Normally, the presentation and the initial appreciation of appellant’s birth certificate should be done during the trial. In this appeal, however, due to the gravity of the offenses charged, the penalty imposed, as well as the simplicity of the verification process, we deem it prudent to allow it in the interest of speedy, substantial justice.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In a Decision promulgated on May 9, 2002, this Court affirmed the conviction of both appellants for three counts of rape with the use of a deadly weapon. The penalty imposed upon them by the trial court was, however, reduced from death to reclusion perpetua for each count of rape, because aggravating circumstances had neither been alleged in the Information nor sufficiently proven during the trial.
Appellant Alfredo Baroy has since then filed a Motion 1 for a partial reconsideration of the Court’s Decision. He claims that he is entitled to the privileged mitigating circumstance of minority and, hence, to a penalty two degrees lower than reclusion perpetua. While he presented various pieces of conflicting documentary and testimonial evidence during the trial, he now prays that this Court consider and give weight to his Birth Certificate 2 — attached as Annex "A" of his Motion — as the best evidence of his age. His Birth Certificate shows that he was born on January 19, 1984, while the crimes in question were committed on March 2, 1998.
In its August 30, 2002 Comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said that it was not in a position to state whether the Certificate of Live Birth attached as Annex "A" to appellant’s Motion was authentic or not. It pointed out the necessity of requiring the National Statistics Office (NSO), which appeared to have certified Annex "A" as a true copy, to comment on the existence of the document in their files. The OSG further manifested that on the basis of the NSO’s comment, it is leaving to the sound discretion of the Court whether to appreciate the privileged mitigating circumstance of minority in favor of Baroy.
In its Comment, 3 the NSO confirmed that Annex "A" was a true copy of the Certificate of Live Birth of one Alfredo Gorre Baroy. It further confirmed the existence in its archives of his record of birth.
In his Motion, Baroy submits that his Certificate of Live Birth sufficiently proves his minority when he committed the crimes. 4
The Court’s Ruling
The Motion has merit.
Sole Issue:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Privileged Mitigating Circumstance of Minority
At the outset, we stress that the verification of the authenticity of the birth certificate of the accused should normally be done during the trial. However, due to (1) the gravity of the penalty imposed in this case; (2) the existence in the records of weighty evidence proving Baroy’s minority at the time of the commission of the crime; and (3) the simple and straightforward method of verification recommended by the OSG, the Court — in the interest of justice — went the extra mile to ascertain the authenticity of the evidence submitted. This move was in line with the particular zealousness of the law in criminal cases in which the transcendental matter of life or liberty of an individual is at stake.
Baroy’s Birth Certificate — the authenticity of which was confirmed by the NSO — outweighs the other evidence submitted to prove his date of birth. "A birth certificate is the best evidence of a person’s date of birth." 5
The earlier evidence submitted by appellant during the trial did not conclusively prove his age. However, since the OSG did not object to the belated appreciation of Annex "A" and left the matter to the sound discretion of this Court, we resolve to rule in favor of the accused.
This has been the position of the Court when confronted with the same dilemma. As early as 1909, in United States v. Barbicho, 6 the doubt as to the age of the accused was resolved in his favor as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
‘In regard to the doubt as to whether the accused is over or under 18 years of age, and in the absence of proof that on the day he committed the crime he was 18 years old, he must perforce be considered as still under that age, and therefore, the mitigating circumstance mentioned in paragraph No. 2 of article 9 of the code should be applied in his favor, . . .." 7
The Court took the same position in United States v. Agadas and Sabacban, 8 in which it held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
‘While it is true that in the instant case Rosario testified that he was 17 years of age, yet the trial court reached the conclusion, judging from the personal appearance of Rosario, that `he is a youth 18 or 19 years old.’ Applying the rule enunciated in the case just cited, we must conclude that there exists a reasonable doubt, at least, with reference to the question whether Rosario was, in fact, 18 years of age at the time the robbery was committed. This doubt must be resolved in favor or the defendant, . . .." 9
And in David v. CA, 10 the Court reaffirmed this position when it held that "if the accused alleges minority and the prosecution does not disprove his claim by contrary evidence, such allegation can be accepted as a fact." 11
Based on his Birth Certificate, it is clear that Baroy was only fourteen (14) years old where he committed the crime of rape. Hence, a reconsideration of the Court’s May 9, 2002 Decision is proper.
Article 68 of the Revised Penal Code provides that "when the offender is a minor . . . under fifteen years . . . a discretionary penalty shall be imposed, but always lower by two degrees at least than that prescribed by law for the crime which he committed." The penalty prescribed by law for the crime committed by Baroy is reclusion perpetua to death. 12 The penalty two degrees lower is prision mayor. 13 Additionally, Baroy is entitled to the benefits granted by the Indeterminate Sentence Law.
WHEREFORE, the Motion for Partial Reconsideration is GRANTED. The privileged mitigating circumstance of minority is appreciated in favor of Appellant Alfredo Baroy, and his penalty for each count of rape is REDUCED to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional medium, as minimum; to 10 years of prision mayor medium, as maximum. The civil awards are retained.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna and Tinga, JJ.
Callejo, Sr., J.
, is on leave.
1. Through the Public Attorney’s Office, his counsel de oficio, in a Motion for Partial Reconsideration (rollo, pp. 176–180) received by the Court on June 10, 2002; and through Atty. Gerardo M. Lobo II, his counsel de parte, in a Motion for Partial Reconsideration (rollo, pp. 186–207) received by the Court on July 16, 2002.
2. Rollo, p. 202.
3. Dated June 30, 2003; rollo, p. 224.
4. Motion for Partial Reconsideration, p. 2; rollo, p. 187.
5. People v. Apostol, 378 Phil. 61, December 9, 1999, per Pardo, J.
6. 13 Phil. 616, July 31, 1909.
7. Id., p. 621, per Torres, J.
8. 36 Phil. 246, February 12, 1917.
9. Id., pp. 250–251, per Trent, J.
10. 353 Phil. 170, June 17, 1998.
11. Id., p. 187, per Mendoza, J.
12. Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code.
13. Article 61 (2) of the Revised Penal Code states: "When the penalty prescribed for the crime is composed of two indivisible penalties, . . . the penalty next lower in degree shall be that immediately following the lesser of the penalties prescribed in the respective graduated scale."