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363 Phil. 1


[ G.R. No. 110554, February 19, 1999 ]




Accused-appellant Romy Sagun @ Pokpok assails the decision[1] dated April 23, 1993, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32,[2] of Cabarroguis, Quirino, in Criminal Case No. 891, finding him guilty of the crime of rape, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and to pay private complainant the amount of P50,000.00 as damages without subsidiary imprisonment.

On September 25, 1991, the Provincial Prosecutor, Anthony A. Fox, filed with the court a quo an information,[3] charging accused-appellant of the crime of rape, allegedly committed as follows:
"That on or about 12:00 o'clock midnight on November 5, 1990, in Barangay Bonifacio, Municipality of Diffun, Province of Quirino, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused ROMY SAGUN alias POKPOK, armed with a bolo, by means of force and intimidation and lewd design, did then and there there (sic) willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with MARITESS A. MARZO against her will.

During arraignment on June 25, 1992, accused-appellant assisted by his counsel,[4] entered a plea of not guilty. Thereafter, trial of the case ensued.

The evidence for the prosecution, culled from the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, succinctly synthesized in the Appellee's Brief submitted by the Office of the Solicitor General, established the following facts:
"In the evening of November 5, 1990, Maritess Marzo, single and a third year high school student, was asleep in the room of her boarding house located at Bonifacio St., Diffun, Quirino (p. 2, tsn, July 9, 1992). Fronting said boarding house and separated by a road is the house of Romy Sagun where he and his family reside (p. 3, tsn, March 31, 1993).

At about midnight of November 5, 1990, Maritess was awakened by sounds of footsteps approaching her. Maritess shouted but a man whom she recognized as Romy Sagun, her neighbor, poked his bolo at her head (p. 4, tsn, Aug. 11, 1992) and uttered, `Do not shout or else I will kill you and tomorrow you will not be living any more' (p. 5, supra). Then, Sagun shifted his bolo to the neck of Maritess, who was lying on her side, and started removing her skirt and panty (pp. 7-8, supra). Sagun took off his pants and laid on top of Maritess (p. 10, supra); opened her legs and inserted his organ into Maritess' (p. 12, supra) and started gyrating for about five minutes. Maritess struggled and pushed Sagun but to no avail. Thereafter, Sagun stood up, put on his pants and left (p. 13, supra). Maritess felt that Sagun's male genital partly penetrated her's (p. 15, supra).

After Sagun left, Maritess woke up her boardmates and informed them that somebody entered the boarding house but did not reveal that she was raped because of Sagun's death threat (p. 15, supra). The following morning, however, Maritess informed her landlord, Rudy Agsalud that Sagun entered her room and sexually abused her. Rudy Agsalud immediately reported the incident to the police authorities (p. 6, supra).

On November 6, 1990 (p. 9, tsn, Aug. 17, 1992), Maritess submitted herself to a medical examination. Dr. Moises Lazaro, the examining physician, testifying on the results of his examination, pertinently declared as follows:

`Q - Doctor, you were saying that there was a partial penetration on the vagina. How many centimeters was the deep of the penetration?

A - As I said from the opening to the hymen 1-1.5 cm. May be the tip of the penis penetrated the hymen but it did not break the hymen. Because we have to consider the circumstance whether there is resistance or force x x x'(p. 11, supra)"[5]
Accused-appellant denied having committed said crime. His counterstatement of the facts as tersely summarized by the trial court, is as follows:
"He knows Maritess Marzo, the complainant. She was boarding in the house of Mercedes Agsalud sometime in November 1990. Student at the Quirino State College. Complainant's boarding house is about 45 meters from their house. In the evening of November 5, 1990, he was in their house with his wife and children. Before 9:00 o'clock of the same evening, he had a drinking spree with his nephew. After consuming two bottles of beer grande, he went to buy cigarette. On his way home, he noticed that the door of the boarding house of complainant was opened. She was reviewing. His nephew at that time was already asleep. He entered the boarding house of the complainant, sat down on the chair about four meters from her. Complainant inquired why he entered the house. Told complainant that he just came for a visit because she is a neighbor. Because he was drunk, complainant had to go upstairs. Complainant told him to leave the house or else she will report him to Mrs. Agsalud. With that warning, he went home. He denied the testimony of the complainant to the effect that he threatened her with a bolo, undressed her, removed her panty, mounted at her and had sexual intercourse with her. That there is no truth about the testimony of the complainant because nothing had happened to her. That he does not know why the complainant testified against him.

On cross examination, witness testified that he went to the boarding house of the complainant on the alleged night of the incident after a drinking spree with his nephew. That it was only when he was already drunk that gave him the idea of going to the boarding house of the complainant. At that time, he entered the boarding house, complainant was reviewing, she was alone. He went near the complainant to talk to her being a neighbor. That he used to go to the boarding house. He was asking complainant why she was reviewing at that late hour of the night. He was seated near the door of the house while Maritess Marzo was reviewing in the sala of the house. That in the first floor of the house, there are no rooms while the second floor, it has rooms. That the drinking spree took place in his house. That after buying cigarette he did not go home directly because he dropped by at the boarding house of the complainant. He talked with the complainant. After he was warned that she is going to report his coming in the house of Mrs. Agsalud, he left and that was the time he went home. He told complainant that he was visiting her being a neighbor and sensing that she was mad, he left.

On clarificatory question of the court, accused testified that he knows that complainant was alone at that night, and that he entered the house to talk with her considering that she is a neighbor. He entered the boarding house of the complainant because he could not get his sleep that night. He just wanted to talk with the complainant. That he entered the boarding house of Maritess Marzo past 9:00 o'clock that evening. That he does not know of any reason why the complainant filed the case against him. Before November 5, 1990, he never visited Maritess Marzo because she used to go home in their barangay except on November 5, 1990. That he did not have any misunderstanding between Maritess Marzo and her parents before November 5, 1990 neither has he any misunderstanding before November 5, 1990 with Mrs. Agsalud. That he left Quirino sometime on November 9, 1990 in order to have a driving job in Tondo, Manila because his former employer Engr. Valido went abroad. That he came to know for the first time that he was charged for rape when his wife went to Manila before Christmas in 1990."[6]
In its decision dated May 10, 1993, the trial court found the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape as charged, and rendered judgment as follows:
"IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the guilt of the accused of the crime charged has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the accused is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA plus all the accessory penalties provided for by law and to indemnity the complainant Maritess Marzo the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the cost. The detention of the accused shall be fully credited in his favor.

Hence, this appeal from the lower court's decision. Significantly, accused-appellant makes only one assignment of error:
In his brief, accused-appellant contends that the trial court gravely erred in giving credence to the testimony of the complainant because it is tainted with inconsistencies and improbabilities. Drawing our attention to the medico-legal findings, he avers that the medical certificate issued by the physician who conducted the physical examination negates complainant's claim of carnal knowledge as her hymen remains intact. He likewise bewails the fact that complainant's acts and deeds the day after the alleged rape was committed are simply incredulous, as no rape victim could have easily recovered from the effects of such a traumatic experience.

Thus, at the outset, it may be noted that accused-appellant places at issue the credibility of private complainant, upon whose testimony he was convicted. Once again, however, we have to stress that the matter of assigning values to the testimony of witnesses is best performed by the trial judge who, unlike appellate magistrates, can weigh such testimony in the light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses presented at the trial. The trial judge is thereby placed in a vantage position to discriminate finely between what is true and what is false[8] in the versions given by the witnesses of the opposing parties. Appellate courts will not disturb the findings on the credibility, or lack of it, accorded by the trial court to the testimony of witnesses, unless it be clearly shown that the trial court had overlooked or disregarded arbitrarily certain facts and circumstances of significance in the case.[9] On this score, accused-appellant's plea that it was error to rely on the testimony of the complaining witness is less than persuasive.

The crime of rape is essentially one committed in relative isolation or even secrecy, hence it is usually only the victim who can testify with regard to the fact of the forced coitus.[10] As a result, conviction may be based justifiably on the plausible testimony of the private complainant herself.

In the present case, we find the trial court's reliance on the testimony of the complainant based on solid evidentiary grounds. She had no improper motive whatsoever, as admitted by accused-appellant himself,[11] to impute such a very serious offense to him. It is accepted doctrine, that in the absence of evidence of improper motive on the part of the victim to falsely testify against the accused, her testimony deserves credence.[12]

The spontaneity of complainant's testimony could not be discredited by mere denials of accused-appellant. For an affirmative testimony is far stronger than a negative testimony, especially so when it comes from the mouth of a credible witness.[13] Denial is an intrinsically weak defense which must be buttressed by strong evidence of nonculpability to merit credence.[14] Furthermore, in the light of the complainant's positive identification of accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the crime, the latter's defense of bare denial must necessarily fail, as her positive testimony overrides his negative testimony.[15] Note that accused-appellant's own version of a "friendly visit" he made to complainant in her boarding house on November 5, 1990, puts him squarely at the place and time of the alleged offense.

As pointed out by the lower court, complainant testified in a direct and straightforward manner. She even demonstrated in court how she was raped by accused-appellant. Complainant cried when she testified; her tears added poignancy to verity born out of human nature and experience.[16] There was no grave abuse of discretion when the trial court considered the testimony of complainant worthy of full faith and credit, thus:
"x x x Complainant's detailed and straight forward narration and demonstration in court how she was abused and raped bear the earmarks of truth. There is no showing that she was ill motivated in filing the case against the accused."[17]
Moreover, it is simply inconceivable that complaining witness, a 17-year-old lass[18] from a remote barrio in Rafael Palma, Diffun, Quirino, who was inexperienced with the ways of the world, would fabricate a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter submit herself to the indignity of a public trail or endure a lifetime of ridicule, if she had not, in fact, been a victim of rape and deeply motivated by a sincere desire to have the culprit apprehended and punished. As well said, when a woman says she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed.

As borne out by the evidence, complainant was forced to submit to appellant's bestial desires through violence and intimidation.[19] When appellant pointed his bolo at complainant's neck, while he was removing her skirt and underwear, there was indeed force and intimidation directly against her person. When he warned her not to shout unless she wanted to die, his evident intentions to harm her could not be disputed. Even when appellant put down the bolo to remove his pants, the threat and intimidation continued, since he could pick up the bolo anytime, to stab her. In any event, the significant consideration is that, the violence and intimidation were continuous as to engender fear for the safety of her life and limb.

Intimidation is said to be addressed to the mind of the victim. It is subjective and its presence cannot be tested by any hard-and-fast rule, but must be viewed in the light of the victim's perception and judgment at the time of the crime.[20] It may be of the moral kind, such as the fear caused by threatening a woman with a knife.[21] It is enough that it produces fear--fear that if the victim does not yield to the bestial lust of the accused, something would happen to her at the moment or thereafter, as when she is threatened with death if she reports the incident.[22] Intimidation would also explain why sometimes there are no traces of struggle which would indicate that the victim fought off her attacker.[23]

Based on the record with the testimony of the complainant in the light of experience and common sense, we entertain no doubt that appellant employed such amount of intimidation and violence sufficient to consummate rape. Appellant admittedly had been drinking and the influence of alcohol on his conduct was undeniable. Moreover, according to the complainant, appellant is much stronger than her. The physical superiority of appellant would show not only when his body violently held down complainant's but also when her mind was subdued by his intimidating words and weapon at hand.

Moreover, though a man lays no hand on a woman, yet if by an array of physical forces, he so overpowers her mind that she does not resist, or she ceases resistance through fear of greater harm, the consummation of the sexual act is recognized in jurisprudence as rape.[24] Physical resistance need not be established in rape, when intimidation is exercised upon the victim and the latter submits herself, against her will, to the rapist's embrace because of fear for life and personal safety.[25]

Undoubtedly, in the present case, complainant could not have safely resisted accused-appellant's unchaste urge as the latter poked the bolo he was holding first at her head, then at her neck. Threats, intimidation, violence, fear and terror all combined to suppress the will to resist, kick, shout or struggle against the rapist. Thus, despite her lack of strong resistance or failure to shout in order to attract the attention of her boardmates, who were just sleeping a few meters away in another room, she could not be considered as giving consent to his attacker's bestial deed. Evidence shows that the appellant had undressed the complainant and forcibly taken off her underwear while he was holding a bolo aimed at her neck, before he took off his pants and had sex with her. The consummation of the offense of rape could not be any clearer.

Moreover, settled is the rule that for rape to exist, it is not necessary that the force or intimidation employed in accomplishing it be so great or of such character as to be irresistible. It is only necessary that the force or intimidation be sufficient to consummate the purpose which the accused had in mind.[26]

Appellant would want to capitalize on the fact that there was no full or deep penetration of complainant's vagina to negate the finding that rape had been committed. But penetration of a woman's sex organ is not an element of the crime of rape. Penile invasion of and contact with the labia would suffice. Note that even the briefest of contacts under circumstances of force, intimidation, or unconsciousness is already rape in our jurisdiction.[27] In order to sustain a conviction for rape, penetration of the female genital organ by the male is not indispensable. Neither rupture nor laceration of any part of the woman's genitalia is required. Thus, the fact that the complainant's hymen is intact and there is no sign of laceration will not negate a finding that rape was committed.[28] In this case, what counts is the fact of contact with and penetration of the sexual organ, no matter how slight.[29] There was, therefore, on this point no error on the part of the trial court in concluding that indeed rape has been committed.

Accused-appellant likewise contends that complainant's acts and deeds after the assault was unnatural and not in accord with the ordinary experience of mankind, for a rape victim usually suffers trauma or even a nervous breakdown. But it has been repeatedly held by the Court, that different people react differently to emotional stress. There is no standard form of behavior when one is confronted by a shocking incident. The workings of the human mind when placed under emotional stress are unpredictable.[30] As held in People v. Luzorata,[31] "this Court indeed has not laid down any rule on how a rape victim should behave immediately after she has been abused. This experience is relative and may be dealt with in any way by the victim depending on the circumstances, but her credibility should not be tainted with any modicum of doubt."

Certain victims of rape might never be able to complain or file criminal charges against the rapist. They might bear the ignominy and pain of the offense in private, rather than reveal their shame to the world or risk the rapist's making good the threat to kill or hurt the victims.[32] But the silence of the victim of rape, or her failure to disclose her state without loss of time to persons close to her and to report the matter promptly to the authorities, will not perforce warrant the conclusion that she was not sexually molested or that her charges against the accused are baseless, untrue and fabricated. Mere failure to report the incident immediately will not cast doubt on the credibility of the charge. Even if delay could not be attributed to death threats and intimidation made and exercised by the accused on the victim,[33] such failure in making a prompt report to the proper authorities does not destroy the truth per se of the complaint.

Moreover, accused-appellant could not capitalize on the minor inconsistencies in the testimony of the complainant, even if they do exist. Such minor inconsistencies tend to bolster, rather than weaken, her credibility for they show that her testimony was not contrived nor rehearsed. Besides, errorless testimony could not be expected when complainant is recounting details of a harrowing experience. No matter how courageous she is, the act of filing a complaint and appearing in court would exact a heavy psychological and social toll on the victim who is usually twice victimized: by the rapist during the act of rape and by misguided elements of society which devalue the victim's worth. She would not be expected to possess total recall and complete composure on the witness stand.

To conclude, we find the assigned error in this appeal utterly without basis. The conviction of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of rape is supported by the prosecution's evidence which could not be overthrown by the accused-appellant's self-serving denials. Consistent with prevailing jurisprudence, we note that the award of moral damages is in order.[34] They are awarded to victims of rape cases involving young girls between thirteen and nineteen years of age, taking into account the immeasurable havoc wrought on their youthful feminine psyche.[35] Such award is distinct from indemnity awarded to complainant for the injury that she suffers because of the offense committed on her person. In this case, both indemnity and moral damages are justifiably called for.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision of the court a quo imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua on accused-appellant is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant is further ORDERED to pay the complainant indemnity in the amount of fifty thousand (P50,000.00) pesos and moral damages also in the amount of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00). Costs against appellant.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Puno, Mendoza, and Buena, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 21-32.

[2] Judge Carlos T. Aggabao, presiding.

[3] Rollo, p. 6.

[4] Atty. Manolo Beltejar, Jr.

[5] Rollo, pp. 136-138.

[6] RTC Decision, pp. 9-10; Rollo, pp. 28-29.

[7] Rollo, p. 32.

[8] People v. Reynaldo, G. R. No. 116305, July 2, 1998, pp. 9-10; citing People v. Estrellanes, Jr., 239 SCRA 235 (1994).

[9] People v. Tahuyan, 218 SCRA 464 (1993), citing People v. Simbulan, 214 SCRA 537 (1992).

[10] People v. De Guzman, 265 SCRA 228 (1996); People v. Domingo, 226 SCRA 156 (1993).

[11] TSN, March 31, 1993, pp. 6 & 14; RTC Decision , p. 12; Rollo, p. 31..

[12] People v. Cristobal, 252 SCRA 507 (1996).

[13] People v. Digno, Jr. 250 SCRA 237 (1995).

[14] People v. Burce, 269 SCRA 293 (1997).

[15] People v. Antonio, 233 SCRA 283 (1994).

[16] People v. Joya, 227 SCRA 9 (1993).

[17] RTC Decision, p. 11, Rollo, p. 30.

[18] Rollo, p. 111; Decision, p. 2.

[19] "Art. 335. When and how rape is committed - Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
  1. By using force or intimidation;

  2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and

  3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented.
The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x x x x x x x x x."
[20] People v. Oarga, 259 SCRA 90 (1996).

[21] People v. Bantisil, 249 SCRA 367 (1995).

[22] People v. Pamor, 237 SCRA 462 (1994); People v. Grefiel, 215 SCRA 596 (1992).

[23] People v. Canada, 253 SCRA 278, 279 (1996).

[24] 44 Am Jur 918.

[25] People v. Rabosa,, 273 SCRA 142 (1997); People v. Gumahob, 265 SCRA 84 (1996); People v. Padre-e, 249 SCRA 422 (1995); People v. Angeles, 222 SCRA 451 (1993).

[26] People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613 (1992).

[27] People v. Evangelista, 282 SCRA 37 (1997).

[28] People v. Tabugoca, 285 SCRA 312 (1998).

[29] People v. Andan, 269 SCRA 95 (1997); People v. Castillo, 197 SCRA 657 (1991).

[30] People v. Gecomo, 254 SCRA 82 (1996).

[31] G.R. No. 122478, February 24, 1998.

[32] People v. Rafanan, 182 SCRA 811 (1990).

[33] People v. Yambao, 193 SCRA 571 (1991).

[34] People v. Prades, G.R. No. 127569, July 30, 1998.

[35] People v. Erese, 281 SCRA 316, 329 (1997); People v. Sabellina, 238 SCRA 492 (1994).

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