Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1916 > December 1916 Decisions > G.R. No. 10832 December 11, 1916 - UNITED STATES v. PANTALEON RAMOS

035 Phil 671:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 10832. December 11, 1916. ]

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. PANTALEON RAMOS, Defendant-Appellant.

Gibbs, McDonough & Blanco for Appellant.

Attorney-General Avanceña for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. RAPE; EVIDENCE; WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY OF. — The books disclosed too many instances or false charges of rape, attempted rape and kindred offenses to permit the courts to enter a judgment of conviction of a crime of this nature without having in mind the possibility that the complaining witness may have been actuated by some sinister motive in bringing the charge. On the other hand, the only evidence on which convictions of these heinous offenses can be had is frequently the uncorroborated testimony of the injured women, and when the corroboration is available, it is usually limited to the testimony of intimate friends and relations who have been attracted to the scene of the crime by the cries of the victim. The court should, therefore, in all cases exercise the most painstaking care in scrutinizing the testimony of the witness for the prosecution. These witnesses are usually women who are not always able to give a clear and correct account of the commission of the crime, and not every petty discrepancy or inconsistency in their statements will justify the rejection of their testimony. In such cases the timidity and ignorance of the witnesses must be taken into consideration, or the perpetrators of these heinous offenses will in many instances go unpunished.

2. ID.; ID.; FALSE TESTIMONY. — On the other hand, convictions cannot and should not be sustained when it appears that these witnesses have willfully and knowingly testified falsely as to any matter developed at the trial, or where they are in direct conflict as to any of the circumstances to which they testify, when the conflict arises in regard to a matter about which there could not well be a mistake, despite the timidity or ignorance of the witnesses, unless one or other of the witnesses was knowingly and willfully testifying falsely.

3. ID.; ID.; DEGREE OF IMPROBABILITY. — These grounds for declining to accept the evidence for the prosecution become much stronger when the story told by the complaining witness is inherently improbable, though the mere apparent improbability that the alleged crime could have been committed in the manner and form described by the witnesses for the prosecution does not necessarily justify an acquittal, if the evidence submitted by the prosecution is otherwise clear, satisfactory and convincing — unless the degree of improbability is such as to amount to a practical impossibility.


D E C I S I O N


CARSON, J. :


The appellant, Pantaleon Ramos, was convicted in the court below of the crime of attempted rape and sentenced to suffer two years four months and one day of prision correccional together with the subsidiary penalties prescribed by law.

The information charges the commission of the crime as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That the said accused, on the 28th day of October, 1912, in the municipality of Obando, of the Province of Bulacan, P. I., did, willfully, criminally, and by means of force and intimidation, embrace Candida Bernardo, and did exert all his efforts in order to succeed in lying with her, and if he did efforts in order to succeed in lying with her, and if he did not succeed in so doing, it was not because he voluntarily desisted but because of the cries for help and the stubborn resistance of the said Candida Bernardo; with violation of law."cralaw virtua1aw library

The substance of the testimony of the complaining witness, Candida Bernardo, a young woman 19 years of age, is as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

As she was walking along a footpath on top of a pilapil (a narrow earthen barrier) between two rice fields about 10 o’clock in the morning, accompanied by a friend, who was walking about 2 yards (una braza) in front of her, the accused, a rejected suitor for her hand, suddenly stepped out of the ricefield, embraced her from behind, seized her breast with one hand and with the other attempted to raise her skirt (saya), kissed her on both checks, and with evident intent to rape her, attempted to throw her down, despite her resistance and cries for help. Her friend, Severina Sandiego, of about her own age, came to her assistance, and tried unsuccessfully to make the accused release his hold upon her. In the course of the struggle she fell or stepped off the pilapil two or three times and covered the lower part of her dress with mud. Attracted by the cries of the women, the mother of the complaining witness, who was cutting zacate in a near-by field, came within sight 100 meters away, and the accused made his escape before the mother came up to the party. The party then went back to the home of the complaining witness and soon thereafter she went alone to complain to the municipal authorities but was advised by the municipal president to have patience, advice which she was unwilling to accept; and two days thereafter she filed the complaint upon which these proceedings were based in the court of the justice of the peace.

The friend of the complaining witness, Severina Sandiego, who was present with her at the time of the alleged assault, corroborated the substance of her account of what had occurred; but under cross-examination swore positively that at no time during the struggle on the pilapil did the complaining witness fall or step off the pilapil into the rice-field, and that her dress was not splashed or stained with mud during the struggle with the accused. In answer to further questions she reiterated this statement, asserting that she could not be mistaken in this regard.

The mother corroborated the statements of the principal witness as to her arrival on the scene of the alleged assault, attracted by the cries of the young women; as to the escape of the accused before she came up to the party; and as to the splashes of mud on her dress. The dress which the complaining witness swore she wore on the morning of the assault was introduced as an exhibit, stained and splashed with mud.

The accused, testifying in his own behalf, admitted that he was present at the time and on the occasion of the alleged assault, but denied that he had laid hands upon the complaining witness or made any attempt upon her virtue. He further testified that sometime prior thereto he had paid court to the woman, had asked her to marry him, had been rejected, and had been forbidden to visit her at her home; that on the morning of the alleged assault he saw her walking with her friend and had some conversation with them; that when he came up to the two women the complaining witness turned upon him and asked him how he dared to approach her knowing that her mother had forbidden it, and made as though she would take up a piece of cane and strike him; and that he immediately went on his way.

Several witnesses were called by the defense to show that some houses stood not far from the place where the alleged assault occurred, and to contradict the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution as to the immediate return of the woman to their home on the morning of the alleged assault and as to the alleged visit of the complaining witness to the municipal building later on that day.

The defense further undertook to prove that the charge of attempted rape had been preferred against the accused as a result of a malicious conspiracy entered into by the members of the family of the complaining witness and a cousin of theirs named Bonifacio Dionisio. The evidence conclusively discloses that this man Dionisio is a cousin of the complaining witness; that he lived in the house with her family for some years; that on one occasion he assaulted the accused just as the accused left the house of the complaining witness to whom the accused was paying court at that time; that the accused filed a criminal complaint and had Dionisio arrested and imprisoned on a charge of assault; and that thereafter a bitter feeling of animosity existed between Dionisio and the accused. The record does not, however, affirmatively disclosed that Dionisio took any direct part in the institution of the proceedings in the case at bar.

No attempt was made by the prosecution to rebut or contradict the facts just stated, though they are of such a nature that had they been false, evidence to that effect would have been readily forthcoming. It is true that the complaining witness and her mother denied under cross-examination that they knew this man Bonifacio Dionisio, but it is very clear that in this regard at least they spoke falsely, and for reasons best known to themselves did not want to admit any acquaintanceship with him. But there can be no possible doubt that for years he lived in their house and that they knew all about his assault on the accused and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment. Indeed, these facts may properly be taken as admitted by the prosecution, in view of the failure to make any attempt to controvert them at the trial. At the conclusion of the trial a copy of the criminal proceedings against Dionisio was introduced in evidence, without objection, in corroboration of the testimony of the accused with regard to him.

We are of opinion that, limiting ourselves strictly to the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution and disregarding all the testimony of the witnesses called by the accused except the testimony which conclusively corroborates the facts above set forth with reference to the unfriendly relations between the accused and the cousin of the complaining witness, Bonifacio Dionisio, the judgment of conviction must be reversed and the accused acquitted of the crime charged in the information.

The theory of the prosecution is that the accused, a rejected suitor of the complaining witness, attempted to rape her in the presence of the young woman by whom she was accompanied, at about 10 o’clock in the morning, on a narrow footpath running along the top of a pilapil about one foot high, between two rice fields, at a point where the rice fields were so muddy that the dress of the woman was covered with mud when she stepped or fell off the pilapil. The accused admitted that he was present at the time and place indicated. It will be seen therefore that our conclusions as to his guilt or innocence of the crime of attempted rape must turn more especially upon the evidence of record as to what occurred on that occasion.

The account of the commission of the alleged offense as given by the complaining witness is so extraordinary that we do not think we would be justified in accepting it as true beyond a reasonable doubt unless her testimony, taken together with the testimony of the witnesses called to corroborate her, examined in the light of all the surrounding circumstances, proves to be so clear, consistent and convincing as to carry with it a conviction as to its truth, despite its apparent improbability.

She would have us believed that this accused, a rejected suitor, suddenly approached her at 10 o’clock in the morning and attempted to rape her on a narrow footpath running along the top of a pilapil dividing two muddy rice fields, in the presence of another young woman of about her own age. We do not pretend to deny the possibility that, inflamed by passion or disappointed rage, the accused might have made such an attempt. In that event, however, it would be reasonable to expect that any resistance offered by the woman or her friend would be met by threats of bodily injury or actual violence. But there is not a suggestion in the record that the accused carried or disclosed any deadly weapon, or threatened either of the women, or attempted to overcome their resistance by doing either of them any physical injury. The accused was not under the influence of drugs or liquor, and his unexpected appearance on the scene of the alleged assault in broad daylight precludes the idea that his carnal passions having been aroused while in company with the woman, he had suddenly lost all control of himself and had determined to satisfy his lust regardless of time, or place, or consequences. In truth, all the evidence as to the time and place and surrounding circumstances emphasizes the improbability of the story told by the witnesses for the prosecution.

Coming now to examine the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution in support of the charge of attempted rape, we find the complaining witness and her mother willfully, knowingly, and deliberately testifying falsely as to their relations with the man, Bonifacio Dionisio, who is charged by the defendant with the instigation of these proceedings. We further find the complaining witness and her friend Severina Sandiego in direct and irreconcilable conflict as to one of the most important details of the alleged assault in regard to which it would seem impossible that there could be any conflict if both had been telling the truth as to what occurred at the time of the alleged assault. The complaining witness in describing the alleged struggle with the accused swore that she stepped or fell off the pilapil several times and covered her dress with mud; and produced the mud-stained dress to corroborate this portion of her testimony. Her friend, who was present throughout the entire incident, swore positively under cross-examination that the complaining witness did not fall or step off the pilapil during the struggle, nor splash or stain her clothes with mud from the rice field, and that she could not be mistaken in this regard. We are forced to conclude that the account of the alleged struggle as given by these witnesses cannot be accepted without reserve; and we do not think that the testimony of these witnesses is sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the truth of the somewhat improbable story told by the complaining witness.

The books disclose too many instances of false charges of rape, attempted rape, and kindred offenses to permit the courts to enter a judgment of conviction of a crime of this nature without having in mind the possibility that the complaining witness may have been actuated by some sinister motive in bringing the charge. On the other hand, the only evidence on which convictions of these heinous offenses can be had is frequently the uncorroborated testimony of the injured woman, and when corroboration is available, it is usually limited to the testimony of intimate friends and relations who have been attracted to the scene of the crime by the cries of the victim. It becomes necessary, therefore, for the courts to exercise the most painstaking care in scrutinizing the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution. These witnesses are usually women who are not always able to give a clear and correct account of the commission of the crime, and not every petty discrepancy or inconsistency in their statements will justify the rejection of their testimony. In such cases the timidity and ignorance of the witnesses must be taken into consideration, or the perpetrators of these heinous offenses will in most instances go unpunished. On the other hand, convictions cannot and should not be sustained when it appears that these witnesses have willfully and knowingly testified falsely as to any matter developed at the trial; or where they are in direct conflict as to any of the circumstances to which they testify, when the conflict arises in regard to a matter about which there could not well be a mistake, despite the timidity or ignorance of the witnesses, unless one or other of the witnesses was knowingly and willfully testifying falsely. And these grounds for declining to accept the evidence for the prosecution become much stronger when the story told by the complaining witness is inherently improbable, as in the case at bar. In such cases the courts are justified in looking with suspicion on the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution; and unless their testimony rings true at every point, and is clear, definite and convincing throughout, it should be rejected.

The mere apparent improbability that the alleged crime could have been committed in the manner and form described by the witnesses for the prosecution does not necessarily justify an acquittal if the evidence submitted by the prosecution is otherwise clear, satisfactory and convincing, unless the degree of improbability is such as to amount to a practical impossibility — but in the absence of clear, satisfactory and convincing testimony in support of the charge, a judgment of conviction will not be sustained in the face of the apparent improbability that the crime could have been committed as charged. Any reasonable ground for suspecting the good faith of the witnesses for the prosecution or their desire to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, will be sufficient in such cases to justify and require an acquittal.

The judgment entered in the court below is reversed and the accused is acquitted of the crime with which he is charged in the information and will be set at liberty forthwith. Costs in both instances de officio. So ordered.

Torres, Johnson, Moreland, Trent, and Araullo, JJ., concur.




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