June 2011 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2011 > June 2011 Decisions > [G.R. No. 194379, June 01 : 2011] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. FELICIANO "SAYSOT" CIAS, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.:
[G.R. No. 194379, June 01 : 2011]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. FELICIANO "SAYSOT" CIAS, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO JR., J.:
This is an appeal from the April 30, 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00075, which affirmed the January 31, 2003 Decision in Criminal Case No. 14791 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 37 in Dumaguete City. The RTC convicted accused Feliciano "Saysot" Cias (Cias) of rape.
The charge against the accused stemmed from the following Information:
That at about nine o'clock in the evening of April 1, 2000 at [PPP], Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused by means of force, threat and intimidation, the accused holding a scythe and forcibly removed the panty of [AAA] who was then resting inside the house with her child and while her husband was away and did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have succeeded a sexual intercourse with said [AAA] against her will and consent.
Contrary to Articles 266-A and 266-B, Section 2 of RA 8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, amending the Revised Penal Code.
On January 29, 2001, Cias, with the assistance of his counsel, was arraigned, and he pleaded "not guilty" to the charge against him. After the pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued.
During the trial, the prosecution offered the testimonies of the private complainant; Dr. Stephen S. Estacion (Dr. Estacion), who conducted the medico-legal examination on AAA; and Senior Police Officer 3 Georgen Barot Sefe (SPO3 Sefe). On the other hand, the defense presented as witnesses accused Cias and his wife, Felina Cias.
AAA and her common-law husband lived together with her two children in PPP, Negros Oriental. For two years, they had been neighbors with Cias. Their houses were just 30 meters apart.
In the evening of April 1, 2000, AAA and her children were already sleeping in their house. Her husband was not there that night as he had gone to the poblacion to look for work, while her father-in-law, who used to sleep in their house, was not around.
At around 9:00 p.m., AAA was awakened from sleep by the feeling of hands covering her mouth. Upon waking up, she saw the accused kneeling on her legs. She was able to identify Cias clearly because the kerosene lamp in the bedroom shed light on his face.
Cias then told her to be quiet or he would kill her and her children. All the while, Cias was holding a scythe in his right hand which he positioned close to her neck.
With his right hand still holding the scythe to AAA's neck, Cias removed her panty with his left hand, tearing it and wounding her in the process. AAA tried her best to struggle and managed to kick Cias in the legs, but her efforts proved futile. Cias then had carnal knowledge with AAA, which AAA estimated to have lasted for an hour. Cias only stopped when he heard his wife, Felina Cias, shouting, "You are all pigs! You are a bitch!" Cias then stood up and left the house to confront his wife.
After Cias had left, AAA hugged her children while they could hear Cias and his wife arguing. AAA then ran to the living room to shout for help but changed her mind, afraid that Cias and his wife might harm her and her children. Once the argument stopped, AAA noticed that it was already 10:00 p.m. as reflected in the wall clock hanging in the living room. She also noticed that the living room window had been forced open, thereby concluding that Cias must have entered through the said window.
The following day, AAA kept her silence. But on the second day, April 3, 2000, she decided to tell her common-law husband what had happened so she went to the poblacion to look for him. Upon finding him, AAA narrated the incident to him, after which, they proceeded to the police station to report it. Likewise, they informed policeman Alex Tizon (Tizon), who hired Cias to tend to his livestock, of the said incident. Tizon then advised AAA to see a physician and submit herself to a physical examination.
AAA went to Dr. Estacion, the Municipal Health Officer of PPP, who conducted the medico-legal examination on her. His examination revealed the presence of white mucoid discharges in her vaginal opening which are normally produced when there is sexual contact or when a woman is nearing the ovulation phase of her menstrual cycle. Further, the laboratory microscopic examination also revealed the absence of spermatozoa in AAA's cervical os. However, Dr. Estacion clarified in his testimony that even if there had been actual sexual contact during which sperm was deposited in the vagina, it would have degenerated already on the second day making it harder to find. Similarly, he noted a linear abrasion at the left side of AAA's abdomen, which was probably caused by a blunt object or a fingernail, and not a scythe. No other injury was noted on the body of AAA.
The final witness, SPO3 Sefe, corroborated AAA's testimony that on April 3, 2000, the couple arrived at the police station and reported an alleged rape. She also advised AAA to have herself examined by a doctor. SPO3 Sefe recorded the reported incident in the station's police blotter.
Cias, on the other hand, denied the allegations and said that the sexual intercourse was consensual, to wit:
Cias testified that he and AAA had been carrying an illicit affair for about six months. He alleged that in all their previous assignations, she submitted herself to him voluntarily and willingly on each occasion that they had sexual intercourse.
In the evening of April 1, 2000, Cias and AAA had agreed to meet at AAA's house at 9:00 p.m. When he arrived, they talked for a while then engaged in sexual intercourse. They did the "69" position on the living room floor so as not to awaken the children sleeping in the bedroom.
Their lovemaking was, however, interrupted by a voice coming from outside the house, screaming, "You have no pity, you are animals! You are pigs!" Cias then patted AAA's buttocks and told her that it was his wife shouting. They hurriedly put their clothes on and Cias left to confront his wife. Cias and his wife argued for a while before proceeding to their own house.
Cias' testimony was corroborated by his wife, Felina Cias. In her testimony, she stated that on April 1, 2000, Cias left their house at around 9:00 p.m. supposedly to get the carabao he was tending in a nearby pasture. When he did not return after an hour, she decided to look for him. On the way, she passed by the house of AAA and heard familiar voices emanating from it. As she drew closer, she recognized AAA's voice saying, "Let's go away," but she did not hear any reply.
Curious, she peeped through a hole in the wall below the windows of the living room. To her great dismay, she saw Cias and AAA doing the "69" position. She screamed epithets at them and left. Cias followed her and, subsequently, asked for her forgiveness.
Enraged by the events, Felina Cias went to the poblacion the next day to narrate the incident to AAA's common-law husband. When she told him what happened, he showed no visible reaction to her story. Instead, he requested her to bring food supplies to AAA and her children. She later learned that the couple had filed the instant case against her husband.
Although she had suspected that her husband and AAA were having an affair, Felina was not really sure about it until she saw them that night. She further testified that Cias never went to AAA's house alone. This was the very first time. In the past, both she and Cias went over to AAA's house to listen to daytime drama programs on the radio. During these times, she would notice AAA give her husband penetrating looks but the two never spoke to each other in her presence. Her suspicions were sufficiently aroused but she did not confide them to anyone.
After trial, the RTC convicted the accused. The dispositive portion of its January 31, 2003 Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, accused FELICIANO "Saysot" CIAS is hereby declared GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH; and he is directed to indemnify [AAA] the sum of Fifty Thousand (-P- 50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages, Seventy-Five Thousand (-P- 75,000.00) Pesos as civil indemnity, and to pay the costs.
On appeal to the CA, the accused disputed the trial court's finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. He argued that the allegations of the private complainant are improbable and contrary to human experience, resulting in the failure of her case to meet the test of moral certainty required in order to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
On April 30, 2010, the CA affirmed the judgment of the RTC. It found that the RTC's assessment of the credibility of the private complainant deserved respect. It also found AAA's testimony to be consistent and straightforward. Hence, it did not see any reason to deviate from the ruling of the trial court.
The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Branch 37, dated January 31, 2003, in Criminal Case No. 14791, finding appellant Feliciano Cias @ "Saysot" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS to the effect that he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordered to pay private offended party [AAA] the amount of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages in addition to the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
Cias now comes before this Court with the lone assignment of error, contending that "[t]he court a quo erred in finding that the guilt of the accused-appellant for the crime [charged] has been proven beyond reasonable doubt."
We sustain accused-appellant's conviction.
In his Brief, accused-appellant argues that the trial court should not have received the lone testimony of the private complainant with precipitate credulity because it does not bear the stamp of truth and candor of a narration of actual events.
He points out three (3) alleged flaws in her testimony. First, private complainant's testimony stated that he used a scythe around her neck. In fact, she said that the scythe was already touching her neck. Accused-appellant argues that if such allegation were true, the private complainant would have sustained an injury in the neck area but none was found. Second, in her testimony, private complainant avers that she was not able to free herself from accused-appellant because, according to her, he was kneeling on her two legs. Again, accused-appellant points out that if this were true, private complainant would have sustained hematomas on her legs due to the pressure applied on them. However, the physical examination conducted on her did not show any. And third, accused-appellant cites numerous circumstances in private complainant's testimony, which would reveal several telltale signs that the sexual intercourse that transpired between them was consensual and pre-arranged. One such circumstance is the absence of both the common-law husband and the father-in-law.
The arguments are bereft of merit.
In determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in rape cases, the Court is guided by the following principles:
(1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove the charge; (2) considering that, in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and (3) the evidence of the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.
Inasmuch as the crime of rape is essentially committed in relative isolation or even secrecy, it is usually only the victim who can testify with regard to the fact of the forced sexual intercourse. Therefore, in a prosecution for rape, the credibility of the victim is almost always the single and most important issue to deal with. Thus, if the victim's testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused can justifiably be convicted on the basis of this testimony; otherwise, the accused should be acquitted of the crime.
More importantly, appellate courts do not disturb the findings of the trial courts with regard to the assessment of the credibility of witnesses. The reason for this is that trial courts have the "unique opportunity to observe the witnesses first hand and note their demeanor, conduct and attitude under grilling examination."
The exceptions to this rule are when the trial court's findings of facts and conclusions are not supported by the evidence on record, or when certain facts of substance and value, likely to change the outcome of the case, have been overlooked by the trial court, or when the assailed decision is based on a misapprehension of facts. However, this Court finds none of these exceptions present in the instant case.
The private complainant testified in a steadfast and straightforward manner, to wit:
FISCAL JUDITHO AGAN:
Q And can you tell us if there was any unusual incident on April 1, 2000 at about 9:00 o'clock in the evening while you were in your house?
A It was Saysot whom I saw went up.
Q In what particular place of your house did Saysot Cias go?
A He went up thru the window.
Q And how did you know that Saysot went up thru the window?
A Because our door was closed.
Q And was Saysot Cias able to enter your house?
A Yes, he was able to get inside.
Q After Saysot Cias was inside your house, what happened, if any?
A He kneeled down on my two (2) legs and he covered my mouth.
Q How were you able to recognize Saysot Cias at that time?
A Because when he covered my mouth I was able to wake up.
Q And how were you able to see his face clearly after you woke up?
A Because there was a kerosene lamp.
Q And how far was the kerosene lamp to the place where you were lying down?
A Above our head.
Q When Saysot kneeled on your two (2) legs and covered your [mouth], did he say anything?
A He told me that "Just be silent ha" but there was a scythe around my neck.
Q How did Saysot Cias place the scythe?
A He placed it here. (The witness is indicating where the scythe was placed at the right neck.)
Q Was the scythe touching your neck already at that time?
A Yes, it was touching.
Q What did you do if any after Saysot Cias told you not to say anything while placing a scythe at your neck?
A He told me to be silent because if I am going to make a noise he will kill us.
x x x x
Q And what were your children doing at that time when Saysot Cias was kneeling on your legs holding a scythe at your neck?
A The children were sleeping.
Q After that, what if any did Saysot Cias do?
A He raped me.
Q Were you not wearing a panty at that time?
Q How was he able to rape you when you were wearing a panty?
A He removed my panty.
Q How did Saysot Cias remove your panty?
A While he was holding the scythe around my neck the other hand removed my panty.
Q And what happened to your panty?
A It was torn.
x x x x
Q After Saysot Cias was able to remove your panty, what happened next?
A He raped me.
Q Did you not shout or scream at that time?
A Because if I am going to shout he is going to kill me.
Q Did you not try to wake up your children?
A No, I did not because they were lying on one side.
Q How long was that when Saysot Cias was having sexual intercourse with you?
A [Maybe] about one (1) hour.
Q And during this one (1) hour, did you not struggle?
A I struggled.
Q And were you not able to release yourself?
A I cannot because he was kneeling on my two (2) legs.
Q After that, what happened next?
A After that he went down.
Q And what did you do if any after he went down?
A After he went down, his wife kept on shouting outside while I was crying.
Q Why were you crying?
A Because if I am going to tell anyone, he is going to kill me.
Evidently, the above transcript shows that AAA's testimony was very coherent and candid.
The trial court likewise reached a similar conclusion after hearing the testimony of AAA, viz:
After a careful and thorough review of the evidence and a conscientious disquisition of the disputed issue in this case, this Court finds that the lone testimony of the private complainant passes the test of credibility and is, by itself, sufficient to sustain a conviction. x x x
x x x x
On cross-examination, her narration of the events was unshaken. The defense attempted, but failed, to point out any contradictions or flaws in her recollection of the events. She remained consistent and spontaneously answered on even the minute details. Even her testimony on recall bore the badge of sincerity and truthfulness. Her forthright replies to rigorous questioning dispelled the initial doubts on matters which initially seemed, to the mind of the Court, as slight inconsistencies in her testimony. She successfully parried all questions in a frank and spontaneous manner that convinced this Court that she did not fabricate this accusation against Saysot Cias. Consequently, her testimony must be given full faith and credit.
Thus, this Court finds no reason to deviate from the time-honored doctrine that the trial court's assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies deserves great respect.
Further, the theory that Cias and AAA were having an illicit affair is unsupported by evidence. As held in People v. Cabanilla, the sweetheart defense is an affirmative defense that must be supported by convincing proof. In the case at bar, accused-appellant relied solely on his testimony and that of his wife. He did not offer any other evidence--such as a love letter, a memento, or even a single photograph--to substantiate his claim that they had a romantic relationship.
Besides, granting they had an illicit affair, this fact alone does not rule out rape as it does not necessarily mean that consent was present. As We held, "A love affair does not justify rape for a man does not have an unbridled license to subject his beloved to his carnal desires against her will."
Lastly, the contention of accused-appellant that the absence of any form of injury to AAA's neck or legs contradicts the charge of rape, is untenable. In People v. Hacbang, We ruled that absence of injury does not negate the charge of rape and destroy the credibility of the victim's testimony. What is important is the fact that the victim was made to submit to the will of the accused through force and intimidation.
The elements needed to prove the crime of rape under paragraph 1(a) of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are: (1) the offender is a man; (2) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (3) the act is accomplished by using force or intimidation. All these elements were sufficiently proved by the prosecution. The testimony of AAA overwhelmingly proves that accused-appellant raped her with the use of force and intimidation.
Accordingly, We find that the prosecution has discharged its burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
As to the penalty, Art. 266-B of the RPC provides that "[w]henever the rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon x x x, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death (emphasis supplied)." Accordingly, in determining the proper imposable penalty, the Court is guided by the provisions of Art. 63 of the RPC, which reads:
Article 63. Rules for the application of indivisible penalties. -
x x x x
In all cases in which the law prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties, the following rules shall be observed in the application thereof:
1. When in the commission of the deed there is present only one aggravating circumstance, the greater penalty shall be applied. x x x
In this case, the trial court appreciated not just one, but three (3) aggravating circumstances, namely: (a) the use of a deadly weapon; (b) the act was committed in the dwelling of the private complainant; and (c) entrance to the private complainant's dwelling was obtained by unlawful entry. The first two aggravating circumstances were sufficiently alleged in the criminal information and were also adequately proved by the prosecution during trial. The third aggravating circumstance, although not alleged in the criminal information, was amply proved during trial. In People v. Mitra, We ruled that "aggravating circumstance not alleged in the information may be proved during trial and appreciated in imposing the sentence. Evidence in support thereof merely forms part of the actual commission of the crime and its appreciation by the courts does not constitute a violation of the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him."
Thus, considering the presence of aggravating circumstances, the proper imposable penalty is death. However, due to Republic Act No. 9346, which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the CA correctly modified the penalty to reclusion perpetua.
Finally, although the CA was correct in awarding PhP 30,000 as exemplary damages, the award of moral damages should be increased to PhP 75,000. There should also be an interest of six percent (6%) per annum on all damages awarded from the finality of judgment until fully paid, in line with prevailing jurisprudence.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00075 finding accused-appellant Feliciano "Saysot" Cias guilty of the crime charged is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. As modified, the ruling of the CA should read as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Branch 37, dated January 31, 2003, in Criminal Case No. 14791, finding appellant Feliciano Cias @ "Saysot" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS to the effect that he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordered to pay private offended party [AAA] the amount of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages in addition to the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity and P75,000.00 as moral damages, with 6% interest per annum on all damages from finality of this Decision until fully paid.
Corona, C.J., (Chairperson), Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta,* and Perez, JJ.
* Additional member per Special Order No. 994 dated May 27, 2011.
 Rollo, pp. 4-17. Penned by Associate Justice Socorro B. Inting and concurred in by Associate Justices Edwin D. Sorongon and Ramon A. Cruz.
 CA rollo, pp. 17-33. Penned by Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino.
 Any information to establish or compromise the identity of the victim, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall be withheld, and fictitious initials are used, pursuant to Republic Act No. 7610, "An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes"; Republic Act No. 9262, "An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefor, and for Other Purposes"; Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the "Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children," effective November 5, 2004; and People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419.
 Records, p. 1.
 TSN, July 3, 2001, p. 5.
 Id. at 7.
 Literally "town" or "population" in Spanish; name commonly used for the central barangay or barangays of a Philippine city or municipality.
 TSN, July 24, 2001, pp. 10-11.
 TSN, July 3, 2001, pp. 7-8.
 Id. at 8.
 Id. at 9-10.
 TSN, July 24, 2001, p. 18.
 TSN, July 3, 2001, pp. 11-12.
 TSN, June 19, 2001, pp. 11-12.
 Id. at 15.
 Id. at 16.
 Id. at 18-19.
 TSN, October 10, 2001, pp. 4-5.
 TSN, July 9, 2002, pp. 6-7.
 Id. at 8.
 Id. at 10.
 TSN, January 22, 2002, pp. 6-7.
 Id. at 8.
 Id. at 19.
 Id. at 11-13.
 CA rollo, p. 33.
 Rollo, p. 17.
 CA rollo, p. 51.
 People v. Malate, G.R. No. 185724, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 817, 825.
 People v. Lazaro, G.R. No. 186379, August 19, 2009, 596 SCRA 587, 596
 People v. Malana, G.R. No. 185716, September 29, 2010, 631 SCRA 676, 686.
 People v. Malate, supra note 29.
 People v. Burgos, G.R. No. 117451, September 29, 1997, 279 SCRA 697, 705.
 TSN, July 3, 2001, pp. 7-11.
 CA rollo, pp. 21-24.
 G.R. No. 185839, November 17, 2010.
 People v. Lambid, G.R. Nos. 133066-67, October 1, 2003, 412 SCRA 417, 431; People v. Flores, G.R. No. 141782, December 14, 2001, 372 SCRA 421, 430-431.
 RPC, Art. 14(3).
 Id., Art. 14(18).
 G.R. No. 130669, March 27, 2000, 328 SCRA 774, 792.
 People v. Combate, G.R. No. 189301, December 15, 2010.