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357 Phil. 17


[ G.R. No. 122764, September 24, 1998 ]




Before us for automatic review is the decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, Calbayog City, Samar[2] Criminal Case No. 1899 convicting accused-appellant Ernesto Perez, also known as Erning, of the felony of rape committed against his stepdaughter, sentencing him to the supreme penalty of death, and ordering him to pay his victim the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and the costs of the criminal action.

On the basis of a complaint[3] subscribed by Maribel Perez, an information was filed in the court a quo against appellant for allegedly raping Maribel, his stepdaughter. The indictment alleges:
That on or about the 21st day of February, 1994, at about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Ilo, Municipality of Sta. Margarita, Province of Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with (sic) MARIBEL PEREZ against her will; that in the commission of the said offense, the accused acted with grave abuse of confidence, he being the stepfather of the complainant, by enticing her to leave their house located at 159 J. Fegiras (sic) St., Sampaloc, Manila and was brought to Barangay Ilo, Sta. Margarita, Samar where the above-mentioned offense was committed.[4]
On being duly arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty to the accusation against him.[5] Thereafter, a full-blown trial was conducted in the court below, wherein the People and appellant were afforded full opportunity to establish their respective versions of the criminal charge.

Under meticulous examination by the public prosecutor and appellant's counsel de oficio, complainant Maribel candidly and innocently related in open court the circumstances surrounding the rape, together with the unfortunate antecedents which culminated in its commission.

According to Maribel,[6] appellant brought her to Samar from their residence in Sampaloc, Manila sometime in February 1994, supposedly to separate her from her siblings who were drug users or addicts. Maribel was only thirteen years old then. Appellant is her stepfather, he being the second husband of her mother, Anacleta de la Cruz. When they arrived in Samar, they stayed in the house of the spouses Raul and Nida Nieva at Barangay Ilo in the town of Sta. Margarita.

While appellant and the Nievas were drinking in the kitchen on he night of February 21, 1994, complainant proceeded to the bedroom to sleep. The kitchen, wherein the Nievas would be spending the night was about one arm's length away from the bedroom.

At around nine o'clock that evening, Maribel was awakened by the presence of someone pulling down her panties. Complainant soon realized that it was appellant who was removing her underwear. Appellant spread her legs, went on top of her and started thrusting his genital organ toward her private parts. Complainant cried in pain when appellant's penis penetrated into her vagina. To stifle Maribel's outcries, appellant covered her mouth with his hand and warned her that he would box her if she again shouted or resisted his bestial advances.

Faced with that threat, complainant no longer struggled against appellant as he continued with his lechery. After a while, appellant withdrew from Maribel and masturbated in front of her. Semen, which complainant later naively referred to as water, was thereafter ejaculated by appellant toward her vagina. Eventually, appellant proceeded to sleep beside the victim.

The following morning, Nida Nieva asked Maribel why she was crying the night before. After complainant revealed to Nida the sexual assault committed by appellant, the two immediately went to the capitan of Barangay Ilo and then to the police headquarters of Sta. Margarita to report the incident. On the same day, Maribel was brought to the Calbayog District Hospital for physical examination.

Dr. Flora M. RosaleS[7] examined Maribel on February 22, 1994 and found a fresh laceration on her hymen at a 3 o'clock position. She later explained before the trial court that said laceration could have been caused by the insertion of a male sex organ within twenty-four hours prior to the examination.

Maribel, on her part, recounted in vivid detail the antecedents which led to her coming to Samar and the facts of the rape committed against her, as hereinbefore narrated. She explained that she was able to identify appellant as her assailant due to the illumination coming from the light on the electric post outside the house.

Appellant[8] denied the charge against him and claimed that nothing felonious happened on the night of February 21, 1994. He testified that he slept on the terrace near the stairs of the Nieva house at 9 o'clock in the evening of February 21, 1994. On that same night, Raul's brother, Lito, together with his four children, came and spent the night in the house of the Nievas.

Because the house is small, the four daughters of Lito slept with appellant on the terrace while Raul, Nida, Lito and Maribel slept in the bedroom, When appellant arose at midnight to urinate, he was surprised to see Maribel lying and sleeping beside him on the terrace. Appellant proceeded. to the river nearby, here he urinated and then went back to sleep beside Maribel.

In the morning of the following day, Maribel told appellant that she was having her menstruation. Like a good father, appellant. claims that he gave complainant money to buy sanitary napkins.

Appellant admitted that he married Anacleta de la Cruz in a civil ceremony before a judge when Maribel was only five years old. He treated Maribel as his own child and provided for her support. When asked for complainant's age, he answered at she was thirteen years old. He went to Samar on February f994 to visit Raul, the son of his kumadre Maria Nieva. He brought Maribel along with him because he wanted to keep her away from the two other sons of his wife who were drug addicts.

He surmised that Maribel probably suspected him to be her assailant because he was the one lying beside her when she woke up in the morning. He gave no other reason or explanation why she would impute to him such a heinous and capital offense.

To impeach the credibility of Maribel, the defense presented Rodolfo Francisco,[9] a detention prisoner who came to know appellant at the Municipal Jail of Sta. Margarita. Francisco declared that while he was sweeping the floor near the investigation room of the police headquarters on February 23, 1994, he heard Maribel denying before the Chief of Police of Sta. Margarita that her father raped her. He also heard her saying that appellant was just being suspected by the people in Barangay Ilo as the rapist who attacked her.

On February 13, 1995, the presiding judge of the lower court conducted an ocular inspection[10] of the locus criminis and ascertained the presence of the electric post near the Nieva house as testified to by Maribel. In the course of his inspection, he also asked the present occupant of the house, Francisca Cajurao, and a barangay councilor, Jovito de los Santos, a number of questions seeking clarification of some matters concerning the crime.

Finding the testimony of complainant credible and trustworthy, the trial court declared appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge lodged against him. Since Maribel was less than eighteen years of age at the time of the rape and her attacker is her stepfather, appellant was condemned by the lower court to suffer the death penalty.

After a conscientious review of the records and an objective evaluation of the evidence, we agree with the lower court that Maribel is indeed telling the truth. The trial court drew its conclusion from the direct, positive and categorical assertions made by complainant on the witness stand on the material occurrences of the criminal incident. Her testimony palpably bears the, earmarks of truth and jibes with the material points involved.

Maribel did not waver during her testimony when asked by the judge a quo, the public prosecutor and the defense counsel to describe how she was sexually abused. Her detailed narration before the lower court was given in a straightforward and candid manner. We have heretofore concluded that a rape victim who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner, and remains consistent, is a credible witness.[11]

Moreover, when the testimony of a rape victim is simple and straightforward, unshaken by a rigid cross-examination and unflawed by any inconsistency or contradiction, as in the present case, the same must be given full faith and credit.[12] Maribel's testimony gives no impression whatsoever that her story is a mere fabrication. If her story had only been contrived, she would not have been so composed and consistent throughout her entire testimony in the face of intense and lengthy interrogation.[13]

We also note that her account of the rape in her affidavit[14] during the investigation by the police and her testimony during the trial are concordant with each other. There is no material deficiency or substantial inconsistency between such testimony and affidavit of Maribel. Furthermore, being young and immature, the testimony of this complainant deserves full credence.[15]

It has long been firmly settled that an unmarried teenage lass would not ordinarily file a complaint for rape against anyone if it were not true.[16] We repeat once again that a woman would not admit that she has been raped, make public the offense, allow the examination of her private parts, undergo the trouble and humiliation of public trial, and endure the ordeal of testifying to all its sordid details if she had not in fact been raped.[17] It is her instinct to protect her honor.[18]

We also find her prompt report of the crime to the authorities, and her persistent efforts to have appellant brought to justice, as convincing indications that she has been truly wronged. A complainant's act in immediately reporting the commission of rape has been considered by this Court as a factor strengthening her credibility.[19]

Finally, the willingness of Maribel to face police investigators and to submit to a physical examination is a mute but eloquent testimony of the truth of her charge against her own stepfather. If she had merely been prodded to relate a fabricated story to build up that serious charge, she would have recoiled at the possibility of being caught in prevarication, inexperienced as she was in such matters. She would have been deterred by the grave consequences of such willful falsehoods which could easily be unmasked by the medical findings that she would be made after a thorough examination of her body.[20]

Appellant nonetheless questions before us the credence accorded by the trial court to Maribel and seeks to overturn the case established against him by the prosecution in the court below. He insists that the trial court should have doubted the unbelievable testimony of complainant which contains narrations of facts contrary to human experience, thus negating Maribel's claims of having been raped by him.

Catalogued from appellant's brief,[21] these are the supposedly unusual and queer circumstances: (1) if appellant merely wanted to rape Maribel, he could have easily raped her in Manila with its abundance of hotels and motels, rather than go to the trouble of taking her to Samar; (2) it was unusual for appellant not to ejaculate inside Maribel's vagina if his purpose was to satisfy his lust; (3) it was impossible for appellant to rape Maribel because the house of the Nievas was small and overcrowded, with the spouses sleeping only one arm's length away from them; (4) considering that distance between them, the spouses should have been awakened by Maribel's cries; and (5) for the same reason, Maribel could have easily sought the assistance of the spouses, especially since only a curtain separated the bedroom and the kitchen.

The above litany of arguments conjured by appellant does not persuade us. Suffice it to say that his contentions do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that no rape was committed or that he was not the one who raped Maribel. The elements of the rape and the identity of the malefactor were adequately proven beyond moral certainty by the testimony of Maribel, not to mention the admissions of appellant himself.

We find undeserving of any consideration the first and second assertions of appellant. Their hypothetical and self-serving nature destroys their viability. They beg for a conclusion without providing the premises which, whether from behavioral science or from settled jurisprudence, would support his claim of improbabilities.

Only appellant can give the answer to his own assumptions which, sad to say, he did not present during the trial. While we can hazard some rationalizations, we decline from doing so lest we also be guilty of speculation, As we have earlier ruled, this Court this not tasked to delve into the workings of the mind of the accused and to determine why he did not previously rape his victim even if he could have done so[22]and, in a manner of speaking anent the instant case, why he opted out when he could have stayed in.

The fact that the rape took place in a room not far from the Nievas does not diminish the credibility of Maribel. The nearby presence of people in a certain place is no guarantee that rape will not and cannot be committed.[23] Up to now, there is nor rule that rape can be committed only in seclusion.[24]

We reiterate the dictum, drawn from judicial experience, that lust is no respecter of time and place. Rape, we have often held, can be committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises and even inside a house where there are other occupants or where other members of the family are also sleeping.[25] Thus, it is an accepted rule in criminal law that rape may be committed even when the rapist and the victim are not alone. Rape was held to have been committed in the same room while the rapist's spouse was asleep, or in a small room where other family members also slept.[26]

Whether or not the sleeping Nievas were awakened by the cries of Maribel and why they did not help her will not and cannot affect complainant's credibility. As maintained by the public prosecutor and correctly sustained by the trial court, Maribel is incompetent to know whether Raul and Nida were awakened by her crying.[27] Be that as it may, the questioning of Maribel by Nida the following morning indicates that she was awakened by and heard the cries of Maribel. But why she did not help complainant is again foreign to Maribel's perception, and would be pure conjecture for us to deal with.

Maribel's failure to shout or seek the assistance of the nearby spouses cannot also yield the inference that no rape was committed. It will be recalled that when complainant began to cry, appellant covered her mouth with his hand and uttered some menacing words.[28] With those threats in mind, it becomes easy to understand why complainant did not call for help. The continuing intimidation by appellant was sufficient to cow complainant into submission without any protest, as has been the fate of a multitude of' rape victims.

Through the numerous cases brought before this Court, we leave learned to adopt the rule in psychology that different people react differently to a given type of 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 or unthinking, or even instinctive, response to a horrid and repulsive stimulus may be aggression, while another person's reaction may be cold indifference.[29] Complainant, therefore, cannot be expected to solicit the aid of the spouses in the presence of her fearsome molester.

As we have stated earlier, appellant's hollow submissions cannot stand against the positive testimony and identification made by Maribel. He was not able to overcome through his feeble defense the overwhelming weight of the case established by the People against him. His insipid attempt to impeach complainant, therefore, is unavailing for failure on his part to lay the proper predicate therefore[30] Thus, neither can appellant's alibi overwhelm the positive identification of appellant's rape victim.[31] Maribel's positive identification of appellant at the trial was made with no trace of hesitation or uncertainty, which fact was obviously not lost upon the court below.

Parenthetically, appellant would attack such identification and posit that it was impossible for Maribel to identify the person who raped her because the bulb on the electric post allegedly did not illuminate the house of the Nievas. He refers to the observations of De los Santos and Cajurao during the ocular inspection. It should be pointed out, however, that both De los Santos and Cajurao never stated that the bedroom was dark when the rape was committed on the night of February 21, 1994, since there was a 10-watt electric bulb attached to the lamp post at the time of the incident. More importantly, no reliance can be reposed on what these two persons said because they were not put under oath, they did not testify as witnesses in court,[32] and their statements were not formally offered as evidence therein[33]

Even if the lamp post did not directly illuminate the interior of the house, however, it does not mean that there was total, darkness in the bedroom where the crime was committed. The records reveal that the lamp post lit the bedroom through its open window as bright as a candlelight. [34] Such luminosity, together with the familiarity of Maribel with appellant, was more than sufficient to enable her to identify the felon. When the conditions of visibility are favorable, the eyewitness identification of appellant as the malefactor and the specific acts constituting the crime should be accepted. [35]

Withal, all is not lost for appellant.

Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code provides for the penalty of' reclusion perpetua for the carnal knowledge of a woman procured through force or intimidation and without any other attendant circumstance. With the advent of Republic Act No. 7659 on December 31, 1993, and in addition to the two instances theretofore introduced by Republic Act No. 4111, seven new special circumstances of rape were added to Article 335 calling for the single indivisible penalty of death. The first of such additional circumstances, upon which the trial court based its judgment of conviction against herein appellant, is the conjoined factual requirement, which must be alleged and proved, that the victim is under eighteen years of age and that the offender inter alia is the stepparent of the victim, which quality and concurrence of circumstances could warrant the imposition of the death penalty.

The modality of the rape above stated, as well as the other six modes introduced by Republic Act No. 7659, partakes of the nature of a qualifying circumstance under the Revised Penal Code since it increases the penalty for rape by ore degree. It cannot be considered as equivalent to an aggravating circumstance because aggravating circumstances affect only the period of the penalty and do not increase the penalty to a higher degree. [36] Also, under the rules of criminal procedure, a qualifying circumstance to be considered as such must be so alleged in the information, which is not required of aggravating circumstances.

The information filed against appellant in the present case does not support or justify the penalty of death imposed upon him by the trial court. A reading of the information discloses that, contrary to the findings of said court, only the crime of simple rape was charged against appellant and no attendant special circumstance, which would in effect qualify the crime, was alleged as such in the information.

While the fact that appellant is the stepfather of complainant was pleaded in the information, it was mentioned therein merely as the basis for the allegation that appellant acted with grave abuse of confidence. On the other hand, and of significant importance, the circumstance that Maribel was less than eighteen years of age at the time of the rape was never, in any manner, stated in the information. For that matter, the allegations in the victim's complaint[37] are substantially the same as those in the information, including the omission of her age at the time of the rape.

As we have explained in People vs. Garcia, [38] it would be a denial of the right of the accused to be informed of the charges against him and, consequently, a denial of due process, if he is charged with simple rape and be convicted of its qualified from punishable by death, although the attendant circumstance qualifying the offense and resulting in capital punishment was not alleged in the indictment on which he was arraigned. Procedurally, then, while the minority of Maribel and the relationship of appellant and his victim were established during the trial, appellant can only be convicted of simple rape because he cannot be punished for a graver offense than that with which he was charged[39]

It may be contended that such a rule, if applied to the instant case would appear to be unduly resorting to sheer technicality. The requirement for complete allegations on the particulars of the indictment is based on the right of the accused to be fully informed of the nature of the charge against him, so that he may adequately prepare for this defense pursuant to the due process clause of the Constitution. But, then, herein appellant cannot be unaware that he is the stepfather of the complainant and that the latter was only thirteen years of age at the time of the commission of the crime charged. It then seems to be illogical to fault the information for not stating that the victim here was less than eighteen years old, a fact known to and even admitted by appellant, hence he could not have been denied the right to be informed of the real nature of the charge.

The fact, however, is that it is the prosecution which determines the charges to be filed and how the legal and factual elements in the case shall be utilized as components of the information. It is not for the accused, usually a layman, to speculate upon the purposes and strategy of the prosecution and be thereafter prejudiced through erroneous guesswork. Thus, since the People dictate what he should be charged with, fairness demands that he should not be convicted of a crime with which he is not charged or which is not necessarily included therein. Thus, where an accused killed his father, but is charged with homicide, it would be absurd to convict him of parricide just because of his inevitable knowledge of his relation to the victim. Such potential prejudice to the accused would be more apparent in the matter of modifying circumstances since some of them may be used either as qualifying or as aggravating circumstances, hence the technical rules on pleadings by way of procedural regulation. Law, after all, is a technical science; it must perforce observe the necessary technicalities to avoid an injustice.

We cannot even justly rule that the circumstance of grave abuse of confidence can aggravate the liability for the simple rape charged in this case. There was no showing by the prosecution that the abuse of confidence facilitated the attainment of the rape. It was not established that appellant took advantage of complainant's belief that he would not abuse the trust she reposed in him[40]

However, even considering arguendo that abuse of confidence was present in the commission of the crime, it cannot also affect the penalty to be imposed. As already discussed, herein appellant can be convicted only of simple rape and the imposable penalty therefore is reclusion perpetua. Where the law prescribes a single indivisible penalty, it shall be applied regardless of the mitigating or aggravating circumstances attendant to the crime.[41]

On the matter of appellant's civil liability ex delicto, and it, in view of the lower court's award of P50,000.00 to Maribel in the concept of moral damages, we digress at this juncture to once again elaborate on and clarify the nature and amount of damages for which appellant is liable.

It has been the policy of this Court to outrightly award an amount not exceeding P50,000.00 to victims of rape upon indubitable showing of its commission. However, trial courts, and even this Court, have at times referred to such amount as moral damages. As pointed out in People vs. Gementiza,[42] that mandatory award of P50,000.00 relates to and should be categorized as actual or compensatory damages.

In response to the rising incidence of heinous crimes against chastity, this Court recently established a distinction between the amounts of compensatory damages to be awarded in simple and qualified rape cases. In People vs. Victor[43] we laid down the rule that if the crime of rape is committed or effectively qualified by any of the circumstances under which the death penalty is authorized by law, the indemnity for the victim shall be increase to the amount of P75,000.00.

While there is ample proof before us that Maribel was minor at the time she was raped by appellant, we cannot increase the civil indemnity in her favor because, as explained earlier, the death penalty is not imposable on appellant due to the deficiency in the allegations of the information against him.

Now, the conventional rule in the past was also that moral damages can be awarded only upon sufficient showing that the complainant in a rape case suffered the different forms of pain or suffering provided in Article 2217 of the Civil Code.[44] However, this doctrine has been effectively abandoned with the recent promulgation of People vs. Prades.[45] In the said case, we dispensed with the requirement of proof of mental and physical suffering and recognized the victim's injury as being inherently concomitant with and necessarily resulting from the odious crime of rape to warrant per se an award for moral damages. With this jurisprudential evolution, appellant should therefore pay Maribel moral damages in the amount subject to the discretion of this Court.

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of the court a quo is AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant Ernesto Perez is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the additional amount of P50,000.0 as moral damages to complainant Maribel Perez. The amount of P50,000.00 granted to complainant by the trial court is maintained but should be considered and designated as actual or compensatory drainages. Costs against accused-appellant.


Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez, Quisumbing, and Purisima, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., in the result.

[1] Rollo, 13-33

[2] Presided over by acting executive Judge Clemente C. Rosales.

[3] Exhibit B, Original Record, 3.

[4] Original Record, 1

[5] Ibid., 29.

[6] TSN, August 4, 1994, 4-37; Exhibit A, Original Record, 5

[7] TSN, September 13, 1994, 2-9; Exhibit D, Original Record, 4

[8] TSN, January 13, 1995, 3-25.

[9] Ibid., January 5, 1995, 3-9

[10] Ibid., February 13, 1995, 2-7. He was accompanied by the public prosecutor, the accused and his counsel, some staff members of the trial court, and some barangay officials and residents.

[11] See People vs. Gecoma, G.R. Nos. 115035-36, February 23, 1996, 254 SCRA 82.

[12] People vs. Saballe, G.R. No. 98704, September 8, 1994, 236 SCRA 365.

[13] See People vs. Ramos, G.R. No. 64656, November 18, 1988, 167 SCRA 476.

[14] Exhibit A, Original Record, supra.

[15] See People vs. Galimba, G.R. No. 111563-64, February 20, 1996, 253 SCRA 722

[16] People vs. Melivo, G.R. No. 113029, February 8, 1996, 253 SCRA 347.

[17] People vs. De Guzman, G.R. No. 117217, December 2, 1996, 265 SCRA 228.

[18] People vs. Cagto, G.R. No. 113345, February 9, 1996, 253 SCRA 455.

[19] People vs. Jaca, G.R. No. 104628, January 18, 1994, 229 SCRA 332.

[20] See People vs. Baculi, et al., G.R. No. 110591, July 26, 1995, 246 SCRA 756.

[21] Rollo, 44-58.

[22] See People vs. Lao, G.R. No. 117092, October 6, 1995, 249 SCRA 137.

[23] See People vs. Gecoma, supra.

[24] People vs. Talaboc, G.R. No. 103290, April 23, 1996, 256 SCRA 441.

[25] People vs. Dones, G.R. No. 108743, March 13, 1996, 254 SCRA 696.

[26] People vs. Alimon, G.R. No. 87758, June 28, 1996, 257 SCRA 658.

[27] TSN, August 4, 1994, 28.

[28] Ibid., id., 9-10.

[29] People vs. Roncal, G.R. No. 94705, May 16, 1997, 272 SCRA 242.

[30] Section 13, Rule 132, Rules of Court.

[31] See People vs. Henson, G.R. No. 116732, April 2, 1997, 270 SCRA 634.

[32] Sec. 1, Rule 132, Rules of Court.

[33] Sec. 34., id., id.

[34] TSN, August 4, 1994, 20.

[35] People vs. Monterey, G.R. No. 109767, September 3, 1996, 261 SCRA 357.

[36] People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 120093, November 6, 1997.

[37] Original Record, 3.

[38] Ante., Fn. 36.

[39] U.S. vs. De Guzman, 8 Phil. 21 (1907); Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120, Rules of Court.

[40] See People vs. Luchico, 49 Phil. 689 (1926).

[41] Article 63, Revised Penal Code.

[42] G.R. No. 123151, January 29, 1998.

[43] G.R. No. 127903, July 9, 1998.

[44] People vs. Caballes, et al., G.R. Nos. 102723-24, June 19, 1997, 274 SCRA 83; People vs. Adora, G.R. Nos. 116528-31, July 14, 1997, 275 SCRA 441.

[45] G.R. No. 127569, July 30, 1998.

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