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618 Phil. 38


[ G.R. No. 185285, October 05, 2009 ]




The Case

On appeal is the June 10, 2008 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02354 that affirmed the April 21, 2006 Decision[2] in Criminal Case No. 01-427 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 65 in Sorsogon City. The RTC found accused-appellant Paul Alipio guilty of rape and imposed upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The Facts

An Information filed with the RTC charged Paul with one count of rape allegedly committed as follows:

That sometime in the month of June, 2000 at Sitio Liman, Barangay San Francisco, Municipality of Bulan, Province of Sorsogon, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force, threats and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have sexual intercourse with one [AAA],[3] a mentally retarded woman against her will and without her consent, to her damage and prejudice.

Contrary to law.[4]

Arraigned on May 13, 2002 with the assistance of his counsel de officio, Paul entered a plea of "not guilty."

During the pre-trial conference, the defense admitted Paul's identity and of his being a resident of Sitio Liman, San Francisco, Bulan, Sorsogon sometime in 2000.

In the ensuing trial, the prosecution offered in evidence the oral testimonies of the private complainant, AAA, BBB, her mother, and Dr. Imelda Escuadra, among others.

For its part, the defense presented in evidence the testimonies of Norma de Leon, Dr. Chona C. Belmonte, Saul Alipio, and Jose Genagaling.

The Prosecution's Version of Facts

AAA is a 41-year old mentally retarded woman whom Marilou Gipit Alipio often hired to watch over her children whenever the latter is out of her house. AAA stopped schooling after finishing Grade VI in a local public school. Marilou is Paul's sister.

Sometime in June 2000, Marilou sent AAA to Sitio Liman, San Francisco, Bulan, Sorsogon to borrow money from Marilou's father, Saul. At the copra kiln in Sitio Laman near his house, Saul told AAA that he would give the necessary amount to Marilou directly.

While about to head for home, AAA heard Paul calling her from his house. Suddenly, Paul held her hand, pushed her inside and, while covering AAA's mouth, brought her to his bedroom. He then removed her shorts and panty and likewise, undressed himself. Paul then went on top of her, kissed her, and fondled her breasts. Eventually, he entered her, first using his finger, then his penis. Before finally letting the crying AAA go, however, Paul threatened her with death should she disclose to anybody what had just happened between them.

Several months later, BBB, AAA's mother, noticed that the latter had missed her monthly period. With some coaxing, AAA told her mother what Paul had done to her. Thereupon, AAA's mother went to see Marilou and her father to apprise them about AAA's pregnancy. The Alipios promised financial help, albeit Paul would later disown responsibility for AAA's condition. When brought to a doctor for medical examination, AAA was found to be seven (7) months pregnant. AAA eventually gave birth to a baby girl.

Psychiatric evaluation done by Dr. Escuadra revealed that AAA, although 42 years old at that time, had the mental capacity and disposition of a nine or 10 year-old child. Her intelligence quotient (I.Q.) of 60 was way below the average I.Q. of 90, clearly indicating a mental retardation case. When cross-examined, Dr. Escuadra described AAA as possessing a certain level of comprehension of incidents based on experience which she is capable of relaying and relating to. To the doctor, AAA was very well qualified to be a witness provided the questions are asked in a simple manner.[5]

Version of the Defense

The testimonies of the four (4) witnesses the defense presented were intended to establish Paul's innocence of the crime charged and that he himself was a psychiatric case.

Norma de Leon, a laundrywoman employed by Marilou and who acknowledged seeing AAA often in Marilou's house, testified being in Liman to get bamboos at the time the alleged rape incident happened. At around 12 noon of that day, while she and Paul were eating lunch at the kiosk, AAA arrived. After they had finished eating, she saw AAA trying to drag Paul inside his house, but the latter pushed AAA towards the wooden portion of the kiosk. Paul then left for Polot, leaving AAA behind.

Dr. Chona C. Belmonte, a psychiatrist at the Bicol Medical Center, conducted a psychiatric examination on Paul. Her diagnosis: Paul was suffering from schizoaffective disorder, a temporary and reversible psychiatric condition affecting basically an individual's thinking, perception, and emotion. In Paul's case, this psychiatric disorder manifested itself after his brother's death in 1987, and was aggravated when a sister committed suicide in 1990.

When recalled to the witness stand after conducting a follow-up examination, Dr. Belmonte stated that Paul was in a much better condition and was fit to stand trial, being free from any perceptual disturbances and acute psychotic signs and symptoms. To Dr. Belmonte, Paul could give positive answers and was aware of the consequences, if found guilty.

Saul Alipio, Paul's father, expressed the belief that Paul could not have committed the crime of which he was accused. At the time the alleged molestation transpired, Paul was, according to Saul, at the farm gathering coconuts.

Jose Genagaling, a coconut farmer and Saul's compadre, testified that sometime in June 2000, or on the day the rape incident occurred, he was processing copra at the copra kiln of Saul. With him at the copra kiln at that time was Paul. Nothing unusual happened in Saul's house and copra kiln on that day.

Ruling of the Trial Court

After trial, the RTC convicted Paul of rape penalized under paragraph 1(a) and (d), Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).[6] The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused PAUL ALIPIO's GUILT having been established beyond reasonable doubt, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the indivisible penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, to indemnify the victim AAA in the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and another [P50,000.00] as moral damages, and to pay the costs.

The preventive imprisonment already served by the accused shall be credited in the service of his sentence pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.


Paul filed a notice of appeal and the records of the case were transmitted to the CA.

Ruling of the Appellate Court

By decision of June 10, 2008, the CA denied Paul's appeal and affirmed the RTC's judgment.

Hence, we have this appeal.

In response to the Court's Resolution for the submission of supplemental briefs, both accused-appellant and plaintiff-appellee manifested that they are no longer filing their respective supplemental briefs considering that such briefs would only contain arguments also raised in their respective appeal briefs filed before the CA.

It is accused-appellant's submission that the RTC and CA gravely erred:

1. x x x in giving credence to the apparently incredible testimonies of the prosecution witnesses; and

2. x x x in rendering a verdict of conviction despite the fact that the guilt of the accused-appellant was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.[8]

In fine, accused-appellant assails the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, particularly that of AAA and the adequacy of its evidence.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal is denied for lack of merit.

Testimony of the Victim Is Credible

Accused-appellant maintains that the trial court erred in giving full credence to and reliance on AAA's inculpatory statements in the witness box, it being his contention that her account of what purportedly happened reeks of inconsistencies and does not jibe with the normal flow of things. As asserted, it is quite unnatural for a woman finding herself in a sexually-charged situation not make an outcry or use her hands to ward off the advances of a sex fiend. According to him, it is contrary to human experience too that a person with lustful desire would run after the intended victim in a place that is obviously not secluded.

Accused-appellant draws attention to the fact that when she testified in court, AAA stated that accused-appellant ran after her but did not call out to her. Yet, in her statement before the police, she made it appear that he called out to her.

The Court is not persuaded.

First of all, the Court cannot understand how accused-appellant can talk of and expect, as a matter of course, a "natural" reaction from AAA who is unquestionably mentally retarded, one who does not have a good grasp of information, and who lacks the capacity to make a mental calculation of events unfolding before her eyes. AAA can hardly be described as a normal person with fully developed mental faculties. Hence, it is not fair to judge her according to what is natural or unnatural for normal persons.

As to accused-appellant's assertion that it is contrary to human experience that a person with lustful design would run after his prey in a place less than private, suffice it to say that lust does not respect either time or place;[9] that sexual abuse is committed in the most unlikely places. The evil in man has no conscience--the beast in him bears no respect for time and place, driving him to commit rape anywhere, even in places where people congregate such as in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, and inside a house where there are other occupants.[10]

To be sure, AAA's testimony is not without discrepancies and inconsistencies, given of course her mental state. It cannot be over-emphasized, however, that the inconsistencies pointed out by accused-appellant strike this Court as trivial. Rape is a harrowing experience, the exact details of which are usually not remembered. Inconsistencies, even if they do exist, tend to bolster, rather than weaken, the credibility of the witness, for they show that the testimony was not contrived or rehearsed.[11] Trivial inconsistencies, like the matter of whether or not accused-appellant called out on AAA before he forcibly grabbed her hands, do not, to borrow from People v. Cristobal, rock the pedestal upon which the credibility of the witness rests, but enhances credibility as they manifest spontaneity and lack of scheming.[12]

Minor inconsistencies in testimonies should be disregarded. This rule becomes all the more applicable when the witness is mentally ill. The Court said as much in People v. Atuel:

Complainant was mentally ill at the time of the incident, and consequently could not be expected to remember in precise detail all that actually happened to her. Her severe traumatic experience was too much for her unstable mental faculties... Her testimony as to what had happened certainly cannot constitute gospel truth... We have said that a rape victim is not and cannot be expected to keep an accurate account of her traumatic experience. And the credibility of a rape victim is not destroyed by some inconsistencies in her testimony. On the contrary, it is a recognized axiom in rape cases that inconsistencies in the victim's testimony do not detract from the vital fact that, in truth, she had been abused. Testimonial discrepancies could have been caused by the natural fickleness of the memory, which variances tend to strengthen rather than weaken credibility as they erase any suspicion of rehearsed testimony.[13]

Verily, accused-appellant cannot exculpate himself by riding on the alleged inconsistencies in AAA's testimonies. Errorless accounts of what had transpired cannot be expected especially when a witness is recounting specifics of an agonizing experience. To be sure, the trial court had not made much, as it should not have, of what accused-appellant considered inconsistencies in AAA's account of what happened immediately before and during her ordeal.

The unyielding rule has been that the trial court's evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is deserving of the highest respect because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grilling examination.[14] Such assessment binds the Court except when the assessment was reached arbitrarily or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could have affected the results of the case.[15] None of these exceptions exists in this case.

In fact, the trial court found AAA's testimony clear, convincing, and credible. The trial court wrote:

The very CANDID, STRAIGHTFORWARD, and CONSISTENT testimony of the RAPE victim, [AAA], narrates with definiteness that she was sexually abused by accused, Paul Alipio @ Ayona, in the latter's house in Sitio Liman, Bgy. San Francisco, Bulan, Sorsogon, sometime in June of 2000; when she was sent by the accused's sister Marilou Gipit Alipio to borrow money from their father, Saul Alipio. A comparative analysis of the declarations given by the victim before the police (See: Sworn Statement, Exhibit `D', p. 10/Rollo); as well as, the declarations she made in open court in the course of the trial (TSN, June 23, 2003, pp. 3 to 33); REVEAL - SUBSTANTIAL similarities and CONSISTENCY of her claim.[16] x x x

AAA's mental condition, to stress, does not prevent her from being a competent and credible witness. As has been held, a mental retardate is not disqualified from being a witness; the retardate's mental condition does not, on that ground alone, vitiate his or her credibility.[17] If the mental retardate's testimony is coherent, it is admissible in court.[18] Evidently, the trial court had ascertained the veracity and credibility of AAA's testimony sufficient to support a finding of conviction, thus:

To the mind of the court, the testimony alone of the retarded victim will SUFFICE to carry solely for the prosecution the burden of proof required by the law and rules. The victim, [AAA], was CONSISTENT in all the declarations she executed before the police (Sworn Statement), and the testimony she gave before this court during the trial - that she was RAPED by accused PAUL ALIPIO @ AYONA in their house in Sitio Liman, Bgy. San Francisco, Bulan, Sorsogon, when she was sent by the sister of the accused (Marilou Gipit) to borrow money from their father, Saul Alipio. Notwithstanding the fact, that the victim failed to give the approximate date of the rape incident when asked by the prosecutor during the direct-examination, such an omission or mental lapse on her part was supplemented by the testimonies of her mother, [BBB], and another prosecution witness, Dr. Ma. Belen Gordola. The latter testified, that at the time of the examination of the patient - victim, she was able to arrive at the conclusion that the uterus was seven months old because of the palpation she did by measuring the patient's abdomen and palpating the fetus inside. Considering that the fetus was seven (7) months old at the time of her examination, the possible date of conception would be in the month of May or in the FIRST WEEK OF JUNE or in the last week of April. Moreover, even the substance of the testimonies of defense witnesses x x x attest to the fact - that it was in the month of June, 2000 when they saw the victim [AAA] [come] to Sitio Liman, bringing the vale sheet from the daughter of Saul Alipio named Marilou Gipit who sent her for an errand. It must be emphasized likewise, that by reason of her mental abnormality the victim is oriented to place and person BUT NOT TO DATE (Exhibit "C-1"/p. 2 - Psychiatric Evaluation).[19]

To reiterate, the issue of credibility is a matter best addressed by the trial court that has the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses while testifying. Great weight and even finality must be accorded to factual findings of the trial court especially its assessments of witnesses and their credibility, except when there is a clear showing of arbitrariness or oversight of some facts or circumstances of substance.[20] The Court finds no reason to overturn the findings of the trial court.

Likewise, it is a well-entrenched jurisprudence that a medical examination of the victim is not indispensable to the successful prosecution for rape inasmuch as her testimony alone, if credible, is sufficient to convict the perpetrator of the crime.[21] Thus, accused-appellants' insistence that there should have been a medical examination and a medical certificate showing the condition of AAA's hymen to corroborate her testimony is clearly untenable. It bears stressing that a broken hymen is not an essential element of the crime of rape.[22] And as aptly observed by the Office of the Solicitor General, AAA was already pregnant when BBB found out about the rape and that the former had already given birth when she testified, making a hymeneal examination a worthless exercise.[23]

At this juncture, it bears to state that sexual intercourse with a woman who is a mental retardate constitutes statutory rape.[24] As such, the question of whether the circumstances of force or intimidation are absent is of no moment to accused-appellant's liability for rape, albeit the trial court held that he employed force and intimidation on the feebleminded AAA.

Exempting Circumstance of Insanity Is Absent

In a bid to escape from criminal liability, accused-appellant invokes insanity. He contends that the psychiatrist who examined him consistently testified that there was a high possibility that he was suffering from schizoaffective disorder when the alleged rape incident happened.

We are not convinced.

The moral and legal presumption is always in favor of soundness of mind; that freedom and intelligence constitute the normal condition of a person.[25] It is improper to assume the contrary.[26] This presumption, however, may be overcome by evidence of insanity, which, under Art. 12(1) of the RPC, exempts a person from criminal liability.

In People v. Formigones,[27] the Court has established a more stringent standard for insanity to be an exempting circumstance. There, it was held that, for insanity to be appreciated in favor of the accused, there must be a complete deprivation of intelligence in committing the act, that is, the accused is deprived of reason or there is a complete absence of the power to discern or a total deprivation of the will. Mere abnormality of the mental faculties will not exclude imputability.[28]

The evidence offered by the defense in this case miserably failed to establish clearly and convincingly the presence of the stringent criterion for insanity. On the contrary, the evidence tended to show, albeit impliedly, that accused-appellant was not deprived of reason at all and can still distinguish right from wrong when, after satisfying his lust, he threatened AAA not to tell anybody about what he had done; otherwise, she would be killed. This single episode irresistibly implies, for one, that accused-appellant knew what he was doing, that it was wrong, and wanted to keep it a secret. And for another, it indicated that the crime was committed during one of accused-appellant's lucid intervals. In this regard, no less than his father admitted in open court that there were times when his son was in his proper senses.[29]

Given the above perspective, the trial court correctly downplayed accused-appellant's plea of insanity. The Court cites with approval the following excerpts from the RTC's decision:

Dr. Belmonte, the psychiatrist who evaluated the mental condition of the accused testified x x x that the accused was given psychological testing to fully assess his mental condition, and he was found to have an average mental condition. In the intelligent quotient test accused has an average mental function while in the projective test there were several indicators noted, since at the time of the testing accused showed a lot of immaturity, stubbornness and irritability. That it would be difficult for them to employ a mechanism that would prevent selective responses on the part of the accused. They just observed the patient and that is also the reason why they give psychological testing, because in that way they can determine whether the subject is in conflict with his personality. That during those times the accused had his sessions with the psychologist and some doctors accused was barely consistent and their evaluation shows consistent result. Schizoaffective disorder is always precipitated by certain traumatic experience. That there is really a need for them to gather information to know whether the accused was already afflicted with that mental disorder sometime in 1987 or 2000. That the schizoaffective disorder of Paul Alipio is only temporary in character hence, it can be treated. The duration of the treatment would depend on the progress of the patient.

The doctor further stated during the clarificatory questioning propounded by the Court, that there is a high possibility that sometime in 2001 when the alleged rape incident took place implicating the accused as the rapist, accused was not in his normal mental condition. During that time this schizoaffective disorder was already in effect. THAT SHE HAS NO CATEGORICAL FINDINGS YET INSOFAR AS THE SENSE OF DISCERNMENT OF THE ACCUSED BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG IS CONCERNED. x x x

Prescinding from the foregoing testimony of the doctor, it is clear therefore that the mental disorder of accused Paul Alipio is only temporary in character and can be treated. Moreover, although the probability is high that in year 2000 when the rape incident took place accused was already suffering from schizoaffective disorder, said doctor has not come up with any categorical findings yet relative to the sense of discernment of the accused when it comes to what is RIGHT and what is WRONG.[30]

With the view we take of this case, we find the prosecution to have discharged its burden of proving the guilt of accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. And needless to stress, guilt beyond reasonable doubt only denotes moral certainty, not absolute certainty. Moral certainty is that degree of proof which, to an unprejudiced mind, produces conviction.[31]

The crime committed being in the nature of simple rape, the award by the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, of PhP 50,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto for the victim and the same amount as moral damages is in line with prevailing case law and is accordingly affirmed. Accused-appellant must, however, pay AAA PhP 30,000 by way of exemplary damages as a measure to deter other individuals with aberrant sexual tendencies pursuant to current jurisprudence.[32]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02354 finding accused-appellant Paul Alipio guilty of the crime charged is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he is ordered to pay AAA exemplary damages in the amount of PhP 30,000.

Costs against accused-appellant.


Carpio, (Chairperson),  Carpio Morales*, Nachura, and Peralta, JJ., concur.

* Additional member as per Special Order No. 720 dated October 5, 2009.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-19. Penned by Associate Justice Arcangelita M. Romilla-Lontok and concurred in by Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo and Ricardo R. Rosario.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 28-52. Penned by Judge Adolfo G. Fajardo.

[3] In accordance with Republic Act No. 9262 and People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 16, 2006, 502 SCRA 419, the real name of the victim, her personal circumstances, and other information which tend to establish or compromise her identity are not disclosed to protect her privacy. Fictitious initials are used.

[4] CA rollo, p. 10.

[5] Id. at 31.

[6] Rape committed (a) through the use of force, threat or intimidation; or (d) when the offended party is under 12 years old or is demented even though none of the other circumstances specified in par. 1 of Art. 266-A is present.

[7] CA rollo, p. 52.

[8] Id. at 65.

[9] People v. Segundo, G.R. No. 88751, December 27, 1993, 228 SCRA 691, 695-696; People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 68209, December 21, 1993, 228 SCRA 648, 655; People v. Ulili, G.R. No. 103403, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 594, 604.

[10] People v. Mahinay, G.R. No. 179190, January 20, 2009; citing People v. Agbayani, G.R. No. 122770, January 16, 1998, 284 SCRA 315, 340.

[11] People v. Sagun, 363 Phil. 1 (1999).

[12] People v. Cristobal, G.R. No. 116279, January 29, 1996, 252 SCRA 507, 517.

[13] People v. Atuel, G.R. No. 106962, September 3, 1996, 261 SCRA 339, 348-349.

[14] People v. Bantiling, G.R. No. 136017, November 15, 2001, 369 SCRA 47; People v. Godoy, G.R. Nos. 115908-09, December 6, 1995, 250 SCRA 676.

[15] Atuel, supra note 13, at 349.

[16] CA rollo, p. 95.

[17] People v. Salomon, G.R. No. 96848, January 21, 1994, 229 SCRA 403.

[18] People v. Lubong, G.R. No. 132295, May 31, 2000, 332 SCRA 672.

[19] CA rollo, p. 105.

[20] People v. Virrey, G.R. No. 133910, November 14, 2001, 368 SCRA 623.

[21] People v. Castro, G.R. No. 172874, December 17, 2008; citing People v. Baring, Jr., G.R. No. 137933, January 28, 2002, 374 SCRA 696, 705.

[22] People v. Balleno, G.R. No. 149075, August 7, 2003, 408 SCRA 513.

[23] Rollo, p. 139. Appellee's Brief before the CA.

[24] People v. Golimlim, G.R. No. 145225, April 2, 2004, 427 SCRA 15.

[25] People v. Opuran, G.R. Nos. 147674-75, March 17, 2004, 425 SCRA 654.

[26] People v. Valledor, G.R. No. 129291, July 3, 2002, 383 SCRA 653.

[27] 87 Phil. 658 (1950); see also People v. Madarang, G.R. No. 132319, May 12, 2000, 332 SCRA 99.

[28] Madarang, supra note 27.

[29] TSN, September 21, 2005, pp. 11-12.

[30] CA rollo, pp. 106-107.

[31] Rules of Court, Rule 133, Sec. 2.

[32] People v. Tabio, G.R. No. 179477, February 6, 2008, 544 SCRA 156, 169.

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