When the issue is auctoritas, credibility or that which wears the appearance of truth in a criminal proceeding is normally the allotted precinct of trial courts. Unless there are compelling reasons to deny this to the inquest magistrate, justice and common sense would be better serve by a reliance on this precept of evidence.
The issue of credibility of witnesses is one alleged error assigned by accused-appellant in this appeal.
Assailed in this appeal is the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 16, Cebu City, dated Oct. 18, 1991, the dispositive portion of which reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds the accused Mario Caballero guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape for which he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
, and to further indemnify the complainant Charina Alpuerto in the sum of P30,000.00.
SO ORDERED." 1
The records reveal the following facts:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Sometime in the last week of September, 1988, at about 11:00 o’clock in the morning, Charina Alpuerto, then 14 years old, went to the mountainside to get their cow and transfer it to another grassy place. While Charina was tethering the cow to a coconut tree, Mario Caballero appeared from behind, embraced Charina and covered her eyes with his shirt. He tied her hands at her back and then pushed her to the ground. Then he undressed her and raped her. 2 After the rape, Mario Caballero, using a knife, threatened to kill Charina if she would tell her parents about what happened. 3 Hence, Charina did not disclose to anybody that she was raped by Caballero. In February 1989, Pelagia Alpuerto, Charina’s mother, found out that Charina was pregnant. 4 Later, in July of the same year, Charina gave birth at the Sacred Heart Hospital.
Mario Caballero, a 53 year old fisherman, denied raping Charina Alpuerto and alleged that they were lovers. According to him, it was Charina who professed her love to him and she often went to his house to borrow money from him. 5 He alleged that he did not force Charina to have sex with him. In fact, in September 1988, at about 6:00 in the morning, it was Charina who went to his house and lay beside him. She touched and embraced him 6 and they had sexual intercourse. Thereafter, they had engaged in sexual intercourse several times. 7 Their relationship continued and in October 1988, Charina told him that she was pregnant. He promised to support her. 8 On Feb. 14, 1989, the parents of Charina discovered their affair, as well as her pregnancy, and they confronted him at his house in Camboang. After the incident, he decided to end their relationship. 9
Mario Caballero was charged with the crime of rape. When arraigned, he pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial on the merits ensued and thereafter, the trial court convicted Caballero of rape.
Hence, this appeal with the following assignment of errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The trial court erred in giving credence to the testimony of Charina Alpuerto which is replete with material inconsistencies and improbabilities.
The trial court erred in not acquitting the accused-appellant Mario Caballero when the evidence adduced by the prosecution failed to overcome with moral certainty the presumption of innocence mandated by the constitution by clear and convincing evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The appeal is devoid of merit.
Accused appellant assails the credibility of complainant Charina Alpuerto. He contends that her testimony was inconsistent and contrary to common knowledge and experience. He argues that it was unthinkable for Charina not to shout for help nor make an attempt to escape from his embrace when her house was just a kilometer away. It was likewise incredible that Charina did not sustain any injury or even bruises on her body when she claimed to have been tied, pushed to the ground and punched by Accused-Appellant
. Then, after the supposed rape, Charina never reported the incident to her parents. Finally, Accused
appellant opined that since Charina gave birth on July 9, 1989, there could not have been any rape sometime in the last week of September 1988. If the alleged rape happened in the last week of September, Charina should have delivered her baby between the second and third week of June, 1989 and not on July 9, 1989.
All these arguments are puerile.
Charina Alpuerto failed to shout for help because appellant covered her mouth with his strong hand. She was not able to escape because her hands were tied and her eyes were covered by a shirt, and she felt weak. Charina narrated her ordeal in her testimony:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Q. And then what happened?
A. And he covered my mouth with his hand.
Q After Mario Caballero covered your eyes and your mouth, what did he do?
A. He pushed me to the ground.
Q. And what happened to you when Mario Caballero pushed you to the ground?
A. I fell face upward and my head hit a trunk of the coconut tree.
Q. After you fell down to the ground, what did Mario Caballero do to you?
A. He pulled my short and may panty.
Q. Before he pulled your short and your panty. What did he do to you?
A. He boxed my legs.
A. What did you feel when he boxed your legs?
A. It was painful.
Q. After Mario Caballero removed your short and your panty, what did he do to you?
A. He laid (sic) on top of me." 10
After the incident, Charina did not report what happened to her. She kept silent because she was threatened by the appellant:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q. After Mario Caballero raped you, what did he do to you?
A. He threatened to kill me if I revealed to my parents.
Q. Mario Caballero, what did he use in threatening you?
A. A knife.
Q. He was holding a knife at that time?
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. And were you afraid when he threatened you?
A. Yes, I was afraid.
Q. And did you report the incident to your parents as to what happened?
A. No sir.
Q. Why did you not report.
A. Because of his threat to kill me if I report to my parents." 11
Charina went home crying and feeling weak. Her mother, Pelagia Alpuerto, noticed that she seemed to be out of her mind and did not eat her lunch. Charina did not disclose to her mother that she was raped hence, the latter, having had no suspicion on what happened, did not examine her. There was therefore, no inkling for Charina’s mother to see if her daughter sustained any injuries or bruises.
It was only when Charina’s pregnancy was discovered that her parents learned of the truth. Charina chose to remain silent because according to her whenever they met, appellant would tell her that he would kill her if she would tell her father about the incident. Thus —
"Q. From the time the incident happened and your parents found you pregnant, did you have occasion to meet Mario Caballero?
A. We still met but every time we met he would threaten me not to tell anybody.
Q. In what way he threatened you?
A. He used to ask me if I reported to my father and I would tell him, no.
Q. Why did you tell him you did not report to your father?
A. Because he told that he would kill me if I will tell my father." 12
Charina never told her parents about the incident for fear that appellant would kill her. Her failure to report the incident immediately did not detract from her credibility, her hesitation being attributable to accused-appellant’s death threats. 13 The threat to kill her if she reports the incident to anyone was etched in her mind. 14
Accused-appellant also contends that if Charina was sexually molested sometime in the last week of September 1988, she should have delivered her baby between the second and third week of June, 1989 and not on July 9, 1989. It should be noted that medically, the length of pregnancy varies from 220 days to 330 days from the time of the intercourse. Charina gave birth to a full-term baby within the normal period of conception. This fact alone cannot disprove that the rape was committed in the last week of September.
Accused-appellant never denied having had sexual intercourse with Charina. He, however, alleged that it was voluntary and out of mutual consent for they were lovers. His testimony was not credible and had remained uncorroborated and to say the least, merely self-serving. In People v. Casao, 15 the "sweetheart theory" is but a mere concoction of accused-appellant in order to exculpate himself from any criminal liability. The record is bereft of hard evidence to sustain the "sweetheart theory", however, feeble it may have been alleged by Accused-Appellant
As stated earlier, the credibility of witnesses is the allotted precinct of trial courts. Thus, the court a quo with telling effect observed the manner by which the victim, Charina, testified:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . Charina Alpuerto appears to the Court to be an unsophisticated girl who gave her testimony in a straightforward manner. There is nothing in her narration and behavior which would excite suspicion as (to) the truth of her story. . ." (Judgment, p. 3)
Admittedly, conclusions and findings of fact by the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which would have affected the result of the case. 16
Considering the circumstances and it appearing that accused-appellant was specifically identified by the victim, Charina, as the culprit, this court can do no less but affirm without doubt, the finding of guilt by the Court below.
ACCORDINGLY, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that the amount of P30,000.00 as indemnity damages be increased to P50,000.00 17 in line with the prevailing case law.
Regalado, Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ.
1. Decision, pp. 61-63, Record.
2. TSN, April 3, 1991, p. 3.
3. Ibid., p. 5.
4. TSN, April 4, 1991, p. 23.
5. TSN, July 3, 1991, p. 32; TSN Aug. 16, 1991, p. 40.
6. TSN, July 3, 1991, p. 3.
8. Ibid., p. 34.
9. Ibid., p. 35.
10. TSN, April 3, 1991, pp. 3-4.
11. Ibid., pp. 4-5.
12. Ibid., p. 18.
13. People v. Dio, G.R. No. 106493, Sept. 8, 1993, 226 SCRA 176.
14. People v. Casao, G.R. No. 100913, Mar. 23, 1993, 220 SCRA 362.
15. G.R. No. 100913, March 23, 1993, 220 SCRA 362.
16. People v. dela Cruz, G.R. No. 102063, Jan. 20, 1993, 217 SCRA 283.
17. People v. Ibay, G.R. No. 101631, June 8, 1994, 233 SCRA 15.