1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT; ENTITLED TO HIGHEST DEGREE OF RESPECT. — We have consistently ruled that the trial court’s findings on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed an appeal in the absence of any clear showing that it had overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could alter the result of the case if considered correctly (People v. Lase, 219 SCRA 584 ). An assiduous reading of the record discloses no such facts or circumstances. Moreover, as there is no showing that the victim was actuated by any improper motive, her testimony is entitled to full faith and credit (People v. De la Cruz, 229 SCRA 754).
2. ID.; ID.; NOT IMPAIRED BY THE DELAY IN THE FILING OF CRIMINAL COMPLAINT. — Delay or vacillation in filing a criminal complaint does not necessarily impair the credibility of a witness where such delay is satisfactorily explained (People v. Errojo, 229 SCRA 49 ; People v. Gornes, 230 SCRA 270 ; People v. Dela Pena, 232 SCRA 72 ).
Charged with the crime of rape, Rodrigo Abutin was later convicted by Branch 124 of the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region stationed in Caloocan City in its decision dated February 10, 1995, the dispositive portion of which read as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court finds the accused RODRIGO ABUTIN Y GIL guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Rape as charged and hereby sentences said accused to suffer imprisonment by Reclusion Perpetua to indemnify Lilian de la Cruz in the amount of P50,000.00; as consequential damages and to pay the costs.
The accused shall be credited in the service of his sentence with the full period of time he has undergone preventive imprisonment provided the condition imposed by Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code have been complied with.
(p. 28, Rollo.)
From said decision, the present appeal has been interposed, imputing the following alleged errors to the trial court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The trial court erred in giving weight to the incredible, inconsistent and improbable testimony of private complainant.
The trial court erred in not finding that the delayed reporting of the alleged rape incident to her relatives and to the police authorities greatly affected private complainant’s credibility.
The trial court erred in disregarding the testimony of appellant and his witness that private complainant is his girlfriend.
Finally, the trial court erred in not acquitting the appellant on the ground of reasonable doubt.
(pp. 59-60, Rollo.)
The facts of the case as borne out by the evidence are correctly summarized in the brief submitted by the Office of the Solicitor General as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
At about 9 o’clock in the evening of September 30, 1992, victim Lilian de la Cruz, then an employee of Landmark Department Store, was on her way home to her residence at 156-C Name Street, Kalookan City when she noticed appellant Rodrigo Abutin at the corner of Rizal Avenue Extension and 2nd Avenue, Kalookan City. Appellant, a former co-worker of the victim at Ever Department Store at Avenida Rizal and her "compadre" (the victim having stood as godmother to appellant’s youngest child two and a half months earlier), approached the latter and asked if they could talk for a while (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 1-4, 22-23; Sept. 10, 1993, p. 6). Lilian inquired from appellant what they would talk about but the latter vaguely replied that it was about something important and that he had a problem. Lilian replied that since it was getting late and her parents were waiting for her at home appellant better say whatever he wanted to tell her at once. Appellant, however, refused to do so allegedly because of the presence of many people on the street corner. He instead invited Lilian to a nearby restaurant for a snack and where they could allegedly talk in private. Lilian acceded to the request but stated that it should be quick because it was getting late and she had to go home (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 5-6).
The two proceeded to the Apollo Restaurant located near the corner of 2nd Avenue. Appellant, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, seated himself beside Lilian and ordered softdrinks. At this, Lilian transferred to the seat at the opposite side of the table (TSN, Sept. 3, 1993, pp. 7-8).
Appellant declared his love for Lilian. Lilian replied that even if he meant it as a joke the same was in bad taste because appellant was already married and her "compadre" to boot. Appellant replied that he was even willing to leave his wife to be with her. Lilian refused appellant’s amorous advances (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 6-7).
At this point, appellant seated himself at Lilian’s left side. He suddenly put his right arm around Lilian. Lilian was shocked when she felt appellant poking a knife against her hips inside her blouse. Lilian asked, "What is the meaning of this?." Appellant told Lilian not to make a scandal otherwise he would kill her and then himself (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, p. 8; Sept. 10, 1993, pp. 6-8). Appellant forcibly brought Lilian to the motel at the second floor of the restaurant. There appellant called for a roomboy and asked for a room. All this time, he held Lilian in an embrace. Lilian stood petrified with fear because of the knife held against her. Neither the roomboy nor the two persons inside the motel office noticed anything unusual since the knife was hidden inside the victim’s blouse away from sight. Appellant transferred the knife to his left hand and poked the same against Lilian’s thighs while he signed the registration book. Appellant took the key from the roomboy and, still poking the knife at Lilian, proceeded to the rented room which was already open. He then shoved the victim inside and locked the door (TSN, Sept. 10, 1993, pp. 8-15; Sept. 24, 1993, pp. 3-4, 6; Aug. 19, 1993, p. 9)
Inside the room, appellant stood beside the door and started to undress. Appellant held the knife between his teeth while he did so (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, p. 11; Sept. 24, 1993, pp. 8-9)
Appellant ordered the victim to take off her clothes. Lilian refused and pleaded with the appellant not to go through with his intent to rape her. Unmoved by Lilian pleas, appellant poked the knife against the former’s neck and started to forcibly remove her clothing beginning with her blouse lost some buttons. Appellant took off the victim’s skirt next destroying the zipper. This was followed by the victim’s bra. Still unmoved by the victim’s pleas, the appellant shoved the victim to the bed and took off her panties. Appellant started kissing the victim who moved her face from left to right to avoid appellant’s kisses. Appellant was able to forcibly engage in sexual intercourse with the victim (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 12-14; Sept. 14, 1993, pp. 9-10).
After satisfying his lust, appellant threw Lilian’s clothes at her and told her to dress up. Lilian pleaded to be allowed to go home but appellant refused, keeping her in the motel room until the following morning when she was finally allowed to leave but not before being threatened with death should she report the rape (TSN, Sept. 24, 1993, pp. 11-12; Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 14-15).
Lilian conceived as a result of the rape. She, however, did not report the rape for fear of her life because appellant continued making threatening phone calls at home and at her workplace (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 16-17). She was finally constrained to resign from work on March 10, 1993 and went into hiding at her aunt’s place in Nueva Ecija. Lilian summoned enough courage to report her plight to her aunt and together they told Lilian’s father, Ernesto dela Cruz, about the rape on June 2, 1993 (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, pp. 17-18; Sept. 24, 1993, pp. 15-16). Father and daughter reported the matter to the police on June 4, 1993 (TSN, July 29, 1993, pp. 6-7). Lilian also submitted herself to a medical examination at the NBI. NBI Medico-Legal Officer, Dr. Lowella Nario, who conducted the medical examination prepared "Living Case No. MC-93-540 (Exh. "C") which contained the following conclusions:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(1) No evident sign of extragenital physical injuries noted on the body of the subject at the time of examination
(2) Positive signs of pregnancy present, age of which corresponds to the latter part of the third trimester.
Dr. Nario further testified that the stage of the victim’s pregnancy at the time of the medial examination was compatible with the occurrence of the alleged rape (TSN, Aug. 12, 1993, pp. 9-1 1).
Lilian gave birth to a baby boy on June 28, 1993 (TSN, Oct. 13, 1993)
(pp. 2-8, Appellee’s Brief; pp. 110-116, Rollo.)
Under his first assigned error, Accused
-appellant cites several inconsistencies in the offended party’s testimony which he says render the witness incredible. Thus, he would call attention to the offended party’s testimony that despite accused-appellant’s previous amorous advances toward her, she still consented to stand as the godmother of accused-appellant’s at the child’s baptism. He brands this testimony as "inconsistent and unnatural for a person who was so mad at someone", implying thereby that no rape occurred at all, because as he insists, their tryst was consensual, he and the complainant being lovers. However, the offended party satisfactorily explained the circumstances of her consenting to be the godmother of accused-appellant’s child, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q. And despite the fact that you knew beforehand that the accused himself like you very much, you still consented to be the godmother of his son?
x x x
A. I consented because it is a saying that it is bad to refuse the offer of being the godmother of the child.
Q. And despite the fact that you felt "na binabastos ka", you still consented being the godmother of the son of the accused?
ATTY. TOLENTINO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
ATTY. AVENA:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That is relevant to the next question.
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
She already answered "na masamang tanggihan." (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, p. 30).
(pp. 9-10, Appellee’s Brief; pp. 117-118, Rollo.)
-appellant considers as incredible the alleged silence of the offended party during the baptism of his child despite his proposal of love for complainant at the restaurant where the reception was held. Complainant’s failure to protest against or to show any act of rejection of accused-appellant’s apparent "pambabastos" is viewed as "hardly believable" by Accused-Appellant
. This argument of accused-appellant runs counter to the evidence. The offended party testified that she "got angry with him as if he was making a fool of me considering that he is a married man and we are barkadas" (TSN, Aug. 19, 1993, p. 32).
Accused-appellant puts much capital on the evidently mistaken testimony of the victim that from her place of work at Landmark in Makati to Caloocan, she usually took a jeepney bound for MCU, for it may be conceded that there are no jeepneys plying such Landmark-MCU route via EDSA. This error, however, cannot taint her earlier testimony as false. The mistake is so trivial and inconsequential that it cannot impair the credibility of the victim (People v. Villaruel, 238 SCRA 408 ) but on the contrary, should even bolster her credibility (People v. Manahan, 238 SCRA 141 ). To be sure, the mode of transportation the victim took to and from her place of employment is totally unconnected with or irrelevant to the commission of the crime of rape and does not affect one way or another the facts surrounding or involved in the perpetration of the crime.
Accused-appellant charges the victim with mendacity when she testified that, when she saw accused-appellant at the corner of 2nd Avenue, Caloocan City on September 30, 1992, she initially refused to talk with him on the plea that her parents were waiting for her, since, so he says, the victim was not living with her parents at the time. We find nothing reprehensible or censurable in complainant’s ostensible excuse for refusing to talk to Accused-Appellant
. The excuse she gave is the usual excuse of one who wants to avoid the company of another.
Stigmatized as incredible is the victim’s failure to make an outcry despite the presence of many people in the restaurant and the motel if she were really being forced against her will to go with Accused-Appellant
. We do not take against the victim her failure to make an outcry for the evident reason that she was being threatened with death by accused-appellant if she did not go with him. Accused-appellant poked a knife at the side of the victim and threatened to kill her if she did not follow his orders. The victim was completely engulfed and petrified with fear for her life. She was totally cowed to silence and submission by the serious threat to her life made menacingly impending by accused-appellant poking a knife at her side.
The defense further contends that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for accused-appellant to have removed his clothes while he held a knife between his teeth as testified to by the victim. However, Accused
-appellant failed to introduce evidence which would somehow show how it would have been difficult or hard for him to remove his clothes, as for instance, that he was wearing a T-shirt which does not open at the front.
Another contention adduced by accused-appellant to denigrate the testimony of the victim is her inability to draw a sketch of the Apollo Restaurant. Such inability may be attributed to her failure to recall exactly how the restaurant looked in view of the overwhelming fear of being ravished or of her apprehension for her life engendered by the threats and intimidation of accused-appellant, and to the fact that they went to said restaurant at night when objects and places are obscured by darkness.
In the final analysis, the questions raised by accused-appellant devolve upon the issue of credibility. We have consistently ruled that the trial court’s findings on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that it had overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could alter the result of the case if considered correctly (People v. Lase, 219 SCRA 584 ). An assiduous reading of the record discloses no such facts or circumstances. Moreover, as there is no showing that the victim was actuated by any improper motive, her testimony is entitled to full faith and credit (People v. De la Cruz, 229 SCRA 754 ).
Accused-appellant points to the delay by the victim in filing the complaint as proof that said complaint is a trumped-up charge. Delay or vacillation in filing a criminal complaint does not necessarily impair the credibility of a witness where such delay is satisfactorily explained (People v. Errojo, 229 SCRA 49 ; People v. Gornes, 230 SCRA 270 ; People v. Dela Pena, 232 SCRA 72 . In the present case, threats of accused-appellant to kill the victim if she would reveal the rape were continuing and pervasive as to silence the victim.
-appellant makes the assertion that he and the victim had previous amorous relationship. On her part, the victim vehemently denies the existence of any such relationship between her and Accused-Appellant
. Which witness should be accorded belief is a question of credibility, and as afore-stated, the findings of the trial court on this point are entitled to the highest degree of respect.
WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
, Davide, Jr., Francisco and Panganiban, JJ.