G.R. No. 208475, June 08, 2016
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MANUEL REBANUEL Y NADERA, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
Before this Court is an automatic review of the August 30, 2012 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-CR.-H.C. No. 00815, which affirmed with modification the July 9, 2007 Judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 63, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, in Criminal Case No. 212, finding appellant Manuel Rebanuel guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code and imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353.
The Information3 dated January 19, 2004 charging appellant Rebanuel reads as follows:
The undersigned accuses MANUEL REBANUEL y NADERA of the crime of RAPE, committed as follows:
That on the 3rd day of January 2003, around 7:00 x x x in the evening, at x x x Negros Oriental, Philippines, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with [AAA4], a minor, 9 years of age.
Contrary to Article 266-A, paragraph l(d) of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353.
Introitus admits 1 finger with difficulty.
Hymen - a suspect old healed laceration at 2 o'clock position.10
WHEREFORE, the prosecution having proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape defined in Article 266-A, paragraph l(d) and penalized in Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, accused MANUEL REBANUEL y NADERA is CONVICTED. He is sentenced to the penalty of imprisonment of Reclusion Perpetua. He is hereby ordered to pay complainant [AAA] the sum of Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (Php75,000.00), as civil indemnity; Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (Php75,000.00), as moral damages; and Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (Php25,000.00), as exemplary damages.
Accused being meted with capital punishment, let the entire records of this case be forwarded to the Court of Appeals Visayas, Cebu City for review.17
As to whether or not appellant had carnal knowledge with [AAA], to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused in rape cases, the courts are guided by three well-entrenched principles: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) considering that in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great 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.
In the case at bar, the prosecution established appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. A careful perusal of [AAA's] testimony shows that indeed, on January 3, 2003, appellant followed her when she was on her way to the Beta House, and later when she went out to urinate outside, brought her to a hilly portion about three (3) meters away, covered her mouth, removed her underwear and sexually molested her against her will. She positively recognized appellant, a neighbor who resided about ten (10) [arms'] length away from their house, whose face she easily recognized by the illumination coming out from the Beta House. Her testimony was clear and straightforward and replete with material details which could not possibly be a product of the imagination of a young child of tender years who was innocent to the ways of the world. When she appeared before the trial court, she cried when she testified about the defloration that appellant did to her. Further, the trial court found [AAA's] testimony to be categorical and straightforward in positively identifying appellant as the person who raped her. It is a well-entrenched rule that in rape cases, the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is best addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge whose conclusion thereon deserves much weight and respect because the judge had the direct opportunity to observe them on the stand and ascertain if they were telling the truth or not. The appellate courts will not interfere with the trial court's assessment, absent any indication that material facts of substance or value was overlooked or that the trial court gravely abused its discretion. Here, We find no reason to reverse the trial court's finding which was primarily based upon a vantage point.18 (Emphases added, citations omitted.)
It is not accurate to say that there is a typical reaction or norm of behavior among rape victims, as not every victim can be expected to act conformably with the usual expectation of mankind and there is no standard behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange or startling experience, each situation being different and dependent on the various circumstances prevailing in each case.
Besides, in rape cases, physical resistance need not be established when intimidation is exercised upon the victim and the latter submits herself out of fear. Intimidation is addressed to the mind of the victim and is therefore subjective. Barely out of childhood, there was nothing AAA could do but resign to appellant's evil desires to protect her life. Minor victims like AAA are easily intimidated and browbeaten into silence even by the mildest threat on their lives. (Citations omitted.)
On the other hand, [AAA's] failure to immediately report the defloration did to her will not negate the finding of rape. Delay in reporting rape cases does not by itself undermine the charge, where the delay is grounded in threats from the accused. Delay in revealing the commission of a crime such as rape does not necessarily render such charge unworthy of belief because the victim may choose to keep quiet rather than expose her defilement to the harsh glare of public scrutiny. Only when the delay is unreasonable or unexplained may it work to discredit the complainant. Here, [AAA] reasonably explained that she did not reveal to her parents the harrowing experience she went through in the hands of appellant for fear that her father might commit a crime and kill appellant for the beastly act the latter did to her. xxx.
We uphold the trial court's ruling that appellant's defense of alibi, deserves scant consideration. Alibi is an inherently weak defense because it is easy to fabricate and highly unreliable. To merit approbation, the accused must adduce clear and convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs criminis at the time the crime was committed, such that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed. Since alibi is a weak defense for being easily fabricated, it cannot prevail over and is worthless in the face of the positive identification by a credible witness that an accused perpetrated the crime. Indisputably, [AAA] positively identified appellant as her molester whom she knew for being her neighbor who resided about ten (10) [arms'] length away from their house.23 (Emphases added, citations omitted.)
WHEREFORE, the Judgment dated July 9, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court ("RTC"), 7th Judicial Region, Branch 63, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, in Criminal Case No. 212, finding appellant MANUEL REBANUEL y NADERA GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, is AFFIRMED with the following modifications:
a) The award of civil x x x indemnity of Php75,000.00 is reduced to Php50,000.00;
b) The award of moral damages of Php75,000.00 is reduced to Php50,000.00;
c) The award of exemplary damages of Php25,000.00 is increased to Php30,000.00;
d) Appellant is ORDERED to pay the victim [AAA] 6% interest per annum on all the civil damages from the date of the finality of this decision.
Costs against appellant.24
Article 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. — Rape is Committed —
1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
x x x x
d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.
When the offended party is under 12 years of age, the crime committed is "termed statutory rape as it departs from the usual modes of committing rape. What the law punishes is carnal knowledge of a woman below 12 years of age. Thus, the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place. The law presumes that the victim does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years." x x x.27 (Emphasis ours, citation omitted.)
For alibi to succeed as a defense, the accused must establish by clear and convincing evidence (a) his presence at another place at the time of the perpetration of the offense and (b) the physical impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime, x x x. Clearly, there was no physical impossibility for him to be present at the scene of the crime at the time of the commission thereof. This is, undeniably, evidence of his presence at the locus criminis.
Accused-appellant's denial in this case, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative, self-serving evidence, which cannot be given greater evidentiary weight than the testimony of the complaining witness who testified on affirmative matters. His denial and alibi cannot prevail over the affirmative testimony of AAA, a minor less than 12 years old, who narrated how accused-appellant inserted his penis into her vagina.30 (Citation omitted.)
We stress that in rape cases the accused may be convicted based solely on the testimony of the victim, provided that such testimony is credible, natural, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. In this regard, the trial court is in the best position to assess the credibility of the victim, having personally heard her and observed her deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. In the absence of any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some factor or circumstances of weight that would affect the result of the case, or that the judge acted arbitrarily, the trial court's assessment of credibility deserves the appellate court's highest respect. Here, the appellant fails to persuade us to depart from this principle and to apply the exception.
The testimony of rape victims are given full weight and credence, considering that no young woman, especially of tender age, would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter pervert herself by being subjected to a public trial, if she was not motivated solely by the desire to seek justice for the wrong done to her. It is highly improbable that a girl of tender years who is not yet exposed to the ways of the world, would impute to any man a crime so serious as rape if what she claims is false. Considering that the victim in this case underwent a harrowing experience and exposed herself to the rigors of public trial, it is unlikely that she would concoct false accusations against the appellant, who is her uncle. (Emphases added, citations omitted.)
** Per Special Order No. 2354 dated June 2, 2016.
1Rollo, pp. 3-16; penned by Associate Justice Zenaida T. Galapate Laguilles with Associate Justices Edgardo L. Delos Santos and Pamela Ann Abella Maxino concurring.
2 CA rollo, pp. 31 -36; penned by Judge Orlando C. Velasco.
3 Records, p. 1.
4 The real names of the private complainant and those of her immediate family members are withheld in consonance with People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 (2006), Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act), Republic Act No. 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004), and A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC (Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children).
5 Records, p. 52.
6 TSN, August 25, 2004, pp. 1-23.
7 Owned by Endrico Rebanuel, this is a house where movies are regularly shown for a fee and where singing or "videoke" sessions are held. (See TSN, March 10, 2005, pp. 1-6 ).
8 TSN, August 25, 2004, pp. 4-17.
9 TSN, October 14,2004, pp. 4-12.
10 Records, p. 9.
11 TSN, December 9, 2004, pp. 6-8.
12 Id. at 11-14.
13 TSN, January 26, 2005, pp. 8-11.
14 TSN, October 26, 2006.
15 TSN, March 10, 2005, pp. 5-19.
16 TSN, July 14, 2005, pp. 3-19.
17 CA rollo, p. 36.
18Rollo, pp. 10-11.
19 Id. at 12.
20 TSTM, August 25,2004, p. 17.
21Rollo, p. 12.
22 688 Phil. 543, 556-557 (2012).
23Rollo, pp. 13-14.
24 Id, at 15-16.cralawred
25 Id. at 17.
26 CA rollo, pp. 47-90.cralawred
27 People v. Crisostomo, 725 Phil. 542, 551 (2014), citing People v. Dollano, Jr., 675 Phil. 827 843 (2011).
28 Records, p. 88.
29Rollo, p. 9.
30People v. Gragasin, 613 Phil. 574 (2009).
31See People v. Pacheco, 632 Phil. 624, 634-635 (2010).
32 625 Phil. 74, 86-87 (2010).
33 People v. Delfin, G.R. No. 190349, December 10, 2014, 744 SCRA 413, 425.
34People v. Pacheco, supra note 31 at 635.
35People v. Delfin, supra note 33 at 425.
36People v. Jugueta, G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016.