G. R. Nos. 148804-06 - May 27, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, vs. ORLANDO LIMIO y QUEBRAL, Appellant.
By itself, the fact that the offended party in a rape case is a mental retardate does not call for the imposition of the death penalty, unless knowledge by the offender of such mental disability is specifically alleged and adequately proved by the prosecution.
For the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, now embodied in Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), expressly provides that the death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with the qualifying circumstance of "(10) when the offender knew of the mental disability,** emotional disorder and/or physical handicap of the offended party at the time of the commission of the crime." Said knowledge, in our view, qualifies rape as a heinous offense. Absent said circumstance, which must be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, the conviction of appellant for qualified rape under Art. 266-B (10), RPC, could not be sustained, although the offender may be held liable for simple rape and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
In the present case, subject of our automatic review, there is no specific allegation in the information that the appellant knew** of the victims mental retardation. Furthermore, there is no adequate proof presented by the prosecution to establish such knowledge as a qualifying circumstance. Hence, the judgment1 of conviction of the appellant for violation of Article 266-B (10), RPC, and the imposition by the trial court of the death penalty on appellant is erroneous, and ought to be modified accordingly.
The facts of this case are culled from the records.
Appellant herein is married, a carpenter by trade, and a resident of San Vicente, Sacobia, Bamban, Tarlac. In November 1998, when the rape incidents allegedly happened, the appellant was 48 years old.
The private complainant in Crim. Cases Nos. 1333-34, Digna B. Limio, is one of appellants five children by his lawful spouse, Delia Bayan. At the time of the alleged rapes, Digna was twenty (20) years old, but had only reached Grade IV due to mental retardation.
In Criminal Case No. 1335, the private complainant is Myline2 B. Limio, the youngest child of the appellant. In November 1998, when she was allegedly raped, Myline was fifteen (15) years old. Like her older sister, Digna, she was reportedly suffering from some form of mental retardation.
On March 22, 1999, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Tarlac charged appellant of three counts of rape committed against his daughters. The accusatory portions of the informations respectively read as follows:
Before the appellant could be arraigned, the trial court, on motion of the prosecution, ordered Digna and Myline to be referred to a psychiatrist to determine their respective mental capabilities.6 On January 25, 2000, or when the trial was already well under way, Dr. Reena Soriano-Boquiren, a psychiatrist at the Tarlac Provincial Hospital, examined the Limio sisters to determine if they were indeed mentally incapacitated. Dr. Boquiren diagnosed both Digna and Myline to be suffering from "mental retardation." In her diagnostic reports, Dr. Boquiren made the identical remarks that both "could answer questions during interviews but [the questioning] should be done slowly and in a simple manner."7 The diagnostic reports prepared by Dr. Boquiren were submitted to the trial court and were noted in an Order dated February 9, 2000.8 However, the prosecution did not formally offer the reports in evidence, and did not present Dr. Boquiren to testify as an expert witness.
During the arraignment appellant, with the assistance of counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The case was then set for pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference, the parties did not present any exhibits for marking. Neither did they make any stipulations of facts or admissions except as to (1) the identity of the accused, and (2) the victims being the accuseds daughters, living with the accused in the same house. On that admission, the pre-trial conference was terminated, and trial commenced.9 Only Crim. Cases Nos. 1333 and 1334 were jointly heard until completion. The public prosecutor had to withdraw Crim. Case No. 1335 when the private complainant, Myline Limio, refused to take the witness stand. Hence, we are now concerned in this review only with Crim. Cases Nos. 1333 and 1334, involving complainant Digna Limio.
The prosecutions version, as synthesized by the Office of the Solicitor General, is as follows:
On the witness stand, Dr. Leah Rochelle G. Vergara, Chief Resident Physician of the OB-Gynecology Department of the Tarlac Provincial Hospital, testified that the lacerations she found in Dignas hymen might have been caused by sexual abuse.11 Dr. Vergara also stated that Digna had convulsive seizures, as reported by her own mother. Dr. Vergara further testified that while Digna was twenty (20) years old at the time she examined her, Dignas level of intelligence appeared to be that of a 12-year-old child.12
In his defense, appellant interposed denial and alibi. Taking the stand as the sole witness for the defense, he contended that he could not have raped Digna on November 15, 1998, as he was then in Batangas in the company of one "Jonie," a faith healer.13 He claimed that they left for Batangas at around six oclock in the evening of November 14, 1998, and arrived in Bamban at around ten oclock in the evening of November 15, 1998.14 As it was already late, he proceeded to the house of a friend, some 500 meters away from his house, and spent the night there. It was only on the morning of November 16, 1998, that he went home. But even then, he stayed home only for a short while because he rejoined "Jonie" in another healing session.
Appellant likewise asserted that he could not have possibly raped Digna on November 18, 1998, as he was then in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.15
On cross-examination, appellant testified that he had been going out on daily faith-healing sessions with "Jonie" since he stopped working as carpenter in July 1998.16 According to him, he would only go home to change his clothing.17 He declared that he provided for his family only when he could earn something or when he received money from his parents or siblings.18 Appellant claimed that it was his wife who instigated his daughters into filing the rape charges against him to make him stop going out with "Jonie," the faith healer.19
The trial court disbelieved appellants bare denial and alibi. Accepting as sufficient the prosecutions evidence only in regard to only one count of incestuous rape, the trial court accordingly rendered its judgment on May 17, 2001, disposing as follows:
In convicting the appellant of one count of qualified rape, the trial court observed that while the prosecution charged appellant with twice having carnal knowledge of the mentally deficient Digna, there was no clear showing that she was indeed ravished on two separate occasions. According to the trial court, the prosecutions evidence was categorical as to one incident of rape, allegedly in November 1998; hence, the appellant could be held accountable for only one count of rape, qualified by Dignas mental condition.
In this automatic review, appellant assigns to the trial court the following errors:
In sum, the issues for our resolution concern: (1) the sufficiency of the prosecutions evidence to prove the appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and (2) the propriety of the imposition of the death penalty on appellant.
On the first issue, the appellant assails the testimony of the private complainant for being unreliable and possibly concocted at his wifes instance. He argues that assuming, without admitting, that Digna was indeed a mental retardate, the trial court should have been more circumspect before swallowing her unsubstantiated claims hook, line, and sinker. According to him, mentally deficient persons are easily influenced by suggestions. He adds that they are susceptible to coercion and are vulnerable to exploitation by others, as shown by clinical studies. He concedes that the trial court should have considered these factors in weighing his claim that it was his wife who instigated his own daughters to file false charges of rape against him.
For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) counters that Dignas simple and straightforward testimony reveals that she was forced to give in to appellants bestial lust. Dignas mental condition, the OSG maintains, should not be taken against her, for surely a woman with the mental age of a 12-year-old child could not possibly concoct such a serious accusation against her own flesh and blood. As to appellants claim that it was his wife who insisted on filing rape charges because she did not like his being with the faith healer constantly, the OSG points out that appellant failed to explain why his wife did not want him to go with the faith healera fatal failure that rendered his claim unbelievable, if not preposterous. According to the OSG, no wife would file a charge of rape against her own husband and place him in jeopardy of facing possible capital punishment, unless she honestly believed that he had committed a grave crime against their very own daughter.
In rape cases, it has been held repeatedly to the point of being doctrinal, an accused may be convicted on the sole testimony of the victim if such testimony is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things.22 A credible witness and a credible testimony are the two essential elements in determining the weight of a particular testimony.23 In the present case, complainant Digna Limio testified that one day in November 1998, her father removed her dress and panty, had her lie down, and then inserted his private part twice into her genitals. She felt pain but did not cry.24 At the time of the incident, her mother was out selling vegetables while her younger sister, Myline, was at a neighbors house.25 After ravishing her, her father warned her not to report the incident to anyone, a warning that she obeyed.26 She further testified that she believed in God and that God would get mad at her if she told a lie, so she decided she would only tell the truth before the court.27
Despite her low intelligence, we entertain no doubt concerning Dignas testimony. It categorically shows that she had been subjected to a harrowing, unspeakable experience, which left an indelible impression in her mind. The shock to a woman of an unwelcome penile invasion is unimaginable,28 more so where the ravisher is the womans own father. Here the victim is a simple rural lass whose highest educational attainment, due to what her own mother described as "mental retardation," is Grade IV. The doctor who examined her estimated her mental age to be that of a 12-year-old child. It has been noted that in rural areas of this country, young ladies, by custom and tradition, act with circumspection and prudence, and great caution is observed so that their reputation remains untarnished.29 The records are bereft of any showing that the complainant is lacking in this traditional Filipina modesty. It is difficult to believe that an unsophisticated girl such as the offended party would brazenly impute a crime so serious as rape against any man, let alone her own father, if the charge were not true. Her willingness to face police investigation as well as suffer the embarrassment of the stigma of allowing the examination of her private parts, together with the humiliation and trouble she underwent in having to testify in open court on the painful details of her degrading experience effectively rule out a false accusation of rape. Her simple account of her ordeal evinces sincerity and truthfulness. Indeed, in this instance we agree that when the victim of rape says she has been violated, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has been committed.30
Hymenal lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best physical evidence of forcible defloration.31 In this case, Dr. Vergaras medical findings, as presented to the court at the trial, corroborate the offended partys claim of sexual violation by appellant. Dignas hymen showed the healed lacerations at the 3 oclock, 9 oclock, and 11 oclock positions. As Dr. Vergara testified, they could have resulted from sexual intercourse. When the consistent and forthright testimony of a rape victim is consistent with the medical findings, there is sufficient basis to warrant a conclusion that the essential requisites of carnal knowledge have been established.32
Appellant contends that the victims mental retardation rendered her so susceptible to her mothers control and influence that she was coerced into filing fabricated rape charges against him. This contention is difficult to accept on its face. First, we note that appellants stand on the complainants mental condition is, to say the least, equivocal. On the one hand, he faults the prosecution for its failure to present expert medical evidence to prove beyond question her state of mental retardation. On the other, he characterizes her as mentally retarded and hence, highly subject to manipulation by her irate mother. His shifting views do not aid his cause. Second, his declaration that his wife bore him a grudge for his going out with his friend, the faith healer, appears to us less than convincing as a reason to accuse him falsely of so grave a crime as incestuous rape. No mother would expose a daughter to the shame and scandal of having undergone such a debasing defilement of her chastity if she did not believe the charges were true.33 It is contrary to all human experience for a mother to use her daughter as an instrument of malice, especially if she will have to put her daughter in a position of shame and embarrassment, and cause her daughter a life-long stigma.
In stark contrast to the simple but clear declarations of the private complainant, all that the appellant stresses in his defense is alibi. An alibi is inherently weak and easily fabricated. If not substantiated by clear and convincing proof, alibi constitutes self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.34 For alibi to prosper, the appellant must not only prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed, he must also convincingly demonstrate the physical impossibility of his presence at the locus criminis at the time of the incident.35
In this case, all we have is the appellants bare assertion that he was with a faith healer named "Jonie" in Batangas on November 15, 1998, and in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga, on November 18, 1998, and thus, could not have raped the complainant on either date. Note that the appellant could not even present "Jonie" to corroborate his tale of a trip to Batangas on November 15, 1998. But even more damaging to his cause is his own statement that he returned to Capas, Tarlac, on the night of November 15, 1998, and spent the night in the house of a friend only some 500 meters away from his own house. As to his claim that he was in Mabalacat, Pampanga, on November 18, 1998, we take judicial notice that Mabalacat, Pampanga, is separated from Capas, Tarlac, only by the town of Bamban, Tarlac. The distance between Mabalacat and Capas can be traversed by public transportation in less than an hour. In short, the appellant failed to show that it was physically impossible for him to be in Capas, Tarlac, on the dates when the complainant claimed she was raped.
It is true that the prosecutions evidence did not establish the exact dates of the commission of the rapes for which the appellant stands accused. All that it could show is that the appellant raped the offended party in November 1998. Nonetheless, the date of the incident is not an essential element of the offense of rape and the proof need not correspond exactly to the allegation in the information as long as the offense was committed within the period of the statute of limitations and before the commencement of the action.36 In the face of the positive identification made by the complainant of the appellant as her ravisher, appellants defense simply crumbles. When the evidence convincingly connects the crime and culprit, the probative value of denial and alibi is negligible.37
While the record does not show that the appellant used force or intimidation in getting his victim to submit to his bestial urges, still we are unable to agree that the victim had consented to the sexual congress. In cases of rape committed by a father or a person recognized by the person as her father, the formers moral ascendancy and influence over the latter substitutes for violence and intimidation.38 No further proof need be shown to prove lack of the daughters consent to her own defilement.
On the second issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred in imposing the death penalty upon him since the prosecution failed to establish the victims mental retardation. He stresses that it was error for the trial court to consider Dr. Vergaras testimony regarding the victims mental condition because Dr. Vergara is not an expert in either psychiatry or psychology. He likewise points out that the basis for her evaluation leaves much to be desired as she relied mainly on the statements made by the victims mother during the medical examination. He relies on our ruling in People v. Cartuano, Jr.,39 that a competent clinical evaluation is necessary where a diagnosis of mental retardation can be made.
For appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General points out that under Art. 266-B (10)40 of the Revised Penal Code, what qualifies the crime of rape and allows for the imposition of the death penalty is the malefactors knowledge of the mental disability of his daughter at the time of the rape. According to the OSG, being the complainants father, appellant could not deny being aware of his daughters mental disability. Since her childhood, said the OSG, Digna had experienced convulsive seizures that caused her mental retardation. Surely, the appellant is personally aware of the mental disability of his own daughter.
The OSG also points out that appellants reliance on People v. Cartuano, Jr., will not advance his cause since it is settled that the victims mental disability may be proven by evidence other than medical evidence. Moreover, the OSG stresses the failure of the appellant to challenge or object to the testimonies of his wife and Dr. Vergara regarding complainants mental deficiency. For this procedural lapse, the appellant can no longer be allowed to raise this issue for the first time on appeal, concludes the OSG.
In sentencing appellant to death, the trial court applied Art. 266-B (10) of the Revised Penal Code and held that "being the father of the victim, accused undoubtedly is aware of his daughters mental disability, emotional disorder, and/or her physical handicap at the time he raped her."41 On this vital point, we have to differ from the trial courts ratiocination.
The trial court found that the testimonies of the victims mother and Dr. Vergara established that the complainant was suffering from some form of mental retardation. It is also concluded that it was unnecessary for the prosecution to submit a medical report on Dignas condition and present the examining psychiatrist. Mental abnormality may be established by evidence other than medical evidence or psychiatric evaluation; it may be established by the testimonies of witnesses.42 However, in our view, the mere fact that the rape victim is a mental retardate does not automatically merit the imposition of the death penalty. Under Article 266-B (10) of the Revised Penal Code, knowledge by the offender of the mental disability, emotional disorder, or physical handicap at the time of the commission of the rape is the qualifying circumstance that sanctions the imposition of the death penalty. As such this circumstance must be formally alleged in the information and duly proved by the prosecution.
Rule 11043 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure requires both qualifying and aggravating circumstances to be alleged with specificity in the information. While the rape complained of took place in November 1998, we should give retroactive application to Sections 8 and 9 of the said Rule as they are favorable to the accused. In this case, the information merely states that Digna is a mental retardate. It does not specifically state that the appellant knew of her mental disability at the time of the commission of the rape. Even if we accept that Dignas feeble mental condition was alleged and proven, appellants knowledge of her mental disability was not satisfactorily established as a qualifying circumstance of the offense. It is the burden of the prosecution to prove with certainty this qualifying circumstance as well as the basic elements of the crime charged. That the offender knew of the mental disability of the victim at the time the rape was committed was merely assumed. This much is clear from the OSGs submission that he should know her mental condition because he was the father. But in the absence of a specific or particular allegation in the information that the appellant knew of her mental disability or retardation, as well as lack of adequate proof that appellant knew of this fact, Article 266-B (10), RPC, could not be properly applied and the death penalty cannot be validly imposed.
Hence, the appellant can only be convicted of simple rape,44 as defined under Article 266-A (1) of the Rev. Penal Code, for which the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua.45
Conformably with prevailing jurisprudence, the amount of civil indemnity as well as moral damages awarded by the trial court should be reduced to
WHEREFORE, the judgment dated May 17, 2001, of the Regional Trial Court of Capas, Tarlac, Branch 66, finding the appellant Orlando Limio y Quebral GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of one (1) count of rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Appellants sentence is hereby reduced to reclusion perpetua with all its accessory penalties. Appellant is further ORDERED to pay the offended party, Digna B. Limio,
Davide, Jr.*, Puno**, Vitug***, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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