G. R. No. 142511 - February 16, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,
JEANBO "Jeanbo" MUROS, EDGAR MAZO @ "Egay" (At Large), PETER DOE and RICHARD DOE, accused.
D E C I S I O N
From the Decision1 of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 81 in Criminal Case No. 1747 finding appellant Jeanbo "Jeanbo" Muros guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of forcible abduction with rape, imposing upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to indemnify private complainant Regina Rocha in the amount of P50,000.00 by way of civil indemnity and to pay the costs, he comes to this Court on appeal.
The Information2 for forcible abduction with rape charged appellant, along with three Does, as follows:
That in, about or during early morning of January 22, 1990, in the Poblacion, municipality of Romblon,"province of Romblon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there, with lewd designs, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously take by force and abduct REGINA ROCHA by then and there taking and carrying her away and brought to different places, against her consent and by means of violence, have carnal knowledge with the said offended party, against her will.
Contrary to law.
An order3 for appellants arrest was issued on March 29, 1990. By Order4 of May 5, 1990, the case was archived, however, as it appeared from the return of service of the arrest warrant accomplished by the Romblon Constabulary Integrated National Police Command, appellant was "out of jurisdiction."
The case was reinstated to the docket of the trial court by Order5 of February 1, 1997 upon the return of the warrant of arrest6 dated January 27, 1997 stating that appellant was detained at the Manila City Jail, he having been indicted for violation of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended. Appellant was subsequently acquitted in said case and thereafter detained in Romblon.
On March 3, 1999, appellant, duly assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.7
The information was later amended8 on March 16, 1999 by impleading Edgar Mazo alias "Egay," vice the accused John Doe. He has remained at large up to the present, however.
As presented by the prosecution, the facts of the case are as follows:
At about 9 p.m. on January 21, 1990, private complainant Regina Rocha (Regina), then of 19 summers and a laundrywoman of Julieta Mingoa, went to the plaza in the poblacion of Romblon, Romblon, together with Tecla Mercurio, a househelper also of Mingoa, to watch an amateur singing contest. Tecla left the plaza earlier while Regina stayed on as she wanted to watch the contest to its conclusion.
After the contest, as Regina was on her way back to her employers house, she was waylaid by appellant.9 She resisted but appellant, who was stronger,10 held her right wrist and covered her mouth with his left hand.11 He then forcibly dragged her to a dilapidated house12 where there were two persons, later identified as accused Mazo and one "Lawo."
Over Reginas resistance, appellant lifted her skirt, removed her panty after which he removed his shorts and brief.13 He thereafter succeeded in inserting his penis into her vagina and doing "thrusting" motions.14
After appellant was done, accused Mazo and Lawo entered the house and took turns in raping Regina as appellant watched - Lawo first as Mazo restrained her, and Mazo later as Lawo held her down.
The three repeatedly abused Regina until about 5 a.m. of the following day when she was allowed to leave. The vicinity being already slightly illuminated by sunlight, she was able to take a good look at the malefactors who were also set to leave.15
After Regina arrived at her employers house, she did the laundry on instructions of Mingoa who noticed her to be pale, nervous and uncharacteristically silent.16 As she was doing the laundry, she told Mingoa that she felt bad and proceeded to recount her harrowing ordeal. She mentioned Jeanbo Muros whom Mingoa knew to be one of their neighbors who buys from their store.17 Mingoa thereupon told her that she would bring her to a doctor if she was indeed raped.
That same morning of January 22, 1990, accompanied by Mingoa, Regina went to the Romblon District Hospital where she was physically examined by Dr. Juan Magalong. From the doctors Medico-Legal Certificate,18 Regina was found to have:
In a February 14, 1990 detailed report19 of the doctor, he notes as follows:
x x x
Physical Examination: Unremarkable except for previous findings of: Fresh hymenal laceration, with cervical erosions.
Done: At time of patient consultation at Romblon Distric Hospitals Delivery Room with her employer Mrs. Julieta Mingoa.
x x x (Underscoring supplied)
Regina thus executed a sworn statement20 on February 13, 1990 on account of which a criminal complaint21 was filed before the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Romblon.
Appellant interposed alibi. He averred that at the time of the alleged incident, he was in Manila where he was employed as a construction worker from November 1989 to May 1990; and that Mingoa merely prevailed upon Regina to fabricate charges against him as he had a feud with her (Mingoas) husband.
Finding for the prosecution, the trial court rendered the appealed Decision of October 19, 1999 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, this Court finds co-accused JEANBO "JEANBO" MUROS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of forcible abduction with rape and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with the accessory penalties of the law; to indemnify the victim REGINA ROCHA the sum of P50,000.00, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and to pay the costs.
The preventive imprisonment he may have suffered shall be credited in his favor.
The case against the other accused who are at large is ordered ARCHIVED.
Hence, the present appeal which hinges upon the sole issue of whether the trial court erred in finding appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Appellant assails Reginas identification of him which, so he posits, was merely suggested to her by people present during the hearing.
This Court is not persuaded. Based on a judicious review of the transcript of her testimony, Regina positively and categorically identified appellant as one of her assailants:
The following factual findings of the trial court, which are quoted verbatim, with respect to Reginas identification of appellant and credibility as a witness thus merit approval:
Regina Rochas positive identification of the accused Jeanbo Muros as one of the perpetrators of the crime is credible and trustworthy that satisfies moral certainty. She could not be mistaken that early morning (masinaw or slightly bright) when the accused were already outside the dilapidated house and while she was about to get out at only a distance of about a meter and a half from her when she recognized the face of the accused. This unlettered young woman from the barrio, whose simplicity of appearance could not be exactly described in words by the Court as reflected in the transcripts of stenographic notes, was closely observed by the Court in her demeanor and manners in and out of the witness stand. She could not have concocted this harrowing experience of rapes in the hands of the three (3) accused and exposed herself and her family not only to shame and ridicule, and to medical examination of her private parts but also her utter ignorance of how to go about seeking justice for the wrong committed against her especially the demands of a public trial, if her story of rapes were (sic) not true.25
For the rule is well-entrenched that findings of fact of the trial court are accorded the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal absent any clear showing that the trial court had overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and significance which, if considered, would alter the result of the case.26 The reason for the rule being that trial courts have the distinct advantage of having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying or their conduct and behavior during the trial.27
Appellant goes on to contend that Reginas charge against him is rendered suspect by her failure to make any outcry after she was allegedly abducted.
Neither is this Court persuaded. The intimidation of the victim may be so overpowering as to prevent her from making an outcry,28 hence, her failure to shout for help does not negate the commission of rape.29
It bears noting that at the time of the abduction in a dark, isolated place, appellant tightly held Regina and covered her mouth, thus preventing her from making an outcry. And, given the trial courts observation that "by comparison, the accused is very much robust in his physical constitution as compared with the victim,"30 it is not difficult to understand why, although Regina struggled to extricate herself from appellant, she could have hesitated to make any move that would further provoke him.
Appellant then faults Regina for allegedly failing to offer tenacious resistance, as her testimony that "she did not try to kick or box him or scratch his face" shows. On the contrary, the records reveal that she did offer some resistance which may not, by appellants standards, be tenacious. Her resistance was, however, thwarted, by appellant who is much stronger.
At all events, this Court has laid down the rule that the resistance that is expected from a victim to negate consent in rape is dependent upon the peculiar circumstances of the case:
The test is whether the threat or intimidation produces a reasonable fear in the mind of the victim that if she resists or does not yield to the desires of the accused, the threat would be carried out. Where resistance would be futile, offering none at all does not amount to consent to the sexual assault. It is not necessary that the victim should have resisted unto death or sustained physical injuries in the hands of the rapist. It is enough if the intercourse takes place against her will or if she yields because of genuine apprehension of harm to her if she did not do so. Indeed, the law does not impose upon a rape victim the burden of proving resistance.31
Appellant furthermore submits that the discrepancies between the affidavit executed by Regina on February 13, 1990 and her testimony in open court cast doubt on her credibility as a witness.
Again, this Court is not persuaded. Notatu dignum is the consistency of the sworn statement and the testimony of Regina in open court as to the fact that appellant abducted and raped her that early morning of January 22, 1990. Both establish the elements of the crime complained of. That there were inconsequential discrepancies between them is not at all unusual. As People v. Almanzor32 holds:
The infirmity of affidavits as a species of evidence is a common occurrence in judicial experience. Affidavits are generally not prepared by the affiants themselves but by other persons who used their own language in writing the statements. Being ex parte, they are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate, but these factors do not denigrate the credibility of witnesses. As such, affidavits are generally considered to be inferior to testimony given in open court.
At all events, it is settled that a few inconsistent remarks in rape cases will not necessarily dent the credibility of the private complainant for, as has been observed by this Court, rape victims cannot be expected to be errorless in recounting the details of a harrowing experience.33
Finally, appellant insists on his defense of alibi. He proffers that his co-construction workers Alexander and Juanito Moreno could vouch that he was working with them in Manila at the time of the alleged commission of the offense, but as their whereabouts have been unknown, his mother Jane Muros and Alexander and Juanito Morenos mother Purificacion Moreno were instead presented as witnesses.
Jane Muros, who testified that she knew that appellant left for Manila in November 1989 and returned to their home in Romblon only in October the following year, could not, however, determine his exact whereabouts on January 22, 1990 when the crime was committed. At any rate, testimonies of close kins are suspect and cannot prevail over that of the complaining witness.34
On the other hand, Purificacion Moreno testified that when she went to Manila in December 1989 to celebrate Christmas with her sons Alexander and Juanito, she saw appellant with them; and that until January 1990 when she left for Romblon, appellant stayed with her and her sons. She could not, however, remember the exact date when in January she departed for Romblon ("I really dont know how many days were left of January when I went home"),35 thus casting serious doubt on her claim that she was certain that appellant was still in Manila when the crime was committed.
As for appellants submission that Regina merely fabricated the charges against him upon the instigation of her employer Mingoa, he having, by his claim, had a feud with Mingoas husband because he did not vote for him in the local elections, the same is too shallow to merit consideration. Not a few persons accused of rape have attributed the charges brought against them to resentment or revenge, but such alleged motives have not prevented this Court from lending full credence to the testimony of a complainant who remained steadfast throughout her testimony,36 as did Regina. Consider her following testimony:
Reginas claim is corroborated by Dr. Magalong who examined her on the same day she was raped and found her, as earlier mentioned, to have fresh hymenal laceration, which laceration remains fresh, according to him, "within three days" from the commission of the crime.38
When the testimony of a rape victim is consistent with the medical findings, sufficient basis exists to warrant a conclusion that the essential requisite of carnal knowledge has thereby been established.39
The foregoing inculpatory findings against him notwithstanding, appellant can only be convicted of rape.40 Forcible abduction is absorbed in the crime of rape if the real objective of the accused is to rape the victim.41 From the facts of the case, this Court finds that appellant abducted Regina for the purpose of having carnal knowledge with her.
As for the civil aspect of the case, conformably with prevailing jurisprudence, in addition to the P50,000.00 civil indemnity awarded by the trial court, another amount of P50,000.00 should be awarded to Regina representing moral damages.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 81 in Criminal Case No. 1747 is hereby MODIFIED.
Appellant, Jeanbo "Jeanbo" Muros, is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape as defined and penalized under Article 33542 of the Revised Penal Code and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; and to pay the victim, Regina Rocha, the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages, in addition to the P50,000.00 civil indemnity awarded by the trial court.
Vitug, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
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