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347 Phil. 82


[ G.R. No. 121508, December 04, 1997 ]



Accused-appellant Joel Cabel y Iwag seeks the reversal of the judgment rendered by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur in Criminal Case No. 454-T convicting him of the crime of rape.

An information [1] filed on July 27, 1993, based on the sworn written complaint [2] filed on July 26, 1993 by Alma C. Dumacyon * assisted by her father, Fortunato Dumacyon, alleged that on or about August 27, 1989 in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, appellant had carnal knowledge of complainant by means of force and intimidation against her will and consent.

When arraigned with the assistance of his counsel de oficio, appellant entered a plea of not guilty. Pre-trial in the case was waived and trial on the merits was conducted in due course. Thereafter, a decision was rendered on November 13, 1995 by the trial court [3] convicting appellant of the crime charged, the decretal portion of which states:

“THUS WE FIND ACCUSED JOEL CABEL guilty of the crime of rape and hereby sentenc(e) him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Accused is to pay his victim Alma C. Dumacyon the following:

1. Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) for the rape;

2. Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00) for her expenses in coming to court for the trial of her case;

3. Forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) for going thru the ordeal of trial as a result of the crime committed against her.”[4]

Hence, this appeal, with appellant contending that the court a quo gravely erred (l) in giving credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witness in spite of their gross inconsistency and improbability; and (2) in convicting the appellant when his guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.[5]

The prosecution had presented complainant Alma Dumacyon, her father, Fortunato Dumacyon, and Dr. George Calugay who conducted the physical examination of complainant and confirmed that she had at least three points of healed hymenal laceration at the time of examination. [6]

We find that the facts established by the evidence for the People are adequately summarized by the Solicitor General in the brief filed therefor, and the subtance and documentation therein duly correspond with the text and page references to the record. Accordingly, we adopt and quote the same hereunder:

“At around 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon of August 27, 1989, a Sunday, complainant Alma Dumacyon, a fifteen-year old girl, was on her way to her aunt’s house located in Barangay Tumbaga, Quirino, Ilocos Sur. She was a student at Tirad View Academy in Barangay Tumbaga which was an hour’s walk away from her home in Sitio Dagman, Poblacion, also in Quirino, Ilocos Sur. Alma left for Barangay Tumbaga that Sunday in order to attend classes the following morning. (pp. 3-5, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994).

While passing through Nabukaan, Sitio Dagman, Alma was accosted by appellant Joel Cabel who suddenly emerged from a thicket by the left side of the road. Alma was frightened by the appellant’s abrupt appearance, Alma shouted for help. Appellant immediately pulled Alma towards the thicket from where he emerged and onward till he reached a spot about twenty meters away from the road. Alma continued shouting for help, ‘Arayatendak Apo’ (pp. 5-8, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994).

Appellant beat Alma mercilessly. He hit her several times at the back and then pulled out a knife which he brandished at Alma. Appellant grabbed Alma’s neck with his right hand and forcibly pushed her down. Alma’s buttocks hit the ground. (pp. 8-10, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994).

Thereafter, appellant pocketed his knife and then pulled down Alma’s ‘garterized’ skirt and panty. As he was doing this, Alma kicked him on the waist but this did not deter appellant. Appellant took off his pants and forced sexual intercourse with Alma. Alma felt intense pain and lost consciousness. When she woke up, she saw appellant leaving, headed towards the road where he had accosted her. (pp. 11-14, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994).

Alma proceeded to her aunt’s house in Barangay Tumbaga. She stayed there for the next three days because she had to take her school examination. (pp. 14-15, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994).

Thereafter, Alma left for her parents’ home in Sitio Dagman. Upon her arrival, her father noticed at once that she looked ‘sickly’. Curious, he asked for an explanation. Alma told her father that she was raped by appellant Joel Cabel. (pp. 16-17, tsn, A. Dumacyon, May 12, 1994, p. 4, tsn, F. Dumacyon, May 13, 1994).

After learning that his daughter had been raped, Alma’s father, Fortunato Dumacyon, ‘lost...(his) composure.’ (p. 4, F. Dumacyon, May 13, 1994). Thus, he did not immediately report the crime to the police authorities. (pp. 4 and 7, supra).

On October 2, 1989, or thirty-six days later from the time of the rape, Alma, who was accompanied by her father, went to the Philippine National Police in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, where she reported the crime and executed a sworn statement. (pp. 17-18, tsn, A. Dumacyon, February 24, 1994, p. 23, tsn, A. Dumacyon, May 12, 1994).

On October 5, 1989, Alma had herself examined by Dr. George P. Calugay at the Besang Pass District Hospital. Upon internal examination, Dr. Calugay found that Alma’s hymen bore several healed lacerations. Her ‘labia minora’ likewise bore healed lacerations. According to Dr. Calugay, Alma’s hymenal lacerations could have been caused by the insertion of a hard object or by vigorous physical activities like ‘bicycle riding and rape cases because the patient has not voluntarily given her will, there is not enough lubrication.’ (pp. 3-14, tsn, Calugay, February 23, 1994).”[7]

As expected, herein appellant denied having raped the complainant on August 27, 1989. He claimed that between 2:00 o’clock to 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon of the aforesaid date, he was at the farm in Dagman, Quirino, Ilocos Sur, cleaning the rice paddies with his two companions, namely, Jaime Mangget and Melchor Gumintong. [8] Although he did not deny having carnal knowledge of the complainant, he contended that said acts were free and voluntary on their part as they were lovers. [9] He claimed that they already had sexual intercourse for about five times, the first three before the case was filed and the last two after the case was filed. [10]

We reject appellant’s all-too-familiar subterfuge. His claim that he and the complainant were lovers is self-serving. This argument based on the much abused “sweetheart theory” in rape cases, so blandly invoked in the instant case, rashly derides the intelligence of the Court and sorely tests its patience. This is not even a case of consenting adults for the victim was only fifteen years old at the time she was raped by appellant who, in fact, is a married man and a fugitive from justice. Moreover, there was no evidence whatsoever of any romantic relationship between them. Appellant did not even bother to present any evidence to support his pretensions although in his direct testimony, he mentioned that some of his friends knew about his supposed relationship with the victim. [11]

Even assuming arguendo that they were lovers, rape can still be committed if he had carnal knowledge with the complainant against her will. [12] The fact, however, is that during her testimony in the trial court, complainant vehemently denied that she and appellant had ever been lovers. [13] While she had seen him in the neighborhood when she was still a child, the first time she personally met and talked with him was only on that day of his criminal assault against her. [14]

As observed by the court below:

“Thus, accused is a fugitive from justice and being one, this Court feels that he is knowledgeable and, therefore, his allegations as to the fact that Alma Dumacyon is his girlfriend are only attempts to go around the law and have him acquitted.

We have here a young girl who had no knowledge of the ways of life pitted against an accused who knows the ins and outs of the law.

This Court feels that she is not to blame for what happened to her because if it is true that she is a girlfriend of accused, she should have gone on going to school, it being the only means by which she would be able to see her boyfriend, but the fact that she stopped studying because she was already afraid shows that no such relationship existed between her and the accused.”[15]
Additionally, appellant failed to prove that he was at some other place at the time of the perpetration of the crime. At any rate, it was not physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when the same was committed, considering that Nabukaan is a part of Sitio Dagman, one and one-half kilometers away from the farm, and could be reached on foot in five minutes. [16] Although appellant claims that he had two companions at that time, they were not presented in court to corroborate his defense of alibi. The decisional rule is that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the prosecution witness. [17]

Appellant argues that the weight of the evidence presented by the prosecution is grossly inadequate to overcome the presumption of innocence granted to him by law. He contends that the testimony of complainant relied upon by the trial court in convicting him was “so replete with gross inconsistencies and improbabilities rendering it unworthy of credit and strongly engendering the belief that the rape story was nothing but a figment of her imagination.”[18]

Arguing in support of his absolutory thesis, he contends:

(1) While complainant described in detail in her testimony-in-chief how appellant raped her, even describing how her skirt and panty were removed and which hand he used, she testified on cross-examination that she did not see the accused do any of the things she previously stated for the reason that she was unconscious. [19]

(2) Another serious inconsistency in the testimony of Alma is her account of how she reported the alleged rape to her relatives. [20] In her direct testimony, she testified that as soon as she arrived at her aunt’s house after the alleged rape incident, she immediately told her aunt about what happened to her. [21] After staying for three days in her aunt’s house, she went home to Dagman and immediately told her father about the rape.[22] On cross-examination, however, she testified that she did not tell anyone about her being raped.[23]

(3) Another proof that Alma was prevaricating in her testimony is the wrong description of the color of two clothes she wore at the time of the alleged rape. [24]

(4) One indication of improbability in the testimony of Alma is that her actuations and behavior after the alleged rape incident are not consistent with those normally expected from victims of sexual assaults. [25]

After a careful evaluation of the evidence for both the prosecution and the defense, the Court is convinced that the prosecution has successfully overcome the presumption of innocence in favor of appellant. There is overriding merit in these counter-arguments of the People:

“Contrary to appellant’s claim, the trial court did not base its decision on the fact that appellant had previously been convicted by the Regional Trial court of Batangas on September 28, 1984 for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act to 12 years in prison nor on the information that he had escaped from Yapang Sub-prison of the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro on July 14, 1985 and was at-large during the time of the commission of rape. (vide p. 10, Decision.)

The trial court based its decision on the victim Alma Dumacyon’s testimony which it found credible and trustworthy. The trial court held:
This court is inclined to feel that Joel Cabel was only manufacturing his allegations because Alma Dumacyon happens to be a person of only 15 years old (sic) and she would not have come to court to state what she has stated if the same were not true. She was a very young girl at the time and her manner of speaking would prove that what she was stating was what happened to her. (p. 9, Decision; underscoring supplied).
The trial court also found that the physical evidence supported Alma’s claim that she had been raped by appellant. According to the trial court:

The prosecution proved that indeed the complainant had a lacerated hymen. She was then only 15 years old and most probably as testified to by her, she had sexual intercourse. (p. 8, Decision; underscoring supplied).

x x x. In the instant case, the trial court found that Alma Dumacyon’s testimony and the findings of Dr. George P. Calugay, who conducted a physical examination of fifteen-year old Alma, indubitably lead to the conclusion that appellant indeed raped Alma.” [26]
Over time and through consistency, it has become a doctrinal rule for this Court to accord great respect to the factual conclusions drawn by the trial court, particularly on the matter of credibility of witnesses, since the trial judge had the opportunity to observe the behavior and demeanor of witnesses while testifying. [27] Especially in rape cases, much credence is accorded to the testimony of the complainant, on the validated theory that she would not charge her attacker at all and thereafter subject herself to inevitable stigma and indignities unless what she asserts is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor. This is especially so where there is no imputation of any evil motive on the part of the complainant to make such a grave imputation against the accused.

It is true that under cross-examination complainant failed to give a detailed account on how many times appellant hit her, or how her skirt and panty were removed and how the appellant removed his pants, unlike her testimony during her direct examination. It does not appear, however, that she was specifically asked to do so at that stage. Nonetheless, it was sufficient for her to maintain that she was raped by appellant. [28] This Court has ruled, time and again, that when a woman testifies that she has been raped, she says in effect that all that is necessary to constitute the commission of the crime has been committed. [29] Besides, errorless testimony cannot be expected of a rape victim for she may not be able to remember and recount every ugly detail of the harrowing experience and appalling outrage, especially so since she might in fact be trying not to remember them, as they are painful to recall. [30]

Regarding the imputed inconsistencies on when complainant told her father and her aunt of what had happened to her, such lapses are readily understandable and do not negate the fact that she was raped. As realistically pointed out in appellee’s brief: “x x x Her confusion and difficulty in giving the precise moment she reported the rape stemmed from the fact that at the time she first testified in open court, a period of almost five years had already passed since the rape was committed. In the end, she told the trial court that what she told the police, 36 days later from the time of the rape, was the correct one. x x x” [31]

Furthermore, complainant candidly explained her conflicting testimonies, thus:

So which one of your statement(s) is now correct?

A I could remember it now that what I have told to the policemen is the one true, sir.


So Madam Witness, what you stated in your direct testimony and in the cross examination is a lie?

A It’s because I could not remember, sir.” [32]
This Court has consistently ruled that some discrepancies and inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses referring to minor details, and not in actuality touching upon the basic aspects of the whys and wherefores of the crime, do not impair their credibility, [33] for their testimonies may be believed in part and disbelieved in part, depending upon the corroborative evidence and the probabilities and improbabilities of the case.

Also, the alleged erroneous description of the colors of the t-shirt and the “sando” complainant was wearing at the time she was raped [34] are clearly minor and trivial matters which do not undermine her credibility. We must bear in mind that the incident happened way back in August, 1989, and it cannot be expected that complainant could still vividly remember such facts when she testified on May 12, 1994. Again, the Solicitor General comes to the rescue of the hapless complainant, thus:
“x x x It must be pointed out that said inconsistency is, if at all, a minor matter which cannot in any way affect her credible account of how she was raped. Moreover, when Alma testified in open court as regards the particular color of her clothes, a period of four years and eight months had already elapsed since the rape took place.

As regards appellant’s observation that Alma’s clothes had been deliberately torn and not as a result of a struggle, suffice it to point out that said observation is self-serving and bereft of any proof. Moreover, Alma’s clothes had indeed been torn, deliberately -- but by appellant himself.” [35]
Appellant contends that the actuations and behavior of complainant after the alleged rape incident are not consistent with those normally expected from victims of sexual assaults. [36] The Court has ruled in People vs. Rosare [37] that not every witness to or victim of a crime can be expected to act reasonably and conformably to the usual expectations of everyone. People may react differently to the same situation, as what complainant did. Erratic as her conduct may have been, it is not difficult to understand or rationalize why she did not react to her ordeal in the well-ordered manner of an adult wise in the ways of the world and possibly also of the law. Alma Dumacyon was only fifteen years old then and, evidently, she did not know what to do.

The fact that it took complainant some time before she could report the incident to the authorities is not an indication of a fabricated charge nor does it cast doubt on her credibility. As already explained, the then teen-aged complainant comes from a poor family in a rural area quite distant from the place where the local and provincial authorities hold office. She had to await the decision of her father, who appears to have been rather indecisive possibly because of educational and financial limitations. It is common for rural folk to take some time to consult their kin and those who may be of help before they embark upon a venture the consequence of which are unknown to them. These and other relevant facts and circumstances must necessarily be considered in assessing the veracity of the accusations, as well as the reasons for the coetaneous and posterior reactions of the parties concerned. [38]

It is also noteworthy that, during the trial of the case, appellant wrote to a certain “Roger” requesting the latter to “kidnap” complainant Alma Dumacyon to prevent her from testifying against him so that the case would be eventually dismissed. [39] Prior, contemporaneous or subsequent acts or conduct of the accused indicative of his guilt or tending to show that he committed the crime charged may be received as evidence against him. [40]

The lower court ordered herein appellant to pay complainant, by way of civil liability ex delicto the following sums: (1) P50,000.00 as indemnity for the rape, (2) P30,000.00 for her expenses in attending the trial of this case, and (3) P40,000.00 for going thru the ordeal of trial as a result of the crime. However, complainant failed to present any evidence to prove the amount incurred by her in attending the court hearings. Also, in line with prevailing jurisprudence, the awards made by the trial court should be modified to P50,000.00 for moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, considering that complainant is a minor.

WHEREFORE, on the foregoing premises, the judgment of the court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant Joel Cabel y Iwag is ordered to pay complainant the amounts of P50,000.00 for moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, with costs in all instances of the judicial proceedings in this case.

Puno, and Martinez, JJ., concur.
Mendoza, J., on leave.

[1] Original Record, 1.

[2] Ibid., 14.

* Spelled in some parts of the record as “Domaquion.”

[3] Rollo, 19-33; penned by Judge Herminia M. Pascua.

[4] Ibid., 32-33.

[5] Ibid., 46-47.

[6] TSN, February 23, 1994, 7.

[7] Brief for the Appellee, 3-7; Rollo, 104-108.

[8] TSN, October 11, 1994, 6.

[9] Ibid., id, 4-5.

[10] Ibid., id., 13-14.

[11] Ibid., id., 5.

[12] People vs. Vallena, G.R. No. 106283, June 1, 1995, 244 SCRA 685.

[13] TSN, May 12, 1994, 7.

[14] Ibid.,id., 7-8.

[15] Rollo, 81-82.

[16] TSN, October 11, 1994, 9.

[17] People vs. Matildo, G.R. No. 107643, March 2, 1994, 230 SCRA 635.

[18] Rollo, 56.

[19] Ibid., 63.

[20] Ibid., 64.

[21] TSN, February 24, 1994, 14.

[22] Ibid., id., 15.

[23] Rollo, 64-65; TSN, May 12, 1994, 16-17.

[24] Rollo, 66.

[25] Ibid., 67.

[26] Brief for the Appellee, 8-10; Rollo, 109-111.

[27] People vs. Soberano, G.R. No. 108123, May 29, 1995, 244 SCRA 467.

[28] TSN, May 12, 1994, 21-22.

[29] People vs. Matrimonio, G.R. Nos. 82223-24, November 13, 1992, 215 SCRA 613.

[30] People vs. Cura, G.R. No. 112529, January 18, 1995, 240 SCRA 234.

[31] Brief for the Appellee, 17-18; Rollo, 118-119.

[32] TSN, May 12, 1994, 16-17.

[33] People vs. Tacipit, G.R. No. 109140, March 8, 1995, 242 SCRA 241; People vs. Custodio, G.R. No. 96230, May 27, 1991, 197 SCRA 538; People vs. Muñoz, et al., G.R. Nos. 38969-70, February 9, 1989, 170 SCRA 107.

[34] Brief for the Accused-Appellant, 21; Rollo, 66.

[35] Brief for the Appellee, 16-17; Rollo, 117-118.

[36] Brief for the Accused-Appellant, 23; Rollo, 68.

[37] G.R. No. 118823, November 19, 1996, 264 SCRA 398.

[38] See People vs. Yambao, G.R. No. 77778, February 6, 1991, 193 SCRA 571; People vs. Hortillano, G.R. No. 71116, September 19, 1989, 177 SCRA 729.

[39] Original Record, 81.

[40] 75 C.J.S., Conduct of Accused, Sec. 52, p. 523.

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