[G.R. NO. 173787 : April 23, 2007]
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MARIO GUILLERMO y ESTEBAN, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
For automatic review is the Decision1 dated April 6, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00103, which dismissed appellant's appeal from and affirmed the earlier decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Camiling, Tarlac, Branch 68, in its Criminal Cases No. 2001-129 and 2001-130, finding appellant Mario Guillermo y Esteban guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Incestuous Rape on two (2) counts and sentencing him to suffer the extreme penalty of death for each count.
Pursuant to our pronouncement in People v. Mateo,3 which modified the provisions of the Rules of Court insofar as they provide for direct appeals from the RTC to this Court in cases where the penalty imposed is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, this case was earlier4 referred to the CA for appropriate action and disposition, whereat it was docketed as CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00103.
In line with our decision in People v. Cabalquinto,5 the real name of the rape victim in this case is withheld. Instead, fictitious initials are used to represent her. Also, the personal circumstances of the victim or any other information tending to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, is not disclosed in this decision.
In the court of origin, Mario Guillermo y Esteban was accused of incestuous rape on two (2) counts under two separate Informations6 worded as follows:
Criminal Case No. 2001-129:
That on or about November 18, 2000 at around 11:00 o'clock in the evening at Brgy. Sawat, Municipality of Camiling, Province of Tarlac, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the father of 14 year old XXX, by means of force, threats and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse against her (sic) daughter XXX, against the latter's will and consent.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Criminal Case No. 2001-130:
That on or about April 29, 2001, at around 2:00 o'clock in the morning at Brgy. Sawat, Municipality of Camiling, Province of Tarlac, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the father of 14 year old XXX, by means of force, threats and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse against her (sic) daughter XXX, against the latter's will and consent.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Arraigned on March 12, 2002, appellant, as accused below, assisted by counsel, pleaded "Not Guilty" to both charges. Thereafter, a joint trial on the merits ensued, in the course of which the prosecution presented the oral testimonies of the victim XXX, of the victim's mother and of Dr. Mercedes Gapultos, a doctor from the Camiling Emergency Hospital where XXX was brought for examination.
The People's version of the incidents is succinctly summarized by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its Appellee's Brief7 as follows:
On November 18, 2000, at about 11:00 in the evening, while private complainant XXX and her three (3) sisters are sleeping, XXX suddenly woke up feeling that someone removed her panty and that someone was already on top of her, whom she later recognized as her father herein appellant. She also felt appellant insert his organ in her organ.
When she was awakened, appellant immediately stood up and put on his underwear and short pants. At the same time, XXX also saw appellant laughing at her.
On April 3, 2001, at around 2:00 in the morning, XXX woke up and found out that her short pants were down and her sex organ was wet. Later in the morning of the same day, when they were about to have breakfast, appellant told XXX that he inserted his penis in her organ. When confronted, appellant merely told her that she would not get pregnant.
On the other hand, the defense's version is hinged mainly on appellant's denial. To quote from his own (appellant's) brief:
MARIO GUILLERMO denied that he ever committed the accusations leveled against him by his daughter. He could only surmise that her mother coached his daughter on what to say.
He recalled that on November 18, 2000 at around 11 o'clock in the evening, as he was trying to sleep inside their bedroom, his daughter, the herein complainant, suddenly got up from bed. It is the habit of the complainant to walk while still asleep. She usually walks whenever she sleeps even during her afternoon nap. He remembered also that his daughter attended a seminar but returned only after three (3) days. He scolded and spanked her every time she failed to come home on the same day.
Significantly, appellant made no attempt to dispute the allegations regarding the April 29, 2001 rape incident in his appellant's brief, other than asserting that XXX did not see appellant inserting his penis in her vagina.
On February 5, 2004, the trial court came out with its decision8 convicting appellant of incestuous rape on two (2) counts and sentencing him as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, accused MARIO GUILLERMO y ESTEBAN is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape, two (2) counts under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH for each crime of Rape, and, further, to pay the private complainant the amount of
IT IS SO ORDERED.
As stated at the onset hereof, the Court, in its Resolution9 of August 24, 2004, and pursuant to its ruling in People v. Mateo,10 referred the case and its records to the CA for appropriate action and disposition.
In turn, in its decision11 of April 6, 2006, the CA affirmed that of the trial court. Dispositively, the CA decision reads:
UPON THE VIEW WE TAKE OF THIS CASE, THUS, the appealed Decision dated February 5, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Camiling, Tarlac, Branch 68, in Criminal Cases Nos. 2001-129 and 2001-130, finding the accused-appellant MARIO GUILLERMO Y ESTEBAN guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of qualified rape and sentencing him in each case to suffer the supreme penalty of death and to pay his daughter-victim, XXX, the amounts of
Should no motions for reconsideration be filed in these cases by the accused-appellant within the allowable reglementary period, or after the lapse thereof, let the entire records of this case be forwarded to the Honorable Supreme Court for appropriate action thereon.
In its Resolution of September 19, 2006, the Court resolved to accept the case and required the parties to submit their respective supplemental briefs.
In separate Manifestations (In lieu of a Supplemental Brief) respectively dated October 17, 2006 and November 8, 2006, appellant, through the Public Attorney's Office, and appellee People, through the Office of the Solicitor General, informed the Court that they were no longer filing supplemental briefs and were merely adopting their appellant's and appellee's briefs before the CA as their supplemental briefs.
In his Appellant's Brief12 before the CA, appellant assigns the following errors:
The appeal must fail.
Appellant claims that the prosecution failed to present concrete evidence to prove that he had sexual intercourse with his own daughter.
In an effort to exculpate himself, appellant imputes ill motive on the part of his daughter XXX in charging him with rape. He claims that his daughter harbored ill-feelings against him whenever he scolded or spanked her every time she came home late at night or when she failed to come home for three (3) days after asking permission from him to attend a seminar.
Contrary to appellant's assertions, XXX testified that although she harbored ill-feelings against her father, such ill-feelings easily came to pass. Thus:
The imputation of ill motive on the part of the victim XXX against appellant hardly merits consideration. The alleged ill-feelings harbored by XXX against her father are too flimsy to justify the filing of charges punishable by death. The acts imputed against the appellant - - incestuous rapes - - are not ordinary criminal offenses that can be hurled with facility. In relating her experiences in public, not only the victim, but her entire family as well, had to go through the humiliation of a trial. Surely, only the genuine desire to seek justice impelled XXX to come out in the open and reveal her unfortunate fate in the hands of her own father.14
To be sure, XXX was duly informed of the dire consequences of the charges she filed against her father. When asked in open court, she nonetheless answered in the following manner:
Appellant would next argue that the fact of carnal knowledge, which is a vital element of the crime of rape, was not proven with certainty because XXX did not see him insert his penis into her vagina. He further states that there was not even any statement on how the sexual act was perpetrated against the person of XXX.
Again, this contention deserves scant consideration.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ
XXX was raped by appellant while she was asleep. As correctly held by the two courts below, this falls within Article 266-A-1(b) of the Revised penal Code:
Article 266-A. Rape; When And How Committed. - Rape is committed'
x x x
b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;
x x x
Of course, nothing can be more telling than the medico-legal report proving the presence of healed hymenal lacerations on XXX consistent with coitus.19 XXX positively identified her father as her ravisher.20
Settled is the rule that the testimony of a rape victim of tender or immature age deserves full credit.21 In People v. Pacheco,22 we held that when the offended party is a young and immature girl between the ages of 12 and 16, as in this case, courts are inclined to give credence to her version of the incident, considering not only her relative vulnerability but also the public humiliation to which she would be exposed in the course of trial if her accusations were untrue. Testimonies of youthful rape victims are, as a general rule, given full faith and credit, considering that when a girl says she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed.23
Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8353, otherwise known as The Anti-Rape Law of 1997, defines rape as follows:
Article 266-A. Rape; When And How Committed. - Rape is committed '
Article 266-B. Penalties.'
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:
1) When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim;
Definitely, the elements of the crime have been sufficiently proven by the prosecution in this case.
Lastly, to skirt the death penalty, appellant argues that no independent proof was presented to establish the minority of private complainant.
Again, the argument crumbles in the weight of XXX's Birth Certificate24 showing that she was fourteen (14) years old at the time of the rape. Also present in the records is an Affidavit of Relationship25 dated October 1, 1999, which was signed by appellant himself and by his wife, the victim's mother. The said affidavit contains an admission as to the names and birth dates of their children, including that of XXX.
The courts below imposed the death penalty upon appellant pursuant to Article 266-B, supra, of the Revised Penal Code which imposes the penalty of death whenever the rape victim is under eighteen years of age and the offender is a parent of the victim.
Such a gruesome crime committed by a father against his very daughter, no less his own flesh and blood, has no place in any civilized society. As such, appellant must suffer the most extreme penalty provided for by law.
In view, however, of the passage of R.A. No. 9346,26 otherwise known as the Anti-Death Penalty Law, which prohibits the imposition of the penalty of death, the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole should instead be imposed.27 Accordingly, appellant is hereby sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.
With regard to the award of damages, prevailing jurisprudence dictates that where, as here, the rape is perpetrated with any of the qualifying/aggravating circumstances that require the imposition of the death penalty, the victim shall be awarded the following:
WHEREFORE, the decision dated April 6, 2006 of the CA is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that instead of death, appellant is meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and the award of moral damages is increased to
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