January 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 213215, January 11, 2016 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RUBEN BARON, Accused-Appellant.
G.R. No. 213215, January 11, 2016
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RUBEN BARON, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
The saddest thing about court decisions is that they cannot prevent moral depravity when it has already happened. We can only do justice by imposing the proper penalty upon the finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
We affirm with modification the conviction of accused-appellant Ruben Baron for the crime of rape with homicide. Due to the sheer depravity of the offense, in that accused-appellant Ruben Baron raped a seven-year-old child and drowned her to death, we increase the award of damages to P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
In an Information, accused-appellant Ruben Baron (Baron) was charged with the rape and killing of a seven-year-old girl identified as AAA:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
That on the 4th day of May, 1999 in the City of Iloilo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused, through force, threat and intimidation did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally have carnal knowledge with AAA against her will and having succeeded in raping the seven (7) years (sic) old girl kill the latter by drowning her at the river.
CONTRARY TO LAW.1ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Eight (8) witnesses testified for the prosecution: AAA's mother, Alcid Flores, Arsenio Valguna, Barangay Captain Segundina Morales, Ma. Concepcion Tacorda,2 Gennivive Belarma, Dr. Tito D. Doromal, and rebuttal witness Romeo Inocencio.3
AAA's mother testified that at about 12:30 p.m. on May 4, 1999, AAA sought her permission to play at the day care center, which was a short distance from their house. At about 1:30 p.m., Baron arrived with AAA, both of them wet from head to toe. They informed her that they bathed at the seawall. They then asked her permission to go for a "joy-ride"4 in Baron's trisikad. They returned at about 4:00 p.m. At about 5:30 p.m., she noticed that her daughter was missing. She then went to the Molo Supermarket to look for her common-law partner so that he may assist her. After a certain Perla Tacorda informed them that AAA might have returned to the seawall, AAA's mother sought Baron's assistance in searching for AAA. Baron initially refused, but with her prodding, reluctantly relented. With the permission of the landowner Felix Gascon and Barangay Captain Segundina Morales, they entered the seawall, where they found the lifeless body of AAA.5
Alcid Flores testified that at about 4:15 p.m. on May 4, 1999, he saw Baron in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants driving his trisikad with AAA in the passenger seat. They had passed by the seawall. Later in the day, he joined the search for AAA.6
Arsenio Valguna testified that at about 4:30 p.m. on May 4, 1999, he was outside the gate of the house of his employer Felix Gascon (Gascon), where they were having a conversation. He saw a trisikad parked some three (3) arms' length away with no one in it. About 15 minutes later, he saw a person clad in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants (whom he later identified in open court as Baron) coming from the river. He appeared nervous and hurried away, driving the same trisikad that was earlier parked. At about 8:00 p.m., he heard persons crying near the river. The following day, he revealed to Gascon what he saw the previous day. Upon Gascon's prodding, he reported the matter to the police. Subsequently, he identified Baron in a police line-up as the person he saw on May 4, 1999.7
Barangay Captain Segundina Morales testified that sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. of May 4, 1999, Romeo Inocencio and Baron sought her permission to enter the seawall as AAA, who earlier went there, was missing. There, Inocencio and Baron pointed to AAA's lifeless body. Alcid Flores, who was also present, told him that Baron ought to be imprisoned as it was he whom he saw accompanying AAA earlier in the day.8
Ma. Concepcion Tacorda, a 12-year-old acquaintance of AAA, testified that at about 4:30 p.m. on May 4, 1999, AAA invited her to play at the seawall. She refused, and AAA proceeded to the seawall herself. She saw a medium-built man, clad in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants, following AAA.9
Gennivive Belarma, AAA's seven-year-old cousin, narrated that on May 4, 1999, she and AAA were playing with another girl, Candy, when AAA was picked up by Baron. She knew Baron as he was the husband of her mother's younger sister. AAA never returned to play with them. That evening, her mother told her that AAA had died.10
Dr. Tito Doromal, Medico-Legal Officer of the Philippine National Police, Iloilo City Police Office, prepared AAA's autopsy report and death certificate. He testified on his medico-legal findings. On AAA's drowning, he noted that the presence of water in her lungs showed that she was still alive when she was submerged.11
Romeo Inocencio, the common-law partner of AAA's mother, was presented as a rebuttal witness after Baron pointed to him as the culprit. He testified that at about 2:00 p.m. on May 4, 1999, he was playing tong-its at the day care center near their house when Baron and AAA arrived, all wet. Baron then asked AAA's mother if he could bring AAA along for a joy ride, to which she acceded. He added that from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m., he was at the parking area beside the Molo Supermarket.12
Three (3) witnesses testified for the defense: Baron, Trinidad Palacios, and Flordeliza Baron, Baron's wife.
Baron resorted to a denial. He testified that at about 2:00 p.m. on May 4, 1999, AAA joined him for a joy ride aboard his trisikad. At about 2:30 p.m., he turned over AAA to her mother in the presence of Gingging Tacorda, Langging Tacorda, Soledad Palacios, and Romeo Inocencio. At about 6:30 p.m., AAA's mother approached him in the vicinity of Molo Supermarket, asking about AAA's whereabouts. He reminded her that he had returned AAA to her. Romeo Inocencio asked him to go to the seawall, where they found AAA's lifeless body. He claimed to have learned of being implicated in AAA's rape and killing only after he was apprehended.13
Trinidad Palacios testified that at about 4:30 p.m. on May 4, 1999, she rode the trisikad driven by Baron from the Molo Supermarket to their house. She added that Baron stayed at the day care center for about 45 minutes, eating arroz caldo. At about 6:00 p.m., she returned to the Molo Supermarket and she saw Baron's trisikad parked across the road. Baron then met AAA's mother, who asked about AAA's whereabouts. He reminded her that he had turned over AAA to her. He then joined in the search for AAA.14
Flordeliza Baron testified on the same circumstances of Baron's having sought permission from AAA's mother for AAA to go to the seawall, and, much later, to join him on a joy ride, as well as of the search for AAA. On cross-examination, she said that between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., she never saw Baron.15
In its Decision16 dated May 10, 2004, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 23, Iloilo City found Baron guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape with homicide and sentenced him to death. The dispositive portion of this Decision reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, in light of the facts obtaining and the jurisprudence aforecited, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused Ruben Baron GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE WITH HOMICIDE hereby sentencing the said accused to the supreme penalty of DEATH via lethal injection, further condemning the said accused to indemnify the heirs of the victim civil indemnity of PI00,000.00, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00, temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00 and the actual damages of P8,000.00.17
Let the entire records of this case be elevated to the Honorable Supreme Court, Manila for automatic review.
Pursuant to this court's Decision in People v. Mateo,19 which settled on the Court of Appeals as an intermediate level of appeal in criminal cases imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua or higher, the case was referred for review to the Court of Appeals.
In its Decision20 dated April 23, 2014, the Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the Decision of the Regional Trial Court. The dispositive portion of this Decision reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the RTC, Branch 23, Cebu City in Criminal Case No. 00-51525 dated May 10, 2004 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant Ruben Baron is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of rape with homicide and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. Accused-appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of AAA the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, P50,000.00 as exemplary damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages and P8,000.00 as actual damages.
On May 5, 2014, Baron filed before the Court of Appeals his Notice of Appeal.22 The Court of Appeals then forwarded its records to this court.
In the Resolution23 dated September 8, 2014, this court noted the records forwarded by the Court of Appeals and informed the parties that they may file their supplemental briefs.
On January 22, 2015, the Office of the Solicitor General filed a Gestation24 on behalf of the People of the Philippines informing the court that it will no longer file a supplemental brief.
On February 20, 2015, Baron filed a Manifestation25 noting that he will no longer file a supplemental brief and that he is, instead, adopting the Appellant's Brief he filed before the Court of Appeals.
For resolution is the sole issue of whether accused-appellant Ruben Baron's guilt has been established beyond reasonable doubt.
Accused-appellant is of the position that the prosecution has not established his involvement with certainty. He bewails the prosecution's reliance on supposedly tenuous circumstantial evidence.
The requirements for circumstantial evidence to sustain a conviction are settled. Rule 133, Section 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 4. Circumstantial evidence, when sufficient. — Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:(a) There is more than one circumstances;cralawlawlibrary
(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and
(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.26ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Moreover, "factual findings of the trial court and its evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal, unless the trial court is shown to have overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied any fact or circumstance of weight and substance."27
A careful examination of the records shows that there is nothing that warrants a reversal of the Decisions of the Regional Trial Court and of the Court of Appeals.
As pointed out by the Court of Appeals, a multiplicity of circumstances, which were attested to by credible witnesses and duly established from the evidence, points to no other conclusion than that accused-appellant was responsible for the rape and killing of the seven-year-old child, AAA:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Seven-year-old Gennivive Belarma was playing with AAA when Baron picked up AAA and brought her to the river/seawall.
Alcid Flores saw accused-appellant clad in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants with AAA walking towards the seawall at about 4:15 p.m. on May 4, 1999.
Twelve-year-old Ma. Concepcion Tacorda saw a man clad in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants right behind AAA as she was going towards the seawall. Her description of what the man was wearing matched Flores' and Valguna's description of what Baron was wearing.
Arsenio Valguna saw accused-appellant, clad in a white sleeveless shirt and short pants, nervously and hurriedly leaving the seawall and, thereafter, boarding his trisikad.
Accused-appellant's conduct when he was asked by AAA's mother to join the search, in which he expressed much reluctance despite his having been the last known companion of AAA.
AAA's body, which bore injuries at the vaginal area, was discovered at the seawall. The seawall is the same place several witnesses identified as where AAA and accused- appellant went in the afternoon of May 4, 1999. This is also the same from where accused-appellant nervously and hurriedly left in the same afternoon.
The lacerations sustained by AAA on her vagina, which, per Dr. Doromal, could very well have been caused by the insertion of an erect penis.
The medico-legal findings pointing to asphyxiation by drowning as the cause of AAA's death, along with other injuries on her thorax, abdomen, and extremities.
Testimonies regarding these details were given by disinterested witnesses whom Baron himself had not managed to discredit for having any ill-motive against him. Two (2) of the prosecution witnesses are even children of tender age.
As against these details and testimonies, all that accused-appellant had offered in defense were denial and alibi—defenses that jurisprudence has long considered weak and unreliable. It is hardly a relief to accused-appellant that two (2) witnesses have testified in his defense. Even their testimonies failed to definitively establish that accused-appellant neither raped nor killed AAA. Defense witness Flordeliza Baron even admitted that during the critical time between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. of May 4, 1999, when the rape and killing most likely took place, she was never really aware of accused-appellant's whereabouts.28
There is, thus, no error in the Regional Trial Court's and the Court of Appeals' conclusion that accused-appellant Ruben Baron is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape with homicide of the seven-year-old child, AAA. His conviction must be affirmed.
However, we do not merely affirm his conviction as it stands.
It was error for the Regional Trial Court to award temperate damages alongside actual damages. Thus, we delete the award of temperate damages.
In People v. Gambao,29 we took occasion to require an increase in the minimum award of damages where the death penalty would have been imposed, were it not for a law30 preventing it:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
We take this opportunity to increase the amounts of indemnity and damages, where, as in this case, the penalty for the crime committed is death which, however, cannot be imposed because of the provisions of R.A. No. 9346:
These amounts shall be the minimum indemnity and damages where death is the penalty warranted by the facts but is not imposable under present law.31 (Emphasis supplied)
- P100,000.00 as civil indemnity;
- P100,000.00 as moral damages which the victim is assumed to have suffered and thus needs no proof; and
- P100,000.00 as exemplary damages to set an example for the public good.
Thus, for the sheer heinousness and depravity of accused-appellant's acts of raping and drowning a seven-year-old girl to death and in accordance with People v. Gambao, we exercise our judicial prerogative and increase the award of damages to PI00,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
No amount of remorse can change the fact that a seven-year-old girl is dead. There is no penalty commensurate with the indignity and the suffering that this child endured in the fading moments of her brief life. Nor is there any pecuniary equivalent to the loss of potential and the lifelong grief of her family.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00186 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant Ruben Baron is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of rape with homicide and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. Accused-appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of AAA the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, and P8,000.00 as actual damages.
Furthermore, all monetary awards for damages shall earn interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum from the date of the finality of this judgment until fully paid.
Carpio, (Chairperson), Brion, Del Castillo, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
1Rollo, p. 5.
2 Referred to as Ma. Concepcion Taborda in the Court of Appeals' Decision, but referred to as Ma.
3 Concepcion Tacorda in the Regional Trial Court's records.
4Rollo, p. 6.
6 Id. at 6-7.
7 Id. at 7.
7 Id. at 7-8.
8 Id. at 8
10 Id. at 9.
11 Id. at 9-10
12 Id. at 10-11.
13 Id. at 11.
14 Id. at 12.
16 CA Records, pp. 29-45. The Decision was penned by Judge Tito G. Gustilo.
17N.B., actual expenses relating to AAA's death in the amount of P8,000.00 were substantiated by receipts.
18Rollo, p. 13.
19 477 Phil. 752 (2004) [Per J. Vitug, En Banc].
20Rollo, pp. 4-25. The case was docketed as CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00186. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa C. Quijano-Padilla and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon Paul. L. Hernando and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob of the Twentieth Division, Court of Appeals Cebu.
21 Id. at 24
22 Id. at 26-27.
23 Id. at 32.
24 Id. at 34-36.
25 Id. at 35.
26 See also People v. Bayon, 636 Phil. 713, 722 (2010) [Per J. Peralta, Second Division].
27People v. De Jesus, G.R. No. 191753, September 17, 2012, 680 SCRA 680, 687 [Per J. Brion, Second Division], citing People v. Jubail, G.R. No. 143718, May 19, 2004, 428 SCRA 478, 495 [Per J. Carpio, First Division].
28Rollo, p. 12.
29 G.R. No. 172707, October 1, 2013, 706 SCRA 508 [Per J. Perez, En Banc].
30 Rep. Act No. 9346, An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines (2006).
31People v, Gambao, G.R. No. 172707, October 1, 2013, 706 SCRA 508, 533 [Per J. Perez, En Banc].