Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2005 > April 2005 Decisions > People v. Suarez : 153573-76 : April 15, 2005 : J. Quisumbing : En Banc: Dissenting Opinion:




People v. Suarez : 153573-76 : April 15, 2005 : J. Quisumbing : En Banc: Dissenting Opinion

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. NOS. 153573-76 : April 15, 2005]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. WILSON SUAREZ Y VILLONES, SANTIAGO SUAREZ Y VILLONES (INDETERMINATE), RICARTE DARIA Y TENGSON (INDETERMINATE) AND NENA DARIA Y RIPOL (ACQUITTED), Accused. WILSON SUAREZ Y VILLONES, Appellant.

DISSENTING OPINION

QUISUMBING, J.:

With due respect, I am inclined to grant herein appellant's plea for the reversal of his conviction based on the assigned errors committed by the trial court, as follows:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

I. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE INCREDIBLE TESTIMONY OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.

II. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.1 ςrνll

Let me elucidate the grounds for my dissent in detail.

At issue in this case are (1) the credibility and veracity of the victim's testimony, and (2) the sufficiency of the evidence to warrant the appellant's conviction for rape beyond reasonable doubt. It should, however, be noted that only Wilson Suarez y Villones filed a notice of appeal, hence we are concerned here only with his conviction for rape.

Appellant vehemently denies the accusations against him, and asserts that Jenalyn's testimony is false and unbelievable for being stamped with serious inconsistencies and improbabilities. Among them are the following:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

(1) On direct examination, Jenalyn claimed that the three accused kissed her entire body one at a time. On cross-examination, she said that the three accused kissed her all at the same time;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

(2) Jenalyn alleged that Nena Daria witnessed the incident. But, it seems contrary to human experience that Daria, wife of one of the accused, would passively watch her husband have sex with another woman;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

(3) Jenalyn asserted that she was molested from the time that she was intoxicated at more or less 2:00 a.m. Yet, she earlier claimed she already felt dizzy and vomited shortly after their arrival;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

(4) It is not normal for a girl who has been raped to run to the comfort room without putting on her pedal pants and panty, when the lights were turned on; andcralawlibrary

(5) Jenalyn could not have waited until the morning at around 3:00 a.m., and then go home only at 8:00 a.m. when the spouses Olaya told her to go.

Appellant denies Jenalyn's accusations. He also points out that it was strange that it was only on the tenth day after the alleged rape took place, and after Jenalyn's mother heard the information from their neighbor of what transpired, that Jenalyn told her mother of her ordeal. He also maintains that denial of the alleged offense by the accused should not always be frowned upon by the court, since there are occasions where the same could actually be the real and simple truth.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), for the State, recommends affirming the trial court's decision. It avers that the trial court is in the best position to determine the credibility of the witness and that a rape victim should not be expected to keep an accurate account of her traumatic experience. The OSG also stresses that there is no rule that rape can be committed only in seclusion since lust is no respecter of time or place. Finally, it argues that the victim's failure to immediately disclose the incident to her mother does not prove that the charges are baseless and fabricated.

In the review of rape cases, we are guided by the following principles: (1) An accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove it; (2) In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; (3) The evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.2 ςrνll

Time and again we have stressed that in rape, the lone testimony of the complainant is enough to sustain conviction, provided that such testimony meets the test of credibility. Thus, the testimony should not only come from the mouth of a credible witness, it should likewise be credible and reasonable in itself, candid, straightforward, and in accord with human experience.3 ςrνll

An appeal from a decision involving conviction for reclusion perpetua opens the entire case for review.

Generally, however, the credibility of witnesses is a matter best assigned to the trial court which had the first-hand opportunity to hear their testimonies and observe their demeanor, conduct, and attitude during cross-examination. Such matters cannot be gathered easily from a mere reading of the transcripts of stenographic notes. Hence, the trial court's findings carry great weight and substance.4 They are binding and conclusive on appellate courts unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted.5 ςrνll

In our review of the evidence on record in this case, several inconsistencies and improbabilities appear in Jenalyn's testimony. We shall discuss them in detail now.

When asked how she identified Nena Daria, she explained that she did so because Nena was carrying a flashlight directed at her and the accused. Her testimony reads:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: Did you see the face of Nena Daria there?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Aside from watching you and the accused doing something bad to you, what else was Nena Daria doing then?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: She was focusing her flashlight on us.

Q: Where was she then when she was focusing her flashlight on you?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: She was at the door because there was no door and she was just there and she was not doing anything to prevent them.

Q: How sure are you that it was Nena Daria who was focusing that flashlight on you?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I saw her, sir.

Q: How were you able to recognize her?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Because she was holding the flashlight and she was focusing it on me so I recognized her.6 ςrνll

If indeed a flashlight was beamed on Jenalyn, in our view, the flood of light would have blinded her. She would not be in a position to identify clearly the person holding the flashlight. The glare could make a person's profile indistinct. While those in front of the flashlight could be lighted clearly, those at the back would be in the dark.

Jenalyn also testified that after she came out of the comfort room, the appellant inserted his thumb into her genitalia. On this point, her testimony reads:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: After Wilson again molested you, what transpired next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: After doing bad to me Wilson inserted his thumb into my vagina and twisted it in my vagina, sir.

Q: In the comfort room?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: No more sir in the sala.7 ςrνll

Earlier, Jenalyn stated that she had neither panty nor pants on and wore them only in the morning when they were about to leave.8 It seems rather unnatural that a girl who says she had been raped would come out of the comfort room half-naked, and would remain so in the sala with other people present for some time.

Moreover, her testimony on whether or not she was naked when she ran to the comfort room, leaves unexplained contradictions. During her direct examination, Jenalyn testified as follows:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: After Nena Daria opened the light or turned on the light, what was Wilson... what happened next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: I went to the comfort room which has no door and which was only covered by plywood, sir.9 ςrνll

Q: What were you wearing then?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I was not wearing pedals or panty sir.

However, on cross-examination, she gave a different account, thus:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Atty. Larracas:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: Why did you not wear your panty and your pedal pants before going to the comfort room?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: When I went there, I was still wearing my pedal pants and panty.

Q: You mean you went to the comfort room with your panty and with your pedal pants on?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, ma'am.

Q: The alleged rape was already finished at that time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: No, ma'am.

Q: So you were raped with pedal pants and panty on?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: No, ma'am. All were taken off.

Q: At what point in time did you wear or put on your pants and panty?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: When we were about to leave.10 ςrνll

Why she did not directly inform her mother soon after the alleged rape is left unexplained. It was a neighbor, one Agapito Manzano, who did. However, according to Jenalyn, the appellant had threatened Luzviminda and her, if they reported to her mother what earlier transpired. Yet, in her earlier testimony, Jenalyn said that when told about the offense, Luzviminda merely laughed at her. On this point, Jenalyn's testimony reads:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: Who were your companions in going home?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: Luzviminda Olaya, Jeffrey Olaya and Jocelyn [Teraza], sir.

Q: Did you tell them what Wilson did to you on your way home?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What was her reaction?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: None, sir. They just laughed at me.

Q: Did Jeffrey hear what you told Luzviminda?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What was his reaction?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: They did not say anything, they just looked at me, sir.

Q: What about Jocelyn, what did she do?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Same thing, sir.

Q: Did you narrate your ordeals to your mother?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, sir.

Q: When was that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: September 26, 2001, sir.

Q: Why did you not report this matter to your mother the following day after you reached your home?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: They threatened me and Luzviminda not to report the matter to my mother and my mother would kill me if she would know what happened to me, sir.11 ςrνll

As pointed out by the appellant, Jenalyn also made an inconsistent narration of how she was kissed by the three accused.12 Was she kissed in different parts of her body by them one at a time or by the three together?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In her direct examination, Jenalyn said the celebration that led to the rape lasted up to 1:00 a.m. the following day. Later, she said she went to sleep at around 11:00 p.m. after the guests left and after they cleaned the place. Yet she claimed it was around 2:00 a.m. the following day, when she was raped. Her testimony on this point reads:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: After that celebration, what time more or less did that celebration last?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: Up to 1:00 in the early morning.

Q: What did you do after those visitors went home?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I cleaned the litters.

Q: And after cleaning the litters, what else did you do, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I went to sleep, sir.

Q: Where?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: At the sofa, sir.

Q: But were you able to take your sleep?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What time more or less were you able to sleep?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Around 11:00 in the evening.

Q: What time more or less did that rape incident happen?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: 2:00 in the early morning, sir.

Q: What date?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: September 16, 2001, sir.13 ςrνll

But, during cross-examination she said she was still awake at 2:00 a.m.

Atty. Larracas:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: At about what time did Salvador and Marlyn Olaya go home in the early morning? Was it three o'clock?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jenalyn]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: I do not know.

Q: What time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I do not know.

Q: So you were still [awake] when Salvador Olaya and Marlyn Olaya went home?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: I was still [awake].

.. .

Q: At about what time did you go to sleep?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Two o'clock in the early morning.

Q: Was Salvador Olaya and Marlyn Olaya still in the house when you go to sleep?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: They already left.

Q: How did you know that it was two o'clock?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Because they bade goodbye.14 ςrνll

In the same cross-examination, Jenalyn had contradictory answers as to the time her companions left.

Although these inconsistencies may be lapses concerning details that might be attributed to lack of attention or poor memory, nonetheless their frequency, especially on critical points, casts doubts on the credibility of her testimony as a whole. We are unable to sweep them away and allay our doubts concerning the actual occurrence of the alleged rape.

Moreover, Jenalyn's companion, Jeffrey Olaya, testified under oath, on the witness stand, that no rape occurred:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Atty. Larracas:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: Jenalyn claimed that she was raped in the house of Santiago Suarez at that time she attended the birthday celebration of Santiago Suarez, since you were there what can you say about this claim of Jenalyn Montales?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jeffrey]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: I will be surprised because I do not know of any rape that happened.

Q: Were you [awake] from two o'clock in the morning [of] September 16, 2001?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

A: Yes, ma'am.15

.. .

Atty. Larracas:

Will you side with your relatives Mr. witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Pros. Ramolete:

That is improper.

Atty. Larracas:

That was the point, your Honor of the cross.

Pros. Ramolete:

Your Honor please, I am must emphasizing..

Court:

Witness may answer the question.

Witness [Jeffrey]:

No, ma'am, if they really committed any wrong.

Atty. Larracas:

No further question.16 ςrνll

The alleged torn pants of Jenalyn, which were unnoticed by her mother and companions, merely added to the doubt on the details of the victim's version. Her mother, Salome Montales, testified on this score as follows:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Atty. Larracas:

Did you find anything unusual on your daughter on that morning?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Salome]:

None yet, ma'am.

.. .

Atty. Larracas:

And her pants were not destroyed that morning?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Salome]:

I did not notice yet.17 ςrνll

Witness Jeffrey Olaya also had doubts on the torn pants:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Atty. Larracas:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Q: Jenalyn said that her pedal pants was destroyed and she covered the destroyed parts of her pedal pants, what can you say about this?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jeffrey]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: It would be embarrassing if from Wilson Suarez' place up to our place, we would allow her to walk in that situation.

Q: So what will you do Mr. witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Pros. Ramolete:

That will be argumentative, your Honor.

Court:

Sustained. Reform the question.

Atty. Larracas:

You said that it will be embarrassing, were you embarrassed?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Witness [Jeffrey]:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

A: If that would be her condition, I would really be embarrassed.

Q: And was it her condition?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Court:

Already answered.. .18 ςrνll

The foregoing testimonies of the mother and of Jeffrey were corroborated by Jocelyn Teraza, who is not a relative of the accused,

Court:

Considering that the testimony would just be corroborating to the testimony, why don't you try to make a stipulation, to expedite the proceedings?

.. .

Atty. Larracas:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Third, that Jenaly[n] Montales was not raped on that whole time that she was with Jenalyn from ten o'clock in the evening of September 15, 2001 up to six o'clock in the morning of September 16, 2001 when they left the house of Wilson Suarez;

.. .

Atty. Larracas:

Fifth, she will corroborate the testimony of Jeffrey Olaya that they left the house of Santiago Suarez at around six o'clock in the morning of September 21, 2001 and they did not observe any unusual on the manner of walking on the part of Jenalyn Montales and they did not observe any tear on any part of her clothing at that time; she will corroborate the testimony of Wilson Suarez as to the testimonies of Wilson Suarez, Santiago Suarez and Nena Daria as to the things that transpired during the party. That will be all. (Emphasis supplied.)

.. .

Court:

So any comment?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Pros. Ramolete:ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

To expedite this proceeding, of course this witness will deny all these things but on the part of the defense evidence so with those alleged statements to be made by this witness, we will have no objection, your Honor please, as collaborating testimonies.19 ςrνll

As frequently stressed, in rape cases, the quantum of proof required is one beyond reasonable doubt, to be applied in an exacting measure, for a rape charge is easy to concoct. Thus, this Court will not condemn a person if there exists the slightest hint of reasonable doubt as to his guilt.20 ςrνll

Appellant offers an explanation why the rape charge was brought against him. He says it was motivated by a grudge by the victim's mother against appellant and his cousin, Salvador Olaya. Even if this assertion is too trite to merit consideration21 in order to constitute a sufficient defense, what matters is that there are grounds for reasonable doubt. Absolute certainty of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict one of any criminal charge, but moral certainty is required nonetheless.22 In dubilis reus est absolvendus. All doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused.

In this case, we find the inconsistencies in the testimony of the complainant highly significant. Her unusual behavior after her alleged rape gives rise to doubt in our minds regarding the credibility of her version of events. We are not saying that the accused did not rape the victim; for he might have.23 Yet, it is also possible that he did not, based on the evidence on hand. Given this uncertainty and doubt, we are constrained to reverse appellant's conviction by the trial court. Mas vale que queden sin castigar diez reos presuntos, que se castigue uno inocente.24 It is better to set a guilty man free than to imprison an innocent man.25 ςrνll

Accordingly, I vote that appellant WILSON SUAREZ y VILLONES be ACQUITTED on the ground of reasonable doubt.

Endnotes:


1 Rollo, p. 82.

2 People v. Molleda, G.R. No. 153219, 1 December 2003, 417 SCRA 53, 57.

3 People v. Sodsod, G R. Nos. 141280-81, 16 June 2003, 404 SCRA 39, 53.

4 People v. Federico, GR. No. 146956, 25 July 2003, 407 SCRA 290, 296 citing People v. Bontuan, GR. Nos. 142993-94, 5 September 2002, 388 SCRA 436, 444.

6 TSN, 28 January 2002, pp. 106-108 (Jenalyn Montales).

7 TSN, 6 February 2002, pp. 17-18 (Jenalyn Montales).

8 TSN, 13 February 2002, p. 50 (Jenalyn Montales).

9 TSN, 6 February 2002, p. 15 (Jenalyn Montales).

10 TSN, 13 February 2002, p 50 (Jenalyn Montales).

11 TSN, 6 February 2002, pp. 18-20 (Jenalyn Montales).

12 TSN, 28 January 2002, pp. 102-104 (Jenalyn Montales); TSN, 13 February 2002, p. 46 (Jenalyn Montales).

13 Id. at 63-65, 80, 82-83.

14 TSN, 13 February 2002, pp. 34, 39-40 (Jenalyn Montales).

15 TSN, 12 March 2002, p. 11 (Jeffrey Olaya).

16 Id. at 14.

17 TSN, 16 January 2002, pp. 56, 58 (Salome Montales).

18 TSN, 12 March 2002, p. 12 (Jeffrey Olaya).

19 TSN, 14 March 2002, pp. 3-5 (JocelynTeraza).

20 People v. Mariano, G.R. No. 134309, 17 November 2000, 345 SCRA 1, 10.

21 SeePeople v. Lou, G.R. No 146803, 14 January 2004, 419 SCRA 345, 351.

22 People v. Masalihit, G.R. No. 124329, 14 December 1998, 300 SCRA 147, 162.

23 Id. at 163.

24 People v. Cunanan, No. L-17599, 24 April 1967, 19 SCRA 769, 784.

25 People v Capili, G.R. No. 130588, 8 June 2000, 333 SCRA 354, 366.




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