G. R. No. 133237 - July 11, 2003
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, vs. ERNESTO DIZON Y ILARDE, Appellant.
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before this Court on appeal is the Decision1 dated March 16, 1998 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 110, in Criminal Case No. 96-8676 finding appellant Ernesto Dizon y Ilarde guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and meting on him the penalty of reclusion perpetua and directing him to indemnify the victim, Jennie Galoza, the amount of P50,000.
Ernesto Dizon was charged with rape upon the sworn complaint of the victim that reads:
At his arraignment, the accused, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial ensued.
The Case for the Prosecution3
In the evening of May 11, 1996, the victim, Jennie, then 14 years old, joined the other youngsters of Barangay Malibay, Pasay City, in making banners (banderitas) for their barangay's forthcoming fiesta. They dispersed at around 2:00 a.m. the next day. On the way home, Jennie noticed that the accused was following her. He was about one meter behind her. She did not mind his presence as she thought that he was likewise on his way home. After all, they both lived in the same vicinity and even had the same address, 507 B. Vizcarra Street, Malibay, Pasay City, with only one house separating their respective homes. Further, Jennie knew the accused as he was the former live-in partner of her sister Aileen.
As Jennie passed the comfort room of the house of the accused which was just a door away from her house, the accused suddenly embraced her, covered her mouth with his left palm and shoved her inside the comfort room. Jennie struggled but she was no match to Dizon's strength. He forced her to lie down on the wet floor of the comfort room. He placed himself on top of her and simultaneously pulled down her pants and panty. The accused also removed his short pants. He initially inserted the middle finger of his right hand into her vagina. He then inserted his penis into Jennie's sexual organ and made pumping movements. Jennie tried to push him away but to no avail. To Jennie, the pumping motions seemed to last for ten minutes. After he had satisfied his bestial desires, Dizon stood up, pulled up his short pants and warned Jennie against reporting the incident to anyone. He then left her.
As soon as the accused was gone, Jennie pulled up her pants and panty and hurriedly went home. She loudly knocked at their door, which was opened by her mother, Alejandra Galoza. Alejandra noticed that Jennie was crying and that her hair and clothes were wet. Alejandra asked her what happened but Jennie just ignored her and went directly upstairs. Alejandra followed her and asked her again what happened. Jennie continued crying and told her mother that the accused had raped her. Alejandra became hysterical causing the entire family to wake up. When Jennie's father learned about what happened, he was furious. He immediately got a knife and wanted to go directly to Dizon's house but Alejandra prevailed upon him. Alejandra instructed her husband to go instead to the police and report the matter. Jennie's father went to Barangay Chairman Angelito Cruz and together they went to the police station and reported the incident.
Two policemen went to the house of the accused and brought him to the police station for investigation. On the other hand, Jennie, together with her parents and godfather, went to the Pasay police headquarters where she was investigated by SPO3 Milagros Carrasco. On SPO3 Carrasco's instruction, Jennie submitted the clothes that she wore at the time of rape to the policewoman. There were bloodstains on her panty. Jennie was then brought to Camp Crame where she underwent physical examination conducted by Dr. Jesusa Nieves Vergara.
The medico-legal report of Dr. Vergara contained, in part, the following findings:
When she took the witness stand, Dr. Vergara explained that the congestion and abrasion found on the vestibule of Jennie's vagina indicated that there was forcible entry of a hard blunt object therein. The fresh laceration at 9 o'clock position also signified that the laceration was inflicted several hours prior to the examination. Further, the bloodstains found on Jennie's panty could have been from the fresh laceration caused by the insertion of a penis or other hard blunt object into her vagina. According to Dr. Vergara, the absence of spermatozoa did not negate sexual intercourse because there would usually be no smear taken from the vagina when the male did not ejaculate inside the female sexual organ.
The Case for the Accused5
The accused vigorously denied raping Jennie. He claimed that he and Jennie were lovers and that they agreed to a rendezvous at 2:00 in the morning of May 12, 1996. He testified that in the evening of May 11, 1996, after having supper at his sister's house, he stayed there and watched video until it was time for his tryst with Jennie. At 2:00 in the morning the next day, Dizon stood in front of Jennie's house and, as agreed upon by them, he whistled twice to let her know that he was already outside. After several minutes, Jennie came out of the house. They immediately embraced and kissed each other. The accused told her that they should go to a secluded place so nobody would see them. They went to the comfort room of his house. As soon as they were inside, they kissed each other again. Jennie pulled down her pants and panty to her knees. The accused inserted the middle finger of his right hand into her vagina. He made a push and pull movement. Just then, Dizon's wife came down and saw them. She instantly slapped Jennie hitting her mouth. Jennie cried and hurriedly left. The accused and his wife had a heated argument. After a while, a policeman arrived at their house and arrested him. He was brought to the police sub-station in Malibay, Pasay City.
In support of the claim of the accused that Jennie was his girlfriend, Reynante Ramos, a compadre of his brother, testified that on several occasions prior to May 12, 1996, he had seen the accused and Jennie holding hands with each other. For her part, Lydia averred that Aileen, the victim's sister, wrote a letter to the accused once threatening to take revenge on him for leaving her (Aileen) for Lydia. Lydia further narrated that in the early morning of May 12, 1996, she was awakened by the crying of their baby. While preparing the baby's milk, she noticed that the accused was not in bed. She looked for him and found him in their comfort room with Jennie in a compromising situation. Lydia shouted invectives at them and slapped Jennie, who hurriedly left.
Commenting on the medico-legal report, Dr. Vertido gave the opinion that the fresh laceration at 9 o'clock position in Jennie's hymen may not have been caused by a penis but could have been caused by a fingernail.
After the prosecution and defense presented their respective evidence, the trial court rendered judgment finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of raping Jennie. The decretal portion of the trial court's decision reads:
The accused forthwith filed his notice of appeal with the trial court.7 In his appeal brief, the accused, now the appellant, alleges that the trial court erred:
IN MERELY RELYING ON THE TESTIMONY OF THE WITNESSES FOR THE PROSECUTION INSTEAD OF WEIGHING AND RATIONALIZING THE PIECES OF EVIDENCE ADDUCED DURING THE TRIAL IN FAVOR OF ACCUSED-APPELLANT THAT THE CRIME CHARGED OF [sic] WAS NOT COMMITTED;
IN CONVICTING ACCUSED-APPELLANT WITHOUT THE REQUIRED PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.8
Essentially, the appellant assails the credibility of the victim as he asserts that his guilt for the crime of rape was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The appellant harps on the seeming inconsistent statements made by Jennie in her sinumpaang salaysay and during her testimony in court. In her sinumpaang salaysay, Jennie stated that the appellant removed her pants and t-shirt then forced her to lie down on the floor of the comfort room. On the other hand, during her testimony, Jennie averred that the appellant shoved her inside the comfort room, forcibly made her lie down on the floor, lay on top of her, pulled down her pants and panty, inserted his finger then his penis into her vagina. The discrepancy in Jennie's narration of the sequence of events, he avers, taints her credibility as a witness.
Moreover, according to the appellant, Jennie's narration of how he raped her, i.e., he embraced her from behind, shoved her inside the comfort room, forced her to lie down on the floor, lay on top of her, pulled down her pants and panty, removed his short pants, inserted his finger then his penis into her vagina, and during the entire time his left hand covered her mouth, is incredulous. The appellant insists that it was physically impossible for him to have raped Jennie in the said manner. The appellant likewise points out that the medico-legal report stated that "there are no external signs of application of any form of violence."9
The appellant further contends that the fact that Jennie had swollen mouth after the incident corroborates his claim that his wife slapped Jennie when she caught them (the appellant and Jennie) in an intimate position inside the comfort room. The appellant maintains that he did not have sexual intercourse with Jennie and that his acts of embracing and kissing her and inserting his middle finger into her vagina arose out of mutual passion and consent.
The appellant's contentions fail to persuade.
In reviewing rape cases, the Court has always been guided by three well-entrenched principles: (a) that an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (b) that in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime which usually involves two persons, the complainant's testimony must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (c) that the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of evidence of the defense.10 Accordingly, the primordial consideration in a determination concerning the crime of rape is the credibility of the complainant's testimony.11
When she took the witness stand, Jennie testified how the appellant succeeded in raping her as follows:
The trial court characterized Jennie's testimony as straightforward and declared that the details narrated by her could not have been merely concocted. The trial court found that her detailed testimony bore the badge of sincerity and truthfulness.
The unbroken line of jurisprudence is that this Court will not disturb the findings of the trial court as to the credibility of witnesses considering that it is in a better position to observe their candor and behavior on the witness stand. Evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses and their demeanor, conduct, and attitude, especially under cross-examination. Its assessment is respected unless certain facts of substance and value were overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the case.13
There is nothing in the records that would impel this Court to deviate from said findings and conclusion of the trial court. Indeed, this Court finds that Jennie testified in a categorical, straightforward and consistent manner. And contrary to the appellant's contention, the minor inconsistencies between Jennie's testimony and sinumpaang salaysay do not at all detract from her credibility as a witness. It is doctrinally settled that discrepancies and/or inconsistencies between a witness' affidavit and testimony in open court do not impair credibility as affidavits are taken ex parte and are often incomplete or inaccurate for lack of or absence of searching inquiries by the investigating officer.14
The discrepancy in the sequence of events as narrated by Jennie in her sinumpaang salaysay and her testimony in court could be explained by the fact that when the former was taken, Jennie had just been through the ordeal. She could not be expected to immediately remember with accuracy every ugly detail of her harrowing experience especially so when she might in fact have been trying not to remember the same.15
On the other hand, testimonies during trial are more detailed and elaborate than those stated in sworn statements.16 The important thing is that Jennie was consistent in saying that the appellant shoved her inside the comfort room, forcibly made her lie down on the floor, lay on top of her and inserted his penis into her vagina. At what point he actually removed her pants and panty is but a minor and inconsequential detail which does not affect the crux of the case that the appellant had carnal knowledge of Jennie against her will.
Contrary to the appellant's contention, the absence of external signs of application of any form of violence does not negate that he raped Jennie.17 Moreover, that there were healed lacerations on Jennie's hymen do not disprove that she was raped. A freshly broken hymen is not an essential element of rape. Healed lacerations do not negate rape.18 In any case, Dr. Vergara observed that there was fresh laceration at 9 o'clock position in Jennie's hymen indicating that it was inflicted several hours prior to the examination. This finding corroborates Jennie's testimony that the rape occurred just several hours prior to her physical examination. When the victim's testimony of her violation is corroborated by the physician's findings of penetration, then there is sufficient foundation to conclude the existence of the essential requisite of carnal knowledge.19
The appellant's defense that he and Jennie were lovers deserves scant consideration. Ramos' testimony that he saw the accused and Jennie holding hands with each other does not help the appellant's cause as Ramos had no personal knowledge of what transpired between the appellant and Jennie on May 12, 1996. The testimony of Lydia, the appellant's wife, likewise is unavailing. The testimonies of close kin are suspect and cannot prevail over that of the complaining witness.20
Moreover, a "sweetheart defense" should be substantiated by some documentary or other evidence of the relationship like mementos, love letters, notes, pictures and the like.21 No such evidence was presented in this case.
In contrast, Jennie's actuations immediately after the incident belie the appellant's "sweetheart theory", to wit: (1) immediately disclosing the rape to her mother; (2) seeking the help of the police authorities in apprehending the appellant; (3) subjecting herself to physical examination; and (4) filing the criminal complaint against the appellant.22
The appellant's claim that Jennie's family was motivated by revenge because he left Aileen, Jennie's sister, for Lydia is a desperate clutch at straws. It is unthinkable that a sister would expose her sibling to the ignominy of a rape trial merely to satisfy her alleged motive.23 Moreover, no family member would expose a fellow family member to the shame and scandal of having to undergo such a debasing ordeal if the charge were not true.24
Significantly, the appellant failed to ascribe any plausible motive which would have impelled Jennie to perjure herself and knowingly hurl false accusations against an innocent man.25 A girl as young as Jennie would not concoct a tale of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts and undergo the expense, trouble and inconvenience, not to mention the trauma, of a public trial, unless she was in fact raped.26
In fine, the trial court correctly convicted the appellant for the crime of rape and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua consonant with Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. The trial court, following jurisprudence, likewise correctly ordered the appellant to indemnify Jennie in the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto.27 In addition, moral damages in the amount of P50,000 should also be awarded in Jennie's favor. In rape cases, moral damages may be awarded without need of proof or pleading since it is assumed that the victim suffered moral injuries, more so where the victim is between ages thirteen to nineteen, as in Jennie's case.28
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated March 16, 1998 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 110, in Criminal Case No. 96-8676 finding appellant Ernesto Dizon y Ilarde guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. The appellant is directed to pay moral damages in the amount of P50,000 in addition to the civil indemnity ex delicto of P50,000.
Bellosillo, Austria-Martinez and Tinga, JJ ., concur.
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