Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1996 > June 1996 Decisions > G.R. No. 116513 June 26, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROMEO VARGAS:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 116513. June 26, 1996.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROMEO VARGAS, alias "Romy," Accused-Appellant.


D E C I S I O N


PUNO, J.:


Appellant ROMEO VARGAS was charged with raping CORNELIA QUILANG SOLLIER, 1 then allegedly ten (10) years of age. The Information for statutory rape reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That on or about the 9th day of September, 1992, in the municipality of Tumauini, province of Isabela, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused by means of force and intimidation, have (sic) carnal knowledge with one CORNELIA Q. SOLLER, a girl of 10 years old, against her will and consent."cralaw virtua1aw library

"CONTRARY TO LAW." 2

The records show that Cornelia Quilang Sollier was orphaned while five (5) months of age. She and her two (2) brothers used to reside in Quezon City where they were born. Their aunt, Margarita Quilang, took them into her custody and brought them to her hometown in Barangay Lingaling, Tumauini, Isabela upon their parents’ demise. 3

The defloration of Cornelia happened on September 9, 1992. That afternoon, she was assisting her friend Rowena Yabut at the latter’s market stall. Rowena’s boyfriend Arnel Cubangbang, together with his 18-year old cousin, herein appellant Romeo Vargas, passed by the stall. 4 Cornelia knew Arnel but me appellant for the first time. Arnel and Rowena made plans to go to the South Central School that night to watch the boys and girls scout program. The four agree they would go together to the South Central School as Cornelia was spending the night at Rowena’s boarding house. 5

Upon reaching the school, Arnel suggested that they pass by the park first since the program has not started. When they reached the park, appellant asked Rowena’s permission to take Rowena’s permission to take Cornelia for a joy ride in his bicycle. Rowena accede and Cornelia rode on the sidecar of appellant’s bicycle. The lovers, Rowena and Arnel, strolled at the park. 6

Appellant pedaled his bicycle to the town’s cultural center. On the way, he gave Cornelia a bubble gum. Cornelia chewed the gun, tasted its bitterness and spit it out. She felt dizzy and while in a daze, she was warned by appellant not to tell anyone what he was about to do. Appellant parked the bicycle in a dark place in front of the Tumauini Cultural Center. He alighted from the bicycle and stepped into the sidecar. He covered Cornelia’s mouth with his palm to forestall her cry for help. He warned Cornelia that he would kill her should she reveal the incident. Appellant then removed her undies, mounted her and penetrated her. Cornelia was unable to move and felt intense pain in her organ. After satisfying his lust, appellant detached the sidecar from the bicycle and drove away. 7

Cornelia noticed blood and a white substance on her organ. She alighted from the sidecar to look for Rowena and Arnel. She looked for them at the park and then at the P & P moviehouse. They were nowhere in sight. While walking down the street, she saw Rowena and Arnel. She tears but Rowena and Arnel thought she cried because she got lost. The three (3) proceeded to Rowena’s boarding house where Cornelia spent the night. Cornelia did not confide to Rowena her unfortunate fate. She remembered the death threat made by appellant. 8

The next day, September 10, 1992, Rowena and Cornelia woke up early. Rowena left for the market, while Cornelia went to school. At noon, Cornelia returned to their house for lunch. Upon seeing her aunt, Margarita Quilang, she tearfully narrated how appellant violated her innocence. 9 Margarita accompanied Cornelia to the police station of Tumauini, Isabela. Upon advise of patrolman Boy Maddawin, Cornelia and her aunt went to the Tumauini District Hospital for medical examination. 10

Dr. Ruben M. Angobung, NBI medico-legal officer for Region II who examined Cornelia, found a 7:00 o’clock laceration on her hymen, with the edges slightly edematous and with punctiform hemorrhage at its lacerated surface. Dr. Angobung concluded that his genital findings were compatible with the victim’s sexual intercourse with a man on or about the alleged date of the rape. 11

In defense, appellant denied sexually molesting Cornelia. He admitted he was with Cornelia, Rowena and Arnel that fateful night but claimed that he and Cornelia only went for an innocent joy ride. They returned to the park but did not find Rowena and Arnel. They looked for them and found them near the Caltex gasoline station. Rowena scolded them for straying away for a long time. Appellant explained that he Cornelia had also been looking for them. Then, appellant and Arnel accompanied Cornelia and Rowena to the latter’s boarding house. Thereafter, appellant and Arnel returned to their perspective houses. 12

Appellant likewise presented Rowena Yabut to corroborate his defense. At the time of her testimony, Rowena was already married to Arnel Cubangbang, a cousin of Appellant. Rowena affirmed the fact that the four of them went to the South Central School that night and that Cornelia and appellant went for a joy ride. After a couple of minutes, she and Arnel started looking for the two. They saw appellant and Cornelia when they were nearing the house of the Angobungs. Rowena scolded them. Rowena further testified that Cornelia never intimated she was sexually assaulted by appellant that fateful night. 13

After trial, the court a quo rendered a Decision, 14 convicting appellant of the crime charged. The dispositive portion reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused ROMEO VARGAS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Statutory Rape, defined and penalized in paragraph 3 of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, and hereby sentences him with the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, to pay the complainant as indemnity the sum of P40,000.00 and to pay the costs."cralaw virtua1aw library

"SO ORDERED." 15

Hence this appeal where appellant contends:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE TESTIMONY OF EXPERT PROSECUTION WITNESS DR. RUBEN M. ANGOBUNG THAT THE ALLEGED RAPE WAS COMMITTED WITHIN A PERIOD OF 24 HOURS FROM THE TIME HE CONDUCTED THE EXAMINATION AND THEREFORE OUTSIDE THE TIME THAT THE VICTIM WAS WITH ACCUSED.

II


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT TO THE INCOHERENT, INCONSISTENT AND DOUBTFUL TESTIMONY OF THE ACCUSED AND IN NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF THE ACCUSED AND HIS WITNESSES.

III


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE ELEMENTS OF RAPE WERE ONLY ELICITED BY THE COURT FROM THE WITNESS.

IV


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ASSUMING THE AGE OF THE VICTIM WITHOUT THE PROSECUTION PRESENTING THE CERTIFICATE OF BIRTH NOR THE BAPTISMAL CERTIFICATE.

We affirm the conviction of Appellant.

First. Appellant cites the testimony of medico-legal expert Dr. Ruben Angobung that the laceration on the victim’s hymen was inflicted within a span of twenty-four (24) hours from the time he conducted his examination of the victim at 11:15 p.m. of September 10, 1992. It is also pointed out that the medico-legal expert further testified that the alleged crime must have been committed sometime between 11:15 p.m. of September 9, 1992 to about 11:15 p.m. the next day of September 10, 1992. Appellant then contends that the testimony of the medico-legal expert shows the falsity of the victim’s claim that he sexually molested her at about 10 p.m. of September 9, 1992.

We disagree. A careful reading of the testimony of the medico-legal expert shows that his findings were that the victim sustained the fresh laceration on her hymen at about 24-28 hours prior to the examination. 16 Thus, the crime was committed between 11:15 p.m. of September 8, 1992 to 11:15 p.m. of September 10, 1992, well within the alleged time of rape, i.e., at 10:00 p.m. of September 9, 1992.

Second. Appellant contends that the conduct of Cornelia immediately after the incident is unnatural and highly suspect. Allegedly, she slept soundly that night and showed no sign of shock.

We reject appellant’s submission. Rape is not a simple physical violation. It debases a woman’s dignity, leaving a stigma on her honor and scarring her psyche for life. Cornelia, the rape victim, has barely reached puberty, grew up in the remote province of Isabela and ignorant of worldly ways. We cannot judge her by the norms of behavior expected from nature women. 17 Far from being unnatural and highly suspect, Cornelia’s silence about the incident is understandable. Given her tender age, Cornelia was cowered into silence by the death threat she received from appellant. She was not also sure of the sympathies of Arnel and Rowena. Rowena is a long-time friend of appellant, while Arnel is a cousin of appellant. She could only trust her aunt, Margarita Quilang, Hence, it was only when she saw her aunt the day after the incident that Cornelia chose to disclose her traumatic fate. Thus, Cornelia’s seemingly placid conduct after the rape incident could not erode her credibility.

Third. Appellant contends that Cornelia did not spontaneously and by herself narrate the events leading to her alleged rape. He faults the trial court for aiding Cornelia while in the witness stand.

Appellant’s charge is bereft of merit. Cornelia was a child of tender years when she testified. Children are naturally meek and shy. They need patient and careful probing to encourage them to talk in public about a traumatic experience. Indeed, recounting an ordeal of rape is a courtroom is tremendously difficult and devastating even for an adult woman. In the case at bar, Cornelia could not hold her tears while narrating the bestial acts committed by appellant. Hence, we find nothing wrong when the trial judge propounded probing questions to Cornelia to coax truth out of her reluctant lips.

However, we agree with appellant that the prosecution failed to established that the age of Cornelia was below twelve (12) years old — one of the essential elements of the crime of statutory rape. In People v. Rebancos, 18 we admitted oral testimony to prove the age of the victim for it was given by the victim’s mother who had personal knowledge of the birth. In said case, the prosecution also presented the victim’s baptismal certificate in lieu of the birth certificate which would not be produced as the birth was not registered. In the case at bar, however, no birth or baptismal certificate was presented to prove the age of the victim. Neither was there a showing that said documents were lost or destroyed to justify their non-presentation. The trial court should not have relied on the testimony of Cornelia as to her age nor on the testimony of her aunt Margarita Quilang. Both testimonies are hearsay. 19 Nor was it correct for the trial court to judge the victim’s age by considering her appearance. 20 As correctly pointed out by appellant, Cornelia could easily be mistaken for a child below 12 years of age. The difference of two or three years in age may not always be readily apparent by mere physical manifestations or appearance. Indeed, there is generally no noticeable difference between the appearance of a ten (10) year old child from that of a twelve (12) year old. The age of the victim is an essential element in the crime of statutory rape and must be indubitable proved by the prosecution. As there was failure of proof by the prosecution, appellant cannot be convicted of statutory rape.

Be that as it may, appellant could still be held liable for the crime of rape under Article 335 (1) of the Revised Penal Code. Under said law, what is penalized is having carnal knowledge of a woman by using force or intimidation. In the case at bar, the facts sufficiently proved that force and intimidation were employed by appellant in sexually assaulting Cornelia. As recounted by Cornelia herself, appellant Cornelia. As recounted by Cornelia herself, appellant initially gave her a bubble gum with a bitter taste. It made Cornelia dizzy. Appellant then parked his bicycle and transferred to the sidecar where Cornelia lay limp. Before raping her, appellant threatened Cornelia not to tell anyone what we would do, otherwise he would kill her. Appellant then covered Cornelia’s mouth, mounted her and succeeded in piercing her veil of innocence.

We cannot give credence to appellant’s defense of denial. The testimony of the victim and the medical certificate established beyond cavil that a crime has been committed. Per appellant’s own account, he was the only one with the victim at the time and place of the incident. The rule is settled that positive declarations of a prosecution witness prevail over the bare denials of an accused. 21 As discussed earlier, we find no reason to doubt the credibility of the victim. Prior to the incident, appellant and the victim were practically strangers to each other. They were introduced to each other by Rowena Yabut only in the afternoon of September 9, 1992. Hardly knowing appellant, the victim had no reason to concoct such false and serious charge against him, especially if in the process, she would tarnish her reputation, honor and dignity.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, we find appellant ROMEO VARGAS guilty of the crime of rape under Article 335 (1) of the Revised Penal Code and is sentenced to reclusion perpetua. The civil indemnity awarded to the victim CORNELIA QUILANG SOLLIER is also increased to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) conformably with current case law.

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, J., Romero, Mendoza and Torres, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Also referred to in other parts of the records as Cornelia Soller.

2. Rollo, at p. 4.

3. TSN, February 15, 1993, pp. 7, 22, 25-26; TSN, April 14, 1993, pp. 3-8.

4. Subsequently, Rowena Yabut, who testified for the defense, married Arnel Cubangbang, appellant’s cousin.

5. TSN, July 6, 1993, pp. 4-5.

6. id., pp. 7-8; TSN, June 8, 1993, pp. 11-12.

7. TSN, February 15, 1993, pp. 11-15; 34-41; TSN, March 23, 1993, pp. 15-21.

8. Affidavit of Cornelia Sollier, dated September 14, 1992, Original Records, at p. 5; TSN, February 15, 1993, pp. 16-18; TSN, March 23, 19934, pp. 8-13, 22-25.

9. TSN, March 23, 1993, pp. 26-29; TSN, April 14, 1993, pp. 9-10.

10. TSN, February 15, 1993, pp. 20-21; TSN, April 14, 1993, pp. 10-11.

11. Medical Certificate, Exhibit �B�, Original Records, p. 2; TSN, January 19, 1993, pp. 8, 16 & 20.

12. TSN, July 6, 1993, pp. 4-13.

13. TSN, June 8, 1993, pp. 11-17.

14. Penned by Judge Crispulo A. Nuñez, Regional Trial Court, Second Judicial Region, Branch XXII, Cabagan, Isabela; Rollo, pp. 8-25.

15. Rollo, at p. 25.

16. TSN, January 19, 1993, p. 18.

17. People v. Romeo, G.R. No. 113057-58, May 29, 1995, 244 SCRA 506.

18. G.R. No. 72783, April 18, 1989, 172 SCRA 425, 429.

19. Margarita Quilang testified that she knew the birthdate of the victim for it was revealed to her by her sister, the victim’s mother, when she visited the latter in Quezon City; TSN, April 14, 1993, p. 8.

20. Decision, Rollo, at p. 80.

21. People v. Cayanan, G.R. Nos. 73257-58, June 16, 1995, 245 SCRA 66; People v. Escoto, G.R. No. 91756, May 11, 1995, 244 SCRA 87.




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