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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 177219, July 09 : 2010]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ROGELIO ALARCON, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N


MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the November 27, 2006 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00971 modifying the April 18, 2005 Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 36, Calamba, Laguna (RTC), which initially found accused Rogelio Alarcon guilty of 24 counts of rape and imposed upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua with civil indemnity of P50,000.00 and moral damages of P50,000.00 for each charge of rape.

THE FACTS

Accused Rogelio Alarcon was indicted for 24 counts3 of rape defined and penalized under Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code,4 in separate Informations, all dated November 7, 2001. Except for the case numbers, date and time of the commission, the informations (for Criminal Case Nos. 9089-2001-C to 9113-2001-C) uniformly alleged that accused had sexual intercourse with AAA,5 his minor daughter, against her will. Thus:

INFORMATION
(Criminal Case No. 9089-2001-C)

The undersigned Asst. Provincial Prosecutor hereby accused ROGER ALARCON, with the crime of "RAPE," committed as follows:

That at around 10:00 o' clock in the evening of the 12th day of November 2000 at Brgy. Putho-Tuntungin, Municipality of Los Baños, Province of Laguna, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design, and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with one AAA, a minor and his daughter, against her will and to her damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6

It also appears that another daughter of the accused, CCC, and his son, DDD, filed a separate case against their father, docketed as Criminal Case No. 9088-01-C, for the alleged rape of CCC.

Upon arraignment, the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. On December 12, 2001, at the joint pre-trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated on the following:

  1. that complainant AAA is the biological daughter of accused Roger Alarcon; and

  2. that accused, prior to his arrest, was also residing at Sitio Boot, Brgy. Putho-Tuntungin, Los Baños, Laguna.7

During the joint trial, the prosecution presented, as witnesses, the three children of the accused, AAA, CCC, and DDD, to prove that their father physically and sexually abused them.

As culled from their testimonies, it appears that at around 10:00 o'clock in the evening of November 12, 2000, 14-year-old AAA and her siblings, BBB, CCC and DDD, were sleeping inside their one bedroom house in Barangay Putho-Tuntungin, Los Baños, Laguna; that she felt someone on top of her and was surprised to see that it was her father raising her t-shirt and removing her undergarments; that she pleaded, "Tay, wag," but her father ignored her pleas and angrily ordered her not to move;8 that her father then proceeded and succeeded in sexually abusing her; that she could not put up a fight for fear that he would hit her as he usually maltreated his children; that at that time, her siblings were also in the same room but were fast asleep; that after the first incident on the 12th, she was again raped two days later on November 14;9 that it happened again on December 26, with her remembering the date because it was right after Christmas;10 that she remembered also the incident which happened on January 1, 2001, as she could still hear the fireworks outside,11 and on January 7, 2001, on her brother's birthday;12  that when he ravished her again on January 18, 2001, she marked the date on their calendar;13 that, thereafter, he raped her almost daily in the month of February, 2001, particularly on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 26th and 28th, which dates she all marked on their calendar;14 that notwithstanding the repeated incidents of sexual abuse committed against her, AAA did not immediately reveal her ordeal to anybody because of her fear for her life and her siblings; that the last time she was abused was on March 24, 200115 and on that day, she, together with her siblings, ran away from their house and proceeded to the Tahanan ng Ama Retreat House in Calamba, Laguna.

Her eight-year-old sister, CCC,16 and her six-year-old brother, DDD,17 testified that the accused also touched their private parts.

To debunk the charges, the defense presented the accused and his brother, Asencion Alarcon, on the witness stand.  The accused categorically denied the charges.  He asserted that he was not in their house on those dates because he worked overtime at a motor shop in Cabuyao, Laguna. He explained that he frequently rendered overtime work because he was a good father who provided for his children.18

His alibi was corroborated by his brother, Asencion, who confirmed that they were co-workers at the motor shop where they usually worked overtime including the dates when the accused supposedly raped AAA.  The defense unfortunately could not present the time record of the shop to support their claim.19

On April 18, 2005, the trial court rendered its decision and convicted the accused of 24 counts of rape.20  It did not give weight to his defense of denial and alibi.21  It did not, however, consider her minority and relationship as special qualifying circumstances for failure of the prosecution to produce proof thereof.22  Nevertheless, for each count of rape, the trial court sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the victim P50,000.00, as civil indemnity, and another P50,000.00, as moral damages.  Specifically, the dispositive portion of said decision reads:

"WHEREFORE, the Court finds Accused Rogelio T. Alarcon GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the simple crime of rape in Criminal Case Numbers 9089-010C to 9113-2001-01-C or for a total of twenty four (24) counts of rape.  The accused is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua in each of the twenty four (24) cases to pay victim [AAA] P50,000.00 as civil liability and another P50,000.00 as moral damages for each case in Criminal Cases No. 9089-2001-C to 9113-2001-C.

SO ORDERED."

The accused appealed the case to the Court of Appeals23 assigning this lone error:

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF TWENTY FOUR COUNTS OF RAPE.

In his brief, the accused denied having defiled his daughter AAA.  He surmised that the charges were filed against him because he physically hurt his children.24  He further argued that the charges were unbelievable because they were not immediately reported by his daughter.

He also questioned his conviction on 24 counts of rape when his daughter narrated only 21 incidents. If he were to be criminally liable, it should only be for those incidents duly proven at the trial.25

In its November 27, 2006 Decision, the Court of Appeals modified the decision of the RTC.  Explaining the modification, the CA wrote:

"Nonetheless, although accused-appellant was charged with twenty five (25) counts of rape in twenty five (25) separate informations, records show that the alleged four incidents committed in March 2001 (except the incident on March 24, 2001) were not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

With respect to the alleged rapes committed on March 2, 3, 5 and 7, 2001, as alleged in the information in Criminal Cases Nos. 9109-2001-C, 9110-2001-C, 9111-2001-C and 9112-2001-C, there is reasonable doubt on accused-appellant's guilt, because private complainant herself testified that she was raped only once during March 2001.

x  x  x

Accordingly, accused-appellant should be convicted for twenty one (21) counts of rape which occurred on the following dates: November 12 and 14, 2000, December 26, 2000, January 1, 7 and 18, 2001, February 3, 5, 7, 8, 10,12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, and 28, 2001 and March 24, 2001."

In addition, the CA also awarded exemplary damages of P25,000.00 to deter fathers from sexually abusing their daughters and "considering that the commission of the offense was attended by an aggravating circumstance of relationship."26  Thus, the decretal portion of the CA decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated April 18, 2005 is affirmed, subject to the modification that accused-appellant is hereby convicted of twenty one (21) counts of rape in Criminal Cases Nos. 9089-2001-C to 9108-2001-C and 9113-2001-C, and accused-appellant is furthered ordered to pay private complainant exemplary damages of P25,000.00 in each case.

With respect to Criminal Cases Nos. 9109-2001-C, 9110-2001-C, 9111-2001-C and 9112-2001-C, accused-appellant is acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, this appeal.

In its Resolution dated June 20, 2007, the Court accepted the appeal and notified the parties that they could file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desire.27  Both accused and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the People of the Philippines, filed their respective Manifestations28 that they were adopting their respective briefs filed before the CA.

Accordingly, the principal issue in this appeal is the question of whether or not the accused is guilty of 21 counts of rape beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court rules in the affirmative.

Three principles guide the courts in resolving rape cases: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape in which only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.29

Thus, in a determination of guilt for the crime of rape, primordial is the credibility of the complainant's testimony. In rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things.30

In the case at bench, the trial court, which had the opportunity to observe AAA's demeanor in court, found her account of the incidents to be credible. It wrote: "the victim testified in a straightforward, natural and spontaneous manner. She gave clear and concise recitals of facts.  She was a credible witness. The victim's testimony was believable, positive, clear and convincing. The victim's testimony bore the hallmarks of truth. The victim's testimony was simple and spontaneous, unflawed by any inconsistency or contradiction.  As a minor, her language was of innocence and truth. She showed no prejudice or sinister motive against the accused-her father.  In fact, she exhibited fear and anxiety towards the accused."31

As the Court of Appeals decided not to disturb the findings of the trial court with respect to her credibility, the Court finds no reason to do otherwise.  It has consistently held that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to the highest respect and are not to be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case.32

The Court is neither persuaded that the delay in the reporting of the rape incidents seriously affected the veracity of her complaints.

Failure of a victim to immediately report the rape does not necessarily weaken the case against the accused.  The charge of rape is rendered doubtful only if the delay was unreasonable and unexplained.33  In this case, AAA did not report what her father did to her because she was terribly afraid that he would harm her. This is a normal reaction by minors - to hide the truth because they are easily intimidated by threats on their person and other members of the family. Besides, the Court cannot underestimate the trauma to a young girl's mind of the realization that her own father, who is supposed to be her natural protector, has sexually violated her.  When she was cross-examined, she replied that she could not even tell her own siblings of her plight because they were all afraid of their father.34  The only time she felt safe was after they had moved out of their father's house. As written in People vs. Macapanas,35

x x x. How the victim comforted herself after the incident was not significant as it had nothing to do with the elements of the crime of rape.  Not all rape victims can be expected to act conformably to the usual expectations of everyone.  Different and varying degrees of behavioral responses are expected in the proximity of, or in confronting, an aberrant episode.  It is settled that different people react differently to a given situation or type of situation and there is no standard form of human behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange, startling or frightful experience.

Thus, the delay in the reporting of her harrowing experience in the hands of her father does not vitiate the integrity of her testimony.  It must be considered that after she and her siblings were able to free themselves from their father, they did not waste time in denouncing him and filing the necessary charges.

In view of the foregoing, the Court cannot give weight to the defense of denial and alibi interposed by the accused. Denial, if unsupported by clear and convincing evidence, is negative and self-serving evidence, which deserves no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value over the testimonies of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.36

For alibi to prosper, it is not enough for the accused to prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed; he must likewise demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.37  Here, the accused claimed that he could not have committed the acts imputed to him because he was working overtime at a motor shop in Cabuyao, Laguna.  This is a weak defense. The accused committed to adduce substantiating evidence that he actually did overtime work when the rape incidents took place, but failed to do so.  Even if he did, it would not conclusively exclude him as the perpetrator. Aside from being positively identified by his very own daughter, Cabuyao, the place where the motor shop is located, is very near Los Baños, Laguna, and it cannot be said that it was impossible for him to be at the scene of the incidents.

In view of the foregoing, the Court sees no compelling reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, that the accused had indeed raped AAA on 21 separate occasions.

With respect to the damages, the Court affirms the award of civil indemnity of P50,000.00 and the award of P50,000.00 as moral damages, for each count of rape, without need of pleading or proof of its basis following current jurisprudence.38  Civil indemnity, which is actually in the nature of actual or compensatory damages, is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape. Moral damages are automatically granted in a rape case without need of further proof other than the fact of its commission. For it is assumed that a rape victim actually suffered moral injuries entitling her to such an award.39

The award of exemplary damages is likewise proper.  As held in People v. Dalisay,40 "being corrective in nature, exemplary damages, therefore, can be awarded, not only in the presence of an aggravating circumstance, but also where the circumstances of the case show the highly reprehensible or outrageous conduct of the offender."  In much the same way as Article 2230 of the Civil Code prescribes an instance when exemplary damages may be awarded, Article 2229, the main provision, lays down the very basis of the award. Thus, in People v. Matrimonio,41 the Court imposed exemplary damages to deter other fathers with perverse tendencies or aberrant sexual behavior from sexually abusing their own daughters. Also, in People v. Cristobal,42 the Court awarded exemplary damages on account of the moral corruption, perversity and wickedness of the accused in sexually assaulting a pregnant married woman. Recently, in People v. Cristino Cañada,43 People v. Pepito Neverio44 and People v. Lorenzo Layco, Sr.,45 the Court awarded exemplary damages to set a public example, to serve as deterrent to elders who abuse and corrupt the youth, and to protect the latter from sexual abuse.  It must be noted that, in the said cases, the Court used as basis Article 2229, rather than Article 2230, to justify the award of exemplary damages. Indeed, the deplorable act of the accused in defiling his daughter must not go unpunished.

The award of exemplary damages for each count of rape in the amount of P25,000.00 should, however, be increased to P30,000.00 following prevailing jurisprudence.46

WHEREFORE, the November 27, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00971 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the award of exemplary damages is hereby increased from P25,000.00 to P30,000.00 for each count of rape.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Del Castillo,* Abad, and Villarama, Jr.,** JJ. , concur.

Endnotes:


*   Designated as additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta who inhibited (Per raffle of March 15, 2010).

**   Designated as additional member in lieu of Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura per raffle dated June 16, 2010.

1  Rollo, pp. 2-20.  Penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta with Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes and Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal concurring.

2 CA rollo, pp. 11-18.

3 Records, pp. 1-25. Crim. Case No. 9089-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9090-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9091-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9092-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9093-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9094-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9095-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9096-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9097-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9098-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9099-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9100-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9101-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9102-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9103-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9104-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9105-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9106-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9107-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9108-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9109-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9110-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9111-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9112-2001-C; Crim. Case No. 9113-2001-C.

4 Republic Act No. 8353, "The Anti-Rape Law of 1997."

5 Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the "Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004" and its implementing rules, the real name of the victim, together with the real names of her immediate family members, is withheld and fictitious initials instead are used to represent her, both to protect her privacy (People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419, 421-426).

6 Rollo, pp. 4-5.

7 Records, pp. 37-38.

8 TSN, dated January 17, 2002, p. 9.

9 Id. at 10.

10 Id. at 11.

11 Id. at 12.

12 Id. at 13-14.

13 Id. at 14.

14 Id. at 14-15.

15 Id. at 17.

16 TSN, dated January 24, 2002, pp. 6-7.

17 TSN, dated January 31, 2002, p. 5.

18 CA rollo, p. 13.

19 Id.

20 Id. at 11-18.

21 Id. at 16.

22 Id. at 16-18.

23 Id. at 19.

24 Id. at  43.

25 Id. at 45-46.

26 Id. at 19.

27 Rollo, pp. 24-25.

28 Id. at 35-37 (for appellant); Id. at 29-31 (for the People).

29 People v. Antonio Dalisay, G.R. No. 188106, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 807, citing People v. Glivano, G.R. No. 177565, January 28, 2008, 542 SCRA 656, 662.

30 People v. Pascua, 426 Phil. 245 (2003).

31 CA rollo, pp. 14-15.

32 People v. Sta. Ana, 353 Phil. 388 (1998).

33 People v. Macapanas, G.R. No. 187049, May 4, 2010.

34 TSN, dated January 17, 2002, p. 18.

35 People v. Macapanas, supra note 33.

36  People v. Manalili, G.R. No. 184598, June 23, 2009, 590 SCRA 695.

37 People v. Matunhay, G.R. No. v178274, March 5, 2010, citing People v. Mingming, G.R. No. 174195, December 10, 2008, 573 SCRA 509.

38 People v. Ofemiano, G.R. No. 187155, February 1, 2010.

39 People v. Bautista Iroy, G.R. No. 187743, March 3, 2010.

40 G.R. No. 188106, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 807, 820.

41 G.R. Nos. 82223-24, November 13, 1992, 215 SCRA 613, 634.

42 322 Phil. 551 (1996).

43 G.R. No. 175317, October 2, 2009, 602 SCRA 378.

44 G.R. No. 182792, August 25, 2009, 597 SCRA 149.

45 G.R. No. 182191, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 803.

46 People v. Anguac, G.R. No. 176744, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 716; People v. Dalisay, G.R. 188106, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 807.
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