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chanrobles.com - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS - ON-LINE

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EN BANC



THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
                          Appellee,

G.R. No. 146803
January 14, 2004
                  

-versus-




CLEMENTINO LOU Y GALINDO ALIAS "JUNIOR,"
                              Appellant.


D E C I S I O N
 
 
VITUG, J.:



On appeal to the Court is the decision, dated 09 November 2000, in Criminal Case No. 3635 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, [1] of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, finding appellant Clementino Lou y Galindo guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the commission of the crime of rape "defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, Section 11 thereof." The trial court imposed upon appellant the death penalty and the payment of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) by way of civil indemnity to the victim. chan robles virtual law library

The accusatory information read:

"That on April 22, 1996 at about 12:00 o’clock midnight in the premises and vicinity particularly at the house of the victim located at Bayugan 3, Rosario, Agusan del Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with the use of his superior strength, with intent of lewd design, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously with force and intimidation, succeed in having sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter ELGIE S. BULAQUEÑA, a girl who was then fifteen (15) years old, and a woman of good reputation, against her will and consent to the damage and prejudice of the said victim which damage consists of actual, compensatory and moral damages." [2]

At his arraignment, appellant, with the assistance of counsel, pled not guilty to the charge.cralaw

The prosecution presented its evidence tending to prove that –

At midnight of 22 April 1996, Elgie S. Bulaqueña was already asleep in their house in Purok 8, Balite, Sinug-ang, Bayugan III, Rosario, Agusan del Sur, when she was awakened by appellant. He lifted her skirt, removed her panty, and tried to insert his penis into her vagina but initially failed as she made "some movements." Although he finally succeeded in inserting his penis into her vagina, the penetration, however, was not completely achieved. Elgie cried, but, afraid of his threat to kill her, Elgie remained in the room and did not tell her mother, Judith Bulaqueña, about what had transpired. Instead, she asked the help of her uncle who, thereupon, accompanied her to the police station. The police had Elgie medically examined at the rural health center. chan robles virtual law library

Dr. Rebecca R. Aquino examined Elgie on 24 April 1996, and prepared a medico-legal report. She found Elgie to have had "completely healed lacerations" at the 3 and 8 o’clock hymenal positions but that there were no abrasions, hematoma and contusions. Dr. Aquino explained that the laceration could have been caused by sexual intercourse, "medical instrumentation," the "passage of clotted blood thru menstruation," or "severe physical exertion."

On 25 April 1996, Elgie, assisted by her mother Judith, filed a complaint for rape, on three counts, against appellant, one committed "on or about 3:00 o’clock day time of 1995," the second "on February 7, 1996 [at] 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon" and the third on "April 22, 1996 [at] 12:00 o’clock night time right in the residence of the victim particularly at Balite, Purok 8, Bayugan 3, Rosario, Agusan del Sur." [3] (Still, for unexplained reasons, the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Sur filed the information, hereinbefore quoted, charging only one crime of rape, i.e., that which was averred to have been committed at midnight on 22 April 1996).cralaw

Appellant testified in his defense. He claimed that Judith, Elgie’s mother, was his common-law wife from 1991 to 1996. Judith thereafter lived with another man. On 22 April 1996, appellant said he was at home with his two children by Judith and two other persons, Marlon Ayaton and Rosendo Barrios, who were then working for him. Appellant denied having sexually molested Elgie on the evening of 22 April 1996. The "truth," he claimed, was that, at about ten o’clock that night, he mauled Elgie after seeing her in bed with Marlon and Rosendo. Days later, policemen invited him to the police station and put him in jail. He was told that Elgie had accused him of raping her three times. chan robles virtual law library

The trial court saw the case for the prosecution; it found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape for which it meted the death penalty.cralaw

In this automatic review of the case, appellant, through counsel, would contend that –

"I.

"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE.

"II.

"EVEN ASSUMING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS TRULY GUILTY OF HAVING RAPED THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT, NONETHELESS, THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN IMPOSING UPON HIM THE SUPREME PENALTY OF DEATH." [4]

In reviewing rape cases, the Court is so guided, as usual, by these principles: That - chan robles virtual law library

"x x x First, the prosecution has to show the guilt of the accused by proof beyond reasonable doubt or that degree of proof that, to an unprejudiced mind, produces conviction. Second, unless there are special reasons, the findings of trial courts, especially regarding the credibility of witnesses, are entitled to great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal. Third, the disposition of rape cases are governed by the following guidelines: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution, and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence of the defense." [5]

The crime of rape can be committed by, among other ways, "having carnal knowledge of a woman" with the use of force or intimidation. [6] Intimidation is subjective, and it is addressed to the mind of the person against whom it is employed at the time and occasion of the crime. While there is no hard and fast rule to test its presence, [7] one accepted norm, nevertheless, is whether the intimidation produces a reasonable fear in the mind of the victim that if she were to resist or were not to yield to the desires of the malefactor, the threat would be carried out. [8]

The victim was still young when she began to live with her mother and appellant, her mother’s common-law husband, whom she recognized to be a "stepfather." The relationship between appellant and the victim was far from ideal. Appellant repeatedly maltreated the girl, a fact that he himself admitted. The threat of another round of abuse proved all too real that midnight of 22 April 1996, when appellant verbalized his intention to harm her upon entering her room. It was not unnatural that the young girl would be cowed by appellant. The victim testified: chan robles virtual law library

"Q What happened while you were sleeping in your house?

"A While I was sleeping I was awakened, sir.cralaw

"Q What happened?

"A He got inside the room and said `Do not tell. If you will tell I will kill you,’ sir.cralaw

"Q And what did he do to you if any?

"A He lifted my skirt and removed my panty and inserted his penis to my vagina, sir.cralaw

"Q What did you do when he inserted his penis to your vagina?

"A I kept on crying, sir. chan robles virtual law library

"Q And after that what happened if any?

"A After that he went out and my mother arrived, sir.cralaw

"Q What did you do after your mother arrived in your house?

"A I still remained inside the room and I did not tell my mother because if I told her he would kill me, sir." [9]

Contrary to the claim of appellant, the victim’s submission to his lust was not free from struggle. She did resist the sexual advances.cralaw

"Q You said that accused inserted his penis in your vagina, can you tell us how deep was the penetration?

"A At first it did not insert because I made some movements, Your Honor.cralaw

"Q My question is how deep was it penetrated?

"A The penis did not penetrate completely, Your Honor.cralaw

"Q It penetrated but not completely is that what you mean?

"A Yes, Your Honor." [10]

The medical report that there have been "healed lacerations" found in the 3 and 8 o’clock hymenal positions would not refute the existence of rape. Proof of entry of the male organ within the labia of the pudendum is sufficient. [11] The full penetration of the victim’s sex organ is not required to consummate the crime of rape. Neither is proof of hymenal laceration an element of rape. [12] In People v. Madronio, [13] the Court has said that the "presence of an old healed laceration on [the victim’s] hymen does not negate the commission of rape," and that a "freshly broken hymen is not an essential element of the crime." Moreover, a medico-legal report is not indispensable in the prosecution of a rape case, it being merely corroborative in nature. [14] In this case, the medical report also reflects the fact that the victim has had "[n]o abrasions, hematoma and contusions" in "the vulva or in other parts of the body," that belie appellant’s claim that he only "mauled" the victim with his bare hands, instead of sexually abusing her, that night of 22 April 1996.cralaw

Appellant assails the credibility of the victim at the witness stand. Like before, this Court must defer to the assessment and evaluation given by the trial court on this issue. [15] It is the trial court that would be in such unique a position as to be able to observe the deportment of the witness while testifying. [16] There is here no cogent reason to overturn the judgment of the trial court. chan robles virtual law library

It is claimed that the victim’s motive in filing the rape charge has only been to exact vengeance and to get rid of appellant. The Court has consistently disregarded this kind of assertion as being too trite to merit consideration. In one case, the allegation that the rape victim has just wanted to "get rid" of an accused due to the maltreatment which she and her mother have suffered in his hands has been held by the Court to be "too unnatural to merit faith and credit."16 Truly, as has so often been said, neither the victim nor a mother would expose the family to shame and scandal if the charge were merely impelled by a motive other than to exact justice. [17]

Appellant argues that the victim’s getting married soon after her supposed horrendous ordeal is uncharacteristic of a rape victim. Appellant apparently fits the fact of her marriage into his own desperate mold of defense. He fails to consider the fact that different people react differently to given situations and that there is no known standard form of human behavioral response when confronted particularly with a frightful experience. [18] In any case, her subsequent marriage is of no moment; indeed, it could have even strengthened her determination to pursue her complaint to its just conclusion. chan robles virtual law library

On 27 September 2001, Elgie, after consulting with her mother, executed and filed with this Court an affidavit of desistance. An affidavit of desistance is not looked upon with favor on appeal following a conviction, let alone as being the sole consideration for the reversal of that conviction. There must be other circumstances which, when coupled with retraction or desistance, create doubts on the veracity of the testimony given by witnesses during the trial. [19] The records do not here cast such doubts. A rape victim, who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner, and remains consistent, is a credible witness. [20] The victim in this case has remained steadfast in her testimony despite a rigid cross-examination made by the defense. The spontaneous emotional breakdowns suffered by the victim occasioned by the forced recollection of the sexual violation she has experienced from the hands of appellant somehow would add to her credibility. [21]

There is merit, however, in the contention that the death penalty should not be imposed upon appellant.cralaw

As so amended by Republic Act No. 7659, Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

"Art. 335. When and how rape is committed. – Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

"1. By using force or intimidation;

"x x x           x x x           x x x

"The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.cralaw

"x x x           x x x           x x x

"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."

Circumstances that would warrant the imposition of the death penalty for the crime of rape are in the nature of special qualifying circumstances that require to be both alleged with certainty in the information and proven at the trial. [22]

The information averred that the victim was fifteen (15) years of age at the time of the commission of the crime. On the witness stand, the victim claimed to be 16 years old, but no other evidence, testimonial or documentary, was presented. It was the defense counsel who asked her on cross-examination if she had a birth certificate to prove her age. Even while the victim had testified to the existence of a birth certificate in the possession of her mother, the prosecution, however, failed to pursue the matter and ignored the disclosure. The information alleged the victim to be the "stepdaughter" [23] of appellant, but the evidence adduced showed that the victim’s mother and appellant had only lived together for a while as just common-law husband and wife. chan robles virtual law library

The crime committed by appellant is simple rape for which the penalty of reclusion perpetua is prescribed. The trial court correctly awarded civil indemnity of P50,000.00 but it has overlooked the prevailing rule that, in rape cases, moral damages should similarly be awarded. [24]

WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that appellant Clementino Lou y Galindo is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of simple rape for which he shall suffer the penalty, not of death, but of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is further ordered to pay to the victim fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) moral damages in addition to the civil indemnity of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) already decreed by the trial court. Costs de oficio.cralaw

SO ORDERED.cralaw

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
 
 


____________________________

Endnotes:
 

[1] Presided by Judge Evangeline S. Yuipco-Bayana.
[2] Records, p. 1. chan robles virtual law library
[3] Exhibit C; see also Exhibit B.
[4] Rollo, p. 29. chan robles virtual law library
[5] People v. Aguinaldo, 375 Phil. 295, 308 (1999), citing People v. Burgos, 345 Phil. 205, 213-214 (1997).
[6] Article 335, Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.
[7] People v. Rapisora, G.R. No. 138086, 25 January 2001, 350 SCRA 299, 307.
[8] People v. Loyola, G.R. No. 126026, 06 February 2001, 351 SCRA 263, 268, citing People v. Fraga, 386 Phil. 884 (2000).
[9] TSN, 03 June 1998, p. 3. chan robles virtual law library
[10] Ibid., at p. 6. chan robles virtual law library
[11] People v. Joya, G.R. No. 79090, 01 October 1993, 227 SCRA 9, 22-23.
[12] People v. De Taza, G.R. Nos. 136286-89, 11 September 2003; People v. Tampos, G.R. No. 142740, 06 August 2003; People v. Dogaojo, G.R. Nos. 137834-40, 03 December 2001, 371 SCRA 321, 334-335; People v. Ayo, 365 Phil. 88, 102 (1999). chan robles virtual law library
[13] G.R. No. 137587 and No. 138329, 29 July 2003.
[14] People v. Lasola, 376 Phil. 349, 360 (1999).
[15] People v. Bernabe, G.R. No. 141881, 21 November 2001, 370 SCRA 142, 146-147.
[16] People v. Lasola, Ibid., pp. 358-359. chan robles virtual law library
[17] People v. Zaballero, 340 Phil. 731, 743 (1997).
[18] People v. Sta. Ana, 353 Phil. 388, 408-409 (1998).
[19] People v. Montejo, G.R. No. 133475, 26 March 2001, 355 SCRA 210, 223.
[20] People v. Vedra, G.R. No. 108615, 09 October 2000, 342 SCRA 317, 324, citing People v. Perez, 357 Phil. 17 (1998).
[21] People v. Ramos, 371 Phil. 66, 77 (1999). chan robles virtual law library
[22] See People v. Ferolino, G.R. Nos. 131730-31, 05 April 2000, 329 SCRA 719, 734-735.
[23] A stepdaughter is the daughter of one’s spouse by a previous marriage, or the daughter of one of the spouses by a previous marriage. (People v. Brigildo, 380 Phil. 610, 629 (2000).
[24] People v. Toquero, G.R. No. 127650, 25 August 2000, 339 SCRA 69, 75.