G. R. Nos. 132125-26 - June 3, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, vs. SANTIAGO AGSAOAY,1 JR. y ALVENDIA, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
For automatic review is the Decision2 dated November 28, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 46, Urdaneta, Pangasinan in Criminal Cases Nos. U-9332 and U-9333, convicting Santiago Agsaoay, Jr. y Alvendia, appellant, of two counts of rape (qualified by relationship and minority) and sentencing him to suffer the supreme penalty of death in each count. He was also ordered to pay the victim, his very own daughter Josephine Ferrer Agsaoay,
The two Informations charging appellant with rape read:
Upon arraignment, appellant, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty to the crimes charged. Thereafter, a joint trial on the merits followed.
The evidence for the prosecution shows that Josephine Ferrer Agsaoay5 is the eldest child of appellant and Corazon Ferrer-Agsaoay. The couple are both farmers. Josephine was born on January 15, 1980 as shown by her Certificate of Live Birth.6 She was 17 years old when the crimes were committed. The couples five other children are Analyn (16), Winnie (14),7 Gemma (11), Jiovani (6) and Jonalyn (2). They all reside at barangay Malokiat, Pozorrubio, Pangasinan.8
Very early in the morning of July 15, 1997, Corazon left their house and went to the field to uproot palay seedlings. Josephine and her sister Winnie were then sleeping on the second floor of their house,9 while the other members of the family were at the ground floor. Around 3:30 oclock that morning, Josephine was awakened when appellant suddenly kissed her lips.10 Instinctively, she pushed him away but to no avail as she was too weak and sick.11 He threatened to kill her and her entire family should she report the matter to her mother. She was so terrified and was not able to shout and resist him "because he might kill me as he killed my Uncle Jose" (her mothers brother).12 While he continued kissing her, she tried to awaken Winnie, her younger sister, about 1 meters away from her, but the latter was fast asleep.13 Appellant then undressed her, spread her legs, held her hands, and inserted his penis into her vagina and made a push and pull movement. It was painful. Minutes later, a hot fluid came out from his penis. After his bestial act, he put on his brief and shorts and went downstairs. For her part, she cried until she fell asleep.14 When she woke up the following morning, she saw blood on her underwear. Meanwhile, appellant went to the farm.
Josephine did not tell Corazon, her mother, about the incident because of her fathers threat.15 It was only the following day (July 16, 1997) that she finally mustered enough courage and revealed to her mother what happened. Corazon was shocked but could not report the matter immediately to the authorities. She was scared of him because on August 22, 1990, he killed her younger brother, but he was not imprisoned since "he settled the case."16
On July 17, 1997, appellant ravished Josephine for the second time. As usual, Corazon left the house early to work in the rice field. Josephine and Winnie were still sleeping. About 4:00 oclock that same morning, Josephine was roused from her sleep when appellant forcibly undressed her. She begged him not to molest her again. Instead, he got a bolo, placed it beside her and said, "Do you want me to cut your neck?" Immediately, he removed his brief, inserted his penis into her vagina and made a push and pull movement. After satisfying his lust, he went downstairs. She could only cry.
When Corazon arrived home in the afternoon of that same day, she saw her daughter crying. Josephine told her mother that appellant sexually molested her again. Despite her plea, her mother refused to report the incidents to the police authorities for fear he might kill all of them.17 Later, however, Corazon and her five children finally went to the Philippine National Police (PNP) station at Pozorrubio18 where Josephine reported the harrowing experiences she suffered in the hands of appellant.
During the hearing and upon being asked by the trial judge, Josephine declared that she is well aware that if convicted of the charges, appellant would be sentenced to die by lethal injection.19
On August 1, 1997, Dr. Joseph S. Gomez, Medical Officer of the Pozorrubio Community Hospital, examined Josephine and issued a Medico-Legal Report.20 On the witness stand, he confirmed his report that she has "healed hymenal lacerations at 3:00 and 8 oclock positions;" that her "vaginal canal admits one finger with ease;"21 and that the lacerations could have been caused by a hard and blunt instrument such as an erect penis which "could have occurred as early as the 15th of July, 1997, or even closer to the day of examination (August 1, 1997)."22
Appellant vehemently denied the charges. He testified that around 3:00 oclock in the morning of July 15, 1997, he was sleeping at the ground floor of their house when he heard someone asking his wife to go to the field to uproot palay seedlings. Then his wife went upstairs. Later, his daughter Winnie accompanied him to the field to pasture their animals. When they returned home, he got his fish net and proceeded to the river to catch fish. He was home three hours after.23
On July 17, 1997, appellant was also at home. He woke up in the morning and saw his wife and two children still sleeping on the bamboo bed at the ground floor of their house. Afterwards, he went to the field to pasture animals.24
In the early afternoon of July 31, 1997, appellant arrived home from the farm and found their house in disarray. When his wife arrived, he got angry and told her to stop gambling. He then cooked their food and ate with his children. Then he returned to the farm. He arrived home about 6:00 oclock in the evening and saw his daughter Josephine and a man on their bamboo bed holding hands. He slapped Josephine and the man left. Moments later, his nephew arrived and invited him to join him in his (nephews house) because he slaughtered a pig. When appellant asked permission from his wife to join his nephew, she scolded him resulting in a heated argument. Josephine intervened, but he slapped her and his wife, prompting them to leave. He followed them but he could not find them. So he went home and sleep. About 12:00 oclock midnight, he was awakened by policemen who invited him to their station at Pozorrubio. There he was detained after having been informed that Josephine filed complaints for rape against him.25
According to appellant, he "always inflicts physical violence on Josephine for going around with different men,"26 the reason why she charged him with rape. There were times he saw her "with another man, so I punished her."27 He also claimed that his wife was sore at him when he told her that he will separate from her as he could not stop her from gambling.28
Appellants daughter Winnie also testified. Considering that she was only 1 meters away from Josephine, appellant maintains that he could not have committed the crimes. Winnie declared that on July 15, 1997, around 3:15 oclock in the morning, she and Josephine were sleeping at the second floor of their house. Their mother woke her up and asked her to accompany her to the rice field to uproot palay seedlings. She refused because she had to study her lessons for her school examination that day. At 5:00 oclock that morning, however, she accompanied her father to the field and helped him pasture their carabao and goats. An hour later, she went to school at Don Benito National High School.29
Winnie further testified that on July 17, 1997, she woke up at 5:30 in the morning to prepare breakfast. Josephine was still asleep. Her mother was sleeping downstairs, while her father was preparing the things to be brought to the farm. After breakfast, she went to school. She learned at the Pozorrubio Police Station that Josephine filed two complaints for rape against their father.30
On November 28, 1997, the court a quo rendered its Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
Appellant now seeks the reversal of the trial courts Decision on the following grounds:
For his part, the Solicitor General, in his Appellees Brief, disputed appellants claim and prayed that the assailed Decision be affirmed.
In his Reply Brief, appellant prayed that "should this Honorable Court find him guilty, he should only be convicted of SIMPLE RAPE and be given the penalty of reclusion perpetua."32
The two crimes of rape, as alleged in the Informations, were committed on July 15 and 17, 1997. Hence, the law applicable to the cases at bar is Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659,33 which provides:
The above provisions of the amendatory law classify rape as either simple or qualified. It is qualified when any of the qualifying/aggravating circumstances which attended the commission of the crime as when the victim is below 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree is alleged in the Information and proven during trial.34 A finding of qualified rape raises the penalty to death.
The gravamen of the offense of rape is sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent.35 Consequently, for the charge of rape to prosper, the prosecution must prove that (1) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman and (2) he accomplished such act through force or intimidation, or when she is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or when she is under 12 years of age or is demented.36
The sole important issue in a rape case is the credibility of the victims testimony, in view of its nature in which only two persons are normally involved.37 Hence, in adjudicating such issue, jurisprudence has established the following guidelines: (1) the victims testimony must be scrutinized with extreme caution since an accusation of rape can be made with facility, but difficult for the accused to disprove it; and (2) when her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted solely on the basis thereof.38
In the case at bar, we find Josephines account of her ordeal in the hands of appellant forthright and credible. She testified that on two occasions, he had carnal knowledge of her through force or intimidation:
Josephines woeful tale of her harrowing experience is impressively clear, definite, and convincing. There is no indication whatsoever of a concocted recital. She was positive and firm in pointing to appellant, her very own father, as the person who ravished her twice in July of 1997. Her narration contains details only a real victim could remember and reveal.
The physical evidence likewise reinforced Josephines testimony. The Medico-Legal Report of Dr. Joseph Gomez, who physically examined her on August 1, 1997, shows that her genital has healed hymenal lacerations at 3:00 and 8:00 oclock positions, and that her vaginal canal admits one finger with ease. As noted by Dr. Gomez, the occurrence of the lacerations coincides with the dates the crimes were committed. Consequently, the lacerations and pain Josephine suffered in her genital could be the result of penile penetration showing that appellant had carnal knowledge of her.45
Appellant, however, contends that Josephines version is "fabricated and lacks the elements of truthfulness." He faults the trial court for "failing to exercise greatest care in scrutinizing complainants story." According to him, "it is highly strange" for him to rape Josephine on two occasions in a small room where her sister Winnie, then sleeping, was just 1 meters away. Under such condition, Winnie could have been awakened while he was committing the crimes.46
It is not strange for appellant to have committed rape in a small room. In the many rape cases that have reached this Court, we observed that rape is not always committed in seclusion.47 We never cease to be appalled at the extreme depravity of the rapists who are not deterred from committing their odious act even in unlikely places such as a cramped room where other family members also slept.48 Rape may take only a short time to consummate, given the anxiety and high risk of being caught, especially when committed near sleeping persons oblivious to the goings-on.49 Indeed, lust is no respecter of time or place.50
Josephine testified that when appellant sexually assaulted her twice, Winnie was fast asleep. In fact, during the first incident, she tried to awaken Winnie, who was 1 meters away, by touching the latter with her (Josephines) left foot.51 But Winnie could not have been awakened because appellant perpetrated his bestial acts quietly. And because of his threat, she calmly succumbed to his sexual assaults.
We cannot accord credence to Winnies testimony that she was already awake during those hours and that appellant could not have committed the crimes. For one, the familiar rule on evidence is that an affirmative testimony is far weightier than a negative one, especially when the former comes from a credible witness,52 such as Josephine. For another, Winnies testimony lacks credibility. She testified that during the first incident on July 15, 1997, around 3:15 oclock in the morning, she and Josephine were sleeping at the second floor of their house and that their mother woke her up and requested her to accompany her to the rice field to uproot palay seedlings. But she refused because she had to study for her school examination that day. She contradicted herself, however, when she further stated that in that same morning, she accompanied her father to the field to pasture their carabao and goats and, thereafter, she went to school.53 If, indeed, she had an examination that day, she could have stayed home and studied her lessons, instead of going with appellant to the field.
Winnies inconsistent attitude is understandable. The appellant is her father. In cases where conflicting family interests are involved, it is "not uncommon" for any of the family members to choose "to remain neutral or stay in the background," "or vacillate," or take sides on a specific issue.54 To our mind, it is exceedingly probable that appellants moral ascendancy over Winnie swayed her to testify in his favor. As aptly stated by the trial court, Winnie "made up stories in order to save the neck of her father."55
With respect to appellants defense of denial, the rule is that such defense is intrinsically weak, being a negative and self-serving assertion; it has no weight in law if unsubstantiated by clear, strong, and convincing evidence of non-culpability.56 Sadly, appellant failed to buttress his denial by the required quantum of proof. Certainly, it cannot overcome Josephines affirmative, categorical, spontaneous, and convincing testimony.57
Also, the defense endeavors to prove that Josephine is an unchaste young woman who habitually goes out with different men. Suffice it to state that such debasement of her character does not necessarily cast doubt on her credibility, nor does it negate the existence of rape. It is a well-established rule that in the prosecution and conviction of an accused for rape, the victims moral character is immaterial, there being absolutely no nexus between it and the odious deed committed.58 Even a prostitute or a woman of loose morals can be the victim of rape, for she can still refuse a mans lustful advances.59
In a last-ditch effort to exculpate himself from criminal liability, appellant tries to impute ill-motive to Josephine. We have consistently ruled that parental punishment is not a good reason for a daughter to falsely charge her father with rape.60 For even when consumed with revenge, it takes a certain amount of psychological depravity for a young woman to fabricate a story which would put her own father for the most of his remaining life in jail and drag herself and the rest of her family to a lifetime of shame.61
We likewise reject appellants claim that Corazon was furious after he told her that he would separate from her as he could not stop her gambling habit. His depiction of Corazon as an incorrigible gambler and irresponsible housewife finds no basis whatsoever from the records. On the contrary, Josephine, Winnie and appellant himself testified that Corazon habitually wakes up very early in the morning to work in the rice field and returns home in the afternoon a clear portrayal of a hardworking and responsible mother.
It bears stressing that the determination of Josephine and Corazon in facing a public trial, unmindful of the resulting humiliation and shame, obviously demonstrates their genuine desire to condemn an injustice and to have the offender apprehended and punished.
The trial court, therefore, correctly found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of qualified rape and in imposing the death penalty upon him. As shown by her Certificate of Live Birth, Josephine was born on January 15, 1980. Thus, she was only 17 years old when appellant, her own father, raped her on July 15 and 17, 1997. Both the qualifying circumstances of the victims minority and her relationship with the offender were alleged in the two Informations and proved during the hearing.
However, with respect to the civil aspect of the crimes, the trial court erred in awarding only
We likewise award the victim exemplary damages of
Three members of this Court maintain that Republic Act No. 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty. Nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed herein.
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated November 28, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 46, Urdaneta Pangasinan, in Criminal Cases Nos. U-9332 and U-9333, finding appellant Santiago Agsaoay, Jr. guilty of the crimes of qualified rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of DEATH in each case, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in the sense that he is ordered to pay the amount of
In accordance with Section 25 of R.A. 7659, amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, upon the finality of this Decision, let the records of this case be forwarded to the Office of the President of the Philippines for the possible exercise of her pardoning power.
Costs de oficio.
Davide, Jr., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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