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THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 228248, August 09, 2017 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ROMEO DE GUZMAN Y DE CASTRO, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

R E S O L U T I O N

REYES, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision[1]  of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated September 24, 2015 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06284, which affirmed with modifications the Decision[2]  dated June 17, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Piñas City, Branch 199, in Criminal Case Nos. 11-0539 and 11-0541 finding accused-appellant Romeo De Guzman y De Castro (De Guzman) guilty of two counts of Qualified Rape under Article 266-A, in relation to Article 266-B, of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).[3]

Two sets of Information were filed against De Guzman in which he pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Criminal Case No. 11-0539

"That sometime in year 2003, in the City of Las Piñas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with AAA, an eight (8) year old minor, without her consent, by means of force, threat and intimidation, and by taking advantage of his moral ascendancy over her, he being her step-parent, thereby subjecting her to sexual abuse; the act complained of is prejudicial to the physical, psychological and moral development of the said minor, and which degrades or demeans her intrinsic worth and dignity as human being.

CONTRARY TO LAW." [4]

Criminal Case No. 11-0541

"That sometime between years 2006 to 2010, in the City of Las Piñas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with AAA, a minor child between eleven (11) to fifteen (15) years old, without her consent, by means of force, threat and intimidation, and by taking advantage of his moral ascendancy over her, he being her step-parent, thereby subjecting her to sexual abuse; the act complained of is prejudicial to the physical, psychological and moral development of the said minor, and which degrades or demeans her intrinsic worth and dignity as human being.

CONTRARY TO LAW." [5]


The victim, AAA,[6]  in her testimony, narrated that she was first sexually assaulted by her stepfather, De Guzman, when she was only 8 years old. It happened sometime in 2003 when De Guzman led AAA to the extension part of their house in Las Piñas City, then laid her on the floor and removed her clothes. Thereafter, he inserted his penis inside her vagina and successfully had carnal knowledge of her. After raping AAA, De Guzman warned her to keep her silence and not to tell anyone. Fearful of the safety of her mother BBB and her younger siblings, AAA maintained her silence until she confided her sexual abuse to her aunt CCC. The sexual abuses of AAA from the hands of De Guzman continued between the years of 2006 and 2010.[7]

AAA's narration was corroborated in open court by her aunt, CCC, who affirmed the confession of AAA to her about the sexual abuses of De Guzman.[8]  Furthermore, Dr. Editha Martinez of Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame, Quezon City, confirmed in her Medico-Legal Report that, upon physical and genital examination of AAA, there were indeed lacerations on the hymen of AAA, which could have been caused by any blunt, hard object like a finger or erect penis.[9]

On his part, De Guzman denied raping AAA and interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. He alleged that he was in Pangasinan when the purported rape in 2003 happened, thus, it would be impossible for him to commit the said crime. He likewise denied the alleged instances of rape from 2006 to 2010 as he was never left alone with AAA in their house. At the end of his testimony, he imputed bad behavior and ill motive on the part of AAA. [10]

The defense of De Guzman was supported by BBB in her testimony. She testified that she is the mother of AAA but believed that the accusation of rape against her husband was false. She also affirmed the imputation of bad behavior against AAA by De Guzman.[11]

After trial, the RTC of Las Piñas City found that the prosecution was able to prove the guilt of De Guzman beyond reasonable doubt. It found credibility on AAA's clear and categorical declaration that she was raped by De Guzman sometime in the year 2003 and between 2006 and 2010 worthy of belief. The vivid recollection of AAA, in the absence of strong motive on her part, found merit to prove culpability. Thus, on June 17, 2013, the trial court rendered a guilty verdict on the two counts of Qualified Rape as charged. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, this court finds the accused ROMEO DE CASTRO DE GUZMAN, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Qualified Rape defined and penalized under Article 266-A par. 1 in relation to Article 266-B, par. 1 RPC as amended in relation to RA 7610 and hereby imposes the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA to EACH of the criminal information (Criminal Case No. 11-0539 and 11-0541) with the accessory penalty provided for by law.

While the offender is the stepfather of [AAA], the statutory penalty of Death is reduced to Reclusion Perpetua because the supreme penalty of death can no longer be imposed as the imposition of the same is now prohibited by law.

In line with the recent jurisprudence, [De Guzman] is directed to indemnify the victim AAA the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (Php 50,000.00) as exemplary damages to EACH of the aforesaid cases. It is assumed that the victim of rape has suffered moral injuries entitling her to an award therefore.

With cost de oficio.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the parties.

SO ORDERED.[12]


Upon appeal, the CA, in its Decision[13]  dated September 24, 2015, affirmed with modifications the ruling of the trial court, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated 17 June 2013 of the [RTC] of Las Piñas City in Criminal Cases Nos. 11-0539 and 11-0541 finding the accused-appellant ROMEO DE GUZMAN y De Castro GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Qualified Rape as defined and penalized under Article 266-A, in relation to Article 266-B, of the [RPC] is hereby AFFIRMED sentencing accused-appellant to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility of parole, with MODIFICATION ordering him to pay AAA the amounts of (a) Php100,000.000 as civil indemnity; (b) Php100,000.00 as moral damages; and (c) Php100,000.00 as exemplary damages, all with interest at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum on all monetary awards from the date of the finality of this Decision until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.[14]


Ruling of the Court


After a thorough review of the records of the case, the Court dismisses the appeal for lack of merit.

Under Article 266-A(1) of the RPC, rape is committed through the following acts:

1)
By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
     
 
a)
Through force, threat, or intimidation;
 
b)
When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;
 
c)
By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and
 
d)
When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.


The rape is qualified under paragraph 1, Article 266-B[15]  of the same code if it was committed by the step-parent of the victim.


In this case, the Court agrees with the findings of the lower court and the CA.

The Court finds AAA to be a credible witness when she recounted in open court the circumstances of her ill-fated ordeal – from the first instance when De Guzman, being her stepfather, had carnal knowledge of her since she was merely 8 years of age up to the following years of repeated sexual abuses through the use of force, threat and intimidation. The first commission of rape in 2003 does not require any other circumstance to support conviction. As provided by the above-mentioned law, rape is committed by a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under 12 years of age such as AAA. Same finding is arrived at to the subsequent acts of carnal knowledge of AAA between the years of 2006 and 2010.

The Court likewise cannot subscribe to the assertion of De Guzman that his moral ascendancy as a stepparent is insufficient to replace force, violence or intimidation in the crime of rape. Jurisprudence dictates that the moral ascendancy wielded by De Guzman as a stepfather substituted actual force, threat and intimidation. As held in People v. Barcela: [16]

Being regarded as the "tatay," Barcela had gained such moral ascendancy over AAA and BBB that any resistance normally expected from girls their age could not have been put up by them. His moral ascendancy and influence over them substituted for actual physical violence and intimidation as an element of rape. This made them easy prey for his sexual advances. Barcela's moral and physical dominion of AAA and BBB are sufficient to cow them into submission to his beastly desires. No further proof is needed to show lack of consent of the victims to their own defilement. x x x.[17] (Emphasis Ours)


In the same note, the argument of mandatory reference in the two sets of information of the specific time and date of the commission of rape must fail. Specific reference of the exact date or time of the commission of rape is not an element of the said crime. What is essential to sustain conviction is proof of carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the circumstances provided by law. "Precision as to the time when the rape is committed has no bearing on its commission. Consequently, the date or the time of the commission of the rape need not be stated in the complaint or information with absolute accuracy, for it is sufficient that the complaint or information states that the crime was committed at any time as near as possible to the date of its actual commission."[18]

As to the last issue, De Guzman is trying to convince this Court that AAA was motivated by ill will when she filed a case against him. As oft-repeated ruling, no young girl such as AAA would subject herself to humiliation and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive was other than a fervent desire to seek justice.[19]

With respect to the penalty, the Court affirms the penalties imposed upon by the CA.

Under Article 266-B of the RPC, the penalty of death shall be imposed when the victim of rape is under 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. However, upon the effectivity of Republic Act No. 9346[20] prohibiting the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines, the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, in lieu of death penalty, shall be imposed on De Guzman.[21]  As to the award of damages imposed, the Court likewise affirms the same pursuant to recent ruling in People v. Jugueta.[22]

WHEREFORE, the Court ADOPTS and AFFIRMS the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated September 24, 2015 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06284, finding accused-appellant Romeo De Guzman y De Castro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of Qualified Rape.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr. (Chairperson), Bersamin, Leonen, and Tijam, JJ., concur





September 15, 2017


N O T I C E  O F  J U D G M E N T


Sirs /Mesdames:

Please take notice that on August 9, 2017 a Resolution, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on September 15, 2017 at 2:40 p.m.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court     



Designated additional Member per Raffle dated December 7, 2016 vice Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, with Associate Justices Normandie B. Pizarro and Agnes Reyes-Carpio, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 114-128.

[2] Penned by Presiding Judge Joselito DJ. Vibandor; id. at 50-68.

[3] Republic Act No. 8353, otherwise known as "The Anti-Rape Law of 1997", approved on September 30, 1997.

[4] CA rollo, pp. 50-51.

[5] Id. at 51.

[6] The real name of the victim, her personal circumstances and other information which tend to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family, or household members, shall not be disclosed to protect her privacy, and fictitious initial shall, instead, be used, in accordance with People v. Cabalquinto (533 Phil. 703 [2006]) and A.M. No. 04-11-09-SC dated September 19, 2006.

[7] CA rollo, pp. 53-54.

[8] Id. at 54-55.

[9] Id. at 52-53

[10] Id. at 55-57.

[11] Id. at 57.

[12] Id. at 67-68.

[13] Id. at 114-128.

[14] Id. at 127.

[15]  Art. 266-B. Penalties. - Rape under paragraph I of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x x x x

The death penalty shall also 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, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common law spouse of the parent of the victim.

[16] 734 Phil. 332 (2014).

[17] Id. at 348.

[18] People v. Nuyok, 759 Phil. 437, 448-449 (2015). (Italics Ours)

[19] People v. Cuaycong, 718 Phil. 633, 645-646 (2013); People v. Padigos, 700 Phil. 368, 376 (2012).

[20] Approved on June 24, 2006.

[21] People v. Colentava, 753 Phil. 361, 380 (2015); People v. Prodenciado, 749 Phil. 746, 768-770 (2014).

[22] G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016, 788 SCRA 331.

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