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G.R. Nos. 115908-09 (December 6, 1995)

This is an automatic review of the decision of the RTC in view of the death sentence
imposed upon Danny Godoy, who was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of
rape and kidnapping with serious illegal detention.

Complainant Mia Taha alleged that Godoy, her Physics Teacher and a married man
raped her first on Jan. 21, 1994 in her cousins boarding. As Godoy was about to rape her, a
knife was pointed at her neck. As such, she was not able to resist. The next day, Godoy came
by their house and asked the permission of her parents if she can join him in soliciting funds,
since Mia was a candidate for Ms. Palawan National School (PNS). Mias parents allowed her to
go with Godoy and she was allegedly brought to the Sunset Garden Motel where she was
repeatedly raped again. After three days, they transferred to Edwards subdivision where she
was kept in a lodging house and was again raped.

During this time, a police blotter had already been placed for the missing Mia. She was
later released by Godoy after a certain Naem interceded and only after her parents agreed to
settle the case. It was after Mias return that her parents accompanied her to a medico-legal
which found lacerations in her vagina concluding that she just had sexual intercourse. She and
her mother Helen went to the police and executed sworn statements stating that the accused
Godoy had raped and abducted Mia.

Godoy denied that he raped Mia Taha. He admitted having had sex with her and that
they indeed stayed in Sunset Gardens and in Edwards Subdivision, but it was because they
were lovers and that Mia had consented to their having sex. To support his claim that they were
lovers, he presented two letters supposedly delivered to him by Mias cousin, Lorna, in the
provincial jail while he was detained. There Mia explained that it was her parents who forced her
to testify against him.

The delivery of the letters was denied by Lorna but the defense presented the provincial
jail guard on duty on the supposed dates of the delivery and testified that indeed Lorna had
visited Godoy on said dates. Several witnesses were also presented including two former
teachers of Mia who knew the handwriting on the two said letters as belonging to Mia. Other
witnesses were presented by the defense attesting that they saw the two together in a manner
that was affectionate and cordial, prior to the said kidnapping and even during such.

Whether or not the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of
the accused?
Whether or not in rape cases, the complainant's claim of having been threatened can be
taken as a matter of judicial notice?

The basic rule remains that in all criminal prosecutions without regard to the nature of
the defense which the accused may raise, the burden of proof remains at all times upon the
prosecution to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the accused raises a sufficient
doubt as to any material element, and the prosecution is then unable to overcome this evidence,
the prosecution has failed to carry its burden of proof of the guilt of the accused beyond a
reasonable doubt and the accused must be acquitted.
No, the prosecution failed to prove guilt of Godoy. The trial court made no serious effort
to dispassionately or impartially consider the totality of the evidence for the prosecution in spite
of the teaching in various rulings that in rape cases, the testimony of the offended party must
not be accepted with precipitate credulity. In finding that the crime of rape was committed, the
lower court took into account only that portion of the testimony of complainant regarding the
incident and conveniently deleted the rest. Taken singly, there would be reason to believe that
she was indeed raped. But if we are to consider the other portions of her testimony concerning
the events which transpired thereafter, which unfortunately the court a quo wittingly or
unwittingly failed or declined to appreciate, the actual truth could have been readily exposed.

The Supreme Court acquitted Danny Godoy.

Three guiding principles in the appellate review of the evidence of the prosecution for the
crime of rape, namely: a) while rape is a most detestable crime, it must be borne in mind that it
is an accusation easy to be made, hard to be proved, but harder to be defended by the party
accused, though innocent; b) the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme
caution; and c) that the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and
cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.

Mia claimed that the appellant always carried a knife but it was never explained how she
was threatened with the same in such a manner that she was allegedly always cowed into
giving in to his innumerable sexual demands. In taking judicial notice, the Supreme Court said
that it is not unaware that in rape cases, the claim of the complainant of having been threatened
appears to be a common testimonial expedient and face-saving subterfuge. But it had not been
duly corroborated by other evidence nor proved that the accused indeed always carried a knife.

Likewise, complainant testified that appellant raped her through the use of force and
intimidation (specifically by holding a knife to her neck). However, the element of force was not
sufficiently established. The physical facts adverted to by the lower court as corroborative of the
prosecution's theory on the use of force are undoubtedly the medico-legal findings of Dr. Rogelio
Divinagracia. Upon closer scrutiny, however, we find that said findings neither support nor confirm
the charge that rape was so committed through forcible means by appellant against complainant on
January 21, 1994. (Dr. Divinagracia further testified that he could not say that there was force
applied because there were no scratches or bruises, but only a week-old laceration).

While the "sweetheart theory" does not often gain favor with this Court, such is not
always the case if the hard fact is that the accused and the supposed victim are, in truth,
intimately related except that, as is usual in most cases, either the relationship is illicit or the
victim's parents are against it. It is not improbable that in some instances, when the relationship
is uncovered, the alleged victim or her parents for that matter would rather take the risk of
instituting a criminal action in the hope that the court would take the cudgels for them than for
the woman to admit to her own acts of indiscretion. And this, as the records reveal, is precisely
what happened to appellant.

Appellant's claim that he and complainant were lovers is fortified by the highly credible
testimonies of several witnesses for the defense

The SC also takes judicial cognizance of the fact that in rural areas (such as in Palawan)
young ladies are strictly required to act with circumspection and prudence. Great caution is
observed so that their reputations shall remain untainted. Any breath of scandal which brings
dishonor to their character humiliates their entire families. It could precisely be that
complainants mother wanted to save face in the community where everybody knows everybody
else, and in an effort to conceal her daughters indiscretion and escape wagging tongues of their
small rural community, she had to weave the scenario of this rape drama.