PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROBERTO MENGOTE, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
For automatic review by this court is the decision dated May 16, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 17, convicting Roberto Mengote of rape, as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds accused Roberto Mengote guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape, as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of Death and to pay the offended party Jenny Mengote the following:
1. P100,000.00 as moral damages and
2. P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Roberto Mengote was charged with rape under the following information:
That on or about the 20th day of March, 1996, in the municipality of Hagonoy, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the father of the offended party, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously by means of force and intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge of the offended party, Jenny Mengote, a twelve (12) year old girl against her will and without her consent.
Contrary to law.
The accused with the assistance of counsel de officio pleaded NOT GUILTY upon arraignment.1cräläwvirtualibräry
The prosecution presented the victim Jenny Mengote, her mother Dolores Mengote who assisted her when she filed a complaint for rape and Dr. Edgardo Gueco, who prepared the medico-legal report dated April 22, 1996 marked as Exh. D.
Jenny Mengote is the daughter of the accused Roberto Mengote and Dolores Mengote. She turned twelve on January 25, 1996, and was a Grade 6 student at the Sagrada Familia Elementary School in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
She testified on June 27, 1996 on the incident that happened on March 20, 1996 between the hours of 7:00 oclock and 8:00 oclock in the evening. She was watching TV in her Tita Meloidas house, which is about 2 or 3 meters from her own home, when her father called her from the door of their house and ordered her to get his lighter upstairs. When she got the lighter, her father followed and embraced her from behind. She was surprised because her father was not in the habit of embracing her except when she was a small child. She evaded him by going to the place where they kept their clothes. Her father followed her again, embraced her and kissed her on the face, at the same time telling her to keep quiet and not to report to anybody (huwag akong magsusumbong). She left the place and went down to where their water jar was located in order to evade her father. Her father followed, pinched her ear and pulled her upstairs while still holding her ear. He again embraced and kissed her, touched her private part (referring to her vagina) while she was in a standing position, and proceeded to remove her T-shirt, her shorts and her panty. She protested huwag, huwag but her father told her sandali lang iyon. Thereafter, he laid her down on the floor, removed his pants and briefs and put his body on top of her, face down. She was then lying straight, and her father separated her right thigh from the left and inserted his penis into her vagina, which caused her pain. The penis penetrated about an inch into the vagina, and he was moving up and down, push and pull2 about five times. She felt something come out from his penis, which was colored white.
Her father noticed that her mother was coming, and he stood up and wiped his penis with a white rag and put on his shorts and briefs. When her mother entered, she asked her father what he had done to her. He said nothing and her mother got mad. Her mother saw the piece of rag that her father used in wiping his penis, smelled it, and asked him what it means; her father did not answer and left the house. She was also asked by her mother about what her father did to her. She did not answer because of her father' threat to kill them ("a papatayin kayo". She told her mother about the incident two weeks after, when their mother left the house to go to the house of a relative in another barangay.3 The reason she did not reveal to her mother earlier what happened was that she was thinking of her brothers and sisters and her father might also do to her sister what she did to her. She was no longer afraid of her father after she reported the same to her mother. Her mother promptly brought her to the police station to file a complaint.4cräläwvirtualibräry
In court, Jenny attested to the truth of the contents of her sworn statement. Asked about her answer to Question No. 8 wherein she stated that her father committed the act against her three times, she explained that on the two previous occasions that took place in January and February 1996, her father embraced and kissed her, but did not attempt to insert his penis into her private part. She did not tell anybody because she was afraid of her father who told her not to report these to anybody, and who in the past used to beat them when his orders were not followed.5cräläwvirtualibräry
Upon cross-examination, witness Jenny answered the questions propounded substantially as she testified during the direct examination.6cräläwvirtualibräry
A medico-legal examination was conducted by Dr. Edgardo Gueco, upon the request of the Chief of Police of Hagonoy, Bulacan. The extra-genital examination of the hymen revealed the presence of deep healed lacerations at 4 and 12 oclock and shallow healed laceration at 7 oclock positions.7 The report carried the remarks subject is in non-virgin state physically.8 Dr. Gueco testified that the presence of the laceration of the hymen means that subject was no longer a virgin at the time of the examination and possible cause of said laceration is sexual intercourse, and that because the healing period is usually ten days, the laceration inflicted by the sexual intercourse on March 22nd could have already been healed.9cräläwvirtualibräry
Dolores Mengote identified her signature on the sworn complaint of her daughter,10 and stated that it took a long time for her to give her consent to Jennys filing the complaint against her father because she did not want the people around them to know because she was ashamed,11 and that when they filed the complaint she did not know that the penalty for rape is death.12cräläwvirtualibräry
The accused Roberto Mengote testified in his defense. He declared that he was admitting the crime and repents for what he did, but prays that a lower sentence be imposed upon him. He testified that he was only drunk; in the months of January and February when he first attempted to rape Jenny, he could not recall where his other daughters were because he was drunk.13cräläwvirtualibräry
As aforestated, the court a quo found the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape.
The accused-appellant raises the following assignment of errors in his brief:
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN TOTALLY DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE PUT UP BY THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT APPLYING THE SAFEGUARDS SET FORTH UNDER RULE 116, 1987 RULES ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE.
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME CHARGED HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
Accused-appellant submits that the degree of his intoxication at the time of the incident affected his mental faculty to a degree that he was no longer conscious and in control of what he was doing; that his mental faculties were so far overcome by intoxication that it produces a mental condition of insanity. Appellant further claims that the trial court erred in not applying the safeguards imposed by Section 3, Rule 116 of the 1987 Rules on Criminal Procedure after a plea of guilty to a capital offense, in that it did not endeavor to conduct a searching inquiry as to the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea of guilt; thus, the accused admitted his guilt in his testimony in court in the belief that the penalty to be meted by the court is life imprisonment.14 Finally, appellant contends that his guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt as there were glaring inconsistencies between the testimony of Jenny during the direct examination and that during the cross-examination, as well as between her testimony and the testimony of her mother.
We find no merit in the appeal.
We have scrutinized the evidence and reviewed the testimony of the complainant with great caution and are convinced that the trial court correctly held that the guilt of Roberto Mengote was established beyond reasonable doubt. The narration of Jenny is positive, categorical and full of details, free of any significant inconsistencies and clearly described the sexual assault wherein, as the trial court observed, her juvenile resistance proved no match to the strength and evil determination of her father. We are not unmindful of the crucial importance in a rape case of determining the credibility of both the victim herself and her version as to how the crime charged was committed but we repose almost total reliance on the findings and conclusions of the trial court which had the clear advantage of a trial judge over an appellate court magistrate in the appreciation of testimonial evidence.15 In the absence of any showing that the trial courts assessment of the credibility of the witness was flawed, we are bound by its assessment.16
Furthermore, it is doctrinally settled that testimonies of rape victims who are of tender age are credible. The revelation of an innocent child whose chastity was abused deserves full credit, as the willingness of the complainant to face police investigation and to undergo the trouble and humiliation of a public trial is eloquent testimony of the truth of her complaint.17cräläwvirtualibräry
The trial court observed:
It is an undeniable fact that because of their filial relationship, the accused exercised a great degree of moral ascendancy over his 12 year old daughter Jenny, so much so that even if she found her fathers embraces and kisses to be quite peculiar because it was not his wont to kiss and embrace his children even as a show of love (tsn, June 27, 1996, p. 12), she could not adequately repel his advances. Furthermore, her fathers practice of beating them up when he was mad (tsn, July 11, 1996, pp. 13-14) which was foremost in her young mind then disabled her to struggle against him. In this respect, the employment of force and intimidation by the accused has been fully established.
The testimony of Dr. Edgardo Gueco who conducted the medical examination corroborated Jennys claim that she was sexually abused. The presence of deep healed lacerations in the hymen indicated that she was no longer a virgin and the possible cause of said lacerations is sexual intercourse.18cräläwvirtualibräry
Neither are we persuaded by appellants plea of insanity allegedly caused by intoxication that has affected his mental faculty to a degree that he was no longer conscious of what he was doing. The accused pleaded insanity quite late and obviously as an afterthought. More important, it was not substantiated. The law presumes every man to be sane and if the accused interposes the defense of mental incapacity, the burden of establishing such fact rests upon him.19 Insanity must be proven by clear and positive evidence.20 As an exempting circumstance, insanity means that the accused must have been deprived completely of reason and freedom of the will at the time of the commission of the crime21 or be incapable of entertaining criminal intent.22cräläwvirtualibräry
In this case, the appellant merely stated that he was not in my right senses at the time, because he was drunk. Thus:
xxx xxx xxx
Q: Can you tell us what compelled you to rape your daughter?
A: I was not in my right senses at the time, your Honor
Q: Why, were you under the influence of any liquor or drugs?
A: I was drunk at that time your Honor.
xxx xxx xxx
Q: How many daughters do you have?
A: Five (5), your Honor
Q: Why did you specifically pick on Jenny to be your vctim?
A: I did not intend to do it, your Honor.
Q: You will recall that at that time Jenny was out of your house and you just called her?
A: I dont remember that, your Honor
Q: So, at that ime you were not also aware where your other daughters were?
A: No, your honor.23 (underscoring supplied)
The above testimony of the accused clearly falls short of the degree of proof necessary to prove insanity.
The appellants second assignment of error is not tenable. The records show that appellant pleaded not guilty upon arraignment.24 Before the prosecution started the presentation of its second witness, the defense counsel manifested that the accused would be changing his plea to that of guilty. The court ruled that considering that the offense charged is a grave offense, the presentation of the prosecutions evidence is still required to determine the guilt of the accused.25 After the prosecution had rested its case, counsel for the accused manifested hat the accused intended his willingness to plead guilty. The records show:
For the prosecution, your Honor.
ATTY. DELA CRUZ:
For the accused, ready, your Honor. Your Honor please, considering that the accused in this case intended his willingness to plead guilty to this case, your Honor
Up to now have you not still understood the position of the court, in the first place a plea of guilty should not be unconditional.
ATTY. DELA CRUZ:
That is the wish of the accused, your Honor, and I could not be more than the accused.
Is it the accused dictating to the court what penalty should be imposed upon him and that if the Court will not agree to his condition he will not plead guilty, is that it?
ATTY. DELA CRUZ:
I think he court has already made an Order that he could not be bound by the offer of the accused, your Honor. That is why the case went through and the prosecution rested its case, your Honor. So, now we are presenting the accused, your Honor.
(to interpreter) Call the witness and swear in the witness.
(to witness) Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before the Honorable Court?
I do, mam.
Please state your name and other personal circumstances.
I am ROBERTO MENGOTE, 40 years old, married, fisherman and residing at Sagrada Familia, Hagonoy, Bulacan.
ATTY. DELA CRUZ
We are offering the testimony of the witness to initiate from this witness his decision as to whether he will admit in open Court guilty or not guilty to this case, anyway, he was already arraigned but up to now this representation is under doubt as to whether he is willing to admit or not, your Honor. With the kind permission of the Hon. Court?
D. EXAM. OF WIT. R. MENGOTE BY
ATTY. DELA CRUZ:
Q: What is your relationship with the complainants in this case?
A: My wife and my daughter, sir.
Q: During the presentation of the prosecutions evidence they presented you as the one who molested your daughter, what can you say about that?
A: That is not true, sir.
Q: What is the truth Mr. Witness?
A: I am admitting the crime, sir, and repent to what I did and I am praying to the Hon. Court that a lower sentence be imposed upon me, sir.
Q: Do you have other things to say before this Court?
A: No more, sir.
ATTY. DELA CRUZ:
I think that is all, your Honor.
Q: Is it not true that the reason why you are repenting is because you are afraid to be imposed the death penalty?
A: No your Honor.
Q: In other words, even if you have heard your daughter say that she is willing to have the death penalty imposed on you, you are not still afraid?
A: I have nothing to do if that is the penalty and I wish that is not the penalty, your Honor.26
It is clear that appellant initially denied that he molested his daughter although he later stated that he was admitting the crime and was repenting what he did praying that a lower sentence be imposed and that the death penalty is not the penalty to be imposed. The trial court did not act favorably on his offer because the plea of guilty should be unconditional, i.e., not conditioned on his getting a lower penalty. It has been held that a plea of guilty made after arraignment and after trial had began does not entitle the accused to have such plea considered as a mitigating circumstance.27 Moreover, in cases where the law prescribes a single indivisible penalty, it shall be applied regardless of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may have attended the commission of the deed.28cräläwvirtualibräry
At any rate, the court is convinced that the evidence of the prosecution has undoubtedly established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and the accused was given full opportunity to present his own evidence. The court did not rest its finding of guilt on the statement of the accused admitting the crime.
The alleged inconsistencies in the testimony of the victim do not cast doubt on her credibility. They refer to minor and insubstanial details, e.g., whether the accused embraced Jenny first before kissing her29 or kissed her first and then embraced her,30 or whether or not Jenny tried to evade her father by going to the kitchen near the water jar.31 They do not detract from the substance of her testimony that her father succeeded in performing the carnal act against her will.
This Court has ruled in numerous cases that an errorless recollection of a harrowing incident cannot be expected of a witness especially when she is recounting details of an experience so humiliating and so painful as rape.32 Minor errors in the testimony of a rape victim tend to buttress rather than weaken her credibility since that would indicate that her testimony was not contrived.33cräläwvirtualibräry
The crime of rape is defined and made punishable by Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 11 of R.A. No. 765934 which reads:
SEC. 11 Article 335 of the same Code (Revised Penal Code, as amended) is hereby amended to read as follows:
ART. 335. When and how rape is committed.- Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
1. By using force or intimidation;
2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and
3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented.
The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.
Whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.
When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death.
When the rape is attempted or frustrated and a homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion thereof, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.
When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death.
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
1. When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.
2. When the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities.
3.When the rape is committed in full view of the husband, parent, any of the children or other relatives within the third degree of consanguinity.
4. When the victim is a religious or child below seven (7) years old.
5. When the offender knows that he is afflicted with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) disease.
6. When committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency.
7. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has suffered permanent physical mutilation. (underscoring supplied).
Accordingly, the Court is constrained to affirm the death penalty imposed by the trial court. Four justices of the Court, however, have continued to maintain the unconstitutionality of Republic Act No. 7659 insofar as it prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority to the effect that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.
Relative to the monetary liability of accused-appellant, the Court, in line with prevailing jurisprudence, finds an award of P75,000.0035 by way of indemnity and an amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages to be in order. The award of P100,000.00 for exemplary damages is hereby deleted for lack of legal basis.
WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the trial court finding accused-appellant Roberto Mengote guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged and imposing upon him the penalty of death is AFFIRMED, with the modification that accused-appellant is ordered to pay P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. The award for exemplary damages is hereby deleted.
In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, upon the finality of he decision, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power. No pronouncement on costs.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo ,Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, and Gonzaga-Reyes JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 7-9.
2 Tsn., June 27, 1996, pp. 10-21.
3 Tsn., July 9, 1996, pp. 2-14.
4 Exhibit A; Tsn., July 11, 1996, pp. 2-6.
5 ibid, pp. 9-13.
6 Tsn., Aug. 6, 1996, pp. 9-23.
7 Exh. D-2.
8 Exh. D-3
9 ibid., p. 17.
10 Tsn., Nov. 12, 1996, p.5.
11 ibid. p. 20.
12 pp. 8-9.
13 Tsn., Feb. 4, pp. 6-7.
14 Tsn., Oct. 10, 1996, p. 21.
15 People vs. Betonio, 279 SCRA 532.
16 People vs. Pamor, 237 SCRA 462; People vs. Taton, 282 SCRA 300.
17 People vs. Baculi, 246 SCRA 756; People vs. Junio, 237 SCRA 826; People vs. Victor, G.R. 127903, prom. July 9, 1998.
18 Tsn., Oct. 10, 1996; pp. 14-17; Exh. D.
19 People v. Morales, 121 SCRA 426.
20 People v. Bascos, 44 Phil. 204.
21 People v. Manalang, 123 SCRA 583.
22 People v. Renegado, 57 SCRA 275.
23 Tsn., February 4, 1997,pp. 5-6.
24 pp. 7-9, Rollo.
25 p. 36, Record.
26 Tsn., February 4, 1997, pp. 2-5.
27 People v. Kayanan, 83 SCRA 437; People v. Lungbos, 162 SCRA 383.
28 Art. 63, Revised Penal Code.
29 Tsn., June 27, 1996, p. 13.
30 Tsn., Aug. 6, 1996, p. 11.
31 Tsn., June 27, 1996, pp. 13-15; Tsn., August 1, 1996, pp. 12-13.
32 People vs. Dado, 244 SCRA 655; People vs. Cura, 240 SCRA 234; People vs. Jumenez, 250 SCRA 349.
33 People vs. Ching, 240 SCRA 267.
34 R. A. No. 8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, was not yet in force at the time of the commission of the crime herein.
35 People vs. Victor, G.R. No. 127903, prom. July 09, 1998.