PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CARLOS BONGHANOY, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
The case at hand is an unwelcome addition to the numerous cases of rape involving the young and innocent, appallingly aggravated by the close kinship between the offender and the victim.
On July 26, 1994, an information for rape was filed against accused-appellant Carlos Bonghanoy, as follows:
The undersigned Asst. Provincial Prosecutor, on complaint of the offended party Baby Jane de Guzman y Bonghanoy, assisted by her mother, accuses Carlos Bonghanoy y Agrabiador alias Caloy of the crime of rape, penalized under the provisions of Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:
That on or about the 28th day of June, 1994, in the municipality of San Jose del Monte, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused Carlos Bonghanoy y Agrabiador alias Caloy, armed with a stone, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, threats and intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge of the said offended party against her will, a minor who is a (sic) fourteen (14) years old.
Contrary to law.1
Upon his arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial thereafter ensued, with the prosecution presenting the victim Baby Jane, her mother, and the medico-legal officer who examined her. Based on their testimonies, the prosecution evidence runs as follows:
Baby Jane, a 14-year old second year high school student, is the niece of accused-appellant, the latter being the younger brother of Baby Janes mother. At 7:00 in the evening of June 28, 1994, accused-appellant went to Baby Janes house at San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, asking permission from her parents to have her brother Jovy accompany him in looking for his wife. Jovy was, however, busy with his homework, prompting accused-appellant to ask Baby Janes parents to allow Baby Jane to accompany him instead. On the assurance that they would be gone for only a short while, Baby Janes parents agreed.
Accused-appellant and Baby Jane went to the residence of the formers parents-in-law only to find out that accused-appellants wife had already left. The two proceeded to accused-appellants paramour who, being sick, did not want to talk to accused-appellant. As a result, accused-appellant decided to go instead to Area D to look for his wife. On the way to Area D, accused-appellant told Baby Jane that they would take a short cut at the San Jose Elementary School.
As the two were passing the elementary school, accused-appellant stopped and said that they should take a rest. Baby Jane demurred, saying she still had some assignments to finish. At this point, accused-appellant seized Baby Jane by her t-shirt and dragged her inside the elementary school compound. Grabbing a big rock, he warned Baby Jane not to scream, otherwise he would hit her with it. Accused-appellant then ordered Baby Jane to strip, who, out of fear, did as she was told. When she had undressed, he ordered her to lie down on the ground. Accused-appellant inserted his middle finger inside Baby Janes genitalia, moving it in and out. At the same time, accused-appellant began fondling Baby Janes breasts. This went on for thirty minutes after which accused-appellant mounted Baby Jane and inserted his penis inside her. Simultaneously, accused-appellant sucked on Baby Janes breasts, and even left a kiss mark on her neck. Baby Jane felt great pain when accused-appellant inserted his organ inside her.
His lechery slaked, accused-appellant told Baby Jane to get dressed. Not unexpectedly, he also warned Baby Jane not to tell her parents what had transpired, threatening to kill them all should she do so. The two arrived at Baby Janes home at around 11 oclock in the evening. Accused-appellant told Baby Janes parents that they had gone to Area D. Baby Jane changed her clothes, her pants and t-shirt being bloodied. Her parents, however, did not notice the unusual appearance of her clothing.
It was only early the following morning when Baby Jane related to her mother that she had been raped by her uncle the previous evening. Not knowing what to do, Baby Janes mother conferred with a municipal counselor, who advised her to report the matter to the 145th Police Station of the Southern Bulacan Police District Command. Upon reporting the matter to the police, Baby Jane was brought to the Sapang Palay Hospital for the standard medical exam. The hospital, however, lacked the necessary facilities, hence, Baby Jane was transferred to the Camp Crame Hospital where a medico-legal officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory conducted a medical examination on her.
The medical examination revealed that Baby Jane had suffered a compound hymenal laceration at the 6 oclock position extending beyond the entire width of the hymen to the perineum, just above the anal opening. The medico-legal officer found this laceration to be compatible with recent loss of virginity. On cross-examination, the medico-legal officer testified that the hymenal laceration could not have been self-inflicted unless such a person was insane, a compound laceration being excruciatingly painful.
In his defense, accused-appellant denied the charge hurled against him, claiming that on June 28, 1994, he had a drinking spree with his friends Rolando Gonzales, Edwin Petilla, a certain Casaway, and his brother Abundio Bonghanoy from 5:00 p.m. to 12 oclock midnight. Accused-appellant testified that he could not have raped his niece on that date, having fallen asleep after consuming three to four bottles of gin mixed with 100 ccs. of a prohibited drug. Accused-appellant attributed the filing of charges against him to jealousy on the part of Baby Janes mother, allegedly because their other brothers and sisters, in giving material things, gave him preferential treatment over Baby Janes mother.
In support of his testimony, accused-appellant presented one of his alleged drinking partners on June 28, 1994, Balvino Alingas, the husband of one of his sisters. Alingas testified that he drank with accused-appellant from 5: 00 p.m. until the time he left at 12:00 midnight, with accused-appellant lying on the floor dead drunk.
On March 14, 1996, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime of rape. Noting that the incident took place on June 28, 1994, after the effectivity of Republic Act No. 7659, known as The Heinous Crimes Law, with the victim a minor below eighteen years of age and the accused-appellant her relative by consanguinity within the third civil degree, the court a quo imposed the supreme penalty of death. Hence, this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 22 of Republic Act No. 7659, and Sections 3(e) and 10, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Court.
Accused-appellant raises the following errors:
1. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF DEFENSES WITNESSES THAT HE DID NOT COMMIT THE CRIME CHARGED.
2. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED AND IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE CRIMINAL INFORMATION FILED AGAINST THE ACCUSED DID NOT ALLEGE RELATIONSHIP AS AN ELEMENT OF THE OFFENSE CHARGED;
3. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED AND IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY DESPITE THE LACK OF EVIDENCE OF THE AGE OF THE ALLEGED VICTIM AT THE TIME OF THE COMMISSION OF THE ALLEGED RAPE;
4. THE DECISION OF THE LOWER COURT FELL SHORT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT THAT NO DECISION SHALL BE RENDERED BY ANY COURT WITHOUT EXPRESSING THEREIN CLEARLY AND DISTINCTLY THE FACTS AND THE LAW ON WHICH IT IS BASED. (ART. VIII, SECTION 14, 1987 CONSTITUTION)
It is a cardinal principle in rape cases that the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided such testimony is credible, natural, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. This is so because by its very nature, rape is committed with the least possibility of being seen by the public.2
After a conscientious review of the records and an objective evaluation of the evidence, we agree with the lower court that the charge of rape against accused-appellant was proven beyond reasonable doubt. Baby Jane gave her testimony in a direct, positive and categorical manner. During her cross-examination, she never wavered in her assertion that accused-appellant sexually abused her. Baby Janes narration palpably bears the earmarks of truth and is in accord with the material points involved. When the testimony of a rape victim is simple and straightforward, unshaken by a rigid cross-examination and unflawed by any inconsistency or contradiction, as in the present case, the same must be given full faith and credit.3
We also note that Baby Jane was only fourteen years old at the time she was raped by accused-appellant. No young and decent Filipina would publicly admit that she was ravished and her honor tainted unless the same was true, for it would be instinctive on her part to protect her honor and obtain justice for the wicked acts committed upon her.4 Likewise, it is highly inconceivable for a lass of tender age to concoct a tale of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts, and undergo the expense, trouble, inconvenience, not to mention the trauma of a public trial, unless she was in fact raped.5
In contrast, accused-appellants defense is a bare and shallow alibi. Time and again, we have stated that alibi is a weak defense which becomes even weaker in the face of the positive identification of accused-appellant by prosecution witnesses. Accused-appellant claims that at the time the rape incident took place, he was at his house drinking with friends. This self-serving assertion is puerile, in the absence of any showing that it was impossible for him, on that night, to go to Baby Janes house, which, incidentally, was only 400 meters away from his own. The infirmity of his alibi becomes even more glaring when, on direct examination, he fails to mention that his brother-in-law, Balvino Alingas, the witness he presented to corroborate his story, was one of his drinking companions.
Q: Where were you on June 28, 1994, Mr. Witness?
A: I was in our house drinking spree (sic) with my barkada.
Q: Who are those (sic) barkada that you allegedly drinking (sic) with them?
A: My Kumpare.
Q: Will you please give the (sic) names.
A: Rolando Gonzales, Edwin Petilla, and Casaway.
Q: Who else?
A: My brother.
Q: What is the (sic) name?
A: Abundio Bonghanoy.6
Accused-appellant never mentioned Balvino Alingas as one of his drinking companions that fateful evening. In contrast, the latter asserted that he was part of the drinking session, from the time it started at 5:00 p.m. up to the time it ended at 12 midnight. If, indeed, Alingas was present during accused-appellants drinking spree, his presence would have been adverted to by accused-appellant. This all too evident omission indicates Alingas narration to be a mere fabrication intended to get accused-appellant off the hook. Accused-appellants alibi, unsubstantiated as it is by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving evidence which deserves no weight in law.7
In like manner, we find accused-appellants claim that Baby Jane filed her complaint because of her mothers jealousy towards accused-appellant difficult to accept. A rape case, with its attendant publicity and notoriety, can damage a complainants psyche and tar her for life. A mother would not expose her daughter to public humiliation and curiosity just to give vent to her resentment over the alleged preferential treatment being given accused-appellant by her other brothers and sisters.8
While we agree with the trial court that accused-appellant is guilty of rape, we cannot, however, subscribe to the penalty of death imposed. Article 335, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659 provides that the death penalty shall be imposed if the rape victim is under eighteen years of age and the offender is a relative by consanguinity within the third civil degree. Clearly believing that the case of the People against accused-appellant fell within the above-mentioned circumstance, the court a quo sentenced accused-appellant to death.
A reading of the information filed against accused-appellant would, however, reveal that he was charged only with the simple crime of rape, punished under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, with the additional allegation that the victim was only 14 years of age at the time of the incident.
In People v. Ramos,9 we have held that the seven new attendant circumstances instituted by Republic Act No. 7659 in Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code partake of the nature of qualifying circumstances, and not merely aggravating circumstances, since they increase the penalties by degrees. Aggravating circumstances affect only the period of the penalty.10 To be properly appreciated as a qualifying circumstance, however, the relationship between accused-appellant and his victim should have been specifically pleaded in the information against accused-appellant.
Since the information filed against accused-appellant is silent on the relationship between accused-appellant and his victim, we have to rule that the former can be convicted only for simple rape. Even if relationship was duly proven during the trial, still such proof cannot be taken into account so as to convict accused-appellant of qualified rape and to subsequently impose upon him the death penalty since he would thereby be denied his constitutional and statutory right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.11 Accused-appellant cannot be charged with committing the crime of rape in its simple form and then be tried and convicted for rape in its qualified form.
In addition to the failure of the information to allege the relationship between accused-appellant and Baby Jane, the former also claims that the trial court erred in imposing the death penalty allegedly because Baby Janes age at the time she was raped was never conclusively established. We deem it unnecessary to discuss this assignment of error given our previous disquisition that the death penalty cannot be imposed for failure of the information to allege the relationship between accused-appellant and Baby Jane. Having been informed only of the elements of simple rape, which crime was duly established by the prosecution, accused-appellant can be convicted only for such crime and accordingly is hereby punished with reclusion perpetua.
Accused-appellant also assails the judgment of the lower court on the ground that it failed to state clearly the facts and the law on which it is based. While the lower courts decision does leaves much to be desired in terms of clarity, coherence and comprehensibility, it distinctly and clearly expresses its factual and legal bases. The trial court detailed the evidence, both testimonial and documentary, presented by the parties. Thereafter, it balanced the respective pieces of evidence submitted by the prosecution and the defense and chose the one which deserved credence. The trial court then discussed the law and penalty applicable to the case. In fine, the trial courts decision substantially complies with the mandate of Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution that a decision must express therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.
Finally, with regard to accused-appellants civil liability, the trial court awarded Baby Jane P100,000.00 as moral damages and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages. It has been the policy of this Court to outrightly award an amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto, separate from moral damages of P50,000.00 to victims of rape upon indubitable showing of its commission.
Finally, since the relationship between accused-appellant was adequately proved, we treat such fact as a generic aggravating circumstance. With the presence then of one aggravating circumstance and the establishment of Baby Janes entitlement to civil indemnity and moral damages, accused-appellant is also liable for exemplary damages, which the trial court awarded in the amount of P100,000.00. We, however, find the same excessive and reduce it to P10,000.00
WHEREFORE, the judgment of the lower court convicting accused-appellant Carlos Bonghanoy is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, as well as to pay the complainant P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P10,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Costs against accused-appellant.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Panganiban, J., on leave.
Buena, J., no part, on leave.
1 Rollo, p. 10.
2 People v. Medina, G.R. No. 126575, December 11, 1998.
3 People v. Perez, G.R. No. 122764, September 24, 1998.
4 People v. Villamor, G.R. No. 124441, October 7, 1998.
5 People v. Medina, supra.
6 TSN, August 9, 1995, p. 4.
7 People v. Belga, 258 SCRA 583 (1996).
8 See People v. Ilao, G.R. No. 129529, September 29, 1998.
9 G.R. No. 129439, September 25, 1998.
10 People v. Garcia, 281 SCRA 463 (1997).
11 People v. Ilao, supra.