[G.R. NO. 167693 : September 19, 2006]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. MELCHOR CABALQUINTO, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
This case presents an opportunity for the Court not only to once again dispense due requital for the sufferings of a child who has been defiled by her own father, but also to effectuate the provisions of Republic Act No. 7610 (RA 7610), otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and its implementing rules, RA 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, and its implementing rules, and our own Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children.1
The provisions on confidentiality of these enactments uniformly seek to respect the dignity and protect the privacy of women and their children. Sec. 29 of RA 7610 provides:
Sec. 44 of RA 9262 similarly provides:
Likewise, the Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children states:
It is worth mentioning in this connection that the Court has resolved to refrain from posting in its Internet Web Page the full text of decisions in cases involving child sexual abuse in response to a letter from a mother of a child abuse victim addressed to the Chief Justice expressing anxiety over the posting of full text decisions of the Supreme Court on its Internet Web Page. The mother submitted that confidentiality and the best interest of the child must prevail over public access to information and pleaded that her daughter's case, as well as those of a similar nature, be excluded from the Web Page.2
The Court required the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), National Press Club (NPC), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to comment on whether or not it is proper to post the full text of decisions of similar cases on the Supreme Court Web Page.
The position of the OSG in its Comment3 is noteworthy. The OSG submits that the posting of the full text of decisions in cases involving child abuse on the Supreme Court Web Page violates the right to privacy of the aggrieved parties. In order to determine whether the subject matter upon which the right to privacy being invoked falls within the constitutionally-protected zone of privacy, it must be shown that the person's expectation of privacy is reasonable. The reasonableness of such expectancy depends on a two part test: (1) whether by his conduct, the individual has exhibited an expectation of privacy; and (2) whether this expectation is one that society recognizes as reasonable.
According to the OSG, the fact that the aggrieved child may have consented, through a parent or guardian, to a public hearing of the case does not negate the expectation of privacy which the child may later invoke because child victims cannot be presumed to have intended their initial agreement to extend beyond the termination of their case to the posting of the decision reached by the Court on the Web Page. Moreover, such an expectation of privacy is reasonable considering the various statutes and rules which reveal the intention of the State to maintain the confidentiality of information pertaining to child abuse cases.
The OSG invites the Court's attention to a New Jersey statute which provides that all court documents which state the name, address and identity of a child victim in certain sexual assault, endangering the welfare and abuse and neglect cases should remain confidential. The name of the victim shall not appear in any public record; rather, initials or a fictitious name shall appear. The offenses covered by the law include aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of children, and any action alleging an abused or neglected child. Thus, in Application of V Pub. Corp., 120 N.J. 508 (1990), and Div. of Youth & Fam. Serv. V. J.B., 120 N.J. 112 (1990), the New Jersey Supreme Court provided guidelines in the implementation of this statute.
In conclusion, the OSG suggests the adoption of a system of coding which could include the use of pseudonyms in cases of a similar nature. Short of withdrawing the full text of decisions in such cases from the Web Page, the OSG proposes that the Court instead replace the material information, such as the name of the child-victim, in its decisions.
The DSWD imparted the same sentiment. It submits that the court records of child abuse cases should be treated with strict confidentiality not only throughout the court proceedings, but even after the promulgation of the decision in order to protect the right to privacy of the child and her family and to preclude instances where undue disclosure of information may impair the treatment and rehabilitation of the child-victim.4
The Court likewise appreciates the separate comments of the KBP and NPC. The KBP informs the Court that its members have agreed not to identify in their broadcasts the names of children who are victims of abuse or are in conflict with the law.5 The NPC, on the other hand, tells us that the prevailing media practice is to inquire whether these individuals wish to have their names appear in the report. If they do not, media would normally take off the names and merely provide a very general description of the individual in recognition of the need to carefully balance the right to information with the welfare of the parties involved.6
Taking all these opinions into account and in view of recent enactments which unequivocally express the intention to maintain the confidentiality of information in cases involving violence against women and their children, in this case and henceforth, the Court shall withhold the real name of the victim-survivor7 and shall use fictitious initials instead to represent her. Likewise, the personal circumstances of the victims-survivors or any other information tending to establish or compromise their identities, as well those of their immediate family or household members, shall not be disclosed.8
On February 18, 2002, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 87, convicted Melchor Cabalquinto (Cabalquinto) on two (2) counts for the rape of his eight-year old daughter, AAA. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
This case was initiated by a sworn statement filed by AAA, assisted by her mother, ABC,10 which resulted in the filing of two (2) Informations for rape, the first alleging:
and the second stating:
Cabalquinto pleaded not guilty on arraignment. Trial on the merits ensued which resulted in his conviction and the imposition of the penalty of death. The records of the case were thereafter forwarded to this Court on automatic review.
On December 10, 2002, the Court issued a Resolution requiring the parties to submit their respective briefs. The parties complied. Pursuant to the case of People v. Efren Mateo,15 however, the Court issued a Resolution on September 14, 2004, transferring the case to the Court of Appeals for appropriate action.
The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court and added an award of
The prosecution presented as witnesses AAA herself, her mother ABC, and Dr. Stella Guerrero-Manalo (Dr. Manalo) of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
ABC testified that she is the common-law wife of Cabalquinto and that they have four children, namely: BBB, CCC, the child-victim AAA, and DDD. At around 8:45 p.m. of November 13, 1998, she was on her way home to xxx, and saw her sons BBB and CCC outside the house, and her youngest daughter DDD playing with a cousin. As she was approaching the house, she noticed that the door was closed although the lights were on. Since there is a half-inch gap between the door and the wall, she peeped through the gap and saw Cabalquinto lying face down making pumping motions on their daughter, AAA, who was lying underneath him with her panties pulled down. When she heard Cabalquinto tell AAA to open her legs ("ibuka mo"), she kicked and pounded the door. Cabalquinto immediately lay down. AAA then stood up and opened the door. ABC entered the room and confronted Cabalquinto who only denied her accusation. She then asked AAA what her father did to her. AAA did not say anything but looked pale.17
After regaining her composure, she went to her sister-in-law EEE, who lived on the second floor of the house, and confided to the latter. At around 10:00 o'clock that night, she went to her sister's house in xxx to seek advice. Her sister told her to report the matter to the barangay officials. The barangay officials, in turn, told her to go to the police which she did the following day, November 14, 1998.18
AAA's Salaysay was taken by the police and they were referred to the CPU of PGH. Because there was no doctor on duty, she and AAA returned to the CPU on November 16, 1998. AAA was examined by a doctor and a medical certificate was issued. They returned to the police station where she executed her Salaysay. They then proceeded to the fiscal's office to lodge a complaint.19
ABC further testified that during the police investigation on November 14, 1998, AAA revealed to the police that a similar incident happened to her on November 8, 1998, the day of her friend's birthday celebration.20
AAA testified that at around 8:45 p.m. on November 13, 1998, she was inside their house in xxx, with her father, Cabalquinto, when the latter instructed her to close the door and windows and turn off the light. She obeyed but did not turn off the light. Her father then told her to lie down and immediately placed himself on top of her. He then undressed her, brought out his penis, asked her to masturbate him and to suck his penis, inserted his penis in her private parts and licked her private parts. He told her not to tell her ninang DDD or her mother; otherwise, he would kill them all. She felt pain in her stomach and pelvis after the incident.21
Corroborating her mother's testimony, AAA stated that while they were at the police station, she disclosed that she was also raped by her father on November 8, 1998. She remembered the incident because it was the day her friend, FFF, celebrated her birthday. According to AAA, her father had been drinking that night. When she went home to drink water, she was called by her father, told to close the door and windows and to turn off the lights. She obeyed but did not turn off the lights. Her father then placed himself on top of her and told her to masturbate him.22
AAA further testified that she was not enrolled in school because her mother had been abroad.23
It should be mentioned that in her Sinumpaang Salaysay dated November 14, 1998, AAA stated that her father had raped her seven (7) times since her mother left for abroad. She said that she distinctly remembered having been raped by her father on November 8, 1998, her friend's birthday; August 16, 1998 during the fiesta; and on November 13, 1998, the day before her statement was taken. However, she said no longer remembered the exact dates of the other incidents.24
Dr. Manalo, who conducted the physical examination of AAA, testified that AAA had no injury on her genitalia; that her hymen is quite large and distensible possibly because of penile penetration; and that she recovered a strand of pubic hair inside AAA's vaginal vault which could only have reached the area as a consequence of penile penetration because AAA did not have pubic hair yet.25
On cross-examination, Dr. Manalo stated that she did not find any traces of bleeding in AAA's vagina but that injury is uncommon in incestuous rape.26
The trial court admitted the following documentary evidence formally offered by the prosecution: (1) Referral Letter to the Office of the Prosecutor; (2) Sinumpaang Salaysay of ABC; (3) Sinumpaang Salaysay of AAA; (4) medical certificate; (5) birth certificate of AAA; and (6) Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Stella Manalo.27
Testifying as lone witness for his defense, Cabalquinto denied that he raped AAA on November 8 and 13, 1998. He claimed that on November 13, 1998, he just slept in the sala of their house with AAA and DDD, while his sons, BBB and CCC, slept in another room. On November 8, 1998, he claimed that after cooking the food for FFF's birthday party, he went home and slept. He averred that the cases filed against him were the offshoot of frequent quarrels between his common-law wife, ABC, and his brother, GGG.28
We have meticulously and painstakingly examined the records as well as the transcripts of stenographic notes and find no cause to overturn the findings of fact and conclusions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals. We affirm Cabalquinto's conviction.
Cabalquinto's claim that there are material inconsistencies between the testimonies of AAA and ABC with regard to whether AAA cried out as she was being raped because while AAA testified that she shouted twice, ABC stated that she did not see AAA struggle nor hear her call out, is unconvincing.
AAA was firm and unwavering in her narration of her traumatic experience. During cross examination, she remained steadfast in her assertion that her father inserted his penis inside her genitals and raped her, even demonstrating what she understood of the word rape by forming a circle with her fingers and moving her middle finger inside and out indicating sexual intercourse.29
Thus, the trial court gave full credence to AAA's testimony and ruled:
ABC's testimony of what she witnessed regarding the act of rape corroborates AAA's account. The inconsistency between the testimony of AAA and her mother pertains merely to a circumstance that is of little consequence to the question of whether rape was actually committed. Whether AAA cried out or not does not discount rape.
It should be emphasized that AAA was but eight (8) years old when the rapes happened. A child of her tender years cannot be expected to be able to recount the details of her torment with exactitude. In People v. Villar,31 the accused questioned the inconsistency between the victim's declaration in her sworn statement and her direct testimony in court as to the exact time when she was first raped by the accused in 1993.32 The Court held that it cannot impose the burden of exactness in the victim's recollection of her harrowing experience more so because the victim was an innocent and tender nine (9)-year old lass when she was first raped.33 Citing People v. Sagucio,34 we also held that errorless testimony cannot be expected especially when a witness is recounting the details of a harrowing experience.
On the other hand, ABC must have also been so devastated by what she witnessed her husband doing to their daughter that she might have perceived things differently from AAA.
Persons who witness an event may perceive it from different points of reference, hence they may have different accounts of how the incident took place. What is important is that their testimonies reinforce each other on the essential facts and that their versions corroborate and substantially coincide with each other to make a consistent and coherent whole.35 The fact therefore that the statements of AAA and ABC differ on some minor details does not in any way affect their credibility or detract from the integrity and truthfulness of their declarations. The variations in their testimonies present a believable narration of what actually happened, made more so precisely because of their imperfections.36
Cabalquinto offers a flimsy excuse in answer to the serious accusation against him. He claims that ABC's frequent spats with his brother motivated her to file the rape cases against him.
It is improbable that a victim of tender years, especially one unexposed to the ways of the world as AAA must have been, would impute a crime as serious as rape to her own father if it were not true. There is no doubt in our minds that AAA was impelled solely by a desire to let justice find its way.37
As regards ABC, we are convinced that she did not expose AAA to the ignominy that rape victims must face only to get back at Cabalquinto's brother. Had that been her motive, she would have accused Cabalquinto's brother and not Cabalquinto himself. No mother would possibly wish to stamp her child falsely with the stigma that follows a rape only for the purpose of punishing someone against whom she has no grudge whatsoever.38 ABC's zeal in prosecuting this case demonstrates to us her yearning that the law may do her daughter justice even as her own father had so depravedly wronged her.
Further, the contemporaneous and subsequent conduct of mother and child are revealing of the veracity of the rape charge. It should be emphasized that upon witnessing the outrage done to her daughter, ABC immediately confronted Cabalquinto. Shortly afterwards, she confided to her sister-in-law and traveled all the way to xxx to seek her own sister's advice. The following day, mother and child went to the police to report the incident and to execute their sworn statements. ABC also took her daughter to the CPU of PGH for the latter's medical examination.
These significant circumstances cannot be ignored. We are compelled to believe, especially in the face of Cabalquinto's plain denial, that AAA was indeed sexually abused and raped by her own father.
Carnal knowledge of a woman under 12 years of age is rape as defined under Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, and is qualified when the offender is a parent of the victim, in which case, the death penalty shall be imposed as provided under the Death Penalty Law.39 In this case, the qualifying circumstances of the victim's minority and her relationship with the accused as the latter's daughter were properly alleged in the Informations, proven during trial and not refuted by Cabalquinto. However, in view of Republic Act No. 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty of reclusion perpetuawithout eligibility for parole should instead be imposed.
As regards the civil liability of Cabalquinto, we affirm the award of
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 87, in Criminal Cases Nos. Q-98-79683 and Q-98-79684, as well as the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 00260, are AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Appellant MELCHOR CABALQUINTO is sentenced, in each of the criminal cases subject of this review, to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and to pay the victim, AAA (to be identified through the Informations filed with the trial court in this case), the amounts of
Panganiban, C.J., Puno, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.
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