[G.R. NO. 177150 : November 22, 2007]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. WILLIAM CHING, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
For review is the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01798 dated 3 August 2006,1 affirming with modifications the Decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 107, in Criminal Cases No. Q-99-87053, Q-99-87054, and Q-99-87055 dated 4 August 2004,2 convicting accused-appellant William Ching of three counts of rape committed against his minor daughter, AAA.3
The factual antecedents are as follows:
On 1 October 1999, three separate informations4 were filed with the RTC against appellant for qualified rape allegedly committed as follows:
Subsequently, these informations were consolidated for joint trial. When arraigned on 6 March 2000, appellant, with the assistance of counsel de oficio, pleaded "Not Guilty" to each of the charges in the informations.5 Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
The prosecution presented as witnesses AAA, AAA's mother, BBB, PO3 Jesus Deduque (PO3 Deduque), PO3 Melba Baldeswis (PO3 Baldeswis), and Dr. Angel Cordero (Dr. Cordero). Their testimonies, taken together, present the following narrative:
AAA is the third child in a brood of eight children born to appellant and BBB. She was 12 years of age in the year 1996 when the alleged incidents of rape took place.
Sometime in the year 1996, at around 5:00 in the afternoon, she and her younger siblings, namely, CCC, DDD, EEE and FFF, were left at their house with appellant, while BBB was at the market buying food. Appellant told CCC, DDD and EEE to play outside the house. AAA was then cooking rice when appellant instructed her to go inside the bedroom.
When AAA was already inside the room, appellant ordered her to lie down on the cemented floor. When she did, appellant placed himself on top of her and removed her shorts and panty. She screamed "Tulungan po ninyo ako!" and resisted, but to no avail because appellant pressed his feet against hers. Appellant then removed his shorts and brief and thereafter inserted his penis into her vagina. AAA felt pain but she could not move because appellant held both her hands above her head. Appellant told her, "Wag kang maingay, papatayin kita."
After satisfying his lust, appellant stood up and left the bedroom. AAA proceeded to the house of BBB's kumare, Aling Leony, to forget and recover from the incident. She did not inform BBB of the incident because of her fear that appellant would make good his threats to kill her.
For the second time, one evening of May 1998, AAA and her younger siblings were sleeping on the cemented floor inside the bedroom when appellant entered and lay down beside her. Appellant pulled her left arm and made her lie in a straight body position. He removed his shorts and placed himself on top of her. He then pulled down her shorts and panty, and again inserted his penis into her vagina. Despite the pain, AAA did not shout because appellant threatened to kill her. Subsequently, appellant stood up and reiterated his threat to kill her if she would tell anyone what happened.
For the third time, in the evening of May 1998, while AAA and her younger siblings were sleeping inside the bedroom, appellant lay down beside her. Appellant pulled her left arm and made her face him. Appellant placed himself on top of her and removed her shorts and panty. Thereafter, he had carnal knowledge of her. She did not shout out of fear. Afterwards, appellant stood up and warned her not to tell anyone of the incident or he would kill her.
From June 1998 to February 1999, appellant was arrested and detained for drug pushing. In the meantime, AAA was employed as a house helper. After his release from jail, appellant would go to see AAA at her employer's house demanding money and creating a scene when AAA refused to give him any. Fed up, AAA sneaked out of her employer's house and proceeded to the nearby barangay hall to report, not just the commotion caused by appellant in front of her employer's house when she did not give him money, but also that appellant previously raped her several times. Hence, appellant was arrested by PO3 Deduque and PO3 Baldeswis, and charged with rape.6
BBB was not able to accompany AAA in filing the instant case against appellant because she was also detained for drug pushing and was released only on 5 December 1999. Upon her release from jail, she immediately sought AAA and, when informed of the incident, she fully supported AAA in the instant case against appellant.7
Dr. James Belgira (Dr. Belgira), a physician of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, personally examined AAA. His findings, as stated in the medico-legal report, are as follows:
However, in view of the unavailability of Dr. Belgira to personally appear before the trial court, it was Dr. Cordero, another physician at the PNP crime laboratory, who appeared in court for the purpose of producing and interpreting the medical records of AAA and confirming that the same was conducted in accordance with the protocol of the PNP.9
The prosecution also presented documentary evidence to bolster its version of the events, to wit: (1) Sinumpaang Salaysay of AAA10; (2) marriage contract of BBB and appellant11; (3) the baptismal certificate of AAA with her date of birth entered as 12 August 198312; (4) letter referral of Police Station 4, Novaliches, Quezon City, of the instant case to the Office of the City Prosecutor13; (5) joint sworn affidavit of the arresting officers14; (6) the medico-legal report with regard to AAA issued and signed by Dr. Belgira as the medico-legal officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory15; (7) the routing slip from the PNP Crime Laboratory16; (8) request for laboratory examination forwarded by Police Station 4 to the PNP Crime Laboratory17; (9) the initial laboratory report issued by the PNP Crime Laboratory18; (10) the sexual crime narrative report based on the narration of AAA19; and (11) manifestation of consent executed by AAA as accompanied by PO3 Baldeswis.20
Appellant singly testified in his own behalf and denied the foregoing accusations. He admitted that AAA is his daughter and third child with his wife, BBB. From 1992 to 1996, he worked as a driver, but he was detained for selling drugs in 1997. He was released on 29 March 1998, but he was again imprisoned for robbery and drug cases. While he was in jail, he learned that BBB asked AAA to find a job and that BBB was subsequently detained for drugs. Upon his release from jail in February 1999, appellant immediately went home and found his eldest son taking care of his other children. On several occasions, he would see AAA at her employers' house to ask for money. This purportedly irked AAA and the latter's employer. It was AAA's employer and BBB who coached AAA to file rape charges against appellant.21
On 27 July 2004, the RTC rendered a Decision convicting appellant of three counts of rape. In Criminal Case No. Q-99-87055, the Court imposed on appellant the penalty of reclusion perpetua. In Criminal Cases No. Q-99-87053 and Q-99-87054, appellant was sentenced to death. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
In view of the penalty imposed upon appellant, the RTC elevated the records of the case directly to the Court of Appeals for review pursuant to our ruling in People v. Mateo.23
On 3 August 2006, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision, affirming with modifications the Decision of the RTC, thus:
Before us, appellant assigns a single error, to wit:
Appellant maintains that the approximate time of the commission of the offense must be stated in the complaint or information; that the informations in the instant case do not state the approximate time of the alleged rapes; that the informations are fatally defective; that the date and time of the alleged rapes are so indefinite thereby depriving appellant of the opportunity to prepare for his defense; and that appellant's constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him was violated.26
The contentions are devoid of merit.
An information is an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense, subscribed by the prosecutor and filed with the court.27 To be considered as valid and sufficient, an information must state the name of the accused; the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed.28 The purpose of the requirement for the information's validity and sufficiency is to enable the accused to suitably prepare for his defense since he is presumed to have no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense.29
With respect to the date of the commission of the offense, Section 11, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure specifically provides that it is not necessary to state in the information the precise date the offense was committed except when it is a material ingredient of the offense, and that the offense may be alleged to have been committed on a date as near as possible to the actual date of its commission.
In rape cases, failure to specify the exact dates or times when the rapes occurred does not ipso facto make the information defective on its face. The reason is obvious. The date or time of the commission of rape is not a material ingredient of the said crime because the gravamen of rape is carnal knowledge of a woman through force and intimidation. The precise time when the rape took place has no substantial bearing on its commission. As such, the date or time need not be stated with absolute accuracy. It is sufficient that the complaint or information states that the crime has been committed at any time as near as possible to the date of its actual commission.30 In sustaining the view that the exact date of commission of the rape is immaterial, we held in People v. Purazo31 that:
This Court has upheld complaints and informations in prosecutions for rape which merely alleged the month and year of its commission.32 In People v. Magbanua,33 we sustained the validity of the information for rape which merely alleged the year of its commission, thus:
There is no cogent reason to deviate from these precedents especially so that all the essential elements of rape were also stated in the informations. Hence, the allegations in the informations which stated that the three incidents of rape were committed in the year 1996 and in May 1998 are sufficient to affirm the conviction of appellant in the instant case.
Since the sole issue raised by appellant was resolved by this Court in favor of the validity of the informations filed against him, then the subsequent trial court proceedings and the resulting judgment of conviction against appellant should likewise be affirmed, there being no other questions raised by appellant as to them. We further uphold the penalty imposed on appellant by the Court of Appeals.
Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, was the law applicable in the year 1996, the time the first rape was committed. On the other hand, Republic Act No. 8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, was the law pertinent to the two rapes committed in May 1998. Both laws state that the death penalty shall be imposed if the rape victim is a minor and the offender is a parent. The qualifying circumstances of minority of the victim and the latter's relationship with the offender must be alleged in the complaint or information and proved during the trial to warrant the imposition of the death penalty.34
The informations in Criminal Cases No. Q-99-87053, Q-99-87054 and Q-99-87055 specifically alleged that AAA was a minor at the time she was raped and that the offender, herein appellant, is her father. The prosecution also proved during the trial the presence of the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship through documentary and testimonial evidence.
As a rule, the best evidence to prove the age of the offended party for the purpose of appreciating the qualifying circumstance of minority is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party. However, in the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents, such as a baptismal certificate, which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age.35
In the case at bar, the prosecution was not able to present the birth certificate of AAA because, according to BBB, the birth of AAA was not registered with the appropriate government agencies. BBB testified during the trial that at the time she gave birth to AAA through the assistance of a comadrona, the latter told her that a neighbor known only as comadre volunteered and suggested to register the birth of AAA together with the registration of birth of comadre's child; that to the best of her knowledge, comadre registered the birth of AAA; that when AAA was about to enroll in school, she went to the Quezon City Hall to secure a birth certificate of AAA but she was told therein that there are no records of birth of AAA; that she talked with comadre because the latter took all the necessary papers relevant to the birth of AAA; and that comadre told her that such papers were lost.36
Nonetheless, BBB submitted AAA's baptismal certificate dated 23 August 2001 issued by Rev. Fr. Romeo M. Castro, SVD, Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish, Kamuning, Quezon City.37 The baptismal certificate states that AAA was born on 12 August 1983. This implies that AAA was about 13 years old at the time she was raped by appellant in 1996, and that she was barely 14 years and 9 months old when she was twice raped by appellant in May 1998. The baptismal certificate also states that appellant is the father of AAA.
Given the foregoing considerations, the penalty of death for each of the three counts of rape committed against AAA is proper.
However, in view of the effectivity of Republic Act No. 9346 prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty to be meted to appellant shall be reclusion perpetua in accordance with Section 2 thereof which reads:
Notwithstanding the reduction of the penalty imposed on appellant, he is not eligible for parole following Section 3 of said law which provides:
We also sustain the award of damages made by the Court of Appeals in favor of AAA for each of the three rapes. The award of civil indemnity in the amount of
WHEREFORE, after due deliberation, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. C.R.-H.C. No. 01798 dated 3 August 2006 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.
Ynares-Santiago, J., Chairperson, Austria-Martinez, Nachura, Reyes, JJ., concur.
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