G. R. No. 142431 - January 14, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, vs. DIONISIO ANCHETA, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant Dionisio Ancheta was meted the supreme penalty of death by the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando City, La Union, Branch 27, in Criminal Case No. 4806, for the rape committed against his own daughter, Ginalyn Ancheta.
In an Amended Information, appellant was charged as follows:
Appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
The facts of the case are as follows:
The victim, Ginalyn Ancheta, was born on July 22, 1986. She was almost 12 years old when the rape was committed on July 13, 1998. She was then living with her father, appellant Dionisio Ancheta, at Sitio Bacsayan, Brgy. Poblacion, San Gabriel, La Union.
On the day of the incident, at around 7:00 p.m., Ginalyn was inside her bedroom when appellant entered and forcibly undressed her. After removing his clothes, he lay on top of her. She struggled but her efforts were in vain since appellant was strong. Failing in her plea, she tried to reason with appellant and asked him, "Why are you doing this father? I am your daughter."2 Appellant gave no reply. He proceeded to insert his penis into her vagina. After appellant satisfied his lust, he threatened Ginalyn with bodily harm if she would tell anyone what happened.3 Ginalyn ran towards the grassy place and hid there until the following morning. Thereafter, she went to the house of her auntie, Perla Andaya-Onaliban, at Brgy. Salangsang, San Gabriel, La Union and confided to her the ordeal she experienced with appellant. Since then, Ginalyn never returned to their house.4
However, it was only on July 17, 1998 that Perla accompanied Ginalyn to the police station to report the rape incident. Her statements were reduced into writing and served as the basis for the filing of a formal complaint against appellant. Arcely Viluan, a social worker of the DSWD of San Gabriel, was assigned to assist Ginalyn in the case. Ginalyn was medically examined at Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center where she was attended to by Dr. Ma. Asunscion Pamuspusan.5 The pelvic examination yielded the following results:
Appellant interposed the defense of denial and alibi. He admitted that Ginalyn is his daughter, and that she was twelve years old and living with him when the alleged incident took place. He, nevertheless, denied the commission of rape and alleged:
The trial court rendered a judgment of conviction against appellant on December 16, 1999, the dispositive portion of which reads:
The decision was elevated to this Court on automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
In his Brief, appellant raises the lone assignment of error:
Appellant does not assail the trial court's decision insofar as it concludes that the evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that he raped his own daughter. However, he faults the trial court for imposing the supreme penalty of death considering that the prosecution failed to prove the actual age of the complainant. He asserts that the records are bereft of evidence, such as complainant's Certificate of Live Birth, Baptismal Certificate or school records accurately showing her age.
This case may easily be disposed of by a simple modification of the penalty as prayed for by appellant. If we do that, however, we would be shirking from our legally mandated duty to review all death penalty cases. This duty has been eloquently summed up by Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno, speaking for the Court, in this wise:
Thus, we painstakingly sifted through the evidence presented in order to make our own determination as to appellant's guilt or innocence. We have reached the conclusion that the prosecution sufficiently proved appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The trial court convicted appellant based on the testimony of Ginalyn, which it found to be credible, as corroborated by the results of the medical examination conducted upon her showing healed lacerations in various positions. While on the witness stand, Ginalyn could not hold her tears as she narrated the bestial acts committed by her own father. She testified, thus:
Well-settled is the rule that findings of trial courts on the credibility of witnesses deserve a high degree of respect. Having observed the deportment of witnesses during the trial, the trial judge is in a better position to determine the issue of credibility; thus, his findings will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that he overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that could have altered the conviction of appellants.12 No such circumstances obtain in this case.
Moreover, when a woman, more so if she is a minor, says she has been raped, she says, in effect, all that is necessary to prove that rape was committed. Courts usually give greater weight to the testimony of a girl who is a victim of sexual assault, especially a minor particularly in cases of incestuous rape, because no woman would be willing to undergo a public trial and put up with the shame, humiliation and dishonor of exposing her own degradation were it not to condemn an injustice and to have the offender apprehended and punished.13 We further note that Ginalyn broke into tears while testifying. The crying of a victim during her testimony is evidence of the truth of the rape charges, for the display of such emotion indicates the pain that the victim feels when asked to recount her traumatic experience.14
At the time of the rape, Republic Act No. 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, which repealed Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code and classified rape as a crime against persons, was in effect. The new provisions on rape, pursuant to Articles 266-A and 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, state:
While the Court affirms the finding of guilt of appellant of the crime of rape, we cannot sustain the death sentence imposed by the trial court.
Where the life of another human being is hanging on the balance, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which the accused is charged must be established in order for the corresponding penalty thereto to be upheld.15 To justify the imposition of the death penalty in cases of incestuous rape, the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender constitutes one special qualifying circumstance which must be both alleged and proved with moral certainty.16 The prosecution failed to do these.
Although the Information specifically alleged the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship, only the circumstance of minority was proved by the presentation of the birth certificate of Ginalyn. The said birth certificate shows that Ginalyn was born on July 22, 1986, thus, making her only less than twelve years old when she was raped on July 13, 1996. This birth certificate was presented and formally offered as evidence for the prosecution,17 and appellant did not interpose any objection to its admission.18
However, the prosecution failed to adduce independent and competent evidence to prove the special qualifying circumstance of relationship of the victim to the offender. Therefore, aside from the testimony of Ginalyn that appellant is her father and the admission of the appellant during the pre-trial and during the trial that Ginalyn is his daughter with his estranged wife, Erlinda V. Aquino,19 the trial court has no basis in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of relationship.
We have recently held in People v. Mendoza20 that the bare testimony of the complainant and the admission of the accused during pre-trial and trial as to their relationship do not suffice for an accused cannot be condemned to suffer the supreme penalty of death on the basis of stipulations or his own admissions. This strict rule is warranted by the seriousness of the penalty of death. The fact that appellant is the father of the complainant must be sufficiently established by competent and independent evidence.
Moreover, the fact that appellant admitted that he is the father of Ginalyn during the pre-trial, thus dispensing with the need to present evidence to prove the same, will not justify the trial court's appreciation of the qualifying circumstance of relationship. A perusal of the pre-trial order would readily show that the said stipulation was not signed by the appellant and his counsel. Hence, it cannot be used as evidence against him. Rule 118, Sec. 2 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that "all agreements or admissions made or entered during the pre-trial conference shall be reduced in writing and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used against the accused." This requirement is mandatory.21 Thus, the omission of the signature of the accused and his counsel, as mandatorily required by the Rules, renders the Stipulation of Facts inadmissible in evidence.22
Considering that the relationship of the victim and the offender was not proved beyond reasonable doubt, appellant can only be convicted of simple rape, punishable by reclusion perpetua.23
Anent the damages imposable upon appellant, we sustain the lower court's award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity. However, an additional amount of P50,000.00 is awarded to Ginalyn as moral damages. Moral damages are automatically granted in rape cases without need of further proof other than the commission of the crime, because it is assumed that a rape victim has actually suffered moral injuries entitling her to such an award.24
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando City, La Union, Branch 27, in Criminal Case No. 4806, finding appellant Dionisio Ancheta guilty of qualified rape and imposing upon him the supreme penalty of death is MODIFIED. Appellant is instead found guilty of simple rape and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the complainant the sum of P50,000.00 as moral damages in addition to the civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 awarded by the trial court.
Costs de oficio.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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