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SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 234190, October 01, 2018 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. FERDINAND DE GUZMAN Y BUHAY, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is an ordinary appeal[1] filed by accused-appellant Ferdinand De Guzman y Buhay (Ferdinand) assailing the Decision[2] dated June 29, 2017 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 08332, which affirmed with modifications the Decision[3] dated September 15, 2015 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 72 (RTC) in Crim. Case Nos. 05-29405 and 05-29406 convicting him of two (2) counts of Statutory Rape, defined and penalized under Article 266-A (1) (d) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Facts

On March 2, 2005 two (2) separate Informations[4] were filed before the RTC, each charging Ferdinand with Statutory Rape, the accusatory portions of which read:

Criminal Case No. 05-29405

That on or about the 7th day of May 2003[,] in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with one [AAA],[5] a nine (9) year old minor Who is his niece by affinity against the latter's will and consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[6]

Criminal Case No. 05-29406

That on or about the 17th day of June 2003[,] in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with one [AAA], a nine (9) year old minor who is his niece by affinity against the latter's will and consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[7]

The prosecution alleged that at around four (4) o'clock in the morning of May 7, 2003, AAA was sleeping alone in her room when she was awakened by her aunt's husband, Ferdinand, who was already on top of her. Ferdinand then kissed her, undressed her, and forcibly inserted his penis into her vagina. After about thirty (30) minutes, Ferdinand went to the comfort room, took a bath, and went to work. According to AAA, she was frightened as Ferdinand threatened to hurt her should she fight back or tell the matter to her parents.[8] The incident happened again on June 17, 2003 at around four (4) o'clock in the morning. AAA was sleeping in the living room when she felt that somebody carried her to the bedroom. Upon realizing that someone was on top of her, she opened her eyes and saw Ferdinand, prompting her to push him away. However, Ferdinand overpowered her, removed her lower garments, and had carnal knowledge of her. After Ferdinand finished, he again threatened AAA before leaving the scene. Eventually, AAA was able to reveal her ordeal to her parents, resulting in the filing of the rape cases against Ferdinand.[9]

For his part, while Ferdinand admitted that he is AAA's uncle-in-law and that he lived at AAA's house on the dates when the alleged incidents of rape occurred, he denied the charges against him. He claimed that during those times, he was sleeping with his wife. He added that he does not know of any reason why AAA would file rape cases against him, but nonetheless, wished that AAA forgives him for any ill feelings that the latter might have against him.[10]

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision[11] dated September 15, 2015, the RTC found Ferdinand guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Statutory Rape, and accordingly, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, and to pay AAA the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, for each count.[12]

The RTC found that the prosecution, through AAA's positive and categorical testimony, was able to establish that Ferdinand indeed had carnal knowledge of her without her consent. On the other hand, it did not give credence to Ferdinand's defenses of denial and alibi for being self-serving, especially considering that by his own admissions, it was not physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis when the crimes occurred.[13]

Aggrieved, Ferdinand appealed [14] to the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision[15] dated June 29, 2017, the CA affirmed the RTC ruling with the following modifications: (a) increasing the award of exemplary damages to P75,000.00; and (b) imposing on all monetary awards legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from finality of the CA Decision until full payment.[16] It held that AAA's straightforward and categorical testimony explicitly identifying Ferdinand as the perpetrator prevails over the latter's unsubstantiated defenses of denial and alibi.[17]

Hence, this appeal.

The Issue Before the Court

The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not Ferdinand's conviction for two (2) counts of Statutory Rape should be upheld.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal is without merit.

Time and again, it has been held that an appeal in criminal cases opens the entire case for review, and it is the duty of the reviewing tribunal to correct, cite, and appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned.[18] The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law.[19]

Guided by this consideration, the Court finds it proper to modify Ferdinand's conviction to two (2) counts of Qualified Statutory Rape, as will be explained hereunder.

Article 266-A (1) (d), in relation to Article 266-B (1), of the RPC, respectively read:

Article 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:

x x x x

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.

x x x x

Article 266-B. Penalties. — Rape under paragraph 1 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.

x x x x

Statutory Rape under Article 266-A (1) (d) of the RPC is committed by having sexual intercourse with a woman below twelve (12) years of age regardless of her consent, or lack of it, to the sexual act. Proof of force, threat, or intimidation, or consent of the offended party is unnecessary as these are not elements of Statutory Rape, considering that the absence of free consent is conclusively presumed when the victim is below the age of twelve (12). The law presumes that the offended party does not possess discernment and is incapable of giving intelligent consent to the sexual act. Thus, to sustain a conviction for Statutory Rape, the prosecution must establish the following: (a) the age of the complainant; (b) the identity of the accused; and (c) the sexual intercourse between the accused and the complainant.[20] Furthermore, these acts of Rape shall be qualified pursuant to Article 266-B (1) of the RPC if: (i) the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age; and (ii) 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.[21]

In this case, the Court agrees with the findings of the courts a quo that the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ferdinand had carnal knowledge of his niece-in-law, AAA, on two (2) separate occasions through force and intimidation and when she was still below twelve (12) years of age. In this regard, it has been long settled that "a young girl would not concoct a sordid tale of a crime as serious as rape at the hands of her [own relative], allow the examination of her private part, and subject herself to the stigma and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive were other than a fervent desire to seek justice. Hence, there is no plausible reason why AAA would testify against her own [relative], imputing to him the grave crime of [R]ape, if this crime did not happen,"[22] as in this case.

Thus, the Court finds no reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, as there is no indication that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case. In fact, the trial court was in the best position to assess and determine the credibility of the witnesses presented by both parties, and hence, due deference should be accorded to the same.[23] In view of the foregoing, as well as the fact that AAA's minority and her relationship with Ferdinand were not only alleged in the Informations but also proven during the trial, the Court finds it proper to upgrade Ferdinand's convictions to two (2) counts of Qualified Statutory Rape.

Anent the proper penalty to be imposed upon Ferdinand, the Court notes that Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346[24] provides that "[p]ersons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua, by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended." Pursuant thereto, and in accordance with Section 2[25] of the same law, he must be sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole for each count of Qualified Statutory Rape.[26]

Finally, and in view of prevailing jurisprudence, the Court finds it proper to increase the damages awarded to AAA to P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages for each count of Qualified Statutory Rape, all with legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this Decision until full payment.[27]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated June 29, 2017 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 08332 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS in that accused-appellant Ferdinand De Guzman y Buhay is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Qualified Statutory Rape, defined and penalized under Article 266- A (1) (d), in relation to Article 266-B, of the Revised Penal Code. Accordingly, he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole, for each count, and ordered to pay AAA the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages for each count, all with legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this Decision until full payment.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio (Chairperson), Jardeleza,[*] and A. Reyes, Jr., JJ., concur.
Caguioa, J., on official business.



December 13, 2018

NOTICE OF JUDGMENT

Sir/Madam:

Please take notice that on October 1, 2018 a Decision, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on December 13, 2018 at 3:09 p.m.

 

Very truly yours,

 

MA. LOURDES C. PERFECTO
Division Clerk of Court

By:

(SGD.) TERESITA AQUINO TUAZON
Deputy Division Clerk of Court


[*] Designated Additional Member per Special Order No. 2587-C dated September 5, 2018.

[1] See Notice of Appeal dated July 20, 2017; rollo, pp. 22-23.

[2] Id. at 2-21. Penned by Associate Justice Stephen C. Cruz with Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes, Jr. (now a member of this Court) and Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela, concurring.

[3] CA rollo, pp. 59-A-67. Penned by Judge Ruth D. Cruz-Santos.

[4] Not attached to the rollo.

[5] The identity of the victim or any information which could establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall be withheld pursuant to RA 7610, entitled "AN ACT PROVIDING FOR STRONGER DETERRENCE AND SPECIAL PROTECTION AGAINST CHILD ABUSE, EXPLOITATION AND DISCRIMINATION, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," approved on June 17, 1992; RA 9262, entitled "AN ACT DEFINING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN, PROVIDING FOR PROTECTIVE MEASURES FOR VICTIMS, PRESCRIBING PENALTIES THEREFORE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," approved on March 8, 2004; and Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, otherwise known as the "Rule on Violence against Women and Their Children" (November 15, 2004). (See footnote 4 in People v. Cadano, Jr., 729 Phil. 576, 578 [2014], citing People v. Lomaque, 710 Phil. 338, 342 [2013]. See also Amended Administrative Circular No. 83-2015, entitled "PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES IN THE PROMULGATION, PUBLICATION, AND POSTING ON THE WEBSITES OF DECISIONS, FINAL RESOLUTIONS, AND FINAL ORDERS USING FICTITIOUS NAMES/PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES," dated September 5, 2017.)

[6] CA rollo, p. 59-A.

[7] Id.

[8] See id. at 60.

[9] See id. at 60-61.

[10] See id. at 62-63.

[11] CA rollo, pp. 59-A-67.

[12] Id. at 67.

[13] See id. at 63-67.

[14] See Notice of Appeal dated November 9, 2015; id. at 12-13.

[15] Rollo, pp. 2-21.

[16] Id. at 20.

[17] Id. at 8-19.

[18] See People v. Dahil, 750 Phil. 212, 225 (2015).

[19] People v. Comboy, G.R. No. 218399, March 2, 2016, 785 SCRA 512, 521.

[20] Id. at 522-523, citing People v. Cadano, Jr., 729 Phil. 576, 584-585 (2014).

[21] Id. at 523.

[22] Id. at 523, citing People v. Rayon, Sr., 702 Phil. 672, 680 (2013); citation omitted.

[23] See Peralta v. People, G.R. No. 221991, August 30, 2017, citing People v. Matibag, 757 Phil. 286, 293 (2015); further citation omitted.

[24] Entitled "AN ACT PROHIBIT!NG THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES," approved on June 24, 2006.

[25] Section 2 of RA 9346 reads:

Section 2. In lieu of the death penalty, the following shall be imposed:

(a) the penalty of reclusion perpetua, when the law violated makes use of the nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code; or
(b) the penalty of life imprisonment, when the law violated does not make use of the nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code.

[26] See also A.M. No. 15-08-02-SC entitled "GUIDELINES FOR THE PROPER USE OF THE PHRASE 'WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR PAROLE' IN INDIVISIBLE PENALTIES," dated August 4, 2015.

[27] See People v. Jugueta, 783 Phil. 806, 848 and 854 (2016).

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