Before us for automatic review 1 is the decision 2 dated 11 August 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 78, in Criminal Case No. 609-M-98 finding accused-appellant Reynaldo Rebato (hereafter REYNALDO) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death and pay complainant Jessabel Mitra (hereafter JESSABEL) P75,000 as moral damages.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The criminal complaint 3 filed on 28 April 1998 reads as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The undersigned offended party Jessabel Mitra assisted by her mother under oath accuses Reynaldo Rebato, stepfather of the offended party of the crime of rape, penalized under the provisions of Art. 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That on or about the 11th of December, 1997, in the municipality of Bocaue, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the stepfather of the offended party, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, threats and intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge of said Jessabel Mitra, a nine (9) year old girl, against her will and without her consent.
Contrary to law.
At his arraignment on 25 May 1998, REYNALDO pleaded not guilty. 4 Trial on the merits followed.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The prosecution presented as its witnesses JESSABEL and Dr. Manuel C. Aves and offered documentary exhibits, among which was the Certificate of Live Birth 5 of JESSABEL showing that JESSABEL was born on 2 October 1988 to Rosalinda de la Cruz.
JESSABEL testified that she was nine (9) years old and that on 11 December 1997, at 3:00 a.m., she was sleeping on the floor of their small house in Antipona, Bocaue, Bulacan. With her were her mother, stepfather REYNALDO, 7-year-old sister, and 3-year-old brother. Her five other siblings were sleeping on a wooden bed some distance away from where she was lying. Their house was lighted by an electric bulb on the ceiling. She was awakened by the movement of her stepfather REYNALDO removing her panty, dress and shorts. She told him to stop, but he persisted. Then REYNALDO removed his shorts and brief, kissed her on her face and arms, went on top of her, and inserted his penis in her vagina. She felt pain. REYNALDO made a push and pull movement. He then threatened to kill her should she report the incident to anyone. JESSABEL cried. Her mother and other siblings did not notice what had happened, as they were all sound asleep at the time. 6
Unable to endure any longer the trauma of the incident, JESSABEL decided three days later to tell her mother what REYNALDO had done to her. Her mother brought her to her natural father in Bocaue and reported the incident to him. Afterwards, her mother accompanied her to the police to file a complaint and to have herself medically examined. 7
JESSABEL also recalled that her stepfather had sexually abused her seven times prior to the incident on 11 December 1997, which prompted her to file a case for acts of lasciviousness against REYNALDO. She had also been medically examined and executed a sworn statement on 30 July 1997 before the Bocaue police in the presence of her mother. The case was dismissed; however, the judge ordered her mother to bring her to her natural father. But her mother did not, and when she was raped by REYNALDO on 11 December 1997 she was still living with her mother and REYNALDO. 8
Dr. Manuel C. Aves, a medico-legal officer assigned at the Bulacan Provincial Crime Laboratory Office, testified that on 17 December 1997 he conducted an extra-genital examination on JESSABEL. The genital examination disclosed multiple healed hymenal lacerations which could have been due to past sexual manipulation or intercourse, and fresh superficial hymenal laceration, abrasion and congestion in the external vaginal orifice, which indicated recent sexual activity. Dr. Aves further declared that JESSABEL had been complaining of having been raped since 1993. 9
The witnesses presented by the defense were REYNALDO and his sister Teresita Belena. REYNALDO denied the accusation against him and claimed that at the time the rape in question was alleged to have been committed, he was sleeping in the house of his sister Teresita at Barangay Burol 1, Balagtas, Bulacan. Barangay Burol 1 is far from Antipona and could be reached from the latter after a 30-minute jeepney ride. 10
He admitted that he married Rosalinda, JESSABEL’s mother, in September 1995 11 and that JESSABEL is his stepdaughter. 12 He lived continuously with Rosalinda until his first arrest in July 1997. When he was arrested again in 1998, he was already living with his sister and had been separated from his wife.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Teresita Belena testified that on 11 December 1997, she was in her residence in Burol 1, Balagtas, Bulacan, together with her husband, children, nieces and nephews, and brother REYNALDO. On 10 December 1997, REYNALDO slept in her house at 9:00 p.m., and she saw him at 7:00 a.m. of the next day as he was preparing for work. 13 On cross-examination, Teresita stated that she went to sleep at 8:00 p.m. on 10 December 1997 and woke up at 5:00 a.m. of the following day, but between those hours she did not know what transpired in her house because she was asleep. 14
The trial court gave full faith and credit to JESSABEL’s testimony. It declared that her inability to prevent the accused from committing the crime by shouting or forcibly resisting could not be taken against her. REYNALDO, being her stepfather "definitely exercised moral and physical ascendancy over [her] which could be sufficient to cow her into submission to his bestial desire." 15 It disregarded REYNALDO’s defense of alibi not only for being self-serving, but also for lack of proof of physical impossibility for him to be at the locus criminis at the time of its commission. It then convicted him as charged, and imposed upon him the death penalty considering the relationship of REYNALDO as stepfather to JESSABEL and the fact that she was only nine (9) years old at the time the crime was committed.
In his Appellant’s Brief, REYNALDO raises this lone assignment of error:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
In support of this contention, REYNALDO argues that JESSABEL’s testimony should not be received with precipitate credulity considering that her testimony is uncorroborated and does not bear the stamp of truth and candor. She categorically stated that the room where the alleged rape had taken place was just small and that she was sleeping beside her mother and her other siblings. Thus, had it been true that he had committed the crime charged on that date and time, their respective body movements and JESSABEL’s cries could have awakened Rosalinda, who was then beside JESSABEL. REYNALDO further claims that JESSABEL could easily have concocted the story, as she had earlier filed a similar complaint against him, which only showed that she is not the typical naive barrio lass.
In the Appellee’s Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General prays for the affirmance of REYNALDO’s conviction and sentence, but recommends that in addition to the award of moral damages, a civil indemnity of P75,000 be awarded.
We find REYNALDO’s contentions to be totally devoid of merit.
The main issue here is the credibility of JESSABEL. Long settled is the rule that the assessment of the credibility of the complainant in a rape case falls primarily within the province of the trial judge. He is in a better position narrating a concocted tale. He could weigh conflicting testimonies because he heard the witnesses themselves, observed their deportment and manner of testifying, and had full access to the vital aids of determining truth or falsehood, such as the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the hesitation, the sincere or the flippant or sneering tone, the heat, the calmness, the yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it, the scant or full realization of the solemnity of an oath, the carriage and mien. Therefore, unless the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts, the substance and value of which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility must be respected. 16chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In the case at bar, we found no compelling reason to depart from the established rule. JESSABEL clearly testified that REYNALDO raped her. She recounted the details of her traumatic experience in a credible, convincing and straightforward manner.
We cannot sustain the argument of REYNALDO that rape could not have happened because JESSABEL’s mother and siblings were sleeping beside them when the rape was allegedly committed. It is a common judicial experience that rapists are not deterred from committing their odious act by the presence of people nearby. We have frequently held that rape is not impossible even if committed in the same room where the rapist’s spouse is sleeping, or in a small room where other family members sleep. 17 It is neither impossible nor incredible for complainant’s family members to be in deep slumber and not to be awakened while the sexual assault is being committed 18
JESSABEL’s credibility is further enhanced by the absence of any proof to show that she was motivated by any ulterior motive in the filing of this case. In fact, the original record of this case shows that she had previously withdrawn a similar complaint filed against REYNALDO because she had forgiven him.
The fact of rape is further supported by the results of the medical examination conducted on JESSABEL by Dr. Aves. Her hymen had multiple healed lacerations at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, and fresh superficial laceration at 12 o’clock position; moreover, her external vaginal orifice had abrasions and congestion. These proved that she had been sexually abused before the medical examination.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The trial court correctly rejected REYNALDO’s defense of alibi. We have consistently held that for alibi to prosper, it must be proven that during the commission of the crime, the accused was in another place and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis. 19 Alibi and denial are inherently weak defenses; and unless supported by clear and convincing evidence, the same cannot prevail over the positive declaration of the victim. 20 We have also held that when alibi is established only by the accused, his relatives or close friends, the same should be treated with strictest scrutiny. 21
We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s decision finding REYNALDO guilty as charged and imposing the penalty of death. Article 266-B of Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 8353, 22 reads in part as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common law spouse of the parent of the,; victim.
That JESSABEL was nine (9) years old at the time of the rape was alleged in the complaint and sufficiently established by her Certificate of Live Birth, 23 which shows that she was born on 2 October 1988. It was also established by her testimony that REYNALDO is her stepfather, as alleged in the information. REYNALDO categorically admitted that he is JESSABEL’s stepfather, having married her mother in 1995.
We come now to the civil liability of REYNALDO. The trial court awarded to JESSABEL only moral damages in the amount of P75,000. In rape cases, moral damages are automatically awarded to the victim in such amount as the court deems just without the need of pleading or proof, as the mental, physical and psychological trauma suffered by the victim is too obvious. 24 However, we reduce the award to P50,000 conformably with recent jurisprudence.
The trial court, however, erred in not awarding civil indemnity ex delicto, which award is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape and is independent of the award of moral damages. Pursuant to current jurisprudence, a civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000 should be imposed for rapes qualified by any of the circumstances for which the death penalty is authorized under R.A. No. 7659. 25 That rule shall also apply to Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, under which REYNALDO was charged, because said Articles are a reproduction of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Section 11 of R.A. No. 7659.
Four members of the Court maintain their position that R.A. No. 7659, insofar as it prescribes the death penalty is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the Court, by a majority vote, that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should be accordingly imposed.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 78, in Criminal Case No. 609-M-98 convicting accused-appellant REYNALDO REBATO of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death is AFFIRMED, with modification as to the civil aspect of the case. As modified, the award of moral damages is hereby reduced from P75,000 to P50,000, and accused-appellant is further ordered to pay the victim JESSABEL MITRA the sum of P75,000 as indemnity ex delicto.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In accordance with Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of R.A. No. 7659, upon finality of this decision, let certified true copy of the record of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.
Costs de oficio.
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr. and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ.
Bellosillo, Melo and Kapunan, JJ.
, are on leave.
1. Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659.
2. Original Record (OR), 149-156; Rollo, Per Judge Gregorio S. Sampaga.
3. OR, 2.
4. Id., 19.
5. Exhibit "C", OR, 99.
6. TSN, 19 August 1998, 1-6.
7. Id., 7-9.
8. Id., 9; TSN, 2 September 1998, 3-5.
9. Exhibit "B," OR, 98; TSN, 14 October 1998, 3-4.
10. TSN, 25 January, 2-7.
11. Id., 7.
12. Id., 6-7.
13. Id., 5-7.
14. Id., 7.
15. Citing People v. Sagaral, 267 SCRA 671 .
16. People v. Excija, 258 SCRA 424, 439 ; People v. Patriarca, 319 SCRA 87, 97 ; People v. Alvero, G.R. Nos. 134536-38, 5 April 2000; People v. Villanueva, G.R No. 135330, 31 August 2000.
17. People v. Ramos, 296 SCRA 559, 571 , citing People v. Manuel, 236 SCRA 545 .
18. Id., citing People v. Tan 264 SCRA 425 ; People v. Quinevista, 244 SCRA 586 .
19. People v. Bawang, G.R. No. 131942, 5 October 2000.
20. People v. Arillas, G.R. No. 130593, 19 June 2000.
21. People v. Jerez, 285 SCRA 393, 402 .
22. The Anti Rape Law of 1997.
23. Exhibit C.
24. People v. Alba, 305 SCRA 811, 831 ; citing People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411, 430  and People v. Victor, 292 SCRA 186, 200-201 .
25. People v. Tipay, G.R. No. 131472, 28 March 2000.