G. R. No. 146803 - January 14, 2004
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, vs. CLEMENTINO LOU y GALINDO alias "Junior," appellant.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal to the Court is the decision, dated 09 November 2000, in Criminal Case No. 3635 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6,1 of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, finding appellant Clementino Lou y Galindo guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the commission of the crime of rape "defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, Section 11 thereof." The trial court imposed upon appellant the death penalty and the payment of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) by way of civil indemnity to the victim.
The accusatory information read:
At his arraignment, appellant, with the assistance of counsel, pled not guilty to the charge.
The prosecution presented its evidence tending to prove that
Dr. Rebecca R. Aquino examined Elgie on 24 April 1996, and prepared a medico-legal report. She found Elgie to have had "completely healed lacerations" at the 3 and 8 oclock hymenal positions but that there were no abrasions, hematoma and contusions. Dr. Aquino explained that the laceration could have been caused by sexual intercourse, "medical instrumentation," the "passage of clotted blood thru menstruation," or "severe physical exertion."
On 25 April 1996, Elgie, assisted by her mother Judith, filed a complaint for rape, on three counts, against appellant, one committed "on or about 3:00 oclock day time of 1995," the second "on February 7, 1996 [at] 2:00 oclock in the afternoon" and the third on "April 22, 1996 [at] 12:00 oclock night time right in the residence of the victim particularly at Balite, Purok 8, Bayugan 3, Rosario, Agusan del Sur."3 (Still, for unexplained reasons, the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Sur filed the information, hereinbefore quoted, charging only one crime of rape, i.e., that which was averred to have been committed at midnight on 22 April 1996.)
Appellant testified in his defense. He claimed that Judith, Elgies mother, was his common-law wife from 1991 to 1996. Judith thereafter lived with another man. On 22 April 1996, appellant said he was at home with his two children by Judith and two other persons, Marlon Ayaton and Rosendo Barrios, who were then working for him. Appellant denied having sexually molested Elgie on the evening of 22 April 1996. The "truth," he claimed, was that, at about ten oclock that night, he mauled Elgie after seeing her in bed with Marlon and Rosendo. Days later, policemen invited him to the police station and put him in jail. He was told that Elgie had accused him of raping her three times.
The trial court saw the case for the prosecution; it found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape for which it meted the death penalty.
In this automatic review of the case, appellant, through counsel, would contend that
In reviewing rape cases, the Court is so guided, as usual, by these principles: That -
The crime of rape can be committed by, among other ways, "having carnal knowledge of a woman" with the use of force or intimidation.6 Intimidation is subjective, and it is addressed to the mind of the person against whom it is employed at the time and occasion of the crime. While there is no hard and fast rule to test its presence,7 one accepted norm, nevertheless, is whether the intimidation produces a reasonable fear in the mind of the victim that if she were to resist or were not to yield to the desires of the malefactor, the threat would be carried out.8
The victim was still young when she began to live with her mother and appellant, her mothers common-law husband, whom she recognized to be a "stepfather." The relationship between appellant and the victim was far from ideal. Appellant repeatedly maltreated the girl, a fact that he himself admitted. The threat of another round of abuse proved all too real that midnight of 22 April 1996, when appellant verbalized his intention to harm her upon entering her room. It was not unnatural that the young girl would be cowed by appellant. The victim testified:
Contrary to the claim of appellant, the victims submission to his lust was not free from struggle. She did resist the sexual advances.
The medical report that there have been "healed lacerations" found in the 3 and 8 oclock hymenal positions would not refute the existence of rape. Proof of entry of the male organ within the labia of the pudendum is sufficient.11 The full penetration of the victims sex organ is not required to consummate the crime of rape. Neither is proof of hymenal laceration an element of rape.12 In People v. Madronio,13 the Court has said that the "presence of an old healed laceration on [the victims] hymen does not negate the commission of rape," and that a "freshly broken hymen is not an essential element of the crime." Moreover, a medico-legal report is not indispensable in the prosecution of a rape case, it being merely corroborative in nature.14 In this case, the medical report also reflects the fact that the victim has had "[n]o abrasions, hematoma and contusions" in "the vulva or in other parts of the body," that belie appellants claim that he only "mauled" the victim with his bare hands, instead of sexually abusing her, that night of 22 April 1996.
Appellant assails the credibility of the victim at the witness stand. Like before, this Court must defer to the assessment and evaluation given by the trial court on this issue. It is the trial court that would be in such unique a position as to be able to observe the deportment of the witness while testifying.16 There is here no cogent reason to overturn the judgment of the trial court.
It is claimed that the victims motive in filing the rape charge has only been to exact vengeance and to get rid of appellant. The Court has consistently disregarded this kind of assertion as being too trite to merit consideration. In one case, the allegation that the rape victim has just wanted to "get rid" of an accused due to the maltreatment which she and her mother have suffered in his hands has been held by the Court to be "too unnatural to merit faith and credit."16 Truly, as has so often been said, neither the victim nor a mother would expose the family to shame and scandal if the charge were merely impelled by a motive other than to exact justice.17
Appellant argues that the victims getting married soon after her supposed horrendous ordeal is uncharacteristic of a rape victim. Appellant apparently fits the fact of her marriage into his own desperate mold of defense. He fails to consider the fact that different people react differently to given situations and that there is no known standard form of human behavioral response when confronted particularly with a frightful experience.18 In any case, her subsequent marriage is of no moment; indeed, it could have even strengthened her determination to pursue her complaint to its just conclusion.
On 27 September 2001, Elgie, after consulting with her mother, executed and filed with this Court an affidavit of desistance. An affidavit of desistance is not looked upon with favor on appeal following a conviction, let alone as being the sole consideration for the reversal of that conviction. There must be other circumstances which, when coupled with retraction or desistance, create doubts on the veracity of the testimony given by witnesses during the trial.19 The records do not here cast such doubts. A rape victim, who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner, and remains consistent, is a credible witness.20 The victim in this case has remained steadfast in her testimony despite a rigid cross-examination made by the defense. The spontaneous emotional breakdowns suffered by the victim occasioned by the forced recollection of the sexual violation she has experienced from the hands of appellant somehow would add to her credibility.21
There is merit, however, in the contention that the death penalty should not be imposed upon appellant.
As so amended by Republic Act No. 7659, Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
The information averred that the victim was fifteen (15) years of age at the time of the commission of the crime. On the witness stand, the victim claimed to be 16 years old, but no other evidence, testimonial or documentary, was presented. It was the defense counsel who asked her on cross-examination if she had a birth certificate to prove her age. Even while the victim had testified to the existence of a birth certificate in the possession of her mother, the prosecution, however, failed to pursue the matter and ignored the disclosure. The information alleged the victim to be the "stepdaughter"23 of appellant, but the evidence adduced showed that the victims mother and appellant had only lived together for a while as just common-law husband and wife.
The crime committed by appellant is simple rape for which the penalty of reclusion perpetua is prescribed. The trial court correctly awarded civil indemnity of P50,000.00 but it has overlooked the prevailing rule that, in rape cases, moral damages should similarly be awarded.24
WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that appellant Clementino Lou y Galindo is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of simple rape for which he shall suffer the penalty, not of death, but of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is further ordered to pay to the victim fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) moral damages in addition to the civil indemnity of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) already decreed by the trial court. Costs de oficio.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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