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DECISION CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: For Review under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court is the Decision1 dated 14 July 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CR-HC No. 02533, entitled People of the Philippines v. Edwin Mejia, affirming, with modification, the Decision2 rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, Branch 57 in Criminal Cases No. SCC-4080-4081, finding accused-appellant Edwin Mejia guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of Rape and Acts of Lasciviousness. On 2 March 2003, private complainant’s (AAA’s)3 womanhood was allegedly violated by a man cohabiting with her mother (BBB) as common-law-spouse. BBB was already living separately from AAA’s father at the time the crime were committed at BBB’s and accused-appellant’s residence. This dastardly act led to AAA’s pregnancy. Out of fear and shame, it took some time before AAA had the courage to report the incident to her relatives. On 9 October 2003, after appropriate proceedings, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Pangasinan filed, with the RTC of San Carlos City in Pangasinan, two separate informations for Rape under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, docketed as Criminal Cases No. SCC-4080 and No. SCC-4081. The informations charging accused-appellant Edwin Mejia read: CRIMINAL CASE NO. SCC-4080 That on or about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of March 2, 2003, in Barangay XXX, XXX City, Pangasinan, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force, intimidation or violence, and with lewd designs, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, has (sic) carnal knowledge with his step-daughter AAA, against her will and consent. Contrary to Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code.4 CRIMINAL CASE NO. SCC-4081 That on or about 8:00 o’clock in the morning of March 2, 2003, in Barangay XXX, XXX City, Pangasinan, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force, intimidation or violence, and with lewd design, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, has (sic) carnal knowledge with his step-daughter AAA, against her will and consent.
Contrary to Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code.5 Both criminal cases were raffled to Branch 57, presided by Judge Anthony Sison, and thereafter consolidated and jointly tried. On arraignment, the Informations were read to accused-appellant in a dialect known to, and understood by, him; and with the assistance of his counsel, accused-appellant pleaded NOT GUILTY to both charges.6 Pre-trial was conducted on 23 April 2004 but only the identities of the parties to the case were admitted therein.7 Thereafter, trial on the merits commenced. Two witnesses testified. Private complainant AAA testified for the prosecution. Accused-appellant Edwin Mejia testified for the defense. AAA, 18 years old, single and a resident of Barangay XXX, XXX City in Pangasinan, testified that on 2 March 2003, she, who was less than 18 years old at that time, was fetched by her mother BBB from her grandmother’s house where she lives. She was to take care of her two- month-old brother at BBB’s house in Barangay XXX, XXX City, Pangasinan. Accused-appellant was BBB’s live-in partner, who resided in the same house as BBB. BBB left for Dagupan City, where she sold vegetables at the market.
While AAA was babysitting her brother, accused-appellant, who was armed with a bolo, forcibly held her, laid her on the living room floor (sala) and with the use of threats, undressed her and removed her panty. He then removed his short pants and brief and placed himself on top of AAA. Appellant inserted his penis into AAA’s vagina, and as he did, she felt pain. Satisfying his sexual desire after about three minutes of inserting his penis inside AAA’s vagina, accused-appellant removed it from AAA’s vagina and dressed up. Accused-appellant threatened to kill AAA and her mother should she leave the house and/or report the incident. Because she was afraid of the threat, AAA stayed inside the bedroom for several hours. At 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day, accused-appellant went inside the bedroom where AAA was babysitting her brother. He pulled her hair and placed himself on top of her, but failed to insert his penis into her private part. Accusedappellant warned her not to tell anyone about the incident. AAA went back to her grandparents’ house in XXX. AAA did not inform her grandparents about the abominable act accused-appellant committed upon her person out of fear due to his threats. However, she told her aunt with whom she lived in XXX about her pregnancy, for she could no longer hide the change in her physical appearance. After telling her aunt, private complainant reported the incident to the police station, where she executed her sworn statement. AAA also underwent medical examination. On cross-examination, AAA stated that BBB and accused-appellant started living as husband and wife in XXX, XXX City, Pangasinan when she was 16 years old. Her father (FFF) and her mother BBB had been living separately. Private complainant disclosed that she was under the care of her maternal grandparents and did not live with her mother BBB and accused-appellant. Upon AAA’s arrival at the house of BBB and accused-appellant, accused-appellant was out of town harvesting mangoes. Accused-appellant arrived after the harvest was done. She was taking some time to rest after doing household chores, and after the children of BBB with accused-appellant had already left for school. AAA said that when she arrived at the house of
her mother, accused-appellant was still talking to Noel Soriano who just lived nearby. The defense presented accused-appellant Edwin Mejia. Accused-appellant declared that at around 8:00 o’clock in the morning of 2 March 2003, he was not in their home in XXX. Accused-appellant insisted he was harvesting mango fruits in Barangay Casantiagoan in Manaoag, Pangasinan, from 1 March 2003 to 3 March 2003. He claimed it was impossible for him to have raped AAA, because he was in Manaoag, Pangasinan from 1 March 2003 at around 5:00 o’clock in the morning, with a certain Bong Estrada, and returned home only on 3 March 2003 at around 6:00 o’clock in the evening. He said he did not live with AAA, as the latter stayed in the house of his brother-in-law in XXX town. Accused-appellant explained that AAA was the daughter of his live-in partner/common-law-wife BBB by her husband. When AAA was only 10 years old, accused-appellant and BBB started to cohabit. He had five children with BBB, and they resided in XXX, XXX City, Pangasinan. Accused-appellant described his relationship with AAA as cold and aloof, primarily due to the fact that AAA hated him for hurting her mother because of his vicious lifestyle. He said that he had a good relationship with BBB despite the fact that her family and AAA disliked him. Accused-appellant claimed the rape charges AAA filed against him were fabricated because he was in Manaoag, Pangasinan, harvesting mangoes at the time of the alleged incident. He, however, said that the distance from Manaoag, Pangasinan to XXX City, Pangasinan could be traveled for more or less one hour, using the same elf truck they used going to Manaoag and back to XXX City. On 18 September 2006, the trial court8 found accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of (a) Rape in Criminal Case No. SCC-4081; and (b) Acts of Lasciviousness in Criminal Case No. SCC-4080, ruling in this wise: WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Edwin Mejia, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Rape as charged under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code in Criminal Case No. SCC-4081, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua. Accused is directed to pay the victim P50,000.00 as indemnity. However, as to Criminal Case No. SCC-4080, it is settled that each charge of rape is a separate and distinct crime and each must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Mere laying on top of the alleged victim even if naked does not constitute rape. The prosecution therefore failed to prove the essential elements of rape, but the Court finds accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the lesser offense of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of 6 months of arresto mayor, as minimum to 3 years of prision correctional, as maximum. The court a quo gave more credence to the testimony of private complainant AAA, who charged accused-appellant with committing the bestial act resulting in her pregnancy. The trial court applied the principle that an affirmative testimony carries more weight than a mere denial. Accused-appellant’s denial was found to be unsubstantiated and merely self-serving, vis-à-vis the positive declaration of AAA and the frank manner in which she recounted her ordeal. In fact, the defense of alibi put up by accused-appellant was uncorroborated. Finally, the element of hate was not given much weight by the trial court. It stated that, assuming this element was present, it did not detract from AAA’s credibility. The trial court appreciated the qualifying circumstance of minority and relationship, so that under Article 266-B of Republic
Act No. 8353, the penalty would have been death. With the suspension of the death penalty due to the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, the RTC imposed reclusion perpetua. Insisting on his innocence and invoking the twin defenses of denial and alibi, accused-appellant elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via a notice of appeal. Thus, on 14 July 2008, the Court of Appeals affirmed accused-appellant’s guilt in the two cases, but modified the decision of the court a quo by disregarding the qualifying circumstance of minority and awarding moral damages, to wit: WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court in Crim Case No. 6295 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, to wit: (1) In Criminal Case No. SCC-4081, appellant Edwin Mejia is hereby found guilty of simple rape and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is further ORDERED to indemnify AAA in the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as moral damages. (2) In Criminal Case No. SCC-4080, appellant Edwin Mejia is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of Six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum to three (3) years of prision correctional, as maximum.9 The Court of Appeals was not persuaded by accused-appellant’s contention that hatred caused AAA to concoct rape charges against him. This attempt to discredit AAA failed. The Court of Appeals ruled that the hate element was too petty a cause for the victim’s family to fabricate allegations of rape. Motive is not necessary when the identity of the wrongdoer is positively identified by the victim herself. In giving full credit to AAA’s testimony, the appellate court affirmed the dictum that the assessment of trial courts is generally viewed as correct and entitled to great weight. The Court of Appeals opposed the trial court’s appreciation of the qualifying circumstance of minority of the victim in view of the information’s failure to allege such circumstance and the prosecution’s failure to adduce proof as to the age of AAA at the time the alleged rape took place. The qualifying circumstance of minority was not sufficiently established by independent proof during trial. Thus, the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were not appreciated by the Court of Appeals. Hence, this appeal before this Court. On 4 February 2009, the Court required the parties to simultaneously submit their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desired.10 Both defense and prosecution manifested that they would adopt their briefs filed before the Court of Appeals in order to avoid repetition of the arguments and to expedite the resolution of the instant case.11 The case was thereafter deemed submitted for decision. Asking for his acquittal, accused-appellant raises the following assignment of errors: I.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. II.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF MINORITY OF THE VICTIM ALTHOUGH THE INFORMATION DOES NOT ALLEGE SUCH CIRCUMSTANCE AND THAT THE PROSECUTION INTRODUCED NO PROOF AS TO THE AGE OF THE VICTIM AT THE TIME THE ALLEGED RAPE INCIDENT HAPPENED. The defense argues that it was impossible for accused-appellant to have raped AAA, for two reasons. First, he and AAA did not reside at the same place. Second, at the time the alleged rape incident took place, accused-appellant was harvesting mangoes in Casantiagoan, Pangasinan. Accused-appellant attempts to discredit AAA by showing that AAA was actuated by ill motives. Accused-appellant asserts that AAA had a very strong motive against him, elucidating that AAA and BBB’s family hated him because he hurt BBB. The defense also questions the trial court’s appreciation of the qualifying circumstance of minority when the information failed to allege such circumstance and the prosecution did not present proof pertaining to the age of the victim at the time the alleged rape took place. On the side of the prosecution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) supports accused-appellant’s conviction. However, it agrees that accused-appellant should only be convicted of Simple Rape in Criminal Case No. SCC-4081, because the qualifying circumstance of minority was neither alleged in the information nor proved in the trial. The appeal fails. The Informations charge accused-appellant with the crime of Rape, defined and penalized under the provisions of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, viz: ART. 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. – Rape is committed – 1. By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: a. Through force, threat or intimidation. The prosecution must be able to establish the following essential elements under Article 266-A(1)(a) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, namely: (a) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (b) that the same was committed by using force and intimidation. Accused-appellant anchors his claim of innocence on two defenses, denial and alibi. At the same time, accused-appellant impugns the credibility of AAA. In resolving rape cases, this Court is guided by the following principles: (a) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but even more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (b) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with
extreme caution; (c) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense; and (d) the evaluation of the trial court judges regarding the credibility of witnesses deserves utmost respect on the ground that they are in the best position to observe the demeanor, act, conduct, and attitude of the witnesses in court while testifying.12 In light of these principles and considering the gravity of the offense charged and the severity of the penalty that may be imposed, this Court has meticulously evaluated the entire records and transcript of stenographic notes, and find no reason to deviate from the appellate court’s findings.
Indeed, at the heart of almost all rape cases is the issue of credibility of witnesses, where conviction or acquittal of the accused may depend entirely on the credibility of the victim’s testimony, as only the participants therein can testify to its occurrence. By the nature of rape, the only evidence that oftentimes is available is the victim's own declaration. The rule is clear that the lone testimony of the victim in the crime of rape, if credible, is sufficient to sustain a conviction. In challenging the credibility of AAA’s accusations against him, accused-appellant points out the confusion in her testimony as to the exact time of the alleged rape to show that AAA was concocting the charges. He claims that AAA was moved by hatred, as accused-appellant often hurt AAA’s mother BBB. However, time and again, this Court has emphasized that the manner of assigning values to declarations of witnesses on the witness stand is best and most competently performed by the trial judge who has the unique and unmatched opportunity to observe the witnesses and assess their credibility. In essence, when the question arises as to which of the conflicting versions of the prosecution and the defense is worthy of belief, the assessment of the trial court is generally given the highest degree of respect, if not finality. The assessment made by the trial court is even more enhanced when the Court of Appeals affirms the same, as in this case. Moreover, although AAA’s testimony was allegedly marred by confusion as to the time of the rape, the supposed inconsistency refers to a minor detail, which cannot affect the credibility of the testimony as a whole.
On accused-appellant’s claim -- that he could not have raped AAA since 2 March 2003 was a Sunday; thus, his five children were home -- is of no merit, as lust is no respecter of time and place. This Court has repeatedly held that rape can be committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, and even inside a house where there are other occupants or where other members of the family are also sleeping. Thus, it is an accepted rule in criminal law that rape may be committed even when the rapist and the victim are not alone. The fact is, rape may even be committed in the same room while the rapist’s spouse is asleep, or in a small room where other family members also sleep.14 Accused-appellant relies on his averment that he was harvesting mangoes in Casantiagoan, Pangasinan when the incidents occurred. For alibi to succeed as a defense, the accused must establish by clear and convincing evidence (a) his presence at another place at the time of the perpetration of the offense and (b) the physical impossibility of his presence at the scene of
the crime.15 No other principle in criminal law jurisprudence is more settled than that alibi is the frailest of all defenses as it is prone to fabrication. The defense failed to prove the physical impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime. As testified to by accusedappellant, the distance from Casantiagoan, Pangasinan to the house of BBB in XXX town, which was the scene of the crime, can be traversed by ordinary commute in a span of one hour.16 It was thus not physically impossible for him to have been at the locus criminis. Accused-appellant’s defense of denial is inherently weak. Jurisprudence has established that the defense of denial assumes significance only when the prosecution’s evidence is such that it does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Mere denial, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative, self-serving evidence, which cannot be given greater evidentiary weight than the testimony of the complaining witness who testified on affirmative matters. While accusedappellant claimed to be in the company of a group of men during those times, the defense could not present even a single corroborative testimony. Appellant’s denial and alibi cannot prevail over the affirmative testimony of AAA, more so when the records lack any suggestion that AAA’s testimony should be seen in a suspicious light. In all, the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant is guilty of Rape in Criminal Case No. SCC-4081. Simple rape is punished under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code by the single indivisible penalty of reclusion perpetua. Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code mandates that the death penalty shall be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances: (1) When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim; Although the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship were appreciated by the trial court, the Court of Appeals correctly disregarded them. These qualifying circumstances cannot be considered in fixing the penalty because minority, though proved, was not alleged in the information. As regards relationship, the same was alleged and proved. Pursuant, however, to Section 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, in order to fall within subparagraph 1 of said provision, both circumstances of minority and relationship must be alleged in the information and proved during trial. In People v. Tabanggay,17 we held: Jurisprudence dictates that when the law specifies certain circumstances that will qualify an offense and thus attach to it a greater degree of penalty, such circumstances must be both alleged and proven in order to justify the imposition of the graver penalty. Recent rulings of the Court relative to the rape of minors invariably state that in order to justify the imposition of death, there must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by the accused. A duly certified certificate of live birth accurately showing the complainant's age, or some other official document or record such as a school record, has been recognized as competent evidence. In the instant case, we find insufficient the bare testimony of private complainants and their mother as to their ages as well
as their kinship to the appellant. x x x [We] cannot agree with the solicitor general that appellant's admission of his relationship with his victims would suffice. Elementary is the doctrine that the prosecution bears the burden of proving all the elements of a crime, including the qualifying circumstances. In sum, the death penalty cannot be imposed upon appellant.18 The twin circumstances of minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender must concur to qualify the crime of rape.19 In the instant case, only relationship was duly alleged and proved.
As amended, and effective 1 December 2000, Secs. 8 and 9, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure now provide that aggravating as well as qualifying circumstances must be alleged in the information and proven during trial; otherwise they cannot be considered against the accused. Proof of the age of the victim cannot consist merely of testimony. Neither can a stipulation of the parties with respect to the victim’s age be considered sufficient proof of minority.20 Thus, the same cannot be used to impose the higher penalty of capital punishment on the accused-appellant. Anent the award of damages, civil indemnity ex delicto is mandatory upon a finding of the fact of rape, while moral damages are awarded upon such finding without need of further proof, because it is assumed that a rape victim has actually suffered moral injuries entitling the victim to such award.21 The Court of Appeals correctly awarded (a) P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and (b) P50,000.00 as moral damages to the victim, pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence.22 Exemplary damages are not awarded in light of the absence of proven aggravating circumstances. With respect to Criminal Case No. SCC-4080, we are in full agreement with the trial court and Court of Appeals in downgrading the crime from rape to acts of lasciviousness inasmuch as carnal knowledge was not established. The mere act of lying on top of the alleged victim, even if naked, does not constitute rape. Instead, the Court finds accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code. The felony of acts of lasciviousness, a crime included in rape, is defined and penalized by Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, thus: ART. 336. Acts of lasciviousness. - Any person who shall commit any act of lasciviousness upon other persons of either sex, under any of the circumstances mentioned in the preceding article, shall be punished by prision correccional. Its elements are as follows: 1. That the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness. 2. That it is done under any of the following circumstances: a. By using force or intimidation; or b. When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; or c. When the offended party is under 12 years of age.
3. That the offended party is another person of either sex.23 The Court finds accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the lesser offense of acts of lasciviousness with the presence of the foregoing elements, specifically: (1) the acts of lasciviousness or lewdness and (2) the fact that these were done by using force or intimidation. The penalty for the felony of acts of lasciviousness is prision correccional in its full range. Reducing the penalty by one degree to determine the minimum of the indeterminate penalty, such penalty is arresto mayor, which has a range of one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months. The minimum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the full range of arresto mayor. Absent any modifying circumstances attendant to the crime, the maximum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the medium period of prision correccional. Accordingly, accused-appellant is hereby meted an indeterminate penalty of six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three years of prision correccional, as maximum in Criminal Case No. SCC-4080. Moreover, the amount of P30,000.00 as moral damages is awarded to the victim.241awphil WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Court of Appeals finding accused-appellant Edwin Mejia, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Simple Rape and Acts of Lasciviousness is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that in Criminal Case No. SCC-4080, the amount of P30,000 is awarded to the victim as moral damages. No costs. SO ORDERED.
.R. No. L-20216 and L-20217 November 29, 1967 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellant, vs. TIBURCIO BALBAR, defendant-appellee. Office of the Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellant. Pedro M. Belmi for defendant-appellee. MAKALINTAL, J.: On August 20, 1960 defendant-appellee Tiburcio Balbar allegedly entered the room where schoolteacher Ester Gonzales, complainant herein, was conducting her classes. Without warning and right after complainant had finished writing on the blackboard, defendant allegedly placed his arms around her and kissed her on the eye. Shocked, complainant instinctively pushed Balbar away and tried to flee. Defendant allegedly brought out his "daga" (a local dagger) and pursued complainant, catching up with her before she was able to get out of the room. Defendant embraced her again, at the same time holding on to his "daga". They both fell to the floor, as a result of which complainant sustained slight physical injuries.
Two informations, one for Direct Assault Upon A Person in Authority and another for Acts of Lasciviousness (Criminal Cases Nos. 823 and 841 respectively) were filed by the Assistant Provincial Fiscal against defendant before the Court of First Instance of Batangas, the latter charge upon written complaint filed by the offended party duly sworn to before the Clerk of Court. The information for Direct Assault Upon A Person in Authority is hereunder quoted: The undersigned Assistant Provincial Fiscal accuses Tiburcio Balbar of the crime of Assault upon a Person in Authority, committed as follows: That on or about the 29th day of August, 1960, in Barrio Camba, Municipality of Lian, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault Miss Ester Gonzales, a public school teacher in the school building of Lian, duly qualified and appointed as such and while in the performance of her official duties or on the occasion therefor, by then and there pulling his dagger, braced and kissed, and repeatedly trying to embrace and kiss the said teacher, Miss Ester Gonzales. That the crime was committed with the aggravating circumstances of having committed it inside the public school building and during school classes. CONTRARY TO LAW. The information for Acts of Lasciviousness reads: At the instance of the offended party in the above-entitled case the undersigned Assistant Provincial Fiscal accuses TIBURCIO BALBAR of the crime of acts of lasciviousness committed as follows: That on or about the 29th day of August, 1960, in the Barrio of Cumba, Municipality of Lian, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with the deliberate intent to satisfy his lust, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit an act of lasciviousness on the person of Miss Ester Gonzales, a public school teacher, by then and there placing himself close to her, embracing and kissing her against her will and by means of force, and as a consequence thereof said offended party fell to the floor resulting to her injury which caused her pain and tenderness on the right side of the trunk on the posterior surface of the right arm which injuries may require 3 to 4 days to heal; that the crime was committed with the aggravating circumstance that the same was perpetrated inside the public school building and during class hour. CONTRARY TO LAW. The accused filed separate motions to quash, contending that "(a) with respect to Criminal Case No. 823 for Direct Assault, the information does not charge a sufficient cause of action and that it charges two offenses in a single complaint; and (b) with respect to Criminal Case No. 841 for Acts of Lasciviousness, . . . that the accused would be placed in double jeopardy and that the complaint charges two offenses." On August 16, 1962, over the opposition of the Assistant Provincial Fiscal, the court a quo issued an order quashing the two informations. Said the court: After reading the informations in both criminal cases, the Court agrees with counsel that the acts committed by the accused as alleged in the two informations constitute one offense. As regards the motion to quash filed in Criminal Case No. 841, the grounds alleged in support thereof are: (1) that the accused would be placed in double jeopardy; and (2) that the criminal complaint charges two offenses. Without discussing the merits of these grounds above-quoted, the Court believes that the information filed in Criminal Case No. 841 should be dismissed or quashed for the
reason that the offense charged therein is already absorbed in the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 823. Thus, the dispositive portion of the order reads: WHEREFORE, it is the opinion of this Court that the information in Criminal Case No. 823 which charges only unjust vexation or physical injuries should be quashed for the reason that the same is within the original jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace. And, as to the information in criminal Case No. 841, the same should likewise be quashed on the ground that the acts complained of is already included in Criminal No. 823. From this order, the Government interposed the present appeal. Stated differently in the rationale of its order, the court a quo quashed Criminal Case No. 823 on the following ground: That "while the offense is designated as direct assault, nevertheless the main allegations of the information may at most constitute unjust vexation for the reason that an important element of the crime of direct assault is conspicuously absent in the information. This essential element is the knowledge of the accused that the victim is a person in authority. . . .This being the case and since . . . sufficient allegations are contained in the information in question to hold the accused responsible for an offense, the Court believes that the information is sufficient in substance to at least constitute unjust vexation or physical injuries." Direct assault is committed "by any person or persons who, without a public uprising, . . . shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties or on occasion of such performance." (See Art. 148, Revised Penal Code.) By express provision of law (Com. Act No. 578, now part of Article 152 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 1978), "teachers, professors, and persons charged with the supervision of public or duly recognized private schools, colleges and universities shall be deemed persons in authority, in applying the provisions of Article 148." This special classification is obviously intended to give teachers protection, dignity, and respect while in the performance of their official duties. The lower court, however, dismissed the information on the ground that there is no express allegation in the information that the accused had knowledge that the person attacked was a person in authority. This is clearly erroneous. Complainant was a teacher. The information sufficiently alleges that the accused knew that fact, since she was in her classroom and engaged in the performance of her duties. He therefore knew that she was a person in authority, as she was so by specific provision of law. It matters not that such knowledge on his part is not expressly alleged, complainant's status as a person in authority being a matter of law and not of fact, ignorance whereof could not excuse non-compliance on his part (Article 3, Civil Code). This article applies to all kinds of domestic laws, whether civil or penal (De Luna vs. Linatoc, 74 Phil. 15) and whether substantive or remedial (Zulueta vs. Zulueta, 1 Phil. 254) for reasons of expediency, policy and necessity. With respect to the dismissal of the information for Acts of Lasciviousness, we agree with the conclusion reached by the court a quo. Although it is true that the same acts may constitute more than one offense, we are of the opinion, upon an examination of the events which gave rise to the filing of the two aforementioned informations, that the offense of Acts of Lasciviousness does not appear to have been committed at all. It would be somewhat difficult to lay down any rule specifically establishing just what conduct makes one amendable to the provisions of article 439 (now article 336) of the Penal Code. What
constitutes lewd or lascivious conduct must be determined from the circumstances of each case. It may be quite easy to determine in a particular case that certain acts are lewd and lascivious, and it may be extremely difficult in another case to say where the line of demarcation lies between such conduct and the amorous advances of an ardent lover. (U. S. v. Gomez, 30 Phil. 22, 25) The presence or absence of lewd designs is inferred from the nature of the acts themselves and the environmental circumstances. In the instant case, considering the manner, place and time under which the acts complained of were done, even as alleged in the information itself, lewd designs can hardly be attributed to accused. The factual setting, i.e., a schoolroom in the presence of complainant's students and within hearing distance of her co-teachers, rules out a conclusion that the accused was actuated by a lustful design or purpose or that his conduct was lewd or lascivious. It may be that he did embrace the girl and kiss her but, this of itself would not necessarily bring the case within the provision of Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code. WHEREFORE, the order of the court a quo quashing the information for Direct Assault is hereby set aside and this case is remanded to the lower court for trial on the merits; and with respect to the dismissal of the information for Acts of Lasciviousness, the same is hereby affirmed. No pronouncement as to costs.
G.R. Nos. 135452-53 October 5, 2001 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. IRENEO ALCOREZA y MARCELINO, accused-appellant. PUNO, J.: Barely in their teens, MARY JOY MANILA and ESTRELA MANILA experienced repeated sexual molestation in the hands of their stepfather — the man who was supposed to secure their future and protect them from harm. They bore their sufferings in silence. After agonizing for several years over the unceasing sexual assaults, the girls finally found the courage to reveal their sad fate to their mother who merely turned a deaf ear and a blind eye. Accused IRENEO ALCOREZA y MARCELINO was charged with rape by his 14-year old stepdaughter ESTRELLA MANILA and two (2) counts of statutory rape by his 11-year old stepdaughter MARY JOY MANILA. He was charged in an Information in Criminal Case No. 388-M-98,1 thus: "That on or about the 28th day of October, 1996, in the municipality of Sta. Maria, province of Bulacan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, intimidation and with lewd design have carnal knowledge of his stepdaughter, Estrella Manila, 14 years of age, against her will and without her consent. "Contrary to law." Except for the date, the two (2) Informations2 for statutory rape (Criminal Case No. 401-M-98 and Criminal Case No. 402-M-98) similarly charged the accused, thus: "That on or about the 21st (and 27th) day of September, 1997, in the municipality of Sta. Maria, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, intimidation and with lewd design have carnal knowledge of his stepdaughter, Mary Joy Manila, 11 years of age, against her will and without her consent. "Contrary to law." The prosecution evidence disclose that MELITA GONZALES y ALCOREZA bore five children in her marriage to Benito Manila, Sr., namely: Fernanda, Estrella, Elena, Mary Joy and Benito, Jr. After her husband died, Melita married accused IRENEO ALCOREZA. On September 21, 1997, at about 7:00 a.m., 11-year old MARY JOY was left in their house with the accused. Her siblings were then in church. The accused called Mary Joy into the bedroom. When she entered, accused wasted no time and forcibly took off her shorts and panty. He then removed his shorts. He pushed Mary Joy on the bed and mounted her. He kissed and embraced her and inserted his penis into her organ. She wriggled in pain. She desperately tried to extricate herself from underneath the accused but could not resist his lecherous advances as his heavy weight pinned her on the bed. She could not shout as the accused threatened to kill her if she did. All she could do was cry. After satisfying his lust, the accused removed his penis. Mary Joy felt a mucus-like, slippery substance come out of the accused's organ.3 Barely a week later, on September 27, 1997, at about noon, Mary Joy again found herself alone in the house with the accused. Her siblings attended a funeral, while her mother was in the poblacion working as a manicurist. The accused called Mary Joy into the bedroom. When she entered the room, the accused approached her and took off her shorts and panty. He laid her down, hurriedly took off his clothes and kissed her. When the accused mounted her, his penis touched her organ but he failed to insert it as he heard her 8-year old brother, Benito, arrive. The accused immediately pushed her away and put on his clothing. Benito, however, still saw Mary Joy naked on the bed. Appalled, Benito immediately
ran away. Mary Joy could only cry while putting back her undies. Before the accused left, he warned her that if anyone should ask, she should never reveal what he did to her. The following day, September 28, 1997, after the accused left their house, Mary Joy sought the assistance of her sister Fernanda and revealed to her the sexual ordeal she suffered in the hands of the accused. Fernanda then accompanied Mary Joy to the house of their grandfather BENITO GONZALES. Benito proceeded to Mary Joy's house to confront the accused but the latter was nowhere to be found. Benito accompanied Mary Joy to the police station where they executed their statement. The next day, September 29, 1997, they were referred to the provincial hospital for physical examination. Benito then assisted Mary Joy in filing his complaint with the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan.4 When they returned to the house, Benito learned that the accused had also been molesting his other granddaughter ESTRELLA MANILA since the latter was eight years old. Her story of sexual abuse: On October 28, 1996, at about 10:00 p.m., Estrella was sleeping in their bedroom together with her 3 siblings: Benito, Jr. (then 8 yrs. old), Elena (15 years old) and Mary Joy. They kept their bedroom door open as the accused forbade them to lock it. Suddenly, Estrella sensed the presence of the accused in their room when he laid down beside her. She was then an arm's length away from her siblings who were also sleeping. Fear swept her body. She tried to tinker with the door to call the attention of Melita, her mother, who was sleeping in the next room. This angered the accused. He kicked Estrella and warned her not to make a noise. The accused then repeatedly tried to remove her shirt and lower her shorts but she resisted. The movement awakened Melita who was sleeping in the other room. Sensing that he might be caught, the accused hurriedly stood up. Melita then entered the bedroom and asked the accused what he was doing there. The accused got mad and they quarrelled. In the heat of their argument, Melita threatened to sue the accused. When Estrella revealed to Melita that the accused had been molesting her since she was eight, Melita refused to believe her. Instead, Melita directed Estrella not to tell her siblings about her ordeal. Estrella turned to her grandfather Benito for help as Melita did not make good her threat to report the rape incidents to the police authorities. Estrella also learned that the accused was also raping her younger sister Mary Joy.5 Benito assisted Estrella in filing a complaint for rape and accompanied her to the hospital for medical examination. As per the letter-request of the Sta. Maria police station, DR. MANUEL AVES, the medico-legal officer of the Bulacan Provincial Hospital, conducted a gynecological examination of Mary Joy and Estrella. His examination revealed that both Mary Joy and Estrella were in a non-virgin state. Mary Joy had a healed laceration and abrasion on her hymen while Estrella's hymen sustained 4 healed lacerations.6 The accused, a 49-year old jeepney dispatcher, simply denied the rape charges of Estrella. He claimed that on October 28, 1996, at about 10:00 p.m., he was sleeping with his wife in their house, while Estrella and her siblings were sleeping in the other room. Nothing unusual happened that night.7 He claimed that the alleged victims could have filed the cases against him as he would spank them once in a while. He theorized that Benito Gonzales, Melita's father, could have also plotted against him and used his granddaughters to file trump up charges of rape. He alleged that Benito was opposed to his marriage to Melita as he was poor. It could also be that Benito harbored ill-feelings against him when ceased to give him financial support. As to the rape charge of Mary Joy, the accused proffered an alibi. He claimed that on September 21, 1997, he was out of the house collecting funeral contributions from the jeepney drivers to be given to one of their members.8 The defense presented the accused's wife, MELITA GONZALES y ALCOREZA, to the stand. She disclaimed knowledge about the sexual assaults on Mary Joy as she was not in their house on those two dates. Mary Joy did not approach her or ask her help in filing the case. She came to know about Mary Joy's rape charges only after the complaint was filed in court. However, Estrella confided to her that the accused had been molesting her. She was shocked by the revelation. Her daughters then sought the assistance of her father Benito in filing the complaint. She did not intervene and left the matter to her parents. Neither did she try to dissuade her daughters from filing the cases. She did not talk to her husband or do anything to help him after he was incarcerated. She could not think of any reason that could have motivated her daughters to file the rape charges against the accused.9
After the trial, the court a quo rendered judgment finding the accused guilty only of attempted rape in the case of Estrella and sentenced him to an indeterminate penalty. However, on the two counts of statutory rape filed by Mary Joy, the accused was found guilty and sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of death. The dispositive portion reads:10 "WHEREFORE, all premises considered, in Criminal Case No. 388-M-98, the Court resolves that the prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of accused Ireneo Alcoreza Y Marcelino for consummated Rape. He is, however, found Guilty of Attempted Rape. With the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate prison term of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as maximum to fifteen (15) years of reclusion temporal/medium. Inasmuch as the civil aspect of this case is deemed to be instituted in this case, the accused is further directed to indemnify the complainant Estrella Manila in the amount of P25,000.00 as moral damages. xxx xxx xxx In both Criminal Cases Nos. 401-M-98 and 402-M-98, the Court resolves that the prosecution has successfully undertaken its burden to prove the guilt of accused Ireneo Alcoreza Y Marcelino beyond reasonable doubt. For having violated Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659 with the attendant circumstance that "the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is . . . stepfather, . . . or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim," the accused Ireneo Alcoreza Y Marcelino is hereby found guilty of the crime of Statutory Rape as charged. By virtue hereof, in both these cases, he is sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of Death by lethal injection. In line with established jurisprudence, the said accused is hereby ordered to indemnify the offended party Mary Joy Manila in the sums of P50,000.00 for moral damages in each of the two cases. With costs against the accused. SO ORDERED."11 (emphasis supplied) On automatic appeal, the appellant assigns the following errors: I THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY OF STATUTORY RAPE IN CRIMINAL CASES NO. 401-M-98 AND 402-M-98 AND ATTEMPTED RAPE IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. 388-M-98 DESPITE THE INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE TO WARRANT CONVICTION BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. II THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY DESPITE THE ERRONEOUS ALLEGATION OF THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF RELATIONSHIP IN THE INFORMATION. We shall discuss the two issues jointly. On the charge of statutory rape committed on September 21, 1997 (Criminal Case No. 401-M-98), appellant contends that Mary Joy's testimony is far from credible. He points out that during her direct testimony, Mary Joy declared that the accused forced her to lie down on the floor but changed her story on cross-examination and said she was made to lie down on the bed. Appellant also charges that her testimony regarding the rape incident on said date was sketchy as she merely declared that the accused "tried to push inside my private part his penis." We disagree. The alleged inconsistency in the testimony of Mary Joy regarding the September 21, 1997 rape incident is too flimsy and trivial to merit serious consideration. Indeed, it is not unnatural to find minor discrepancies in the testimony of a rape victim, especially that of a child. She cannot be expected to remember every minute detail of her
ordeal. Going over the records, we find her recount of the sexual assault clear, brief and convincing. It had a ring of truth that can come only from the lips of an innocent child victim. Thus: "Q. On September 21, 1997, between 7:00 and 8:00 A.M., do you remember your whereabouts? Q. Will you please describe that thing that you felt which came from his private organ? A. It (sic) appeared like mucus and it is (sic) slippery (madulas), sir."12 The above-quoted testimony, coupled with the medical findings, prove beyond doubt that the appellant was able to consummate the sexual assault of his hapless victim Mary Joy. We thus find no reason to disturb the trial court's assessment of her credibility. In stark contrast, appellant's alibi that at the time of the incident he was out of the house collecting funeral contributions is vague, unsubstantiated and uncorroborated. First, he failed to mention what time he left the house that fateful day. Second, he did not present any witness to corroborate his alleged whereabouts on said date. Third, even assuming the truth of his allegation, appellant himself admitted that he was a mere three kilometers away from his house. Due to his proximity, he could have easily left his collection chores, return to his house and perpetrate the sexual assault on Mary Joy. Clearly, it was not impossible for him to have been in the locus criminis at the time of the commission of the crime.13 Neither did the testimony of Melita help his cause. It only made clear the fact that she did nothing to assist her daughters in vindicating their honor and she left the matter completely to her parents. Neither did she lift a finger to help her husband, the appellant, during his incarceration. Be that as it may, the accused can be convicted only of simple statutory rape and, accordingly, the penalty of death imposed against him should be reduced to reclusion perpetua. The Information alleged that the appellant raped his 11year old stepdaughter Mary Joy. The qualifying circumstance of minority of Mary Joy was proved beyond reasonable doubt by the presentation of her birth certificate. However, the relationship between the appellant and Mary Joy was not established with the same degree of proof. Although the prosecution established that Mary Joy was the daughter of Melita, it failed to offer the marriage contract of the appellant and Melita which would establish that Mary Joy is the stepdaughter of the appellant. The testimony of Melita and even the admission of the appellant regarding their marriage do not meet the required standard of proof.14 The Court cannot rely on the disputable presumption that when a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, they are presumed to be married. Relationship as a qualifying circumstance in rape must not only be alleged clearly. It must also be proved beyond reasonable doubt, just as the crime itself .15 Neither can it be argued that without the marriage contract, a common-law relationship between the appellant and Melita was still proved and this should qualify the crime at bar. To be sure, what the Information alleged is that the appellant is the stepfather of Mary Joy. It made no mention of a common-law relationship between the appellant and Melita. Hence, to convict appellant with qualified rape on the basis of the common-law relationship is to violate his right to be properly informed of the accusation against him. As to the second count of statutory rape allegedly committed on September 27, 1997 against Mary Joy (Criminal Case No. 402-M-98), we find that the trial court erred in convicting the appellant of consummated rape. Mary Joy's account of what transpired on said date clearly reveals that the appellant failed to insert his penis in her organ, thus: " A. It touched my private organ."16 The aforequoted testimony shows that the appellant failed to consummate the crime of rape as his penis merely touched Maw Joy's organ. In People vs. Campuhan,17 the Court clarified that mere touching of the private organ of the victim should be understood "as inherently part of the entry of the penis into the labias of the female organ and not mere touching alone of the mons pubis or pudendum x x x Thus, touching when applied to rape cases does not simply mean mere epidermal contact, stroking or grazing of organs, a slight brush or a scrape of the penis on the external layer of the victim's vagina, or the mons pubis x x x There must be sufficient and convincing proof that the penis indeed touched the labias or slid into the female organ and not merely stroked the external surface thereof for an accused to be convicted of consummated rape. As the labias are required to be "touched" by the penis, which are by their natural situs or location
beneath the mons pubis or the vaginal surface, to touch with the penis is to attain some degree of penetration beneath the surface, hence the conclusion that touching the labia majora or minora of the pudendum constitutes consummated rape." Applying the foregoing jurisprudence and taking into account Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code,18 the appellant can only be convicted of attempted rape. He commenced the commission of rape by removing his clothes, undressing and kissing his victim and lying on top of her. However, he failed to perform all the acts of execution which should produce the crime of rape by reason of a cause other than his own spontaneous desistance, i.e., by the timely arrival of the victim's brother. Thus, his penis merely touched Mary Joy's private organ. Accordingly, as the crime committed by the appellant is attempted rape, the penalty to be imposed on him should be an indeterminate prison term of six (6) years of prision correccional as minimum to twelve (12) years of prision mayor as maximum. As to the rape charge of Estrella (Criminal Case No. 388-M-98), the appellant argues that the trial court erred in convicting him of attempted rape as the evidence failed to establish the elements of the crime. Appellant contends that, as per the testimony of Estrella, the appellant only got as far as raising her shirt up to her abdomen for Estrella resisted his advances and caused Melita to awaken and enter the room. As Estrella's account of the incident showed that there was no real and immediate threat to her womanhood up to the time the appellant desisted from consummating the rape, he could not be found guilty of attempted rape. We agree. A careful scrutiny of the records reveals that the prosecution evidence failed to prove that rape, at whatever stage, was committed. As recounted by Estrella, the appellant surreptitiously entered her bedroom and laid down beside her. He repeatedly tried to pull down her shorts and panty but he failed as she resisted. He also tried to remove her shirt but he was able to lift it only up to her abdomen as she would lower it again. The appellant touched her private parts. These acts, as described by Estrella, are insufficient to prove that the appellant intended to have carnal knowledge of Estrella. He did not lie on top of Estrella or even made the motion of removing his underwear. In fact, he kept his clothes on during the entire time that he was in the bedroom. Neither does it appear that he tried to insert his finger or any object into the genital or anal orifice of Estrella. All that the appellant was able to do was touch her "private parts".19 From the circumstances thus proved, the appellant can only be convicted of acts of lasciviousness. On a last note, appellant's theory that Mary Joy, Estrella and Benito were motivated by ill-feelings in filing the rape charges against him does not merit serious consideration. His claim that the filing of the cases is an act of vengeance on the part of the children as he used to spank them once in a while is not persuasive. Parental punishment is never a valid reason for a victim to cry rape against the man in the house who she looks up to as her father,20 especially where, as in this case, the victims were children who had not been exposed to worldly ways. We also find it hard to believe that Benito will utilize his grandchildren to hit back at the appellant for ceasing to give him financial support. No grandfather would expose his grandchildren to shame and humiliation were it not for the purpose of vindicating the wrong committed on them. Moreover, as explained by Benito on rebuttal, the appellant was so poor he could not have been in a position to provide him financial assistance. The appellant did not earn enough. It was Benito who even assisted the appellant in looking for jeepneys he could drive for his livelihood. Benito merely intervened in filing the rape charges as his granddaughters ran to him for assistance.21 IN VIEW WHEREOF, the impugned Decision is modified as follows: In Criminal Case No. 388-M-98, appellant IRENEO ALCOREZA y MARCELINO is adjudged guilty of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code. He is hereby sentenced with the indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of arresto mayor as minimum to six (6) years of prision correccional as maximum, and to indemnify the victim Estrella Manila in the amount of five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) as moral damages and two thousand pesos (P2,000.00) as exemplary damages; HcSDIE In Criminal Case No. 401-M-98, the appellant is found guilty of simple statutory rape and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the complainant Mary Joy Manila the sum of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) by way of indemnity, the additional sum of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages and twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00) as exemplary damages; and
In Criminal Case No. 402-M-98, the appellant is found guilty of attempted rape. He is sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of six (6) years of prision correccional as minimum to twelve (12) years of prision mayor as maximum, and to indemnify Mary Joy Manila the sum of twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00) as moral damages. SO ORDERED.