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412 Phil. 98

EN BANC

[ G.R. Nos. 138439-41, June 25, 2001 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. MARIO PANGANIBAN, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

Before us for automatic review is the joint decision[1] of 19 April 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 18 in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615, 97-158616 and 97-158617, finding accused-appellant Mario Panganiban (hereafter MARIO) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape in each case committed against his daughter Maria Regina G. Panganiban (hereafter REGINA) and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death in each of the first two cases, and reclusion perpetua in the third case.

These criminal cases stemmed from three separate informations filed against MARIO which read as follows:

Criminal Case No. 97-158615

That in or about and during the month of September 1986, and for sometime subsequent thereto, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, father of the said Maria Regina Panganiban y Gonzaga with lewd designs, and by means of force, violence, and intimidation, to wit: by then and there threatening to harm her should she make an outcry, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with (sic) the said MARIA REGINA PANGANIBAN y GONZAGA a minor, then (8) eight years of age, against her  will and consent.[2]

Criminal Case No. 97-158616

That in or about and during the month of January 1996, and for sometime subsequent thereto, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, with lewd designs, and by means of force, violence, and intimidation upon the person of MARIA REGINA PANGANIBAN y GONZAGA, to wit: by then and there suddenly barging inside the bath room and threatening her with harm, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously succeeded (sic) in having carnal knowledge with (sic) the said MARIA REGINA PANGANIBAN y GONZAGA against her will and consent.[3]

Criminal Case No. 97-158617

That in or about and during the month of November 1996, and for sometime subsequent thereto, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, with lewd designs, and by means of force, violence, and intimidation upon the person of MARIA REGINA PANGANIBAN y GONZAGA, to wit: by then and there threatening to harm her should she make an outcry, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously succeeded (sic) in having carnal knowledge with (sic) the said MARIA REGINA PANGANIBAN y GONZAGA against her will and consent.[4]

On 13 August 1997, MARIO, duly assisted by counsel de oficio, entered a plea of not guilty in each of the three cases.[5] On motion of the prosecution, the cases were consolidated and jointly tried.

The prosecution presented REGINA and the examining physician, Dr. Armie Soreta Umil.  We quote verbatim the trial court's faithful summary of the evidence for the prosecution as follows:

The records show that the private complainant, Maria Regina Panganiban, is the daughter of the accused. She and her two brothers were staying with the accused on No. 1857 Mayon Street, Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.

In July, 1986, the wife of the accused left for abroad and worked as a housemaid in Hongkong. One evening in September, 1986, the complainant, who was then eight (8) years old, was sleeping on the second floor of their house when she was awakened by the accused, who instructed her to go with him to the ground floor, and she complied.  When they were already downstairs, the accused undressed the complainant and made her lie down.  He applied oil on his penis and on her sex organ and then raped her. The complainant did not resist because the accused threatened to beat her if she would do so, and at the same time, promised to give her money if she would be obedient.  Fearful of the accused, the complainant did not tell, or confide to anyone the atrocious and disgraceful episode in her young and innocent life.  And the accused exploited the innocence and docile nature of the complainant by thereafter ravishing her twice a week until the return of her mother from Hongkong in July 1990.

In April 1994, the complainant's mother again worked as a housemaid in Hongkong, and the accused resumed the sexual molestation of the complainant on a regular basis.

In the middle of January 1996, between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the complainant was bathing when the accused surreptitiously entered the bathroom situated at the back of the house and sexually assaulted the complainant.  The complainant testified that the accused was drunk and armed with a balisong when he raped her in a standing position; that she detested him, and considered him as a filthy person, "nandidiri ako sa kanya". She likewise attested that the accused was a drunkard, and a drug dependent, and that occasionally, the accused and his friends held pot session in their bathroom and she had seen him sniffing shabu from an aluminum foil.

In November 1996, the complainant returned home after a one-week stay in the house of her grandparents on 2228 Dimasalang Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.  A few days later, at around 3:00 p.m., the accused, who earlier that afternoon had a pot session with his friends in their bathroom and was high on shabu, forcibly satisfied his bestial lust on the complainant who cried in utter helplessness and indignation for the outrage inflicted on her by the accused.

In March 1997, the complainant weary of being a sex slave of the accused, left their house and stayed in the house of her grandparents.  Her aunt, Josie Igoy, noticed that she was unusually quiet and sensed that something was wrong with her.  On the prodding of her Aunt, the complainant finally had the courage to reveal the ordeal she had gone through and narrated in detail to her Aunt what her lecherous father had done to her.  Aunt Igoy in turn made along distance telephone call to Hongkong and reported the matter to the complainant's mother.  On April 24, 1997, the complainant's mother arrived from Hongkong. She later accompanied her daughter to the Police Headquarters on U.N. Avenue, Ermita, Manila, where she filed a criminal complaint for rape against her father.  And in support thereof the complainant executed as sworn statement, Exhibit "C".

On the afternoon o April 28, 1997, the complainant was subjected to physical and genital examinations by Dr. Arnie M. Soreta-Umil, Medico Legal Officer of the NBI, and her findings among other things was that the complainant was no longer a virgin, Exhibits "B" and "B-1".[6]

The first witness for the defense was MARIO.  He denied the accusations against him.  He alleged that REGINA only concocted the charges of rape because he is against her relationship with her boyfriend, Bong Gallardo, whom he chased with a knife sometime in March 1997.  He claimed that it was the latter who convinced REGINA to file these cases, thereby making good his threat that he would have the last ace.

The defense also presented the two other children of MARIO - William and Joseph.  They testified that their sister, REGINA, never told them of the alleged rapes, and that there was nothing unusual in REGINA's behavior or in her physical appearance during the time the alleged rapes were committed.

To corroborate the testimony of MARIO and his two sons as to the alleged motive and behavior of REGINA, the defense also presented MARIO's relatives, namely, Feliciano Bondoc, Lucia Reyes, Edward Bales, and his neighbors, namely, Herminia Pangilinan and Maximina Molon.

The trial court gave full faith and credence to the testimony of REGINA. It characterized REGINA's narration of facts as "straightforward, credible and convincing." It rejected, for being lame and flimsy, MARIO's imputation of ill-motive on the part of REGINA.  Thus, in its decision[7] of 19 April 1999, it convicted MARIO of three counts of rape and in the imposition of the penalty it took into consideration the age of REGINA and her relationship with MARIO.  It then decreed:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. 97-158615, the accused is convicted of the crime of rape and sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection and the accessory penalties provided by law and to pay the costs.

In Criminal Case No. 97-158616, the accused is convicted of the crime of rape and sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection and the accessory penalties provided by law and to pay the costs.

In Criminal Case No.97-158617, the accused is also convicted of the crime of rape and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and the accessory penalties provided by the law and to pay the costs.

On the civil aspects of the three cases, the accused is ordered to pay the private complainant, Maria Regina Panganiban, moral, nominal and exemplary damages in the respective sums of P300,000.00, P150,000.00 and P100,000.00.

SO ORDERED.

In view of the imposition of the death penalty in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615 and 97-158616, the said cases are now before us on automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.  The judgment in Criminal Case No. 97-158617, where the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua, will be considered to have been appealed to us despite absence of notice of appeal, which was necessary pursuant to Section 3(c) of Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, considering that only one decision was rendered in these consolidated cases.[8]

In his Appellant's Brief, MARIO attributes to the trial court the commission of the following errors:

I

THE TRIAL COURT GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE APPELLANT HAD CARNAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT IN SEPTEMBER, 1986 JANUARY 1996 AND NOVEMBER 1996.

II

EVEN ASSUMING THAT THE APPELLANT HAD CARNAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT IN JANUARY AND NOVEMBER 1996, THE TRIAL COURT GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN CONTENDING THAT THE SAME CONSTITUTED RAPE.

III

EVEN ASSUMING THAT THE APPELLANT WERE GUILTY OF RAPE IN THE THREE AFOREMENTIONED CIRCUMSTANCES, THE TRIAL COURT GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY IN CRIMINAL CASES NOS. 97-158615 AND 97-158616.

IV

THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION IN NOT ALLOWING REGINA PANGANIBAN TO TESTIFY.[9]

In support of the aforesaid assignment of errors, MARIO claims that the testimony of REGINA is not worthy of belief because of circumstances that undermine her credibility.  Her claim that MARIO regularly raped her almost twice a week from 1986 up to November 1996 or for a period of almost ten (10) years was belied by the testimony of the medico-legal expert that her hymen was lacerated only recently, i.e., not earlier than four (4) months before the date of examination which was 30 April 1997.  Likewise, it was impossible that MARIO could rape her in a 36-square meter unpartitioned house in the presence of her two (2) brothers.  MARIO also submits that REGINA's testimony that she had been raped by him twice a week for ten years without being discovered is too fantastic to be true and credible.  In any case, she could only remember the circumstances pertaining to the alleged three rapes.[10]

MARIO further asserts that REGINA's behavior during and after the incidents was inconsistent with her claim that she was raped.  She never displayed any manifestation that she was undergoing any ordeal.  Besides, she failed to satisfactorily explain why she concealed her plight for more than ten (10) years.

MARIO, moreover, contends that even if the narration of REGINA is true, he cannot be convicted of rape because of the absence of force, threat or intimidation.

Finally, MARIO maintains that the decision of the trial court must be reversed because there was a denial of due process of law when the trial court did not give him one additional hearing date.

In the Appellee's Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General submits that the trial court did not err in holding MARIO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of rape committed against his daughter.  However, it recommends that MARIO be sentenced to the lower penalty of reclusion perpetua in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615 and 97-158616, and that the award of damages be modified.[11]

We affirm MARIO's conviction.

At issue is the credibility of REGINA.  Settled is the rule that when the credibility of witnesses is in issue, appellate courts generally defer to the findings of the trial court, considering that the latter is in a better position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.  There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when the evaluation was reached arbitrarily or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which would affect the result of the case.[12] Not one of these exceptions is found in these cases under our review.

The prosecution has satisfactorily discharged its onus of proving that MARIO committed the three (3) counts of rape alleged in the information. We have meticulously and painstakingly reviewed the records of this case and we are fully in accord with the findings of the trial court that REGINA's account of her father's sexual assaults is worthy of credence.

It is incomprehensible that REGINA would impute odious charges on her father if such were false.  A rape victim's testimony against her father is entitled to greater weight, since reverence and respect for elders is too deeply ingrained in Filipino children and is even recognized by law.  When a woman says that she was raped, she says, in effect, all that is necessary to show that she had been raped, and if her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on the basis thereof.

We cannot sustain MARIO's insinuation of ill motive on the part of REGINA.  It is inconceivable for a daughter to fabricate a web of lies to implicate her father in a heinous crime if her sole purpose is for her to be with her boyfriend.  It takes depravity for a young girl to concoct a story which would put her own father on death row and drag herself and the rest of her family to a lifetime of shame.[13] Accordingly, there being no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why REGINA would testify falsely against MARIO, her testimony, which was given in a "straightforward, credible and convincing manner," is worthy of full faith and credit.

Even the findings of the examining physician that the laceration of REGINA could not be earlier than four (4) months is not inconsistent with, but rather supportive of, her testimony as to the dates of the commission of the rape.  The said findings only tend to show that the lacerations were old-healed lacerations and that the sexual intercourse that caused the lacerations happened not earlier than four months from 30 April 1997, the date of the examination.

The silence and lack of struggle of REGINA cannot alter the condemnatory verdict against MARIO.  REGINA was afraid of her father.  It was this fear, arising from MARIO's custodial control and dominion over her, coupled by her tender age that effectively silenced her and rendered her so meek and subservient to her father's needs and desires, thus becoming an easy prey to his lecherous advances.[14] It is a settled rule that in cases of rape by a father against his own daughter, the former's moral ascendancy and influence over the latter substitutes for violence and intimidation.  By abusing the reverence and respect which children have for their parents, the rapist father can subjugate his daughter's will thereby forcing her to do whatever he wants.[15]

It may also be stressed that in Criminal Case No. 97-158615, the information specifically alleges that REGINA was then only eight (8) years old when she was raped.  Force or intimidation is not an ingredient in rape of a woman who is less than twelve years old.[16]

The argument of the defense that it was impossible to commit the rape inside a thirty six (36) square meter house without partition while the two brothers were sleeping in the second floor must likewise fail. Lust is no respecter of time and place. Rape can be committed in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, inside an occupied house, and even in a room where other members of the family are also sleeping.  There is no rule that rape can be only done in seclusion.[17]

The failure of REGINA to exhibit the emotional and physical trauma evident in a rape victim will not militate against the fact that she was ravished.  There was nothing incomprehensible about REGINA's reaction.  We have long recognized that different people react differently to a given situation and there is no standard form of behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange, startling or frightful experience.  One person's spontaneous response may be aggression while another person's reaction may be cold indifference.[18]

As for the delay in reporting the incident, REGINA explained that she was afraid of her father and she was ashamed to reveal her plight to other people.  It was this fear instilled in REGINA by her father who exercised moral ascendancy over her that effectively silenced her and made her wary in disclosing to anybody what her father had done to her.  The silence of a victim of rape or her failure to disclose her misfortune without loss of time to the authorities does not prove that the charge is baseless and fabricated.  The victim would rather bear the ignominy and pain in private than reveal her shame to the world or risk the rapist's making good the threat to hurt her.[19] Incestuous rape often causes deviant behavior and inflicts a stigma not only on the victim but on the family as well.  It is thus understandable why most victims in incestuous rapes are not keen on prosecuting their own fathers.  REGINA who was only eight years old when she was first abused by her father, can not be expected to have the fortitude and courage of an adult, mature and experienced woman who may disregard the threat and, with promptitude, condemn in the open the shameful scandal wrought upon her by her very own father.  It is not uncommon that young girls usually conceal for some time the assault upon their virtue because of the threats on their lives.[20]

In many instances, rape victims simply suffer in silence.  With more reason would a girl, ravished by her own father, keep quiet about what befell her.  Furthermore, it is unfair to judge the action of children who undergone traumatic experiences by the norms of behavior expected of mature individuals under the same circumstances.[21]

The testimony of REGINA disclosed that MARIO actually committed more than three acts of rape.  However, he could only be convicted for the three counts of rape for which he was charged. Consistent with the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, MARIO cannot be held liable for those for which he was not indicted.

While we concede that MARIO's guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt, we do not, however, concur with the trial court's imposition of the death penalty in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615 and 97-158616.  It imposed the death penalty in these cases because it considered the special qualifying circumstances of relationship of MARIO to REGINA and the latter's age as provided under Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 11 of R.A. 7659.  However, the rape in Criminal Case No. 97-158615 was committed sometime in November 1986, or prior to the effectivity of R.A. 7659, the Death Penalty Law.  It took effect on 31 December 1993.[22] Hence, pursuant to Section 19(1) of Article III of the Constitution the death penalty cannot be imposed.[23] As to Criminal Case No. 97-158616, the information fails to allege the qualifying circumstance of age and relationship.  We have declared that the circumstances under the amendatory provisions of Section 11 of R.A. No. 7659, the attendance of which could mandate the imposition of the single indivisible penalty of death, are in the nature of qualifying circumstances which cannot be proved as such unless alleged in the information, and even if proved, the death penalty cannot be imposed.  To impose the death penalty on the basis of a qualifying circumstance which has not been alleged in the information would violate MARIO's constitutional and statutory right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.[24] Consequently MARIO can only be held liable for simple rape, which is punishable by reclusion perpetua.

Contrary to the claim of the defense, the trial court neither committed grave abuse of discretion nor denied due process to MARIO when it denied his motion to present as additional witness the mother of REGINA.  Nothing on record supports the claim that the defense filed a motion or moved for the grant of additional hearing date.  On the contrary, the Order of the court dated 26 March 1999 shows that the defense rested its case on that day and the court gave the parties twenty days within which to file their memoranda.

What the record discloses is the fact that after the defense failed to submit its memorandum within the period fixed by the trial court, it filed a motion to defer promulgation because it intended to present a witness who was already out of the country and expected to return only after three months. The trial court refused to accommodate the defense, for to defer the promulgation and to wait indefinitely until the witness would be available to take the witness stand would delay the disposition of the cases.  Moreover, a reading of the affidavit of the witness sought to be presented indicates that her testimony would serve only as an impeaching and corroborative evidence and even if presented, would not change the result.

And now on the damages.  It is settled that an award of indemnity ex delicto is mandatory upon a finding of guilt in rape cases.  The trial court failed to make the award.  Accordingly, such award is made in each of the three counts of rape in these cases.  The grant of nominal damages is deleted for lack of legal basis.  Finally, in accordance with current jurisprudence, the amount of moral and exemplary damages awarded by the trial court are hereby reduced to P50,000 and P25,000, respectively, for each count of rape.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 18, finding the accused-appellant MARIO PANGANIBAN guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape each in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615, 97-158616 and 97-158617 is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that: (a) the penalty in Criminal Cases Nos. 97-158615 and 97-158616 is reduced from DEATH to reclusion perpetua, and (b) in each of said cases, MARIO is further ordered to pay REGINA the sum of P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto, P50,000 as moral damages and P25,000 as exemplary damages.

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.



[1] Original Record (OR), 143-149; Rollo, 22-28.  Per Judge Perfecto A.S. Laguio, Jr.

[2] OR, 2.

[3] Id., 16.

[4] Id., 19.

[5] Id., 35.

[6] OR, 144-145

[7] Id., 143-149.

[8] People v. Ardon, G.R. Nos. 137753-56, 16 March 2001, citing People v. Mosqueda, 313 SCRA 694  [1999], and People v. Alitagtag, 309 SCRA 325 [1999].

[9] Rollo, 65

[10] Id., 80-89

[11] Rollo, 116-139.

[12] People v. Patriarca, 319 SCRA 87 [1999].

[13] People v. Magdato, G.R. Nos. 134122-27, 7 February 2000; People v. Cabanela, 299 SCRA 153. [1998].

[14] People v. Ardon, supra note 8.

[15] People v. Docena, 322 SCRA 820 [2000]; See also People v. Teves, 310 SCRA 783 [1999].

[16] Article 335, Revised Penal Code, the governing law, provides that rape is committed when the woman is less than twelve years old even though no force or intimidation is used and even if she is not deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious.  See People v. Lagrosa, 230 SCRA 298 (1994).

[17] People v. Botoon, 317 SCRA 545 [1999].

[18] People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 132772, 31 August 2000.

[19] People v. LoreƱo, G.R. Nos. 134536-38, 5 April 2000; People v. Padil, 318 SCRA 795 [1999].

[20] People v. Teves, supra note 15.

[21] People v. Mosqueda, 313 SCRA 694 [1999]; People v. Alimon, 257 SCRA 658 [1996].

[22] People v. Simon, 234 SCRA 555, 569 (1994).

[23] Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted.  Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.  Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.

[24] People v. Lopez, G.R. No. 136252, 20 October 2000; People v. Bartolome, G.R. No. 133987, 28 January 2000.

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