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474 Phil. 92


[ G.R. No. 127491, May 28, 2004 ]




This Court is once again called upon to apply the guiding principles in the review of a conviction for rape in this appeal from the Decision dated May 16, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tabaco, Albay, Branch 16, in Criminal Case No. T-2397.

In an Information dated May 6, 1993, appellant herein Julian Bañares y Besmonte was charged with the crime of rape, as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. The accusatory portion reads:
That on or about the 25th day of April, 1992 at Barangay Bonga, Municipality of Bacacay, Province of Albay, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with deliberate intent to violate the law and with lewd design, by means of force and intimidation and without the consent and against the will of SUSAN BARCELO, a 15-year old girl, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse and succeeded in having carnal knowledge with the latter, to her damage and prejudice.

Upon arraignment, the appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued thereafter.

The evidence of the prosecution relied mainly on the testimonies of the complainant, Susan Barcelo, her father, Domingo Barcelo, and the Municipal Health Officer of Bacacay, Albay, Dr. Evelyn Amador, who examined complainant some months after the alleged rape occurred.

Complainant Susan Barcelo, then a fifteen-year old girl, testified that sometime after lunch on April 25, 1992, she was climbing up the guava trees and picking their fruits near their house in Bonga, Bacacay, Albay. All of a sudden, appellant Julian Bañares called up to her and asked her what she was doing there. Complainant did not answer him and instead continued gathering fruits. Appellant then pulled her down and dragged her towards the area planted with caragomoy, about twenty-two (22) to twenty-five (25) meters away from complainant’s house. Complainant tried to kick her attacker, but instead wounded herself in the process. Appellant then forced her to lie down, removed her shorts and panties, and her white t-shirt. All the while, appellant kept on kissing her and pressing her vagina. Then, appellant removed his pants and immediately inserted his penis into complainant’s vagina. Complainant thereafter noticed that her vagina was bleeding. His lust having been satisfied, appellant then dressed himself and threatened complainant that should she reveal what occurred, he would kill her and her parents. He left her and complainant went to the well near their house to clean herself.[2]

Complainant positively identified appellant as her attacker in open court. According to her, appellant lived with them and was considered a part of their family since she was five (5) years old. At the time the alleged rape occurred, complainant’s parents were in a ricefield a kilometer away from their house, where they were supervising the harvest of palay.

During cross-examination, complainant revealed that on the same day, she reported the incident to appellant’s brother, Benjamin, who in turn, told her father. She alleged that her father had appellant summoned but he never answered the said summons. She was allegedly advised by appellant’s brother that she should not get married to appellant since he is a “tough guy.”[3]

Also during cross-examination, she revealed that her brother’s house was only around five (5) meters away from the place where the alleged rape occurred. At that time, her brother’s mother-in-law, Eleuteria, was weaving a mat inside the house. Complainant testified that Eleuteria could not have heard her scream for help since the said woman was a little hard of hearing.[4]

The second witness testifying for the prosecution was complainant’s father, Domingo Barcelo, fifty-eight (58) years old and a farmer. He revealed that his daughter initially did not tell him anything about the incident which occurred on April 25, 1992. On May 5, 1992, he brought his daughter to Irosin, Sorsogon so that she could live with an aunt who promised to send her to school. His daughter started the school year in Irosin. Sometime around July, 1992, he visited his daughter and as he was about to leave, his daughter suddenly did not want to part with him. That was when complainant revealed to him that she was already pregnant. His daughter also related to him that she was raped by appellant Bañares earlier that year. He then brought his daughter home to Bacacay, Albay.[5]

The third prosecution witness, Dr. Evelyn Amador, Municipal Health Officer of Bacacay, Albay, identified the Medical Certificate[6] she issued. She conducted an external and internal examination on complainant Barcelo on November 5, 1992. Complainant was already seven (7) months pregnant during the examination, which led her to conclude that the time of conception would be around April, 1992. This, she testified, is consistent with the allegation by complainant that she had sexual intercourse with appellant on April 25, 1992.[7]

The defense, on the other hand, also presented three witnesses: Salvador Nuñez, Benjamin Bañares, and appellant himself.

Salvador Nuñez, fifty-three (53) years old, is a farmer and a resident of Upper Bonga, Bacacay, Albay. He claimed that he knows appellant because the latter worked in his ricefield. He also knows the complainant’s family because they live near his ricefield and the complainant herself goes to the same school as his daughter. He testified that he would sometimes rest in the house of the Barcelos while he was working in his ricefield. Sometime around April 10, 1992, during one of those occasions while he was resting in the house of the Barcelos, Domingo Barcelo mentioned to him that he had sent his daughter to Irosin, Sorsogon to live with her aunt. The witness also testified that he knew that appellant had been living with the Barcelos for a long time. One day, however, he saw appellant and complainant sitting close to each other and picking lice from each other’s heads.[8]

The second witness for the defense was Benjamin Bañares, forty-four (44) years of age and a farmer. He is the brother of appellant. During his testimony, he said that there could not have been any rape on April 25, 1992 since complainant was sent to Irosin by her father on April 10, 1992. On their way to Irosin, they even dropped by his house and there, Domingo Barcelo told him that he was bringing his daughter to live with her aunt in order to avoid a scandal and to put a stop to his daughter’s relationship with appellant. The witness also revealed that he has long known about this romantic relationship between complainant and appellant. He started noticing this when he observed that complainant would often throw a tantrum whenever her mother would attempt to pick lice from her hair, but would willingly submit if it was the appellant who would do the job. Also, on April 9, 1992, he chanced upon the appellant and complainant having sexual intercourse among the tall caragomoy plants. He later confronted the two about what he saw and they merely told him that there was nothing wrong about what they did because both of them were single. The witness further testified that he reported what he saw to Domingo Barcelo, but the latter merely accused him of being jealous.[9]

Appellant Julian Bañares, for himself, testified that he had been living intermittently with the Barcelo family ever since complainant was five (5) years old. He was already twenty-seven (27) years old when the alleged rape occurred. He developed a romantic relationship with complainant as the latter grew older. This romantic relationship started in 1991. In the morning of April 9, 1992, complainant asked if they could talk around noon. They met again that noon, as arranged, beside the house of complainant. There, complainant informed him that she did not have her menstrual period for that month. He then told her that they should inform her parents and she answered that they should wait for a while since her parents are still harvesting palay. They conversed for around thirty (30) minutes and then complainant started embracing him. He embraced her back and felt aroused. They then had sexual intercourse, which according to him, was consensual. Afterwards, his brother, Benjamin Bañares, arrived and asked them why they had sexual intercourse. Allegedly, complainant answered that nothing can hinder them from doing so since they were both single. Appellant, on the other hand, claimed that he had answered that he already wanted to get married and settle down. Thereafter, he saw his brother walk towards the nipa hut where the parents of complainant were staying. Seeing this, complainant immediately went home and appellant proceeded with his harvesting of palay.

Appellant also testified that he and complainant engaged in sexual intercourse several times prior to the incident on April 9, 1992. In open court, he specifically enumerated the dates when and the places where they had sexual intercourse. According to his testimony, they had sexual intercourse around twenty (20) times. Complainant also allegedly gave her picture to him so that he could remember her in Manila. The said picture, however, was never presented in court.[10]

As rebuttal witnesses, the prosecution presented Domingo Barcelo and complainant Susan Barcelo. The former testified that he did not bring his daughter to Irosin, Sorsogon on April 10, 1992, but he brought her there on May 5, 1992. His daughter only returned to Bonga, Albay on July 1, 1992.[11] Complainant, on the other hand, testified that she never had any kind of romantic relationship with appellant Bañares and the sexual intercourse on April 25, 1992 was without her consent. She was forced by appellant to have sex with him on that day.[12]

On May 16, 1996, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tabaco, Albay, Branch 16, rendered the herein assailed Decision finding appellant Julian Bañares y Besmonte guilty of the crime of rape as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision states:
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the Court finds the accused JULIAN BAÑARES y BESMONTE of Upper Bonga, Bacacay, Albay, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape as defined and punished under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby imposes the following, to wit:
  1. To suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, with all the accessory penalties provided by law;

  2. To pay the offended party Susan Barcelo and complainant-father Domingo Barcelo the sum of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) as moral damages; TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (P20,000.00) as exemplary damages;

  3. To pay the costs; and

  4. To give support to the said child in the amount of ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00) a month.
It appearing from the records that accused has been detained for his failure to post a P30,000.00 bond for his provisional liberty from December 2, 1992 when he was incarcerated by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued against him, up to the promulgation of the judgment, this 16th day of May, 1996 or a period of THREE (3) YEARS, FIVE (5) MONTHS and FOURTEEN (14) DAYS, he shall be credited in the service of this judgment with the whole period of time during which he has undergone preventive imprisonment.

Hence, this appeal on the following assigned errors:

Generally, this Court respects the factual findings of the trial court unless there exists a fact or circumstance of weight and influence that has been ignored or misconstrued by the trial court.[15]

Appellant’s counsel argues that the prosecution failed to establish that appellant employed force and intimidation to succeed in having sexual intercourse with complainant.

In construing the word force as an element of the crime of rape, this Court has held that it is imperative for the prosecution to prove that force or intimidation was actually employed by the accused-appellant upon his victim to achieve his end. Failure to do so is fatal to its cause.[16]

To prove that force and intimidation was involved, the prosecution merely reproduced in its brief that portion of complainant’s direct examination where she described how appellant succeeded in having sexual intercourse with her. There, complainant claimed that she was pulled down from the guava tree by appellant and dragged towards the area planted with caragomoy and then raped. She also claimed that she kicked appellant and suffered a wound just above her inner ankle.

  Q -  After you were scared, what happened next?
  A - He pulled me towards to the caragomoy planted area.
  Q -  What part of your body did he hold when he pulled you [to] that place?
    At this juncture witness pointed to her right hand.
  Q -  What happened after the accused pulled you towards the place where the caragomoy were planted?
  A -   I kicked him.
  Q -  And were you able to hit him?
  A -   No, Sir.
  Q -  What happened?
  A -   Because the accused moved backward.
  Q -  So what happened after you kicked him?
  A -  I was wounded.
  Q -  Where?
  A -   Here, Your Honor.
    At this juncture witness pointed to her left leg just above the inner ankle.
  Q -  So, what happened after the accused pulled you and you kicked him and you suffered injury?
  A -   He forced me to lie down, Sir.
  Q -  And after you were forced to lie down, what happened?
  A -   He removed my shorts.
  Q -  You have any panty at that time?
  A -   Yes, Sir.
    May we request to please avoid asking leading question[s].
    I will reform the question.
  Q -  Aside from the shorts he removed, what else if any?
  A -   He also removed my white t-shirt.
  Q -  What else aside from your t-shirt?
  A -   No more, Sir.
  Q -  So he only removed your shorts and t-shirt and nothing more?
  A -   And also my panty, Your Honor.
  Q -  So, what happened after the accused removed your panty as well as your shorts and t- shirt?
  A -   He kept on kissing me.
    Witness at the same time indicating her face.
  Q -  Aside from kissing your face, what did the accused do if any?
  A -   He kept on pressing my vagina.
  Q -  What else did the accused do to you aside from kissing and pressing your vagina?
  A -   He exposed his organ.
  Q -  In what manner did the accused expose his organ?
  A -   At first, he removed his pants.
  Q -  What happened after the accused exposed his organ by removing his pants, what happened next?
  A -  Immediately he inserted his organ into mine.
  Q -  What do you mean by “sakuya”?
  A -  In my vagina.
  Q -  After he inserted his organ to your vagina, what did he do to you if any?
  A -   After he inserted his organ [into] my vagina it bled.
  Q -  If the accused whom you mentioned as Julian, if he is in Court, will you be able to recognize him?
  A -   Yes, Sir.
    At this juncture the witness points to the man wearing polo-shirt and when asked his name answered as Julian Bañares.
x x x                                       x x x
  Q -  Aside from kissing you and inserting his organ upon you, what else did he do if any?
  A -  I kept on crying because I felt pain.  It was a painful and I felt that there was a whitish liquid coming out.
  Q -  Where [did] that [come] from?
  A -   From his penis.
  Q -  After the accused inserted his penis to your vagina, what did you see in your vagina?
  A -   It bled.  My organ [bled].
  Q -  What else did [you] see if any?
  A -   There was a whitish liquid.
  Q -  After the accused have done these to you, what happened next?
  A -   He put on his clothes.
  Q -  After he put on his clothes, what happened?
  A -   He threatened me.
  Q -  What are those utterances that were made upon you?
    That is leading, Your Honor.
    Objection overruled, because the question was, what did he do?  Her answer then, he threatened me.  What are those utterances?
    She can answer that question.
  A -   That if I would reveal what happened, I would be killed including my parents.
  Q -  After he uttered those threats, what did he do?
  A -   Then he left.
  Q -  How about you, what did you do?
  A -   I also dressed myself.
  Q -  From there, where did you go?
  A -   I went to the well to clean my vagina.[17]

This Court notes, however, that when complainant took to the witness stand, the said wound she allegedly suffered was no longer discernible, nor was it put on record that complainant bore a scar on that part of her body. This Court also notes that the only form of resistance showed by complainant in her testimony is that single kick and nothing else. Complainant also claimed that after appellant raped her, he made a threat of killing her and her parents if she told anyone what happened, a threat which she promptly ignored by allegedly telling appellant’s brother what had happened soon after the act:

x x x                         x x x                    x x x

Q - 
What happened after you cleaned your vagina?
  A -   After that my father had him summoned to go to our house but he did not obey.
  Q -  What caused your father to have him summoned?
  A -   To have a conversation [with] each other.
    That is not the answer to the question.
  Q -  How come that your father wanted to summon Julian?
  A -   About the incident that happened, Your Honor.
  Q -  How did he know the incident?
  A -   Because the brother of Julian told my father about the incident.
  Q -  How old is that brother?
  A -   Grown up because he was already married.
  Q -  How did the brother of Julian know about the incident?
  A -   Because I reported the incident to his brother.
  Q -  What is the name?
  A -   Benjamin.
  Q -  Where did you see Benjamin when you reported the incident to him?
  A -   When he sharpened his bolo in our house.
  Q -  When?
  A -   On April 25.
  Q -  What time?
  A -   It is already in the afternoon.
  Q -  But before supper?
  A -   Yes, Your Honor.
x x x                         x x x                    x x x

The prosecution also alleged in its brief that the employment of force and intimidation by appellant upon private complainant is likewise evident from the medical findings of the doctor who categorically testified that the complainant sustained several lacerations on her vagina as a result of sexual intercourse.

It must be pointed out that a medical certificate or the testimony of the physician is presented not to prove that the complainant was raped but to show that the latter had lost her virginity. Consequently, standing alone, a physician’s finding that the hymen of the alleged victim was lacerated does not prove rape. It is only when this is corroborated by other evidence regarding the circumstances of the carnal knowledge that rape may be deemed to have been established.[18]

It is true that in rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the complaining witness.[19] However, because of the unique nature of the crime of rape, where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution.[20] Hence, in this case, as in many others before it, the credibility of the complainant’s testimony is determinative of the outcome.

This Court notes that complainant’s testimony was replete with details that inject doubt as to appellant’s guilt.

First, complainant claimed that appellant made a threat of killing her and her parents if she told anyone about what happened. Despite this threat, she nevertheless told appellant’s brother, Benjamin, about the alleged rape immediately after it occurred. When appellant’s brother relayed to her father what had happened, complainant reportedly refused to say anything about it. It is indeed disturbing that complainant would still balk at vindicating her defiled honor and not tell her father what had actually happened. She had already told appellant’s brother that she was raped. In turn, appellant’s brother allegedly reported this to her father. Complainant had already ignored appellant’s threat. Nothing would have stopped her from pursuing her defiler and seeking redress for the crime committed against her.

Second, complainant testified that her father, on the very same day that the alleged rape happened, had appellant summoned to ask him whether he had indeed defiled his daughter. Allegedly, appellant never answered the summons. Her father immediately thereafter sent complainant away to Irosin, Sorsogon to live with her aunt.

The actions of complainant’s father are not consistent with that of a man who just received information that his daughter may have been raped. Instead, his actions are more consistent with that of one who learned that his daughter was having a sexual relationship with a man almost twice her age. He did not have her examined immediately by a physician who may have confirmed that the girl was indeed ravished. Instead, he sent her away ostensibly to live with an aunt who promised to send her to school.

Third, the rape occurred on April 25, 1992 and complainant allegedly reported this to Benjamin Bañares on the very same day. Although Benjamin Bañares reportedly informed her father immediately thereafter about what had happened, her father supposedly only knew for sure that his daughter was raped sometime around July, 1992 when complainant was already living with her aunt in Irosin, Sorsogon. However, complainant’s father only filed the complaint for rape against appellant on November 9, 1992.[21] Also, complainant only submitted to a medical examination on November 6, 1992.[22] It is true that the silence of the complainant in a case of rape or her failure to disclose her defilement without loss of time to persons close to her and to report the matter to authorities, does not perforce warrant the conclusion that she was not sexually molested and that her charges against the accused are all baseless, untrue, and fabricated.[23] However, in this case, upon being asked about the delay in the filing of the complaint, the complainant answered:

Q And the said complaint was filed by your father only in November, 1992 or after a lapse of seven months, before the Municipal Trial Court, after you were allegedly raped by the accused here.

A It was because the family was so busy in the preparation for the wedding of my brother, Jimmy. So, the [filing] of the case was quite delayed.[24]

And the said complaint was filed by your father only in November, 1992 or after a lapse of seven months, before the Municipal Trial Court, after you were allegedly raped by the accused here.

It was because the family was so busy in the preparation for the wedding of my brother, Jimmy.  So, the [filing] of the case was quite delayed.[24]

This explanation is not satisfactory. Supposedly, complainant’s family, as early as July, 1992, already knew about the alleged rape. They would have acted with promptness if it were true that one of their own was the unwilling victim of a grievous outrage.

This Court will not hesitate to reverse a judgment of conviction and acquit the accused where there are strong indications pointing to the possibility that the rape charge was motivated by some factors other than the truth.[25] Also, it must be borne in mind that an accusation of rape may easily be made and is hard to prove. It is harder, however, upon the accused to defend, although he may be innocent.[26] The evidence, therefore, for conviction must not only be clear and convincing, but be beyond reasonable doubt to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence.[27]

In this case, this Court finds that the prosecution failed to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence and, hence, appellant’s acquittal is called for.

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant Julian Bañares y Besmonte is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime of rape in Criminal Case No. T-2397 of the Regional Trial Court of Tabaco, Albay, Branch 16. The Director of Prisons is hereby directed forthwith to cause the release of appellant unless he is being lawfully held for another cause, and to inform the Court accordingly within ten (10) days from notice.

Costs de oficio.


Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), on official leave.

[1] Rollo, p. 6.

[2] Testimony of Susan Barcelo, January 24, 1994.

[3] Cross Examination of Susan Barcelo, January 28, 1994, p. 14.

[4] Ibid, pp. 10-12.

[5] Testimony of Domingo Barcelo, September 28, 1994.

[6] Exhibit “E;” Records, p. 4.

[7] Testimony of Dr. Evelyn Amador, December 13, 1994.

[8] Testimony of Salvador Nuñez, January 31, 1995.

[9] Testimony of Benjamin Bañares, February 22, 1995 and April 19, 1995.

[10] Testimony of Julian Bañares, June 6, 1995.

[11] Rebuttal Testimony of Domingo Barcelo, August 3, 1995.

[12] Rebuttal Testimony of Susan Barcelo, August 3, 1995.

[13] RTC Decision, pp. 7-8; Rollo, pp. 26-27.

[14] Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; Rollo, p. 59.

[15] People v. Fernandez, 351 SCRA 80 (2001).

[16] People v. Subido, supra note 6.

[17] TSN, January 24, 1994.

[18] People v. Domantay, 307 SCRA 1 (1999).

[19] People v. Dado, 244 SCRA 655 (1995).

[20] People v. Gabris, 258 SCRA 663 (1996).

[21] Records, p. 1.

[22] Records, p. 4.

[23] People v. Garcia, 105 SCRA 6 (1981).

[24] Cross-Examination of Susan Barcelo, August 23, 1994 (afternoon hearing), p. 2.

[25] People v. Subido, supra note 6.

[26] People v. Barbo, 56 SCRA 459 (1974).

[27] People v. Bihasa, 130 SCRA 62 (1984).

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