On appeal is the decision dated December 11, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, Branch 49, convicting appellant of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the victim the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages.
Appellant Remegio dela Peña is a 63 year-old farmer residing at Casantiagoan, Laoac, Pangasinan. He stands accused of raping his niece, Vilma C. Lapeña, then 11 years old and a Grade V student.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The facts, based on the records, are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Sometime in February of 1989, in Casantiagoan, Laoac, Pangasinan, Vilma slept in the house of appellant upon the invitation of his granddaughter, Rochelle. She slept in a room beside Rochelle and appellant’s wife. At around 9:00 to 10:00 P.M., appellant’s wife went downstairs. Appellant went inside the room and placed himself on top of Vilma. When she awakened, appellant told her to keep quiet or he would kill her. She tried to push him away but she could not budge him. That same night, she went home and sneaked in without her parents’ knowledge. 1
Two days later, at around 10:00 P.M., she went to a store to buy some salt upon the order of her mother. She was alone and there were no people in the street. On her way home, appellant blocked her way, pulled her hands, and poked a kitchen knife at her neck. He brought her to the back of his house, some 30 to 40 meters from her house. He placed her on the ground while still holding the knife, threatened her not to shout or he would kill her, removed her shorts and panty and spread her legs. Appellant opened the fly of his trousers and brought out his organ and inserted his penis in her vagina. She felt pain and blood on her vagina. Afterwards, he threatened her not to tell anyone or else he would kill her entire family. 2
Some two years after the incident, Vilma went to Manila to work as a househelper. In the meantime, appellant had a fight with Vilma’s family. According to Vilma’s mother, Remegio tried to abuse his own granddaughter, Rochelle, so she wrote a letter to Vilma’s father. This angered appellant. He then tried to evict them from his land which Vilma’s family occupied, but he failed. One time, while he was drunk, he shouted "Okin nayo. Linukoc met laeng ni anak yo nga Vilma!" ("Vulva of your mother, I just made a fool of your daughter Vilma anyway!") Alarmed, the victim’s mother replied, "Why Manong, why did you abuse my daughter?" Remegio answered, "Yes. Even if you will bring this matter to the authorities, I will answer for it." Vilma’s parents went to Manila to fetch Vilma in September 1994. When confronted, Vilma admitted that appellant raped her five years ago. She explained that she was afraid to tell anyone because appellant threatened to kill her entire family. Assisted by her parents, Vilma filed a criminal complaint with the police of Laoac, Pangasinan. 3
On April 4, 1995, the following Information 4 for rape was filed against appellant:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The undersigned, upon sworn complaint previously filed by the complainant duly assisted by her parents, accuses REMEGIO DELA PEÑA y Baguio of the crime of RAPE, committed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That sometime in the month of February, 1989, in the evening, at barangay Casantiagoan Norte, municipality of Laoac, province of Pangasinan and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, armed with a knife and by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with the complainant VILMA C. LAPEÑA against her will.
CONTRARY to Article 335, Revised Penal Code.
Urdaneta, Pangasinan, March 27, 1995.
(SGD.) JORITO C. PERALTA
2nd Asst. Prov’l. Prosecutor
Upon arraignment, appellant entered a plea of not guilty. 5
During trial, the prosecution presented as witnesses (1) the victim, Vilma; (2) her mother, and (3) Dr. Alexis Mary Arenas Chuson, the physician who examined the victim on September 20, 1994 or nearly five (5) years after the rape incident. Dr. Chuson testified that the hymen was already broken, and there were no signs of external physical injuries. 6
The defense presented the following witnesses (1) appellant, Remegio dela Peña; (2) his wife, Maria Rosquita, and (3) his neighbor, Marcelino Aquino.
Appellant’s defense is denial. He claims the victim never slept over at his house. He contends that he was charged with rape because he was evicting the victim’s family from his land. He got angry at the victim’s mother because she accused him of abusing his own granddaughter, Rochelle. 7
Maria Rosquita likewise testified that the victim never slept over in their house. 8
Marcelino Aquino testified that from August to November of 1995, Vilma and he were live-in partners. He got rid of her because she brought him bad luck, especially when she lost the necklace he gave her. To his knowledge, the victim never had sexual intercourse with anyone. He himself could not have sexual intercourse with her because he just had a prostate gland operation. 9
On rebuttal, Vilma affirmed that she did live-in with Aquino. However, she claimed that she separated from him because he once pointed a shotgun at her. They also had an argument about their joint account. Eventually, they parted ways when he gave her P5,000.00 from their savings. 10
On December 11, 1996, the trial court rendered a decision 11 convicting appellant of the crime of rape, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Court finds that the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused as charged. Accordingly, the accused is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA. The accused is further ordered to indemnify the victim in the sum of P50,000.00 as moral damages.
IT IS SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Hence, the present appeal. Appellant claims that —12
I. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME OF RAPE, HAS BEEN PROVEN BY PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
II. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN ORDERING ACCUSED-APPELLANT TO INDEMNIFY THE VICTIM IN THE AMOUNT OF P50,000.00 AS MORAL DAMAGES.
In his brief, 13 appellant assails the credibility of the victim considering that it took her five (5) years to report the incident to her parents and the authorities. Further, he claims that the victim had a bad reputation considering that at 17 years old, she lived-in with a 72 year-old pensioner. He claims that it was not possible for him to rape the victim at the back of his house. He would have taken her to a much further place. Lastly, he denies boasting, while in a fit of drunkenness, that he abused the victim. According to him, no man in his right senses would admit to raping a niece.
The Office of the Solicitor General, for the State, contends that the delay in reporting the rape was due to appellant’s threats on the life of the victim and her family. In fact, the victim had no intention of revealing the rape had appellant not first revealed it to her parents. In view of the positive allegations of the victim, the alleged land feud which appellant claims is the motive for the filing of the case is too shallow to merit consideration. In view of the positive testimony of the victim and her witnesses, the OSG prays for the affirmance of appellant’s conviction. In addition, the OSG recommended the award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for the victim.
The main issue here concerns the credibility of witnesses. Appellate courts in general will not disturb the findings of the trial court on this score for the reason that it is in a better position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. 14 An exception is when the trial court has plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value that, if considered, might affect the result of the case. 15 In this case, the trial court found the victim’s testimony candid and consistent even under grueling cross-examination. After thorough review of the records of this case including the transcripts of the stenographic notes, we find no reason to disturb the conclusion reached below.
Delay in making a criminal accusation does not impair the credibility of a witness if such delay is satisfactorily explained. 16 Considering that at the time of the rape, the victim was only eleven (11) years old and appellant was her uncle, who threatened to kill her and her entire family if she told anyone of the incident, the delay of five years is understandable. Delay in reporting rape does not undermine the charge where it is grounded on death threats by appellant against the victim and her family. 17 Note that her rape was only discovered when appellant, in a fit of drunkenness, boasted about it in public.
Appellant paints the victim as a young whore, who at the age of 17, already lived-in with a 72 year-old pensioner. Such a fact, albeit admitted by the victim, is not material in the present case. First, such cohabitation happened long after the occurrence of the rape in 1989. Second, the rule is that the victim’s character in rape is immaterial. 18 There is absolutely no nexus between the reputation of a rape victim and the odious deed committed against her. 19 As we explained in People v. Barera 20 —
It may be true that the offended person had theretofore had relations with other men, but that fact did not justify the appellant in having illicit relations with her against her will and consent and by force and violence. The law punishes those who have carnal knowledge of a woman by force or intimidation. Virginity is not one of the elements of the crime of rape.
The fact that the rape was committed at the back of appellant’s house and not in some distant isolated place does not negate the commission of the rape. Rape can be committed in many different places which may be considered as unlikely or inappropriate, and that the scene of the rape is not always nor necessarily isolated or secluded for lust is no respecter of time or place. 21
At the time of its commission, the prevailing law on rape was Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides —
ARTICLE 335. When and how rape is committed. — Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. By using force or intimidation;
2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and
3. When the woman is under twelve years of age, even though neither of the circumstances mentioned in the two next preceding paragraphs shall be present.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua. . . .
Carnal knowledge clearly took place between appellant and the victim. The victim testified that after appellant removed her undergarments, he inserted his penis in her vagina and she felt pain and blood came out of her vagina. 22 However, we cannot accept the trial court’s finding that it was statutory rape. Although the prosecution presented the victim’s birth certificate that she was under 12 or 11 years old at the time of the rape, such fact was not alleged in the Information. Absent such allegation of age in the charge, it would be a violation of due process to hold appellant liable for statutory rape, simply because he could validly claim lack of sufficient information to defend himself for this grievous offense, if so qualified.
However, the Information sufficiently alleged the element of force and intimidation, and such fact was proven during trial. The act of holding a knife by itself is strongly suggestive of force or at least intimidation, and threatening the victim with a knife is sufficient to bring her into submission. 23 This element suffices to hold appellant answerable for simple rape.
While the prosecution presented the physician who examined the victim five years after the rape, considering the length of time that lapsed, his testimony, has little probative value. Nonetheless, it is well-established that a medical examination of the victim, as well as the medical certificate, is merely corroborative in character and is not an indispensable element in rape. 24 What is important is that the testimony of private complainant about the incident is clear, unequivocal and credible.25cralaw:red
The penalty for rape at the time of its commission is reclusion perpetua, an indivisible penalty, which should be imposed regardless of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may have attended the commission of the deed. 26
As to damages, the trial court correctly awarded the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages, without need of proof. 27 In addition, we find it proper to award the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, pursuant to existing jurisprudence. 28
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, Branch 49, in Criminal Case No. U-8381, finding appellant REMEGIO DELA PEÑA Y BAGUIO guilty of the crime of RAPE is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION as to damages. Appellant is hereby ordered to pay the victim the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages, and the cost.
Bellosillo, Mendoza, Buena and De Leon, Jr., JJ.
1. TSN, June 4, 1996, pp. 2-8.
2. Id. at 8-15.
3. TSN, July 23, 1996, pp. 8-23.
4. Records, p. 1.
5. Records. pp. 45, 47.
6. TSN, April 30, 1996, pp. 5-10.
7. TSN, August 13, 1996, pp. 3-12.
8. TSN, August 26, 1996, pp. 2-3.
9. TSN, August, 26, 1996, pp. 4-8.
10. TSN, September 2, 1996, pp. 2-7.
11. Records, pp. 181-190.
12. Appellant’s Brief, Rollo, p. 51.
13. Id. at 54-58.
14 People v. Dizon, 312 SCRA 811, 818 (1999).
16. People v. Bugarin, 273 SCRA 384, 398 (1997).
17. People v. Javier, 311 SCRA 122, 133 (1999).
18. People v. Bacalzo, 195 SCRA 557, 566 (1991).
19. People v. Soriano, 272 SCRA 760, 768 (1997).
20. 262 SCRA 63, 77 (1996), citing People v. Lomibao, 55 Phil. 616, 620 (1931) and People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 26150, January 15, 1927; See also People v. Poculan, 167 SCRA 176, 198 (1988).
21. People v. Villar, G.R. No. 127572, January 19, 2000, pp. 10-11; People v. Geromo, G.R. No. 126169, December 21, 1999, p. 6; People v. Sandico, 307 SCRA 204, 214-215 (1999); People v. Sangil, Sr., 276 SCRA 532, 540 (1997).
22. TSN, May 22, 1996, pp. 12, 14-15.
23. People v. Baltazar, G.R. No. 115990, March 31, 2000, p. 11.
24. People v. Brandares, 311 SCRA 159, 165 (1999).
26. Article 63, first par., Revised Penal Code.
27. People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411, 431 (1998).
28. People v. Panique, G.R. No. 125763, October 13, 1999, p. 11.