in accused-appellant's house considering that BBB specially provided an apartment for her children:

Q
Now, you mentioned of a house adjacent to the house of your sister, what is that house adjacent to the house of your sister?
A
It is a house made of light materials, sir.

Q
That is not the house of your sister [RRR]?
A
They were just renting that, sir.

Q
How about the adjoining house?
A
That is the same, sir, they were just renting it.

Q
Who [was] renting it?
A
I was the one renting because I was the one sending the money, sir.

Q
To whom?
A
To my mother, sir.

Q
So you were the one leasing this house in Bagong Silang?
A
Yes, sir.

Q
Which is a two adjacent structure?
A
Yes, sir.

Q
The one structure occupied by your sister [RRR] and her family and the adjacent structure was occupied by your mother and children?
A
Yes, sir.

Q
And you know that your mother, your children, were staying in Bagong Silang while you were abroad?
A
Yes, sir, I know that.

Atty. Ibanes to Witness -
Q
Because you were the one sending the money to your mother in Bagong Silang for the payment of the rentals of this adjoining structure occupied by your children and your mother?
A
Yes, sir.

Q
Aside from your mother, who were residing in that structure adjacent to the house of the Republos?
A
My mother, my children and one of my niece [NNN] and her husband, sir.

Q
How many children of yours are residing there?
A
Three (3) children, sir.

x x x x
Q
And this [HHH], [NNN] and your mother were the persons to whom you entrusted your children while you were staying abroad?
A
Yes, sir.24

Accused-appellant concludes that it was physically impossible for him to have raped AAA in September 1997 considering that he and AAA lived in the same house only in November 1997.25

In order that the defense of alibi may prosper, the appellant must prove both the presence of the appellant in another place at the time of the commission of the offense and the physical impossibility of him being at the scene of the crime.26

In Marco v. Court of Appeals, 27 the Court did not find the distance of twelve (12) kilometers far enough as to make it physically impossible for the appellant therein to be at the scene of the crime.  In People v. Bation,28 we ruled that there was no physical impossibility for the appellant to be at the scene of the crime, citing that the appellant claims to be merely twenty-six (26) kilometers away from said scene.  In People v. Ignas,29 the distance was even much farther:

Basic is the rule that for alibi to prosper, the accused must prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed and that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime. Physical impossibility refers to the distance between the place where the appellant was when the crime transpired and the place where it was committed, as well as the facility of access between the two places. In these cases, the defense admitted that the distance between La Trinidad, Benguet and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya is 79 kilometers, which can be negotiated in 4 or 5 hours.  Clearly, it was not physically impossible for appellant to be at the locus criminis at the time of the killing. Hence, the defense of alibi must fail.

We, therefore, find it difficult to uphold accused-appellant's defense of alibi in the case at bar, when he is merely claiming to be living in the adjacent house to that of AAA.

In so far as the above testimony of BBB on cross-examination was being offered as proof that the testimony of AAA was incredible, we fail to find any irreconcilable inconsistency in AAA and BBB's statements so as to conclude that AAA had been lying about living in accused-appellant's house, much less that she had been lying about the rape incidents.

In said cross-examination, counsel for accused-appellant was able to elicit from BBB an admission that she had entrusted AAA to her mother, her niece, NNN, and the latter's husband, HHH.  However, for accused-appellant to subtly conclude on this premise that AAA's aunt, accused-appellant's wife, RRR, was not entrusted just the same with the care of AAA, is a non sequitur.  Contrary to accused-appellant's contention, it is not at all inconceivable for AAA's grandmother to let the children of BBB stay in RRR and accused-appellant's house, as the same is very close, adjacent in fact, to the house where she (AAA's grandmother) is staying.

As regards the testimony of AAA that she informed her aunt, LLL, about the rape incidents, but the latter did not do anything about said information, we likewise do not subscribe to accused-appellant's hasty conclusion that LLL did not do anything because she did not believe AAA was telling the truth. While we can think of many possible explanations why LLL would choose not to get involved in such a potentially messy situation, it is best not to indulge in the defense's speculations on the same, especially since LLL was not even presented as a witness.  The trial court, which was able to observe the demeanor of AAA and accused-appellant, concluded that it was AAA who was truthful in her testimony on the harrowing events of September 1997.  It is the bounden duty of the trial court to determine the credibility of witnesses for both sides and to weigh the probative value of their testimonies, just as it is the trial court's duty not to rely on, or consider as evidence, the purported opinion of a person who was never even presented as a witness in the case.

We furthermore agree with the finding of the trial court that it is unbelievable that AAA would file complaints for two counts of rape and one count of attempted rape just to exact revenge for the time accused-appellant allegedly kicked her.  We are convinced even less that BBB would persuade her daughter to lie about such rape incidents because of her quarrel with accused-appellant.  Thus, we have repeatedly held that:

Not a few accused in rape cases have attributed the charges brought against them to family feuds, resentment, or revenge. But such alleged motives have never swayed the Court from lending full credence to the testimony of a complainant who remained steadfast throughout her direct and cross-examinations, especially a minor as in this case.  Further, we simply cannot believe that a lass of tender age would concoct a tale of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts, and undergo the expense, trouble, inconvenience, not to mention the trauma, of a public trial, unless she was in fact raped.  No young and decent Filipina would publicly admit that she was ravished and her honor tainted unless such was true, for it would be instinctive for her to protect her honor.30

On the civil aspect of the case at bar, the trial court correctly found accused-appellant civilly liable in the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for each of the counts of consummated rape.  These amounts are consistent with prevailing jurisprudence.31  The trial court, however, omitted the civil liabilities of accused-appellant for the attempted rape.  Prevailing jurisprudence sets the amount of the civil indemnity in attempted rape at P30,000.00 and moral damages at P25,000.00.32  We hereby modify the disposition in the lower courts to include such amounts.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals' Decision dated January 31, 2006 in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00348, which affirmed in toto the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court's Decision dated April 15, 2002 in Criminal Cases No. C-54755 to 54757, is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant Romeo Republo is further ORDERED to indemnify private complainant in the amount of P30,000.00 as civil indemnity and P25,000.00 as moral damages in Criminal Case No. C-54756 for attempted rape.

SO ORDERED.

Corona, (Chairperson), Velasco, Jr., Del Castillo, and Perez, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1Penned by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes with Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang and Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, concurring; rollo, pp. 3-14.

2CA rollo, pp. 15-20.

3Id. at 6.

4Id. at 7.

5Id. at 8.

6Records, p. 19.

7TSN, August 5, 1999, pp. 2-4, 12-13.

8Id. at 5, 14-15.

9Id. at 5-6.

10 Id. at 19-22.

11 Id. at 22.

12 TSN, August 11, 1999, pp. 2-6.

13 TSN, August 12, 1999, pp. 3-5.

14 TSN, July 10, 2001, pp. 3-12; TSN, July 23, 2001, pp. 2-9.

15 CA rollo, p. 20.

16 G.R. No. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.

17 CA rollo, p. 61.

18 Id. at 104-115.

19 Id. at 116.

20 Rollo, pp. 16-17; 23-24.

21 CA rollo, p. 39.

22 Rollo, p. 48.

23 Id.

24 TSN, August 5, 1999, pp. 24-25.

25 CA rollo, p. 49.

26 Marco v. Court of Appeals, 339 Phil. 467, 474 (1997).

27 Id. at 475.

28 419 Phil. 494, 516 (2001).

29 458 Phil. 965, 993 (2003).

30 People v. Gagto, 323 Phil. 539, 555-556 (1996).

31 People v. Biong, 450 Phil. 433, 449 (2003); People v. Pagsanjan, 442 Phil. 667, 687 (2002).

32 People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 169078, March 10, 2006, 484 SCRA 555, 569-570.
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