G.R. No. 183087 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. IGNACIO ISANG Y LAGAY
[G.R. NO. 183087 : December 4, 2008]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. IGNACIO ISANG y LAGAY, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a review of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01528 dated 30 May 2007 affirming with modification the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of La Trinidad, Benguet, convicting accused-appellant Ignacio Isang y Lagay (Isang) of rape.
On 19 November 1999, Isang was charged with two counts of rape committed against his daughter, AAA,2 in two separate Informations, as follows:
Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3628
That sometime in the month of June, 1996, at Barangay Gumatdang, Municipality of Itogon, Province of Benguet, Philippines, and within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being the biological father of the victim [AAA], did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have carnal knowledge of one [AAA], who is his eleven (11) year old daughter.
That in the commission of the crime, the aggravating circumstance of nighttime is present, the same having been purposely sought to facilitate the commission thereof.
Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3629
That on or about the 5th day of September 1999, at Barangay Ampucao, Municipality of Itogon, Province of Benguet, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of [AAA], who is under eighteen (18) years of age and his daughter.
On 7 June 2000, Isang, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crimes charged. The two criminal cases were jointly tried.
The prosecution presented the testimonies of private complainant AAA, her mother BBB, psychologist Dr. Ruby M. Bell, and examining physician Dr. Vladimir Villaseñor. During the turn of the presentation of evidence by the defense, Isang escaped from detention and has since remained at large. Trial in absentia against accused, thus, proceeded.
The evidence of the prosecution tends to establish the following:
AAA was born on 24 October 1985 to her parents Isang and BBB. She is the second child. She has three brothers, XXX, YYY and ZZZ. BBB worked as an overseas Filipino worker in Singapore from 1989 to 1990 and again from 1996 to 2001. Her father, accused-appellant Isang, was jobless.
AAA testified that she was sexually abused by her father from 1994 to 1999. However, it was only her account of the last assault that allegedly occurred on 5 September 1999, which the trial court found sufficient for conviction.
In the afternoon of 5 September 1999, AAA, who was then thirteen years old, was out of their house in Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet, washing the family's clothes. Isang, who was in the sala of their house, called AAA to approach him. When AAA went inside the house, she realized that she and her father were alone upon learning that YYY and ZZZ were sent out (by their father) to buy merienda, while XXX was in Balitoc.
Isang forced AAA to lie down in the sala. He forcibly removed her pants and panty and then forcibly inserted his penis into her vagina. AAA struggled and tried to push her father, but her efforts proved futile. Isang ravished her and stopped only when something sticky and white appeared on AAA's legs. Isang told AAA not to tell anybody about the incident. AAA obeyed out of fear, because the former whipped his children even for little mistakes. Feeling helpless, she just put on her clothes and cried in a corner.
On 11 September 1999, BBB went home from Taiwan to attend her mother's funeral. On said date, BBB and AAA went to the house of CCC (BBB's sister). There, they talked about sexual abuses of children in the Philippines. At this point, CCC jokingly asked AAA if her father also abused her. At first, AAA tried to deny what her father did to her. She later, however, went inside another room and cried.
Sensing that something was not right, BBB confronted AAA and demanded that she tell the truth. AAA then told her mother that her father had been raping her since she was in Grade 3. Isang was not with them at CCC's house at this time; he was at their house in Itogon, Benguet.
BBB sought the assistance of a certain Atty. Gayaman who referred their case to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). They were then accompanied to the National Bureau of Investigation-Cordillera Autonomous Region (NBI-CAR), where their statements were taken.
On 16 September 1999, AAA was brought to Dr. Vladimir Villaseñor, the physician and medico-legal officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory Service, Camp Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet, for medical examination. Dr. Villaseñor examined the external part of the body of the victim and found no external signs of injuries. On examination of the genitalia, however, Dr. Villaseñor observed that the hymen had shallow healed lacerations at the three o'clock position and a healed laceration at the six o'clock position. He concluded that AAA was physically in a non-virgin state. The lacerations may have been caused by the insertion of foreign object, such as a fully erect penis. He documented his findings in Medico-Legal Report No. M-175-99.
Dr. Ruby M. Bell, a psychologist connected with the Philippine Mental Health Association, conducted a series of psychological tests on AAA. She found that AAA was suffering from emotional disturbances and had problems with her parents, especially her father who allegedly raped her several times. She recommended that AAA and her family undergo counseling and therapy sessions. She suggested that if AAA should testify in court, she be asked simple questions in a gentle manner. While in court, Dr. Bell testified that she only learned about AAA's rape from BBB. However, the profile in her tests confirmed that AAA was a victim of rape.
On 9 July 2001, when it was the turn of the defense to present its evidence, Atty. Jerome Selmo formally withdrew his appearance as counsel for Isang, with the conformity of the latter. The trial court referred the case to the Public Attorney's Office.
On 10 January 2002, the trial court received notice from the Office of the Provincial Warden, through Assistant Provincial Jail Warden Delfin Carimpal, that Isang escaped from the Provincial Jail at dawn of 6 January 2002. An alias warrant for his arrest was issued.
The RTC, acting on a Motion by the prosecution, considered Criminal Cases No. 99-CR-3628 and No. 99-CR-3629 submitted for decision.
On 24 September 2004, the RTC rendered its Decision acquitting Isang in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3628, but finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3629. The dispositive portion of the RTC's Decision is as follows:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, ACCUSED Ignacio Isang, is hereby ACQUITTED in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3628 for insufficiency of evidence against him but declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape under Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3629.
Pursuant to Art. 266-B par. No. 1 of Republic Act No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, with the minority of the victim and her relationship to the accused, both alleged in the information and duly proven during trial, accused, IGNACIO ISANG, is hereby meted the extreme penalty of DEATH.
Further, the accused is ordered to pay the victim the sum of Seventy Five Thousand (
P75,000.000) Pesos, Philippine currency as civil indemnity; the amount of Fifty Thousand ( P50,000.00) Pesos as Moral damages; and Twenty Five Thousand ( P25,000.00) Pesos as Exemplary Damages.3
According to the RTC, the prosecution failed to adduce evidence to establish the crime in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3628 beyond reasonable doubt, allegedly committed sometime in June 1996, since the private complainant testified that she could no longer remember the exact date, time and manner she was raped by her father. In Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3629, however, where the subject matter was the rape which allegedly occurred on 5 September 1999, the private complainant was able to narrate in a straightforward, positive and convincing manner how she was forced by her father to lie down and to remove her pants and panty, and how he forcibly inserted his penis into her vagina in the sala of their house.
Since the penalty imposed was death, the case was elevated to this Court on automatic appeal. However, pursuant to People v. Mateo,4 this case was forwarded to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review and disposition, where the case was docketed as CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01528.
On 30 May 2007, the Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the Decision of the RTC, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated September 24, 2004 finding accused-appellant Ignacio Isang y Lagay guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of qualified rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the penalty of death meted on the accused-appellant is reduced to reclusion perpetua pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346 without eligibility for parole, and the award of moral damages is hereby increased to
Let the entire records of this case be elevated to the Supreme Court for its review.5
The Court of Appeals agreed with the RTC that AAA was clear and straightforward in narrating her traumatic experience. The Court of Appeals added that AAA remained unshaken even during cross-examination. However, in view of Republic Act No. 9346,6 it modified the sentence of Isang, imposing on him instead the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The Court of Appeals forwarded the records of the case to this Court for review.
Isang, through counsel, argues that the trial court failed to scrutinize the testimony of AAA with great caution. He highlights the following part of the testimony of AAA:
Q: You stated that he was able to remove your pants and your panty. What happened next?cralawred
A: He forced to insert his penis in my vagina.
Q: Was his penis able to be inserted in your vagina?
A: No, sir.
Q: About how many minutes did your father try to insert his penis in your vagina?cralawred
A: I cannot recall, sir.
Q: And when did he stop?cralawred
A: When I felt something sticky and then he left.7
Isang claims that the foregoing testimony shows that AAA was apparently confused about what constitutes rape. Allegedly, kissing, embracing and attempts to force the victim to have sex do not constitute rape. Hence, according to Isang, since there was no insertion, there was no rape committed.
Isang's claim is misleading. A close reading of the testimony of AAA shows that when she made the above statement, she was giving an account of an alleged earlier rape. Isang had already been acquitted of the rape charge in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3628. The part of the RTC's Decision that is being reviewed by this Court is the rape charge in Criminal Case No. 99-CR-3629, which was allegedly committed on 5 September 1999. As held by the RTC and the Court of Appeals, the testimony of AAA on this charge of rape was clear and straightforward:
Q How about the last time when your father raped you. Can you remember?cralawred
A Yes, sir.
Q When was that?cralawred
A September 5, 1999.
Q And where did your father rape you?cralawred
A Inside the sala in our house.
Q And where is your house located?cralawred
A At Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet.
Q You stated that you transferred to Pilapil, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur. When did you return back (sic) to Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet?cralawred
A In 1996, sir.
Q What time did your father rape you on September 5, 1999?cralawred
A I cannot remember the time but I know it is in the afternoon.
What were you doing when your father raped you?
A I was washing when my father called me.
Q What were you washing?cralawred
A Our clothes with my brothers.
Q How about your brothers [XXX], [YYY] and [ZZZ], what were they doing at that time?cralawred
A [XXX] was in Balatoc with the brother of my father and my two brothers, my father sent them to buy merienda.
Q And after your father called you what did you do?cralawred
What's the question, what did you do?
Yes, your Honor.
When my father called e, I went to him thinking that my brothers were with him.
When you went to the place where your father was, what did your father do?
A He forced me to lie down in the sala and forcibly removed my pants and panty.
Q And was he able to remove your pants and your panty?cralawred
A Yes, sir.
Q After he was able to remove your pants and your panty, what did your father do?cralawred
A He forced me to lie down and forcible inserted his penis in my vagina.
Q And was his penis able to be inserted in your vagina?cralawred
A Yes, sir.
Q For how many minutes was that if you can recall?cralawred
A I can no longer recall.
When did he stop?
A When I saw something sticky and white on my legs.
Q After that what did your father do?cralawred
A He said that I will not tell it to anyone.
Q How about you, what did your father do after that incident?cralawred
A I put on my clothes and just cried in one corner.
Q When your father was doing that or inserting his penis in your vagina, what were you doing?cralawred
A I was struggling and pushing my father.
Q And were you able to push your father?cralawred
A No, sir.8
The fact that this testimony came from a young barrio girl who charged her own father with rape added more credibility to her testimony. We have held that no young girl would concoct a sordid tale of so serious a crime as rape at the hands of her own father, undergo medical examination, then subject herself to the stigma and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive were other than a fervent desire to seek justice.9
It should be borne in mind that the evidence presented by the prosecution is entirely unrebutted, as the defense failed to present any evidence on account of Isang's escape from detention. That Isang escaped from detention during the pendency of the case before the trial court is in itself an indication of his guilt. The flight of an accused is an indication of his guilt or of his guilty mind.10 Flight evidences guilt and a guilty conscience: the wicked flee, even when no man pursues, but the righteous stand fast as bold as a lion.11
The special qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were properly alleged in the Information and were duly proven during the trial through a copy of AAA's birth certificate and the testimonies of AAA and BBB. The trial court was therefore correct in originally imposing the death penalty on Isang in accordance with Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
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.
The Court of Appeals, however, correctly modified the penalty imposed upon Isang in accordance with the aforementioned Republic Act No. 9346 prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty. Republic Act No. 9346 was enacted on 24 June 2006, less than two years after the Regional Trial Court rendered its Decision on 24 September 2004. Republic Act No. 9346 mandates that the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be imposed in lieu of the death penalty when the law violated makes use of the nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code. Since said provision is favorable to the accused, the same shall be given retroactive effect pursuant to Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code.12
As regards the award of damages, we have held that if the crime is qualified by circumstances which warrant the imposition of the death penalty by the applicable laws, the accused should be ordered to pay the complainant the amount of
P75,000.00 as civil indemnity.13 The award of civil indemnity is mandatory in rape convictions.14 While the death penalty can no longer be imposed, the trial court was nevertheless correct in awarding the amount of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity. We have qualified in People v. Victor15 that the said award is not supposed to be dependent on the actual imposition of the death penalty, but on the fact that the qualifying circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty attended the commission of the offense.
The award of
P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is likewise proper. Article 2230 of the Civil Code provides that exemplary damages may be imposed when the crime is committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. As held by the Court of Appeals, the term aggravating circumstance as used in Article 2230 should be construed in its generic sense. Furthermore, exemplary damages should be imposed as a deterrent to "fathers with aberrant sexual behaviors from sexually abusing their daughters."16
Finally, the Court of Appeals correctly increased the award of moral damages from
P50,000.00 to P75,000.00, in accordance with the prevailing jurisprudence on the matter.17
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01528 dated 30 May 2007 finding accused-appellant Ignacio Isang y Lagay guilty beyond reasonable doubt of qualified rape is AFFIRMED in toto.
* Associate Justice Renato C. Corona was designated to sit as additional member replacing Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura per Raffle dated 12 November 2008.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso with Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and Marlene Gonzales-Sison, concurring; rollo, pp. 3-21.
2 The real name of the victim is withheld per Republic Act No. 7610 and Republic Act No. 9262, as held in People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, 19 September 2006, 502 SCRA 419.
3 CA rollo, p. 63.
4 G.R. No. 147678-87, 7 July 2004, 433 SCRA 640.
5 CA rollo, pp. 115-116.
6 AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES.
7 TSN, 7 November 2000, pp, 9-10; underscoring supplied by accused-appellant Isang.
8 TSN, 7 November 2000, pp. 11-13.
9 People v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 141599, 29 June 2004, 433 SCRA 102, 117.
10 People v. Vallador, 327 Phil. 303, 315 (1996).
11 People v. Acosta, Sr., 444 Phil. 385, 415 (2003), citing People v. Rabanal, 402 Phil. 709, 717 (2001); People v. Gregorio, 325 Phil. 689, 706 (1996).
12 Article 22. Retroactive effect of penal laws. - Penal laws shall have a retroactive effect insofar as they favor the person guilty of a felony, who is not a habitual criminal, as this term is defined in rule 5 of article 62 of this Code, although at the time of the publication of such laws a final sentence has been pronounced and the convict is serving the same.
13 People v. Cayabyab, G.R. No. 167147, 3 August 2005, 465 SCRA 681, 693.
14 People v. Glodo, G.R. No. 136085, 7 July 2004, 433 SCRA 535, 549.
15 354 Phil. 195, 209 (1998).
16 People v. Tamsi, 437 Phil. 424, 451 (2002).
17 People v. Salome, G.R. No. 169077, 31 August 2006, 500 SCRA 659, 676.
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