Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

402 Phil. 233


[ G.R. No. 135850-52, January 16, 2001 ]




For review is the decision of the Regional Trial Court ("RTC"), xxx, in Criminal Cases No. 5090, No. 5091 and No. 5092, finding the accused therein, Santos Mirafuentes y Cahiyang, guilty of RAPE on three counts.

The complaints for rape brought against Santos Mirafuentes before the RTC read:

"Criminal Case No. 5090-0
"That sometime in November 1996, in the morning, at xxx and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, SANTOS MIRAFUENTES y Cahiyang, by means of violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the complainant AAA – a 16 year old lass, against her will." [1]

"Criminal Case No. 5091-0

"That sometime in the first week of October 1996, at about 10:00 o'clock in the morning, more or less, at xxx and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, SANTOS MIRAFUENTES y Cahiyang, by means of violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the complainant AAA – a 16 year old lass, against her will." [2]

"Criminal Case No. 5092-0

"That sometime in the first week of October 1996, in the morning, at xxx and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, SANTOS MIRAFUENTES y Cahiyang, by means of violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the complainant AAAe - a 16 year old lass, against her will." [3]
When arraigned, the accused entered a plea of not guilty to each of the offenses charged. The cases were consolidated for a joint trial.

The evidence for the prosecution, coming mainly from the testimony of private complainant AAA, depicted a factual scenario that in the mind of the court a quo sufficed to warrant a judgment of conviction which it thereby decreed.

AAA, born on 05 February 1981, is 4 feet and 9 inches in height and slightly stocky in built. She has reached only Grade III level in the elementary school. She and her five brothers and sisters reside with their parents, BBB and CCC, at xxx. The family dwelling, located just a few meters from the national road, is a medium-sized hut, with G.I. sheets roofing and walling made of bamboo slats. The backyard is planted with ornamental plants. Adjacent to their house is that of Santos Mirafuentes. It is also a medium-sized hut but built with hollow blocks walls and iron grill windows. The distance between the two houses is approximately 20 meters, and in between is a high fence. In front of both houses is a farm lot planted with sugarcane and coconut trees owned by Concepcion Pelaez Tan.

Sometime during the first week of October 1996, about ten o'clock in the morning, AAA was asked by her mother, CCC, to get empty bottles of "Coke" from the house of AAAs grandmother EEE located farther away from the national road, going towards the interior part of the area. On the way to her grandmother's house, while under a coconut tree on the pathway towards the side portion of the vacant farm about 100 meters away from their house, AAA suddenly felt somebody hold her by the shoulders. When she glanced back, she saw Santos Mirafuentes who immediately poked a knife on the right side of her neck just below her right jaw. He pulled her towards the middle part of the farm lot, about 50 meters away from the pathway, planted with sugarcane with stalks reaching up to more than six feet in height. She suffered abrasions on her right forearm. Santos forcibly started to undress AAA. While struggling away from Santos, she fell to the ground. He then removed her underwear, promptly mounted her and ultimately succeeded in having carnal knowledge of her. She felt pain as it was her first sexual encounter. She was not able to shout because of fear of Santos who was still holding the knife he had earlier poked at her. Santos warned her not to tell her parents about what had happened. She did not proceed to her grandmother's house and instead went back home, stayed in a room and cried. She did not dare tell anyone of the incident being too fearful that Santos would make good his threat.

Sometime in the second week of October 1996, around ten o'clock in the morning, AAA was again requested by her mother to get empty bottles of softdrink from her grandmother's house. She tried to give an excuse that she was tired but her mother was persistent. She had to oblige. On her way, Santos who appeared to have been laying in wait, poked a knife at her and, like the week before, pulled her towards the middle part of the plantation, only about 7 meters farther from where she was first raped. Despite her struggles, appellant succeeded in having carnal knowledge of her. He again warned her not to tell on him.

The rape incident was repeated a third time in November 1996. It took place under almost the same circumstances as the first two rape incidents about 15 meters farther from the site of the first sexual assault. AAA had a clear memory of the exact spots where she was raped because of a coconut tree stump found during the ocular inspection conducted during the trial of the case.

AAA's fear of revealing the incidents because of the threats on her life by Santos would soon not really matter for, sometime in March 1997 on the way home from the cemetery, her mother CCC noticed that her daughter, looking pale, continued to press her enlarged abdomen. Sensing that something was wrong BBB started asking questions until AAA finally broke down and admitted that she was "hi[ni]labtan" (translated as molested). Further questioned, she confided that she had been raped ("gilugos") by Santos.

On 03 March 1997, the matter was reported to the police authorities. On 04 March 1997, AAA was physically examined by Dr. Ma. Esperanza Agudo at the xxx District Hospital. The medical findings indicated -
"Hymen – healed lacerations at four o'clock, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, and ten o'clock positions.

"Introitus – nulliparous, admits two (2) fingers freely.

Uterus – enlarged, fundal height – 15-cm.

Pregnancy test – positive

"LMP – October 5, 1996

"AOG – 21 weeks and 2 days" [4]
The case was referred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development ("DSWD") on 22 March 1997 which thereupon took her into its custody assigned under the care of DDD. DDD testified that AAA appeared lowly and isolated during the first week of her stay in the DSWD but after about 2-3 weeks later, she began to open up and relate her sad experience. AAA gave birth while in the custody of the DSWD on 21 July 1997. She was then only 16 years old.

The defense presented witnesses to refute the version given by the prosecution.

Emma Mirafuentes, wife of the accused testified about the numerous misunderstandings, quarrels and disputes between the Mirafuenteses and AAA’s family. She talked about the repeated confrontations between the two families held before barangay officials to help establish the ill-motives of the AAA’s family in getting AAA to file the three complaints against her husband. She said that during the incidents in question, she and her husband were working in a nearby sugarcane farm daily from early morning until afternoon. Geline Cabali, the overseer of the farm in xxx, confirmed that appellant and his wife were workers thereat. Fredie Mirafuentes, a son of appellant, testified about AAA's bad reputation as a girl, whom he claimed to have engaged in sexual intercourse with even when he was only 10 years old and AAA was only 9. Romeo Gerale, the sugarcane inspector of Concepcion Pelaez Tan who owned the plantation fronting the house of appellant, said that the farm lot was no longer planted to sugarcane after the harvest in June or July 1996. He added, however, that after harvest it would still be possible for sugarcane to still grow in the area.

In his own testimony, Santos Mirafuentes delved only on the damages he claimed to have suffered because of the "malicious charges" against him.

On 01 July 1998, the trial court, after the parties had concluded the presentation of evidence, rendered a Joint Judgment finding the accused guilty under all three complaints. Thus -
"WHEREFORE, all the foregoing duly considered, the Court finds the accused Santos Mirafuentes y Cahiyang guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the three (3) offenses of rape in Criminal Case No. 5091-0, Criminal Case No. 5092-0, and Criminal Case No. 5090-0, as charged therein, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty after finding the commission of the offense was attended with the use of a knife deadly weapon, as follows:

"For Criminal Case No. 5091-0

- Imprisonment for forty (40) years of reclusion perpetua, there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed (Art. 63 in relation to Art. 335, Revised Penal Code) and despoblado or uninhabited place not being proven as an aggravating circumstance.

"In addition, the accused is penalized to pay the offended party, herein private complainant, the sum of P50,000.00 as indemnity.

"For Criminal Case No. 5092-0

- Imprisonment for forty (40) years of reclusion perpetua, there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed (Art. 63 in relation to Art. 335, Revised Penal Code) and despoblado or uninhabited place not being proven as an aggravating circumstance.

"In addition, the accused is penalized to pay the offended party, herein private complainant, the sum of P50,000.00 as indemnity.

"For Criminal Case No. 5090-0

- Imprisonment for forty (40) years of reclusion perpetua, there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed (Art. 63 in relation to Art. 335, Revised penal Code) and despoblado or uninhabited place not being proven as an aggravating circumstance.

"In addition, the accused is penalized to pay the offended party, herein private complainant, the sum of P50,000.00 as indemnity.

"Apart from the above indemnities, the accused is hereby penalized to pay the DSWD the sum of P20,000.00 as actual damage.

"If the accused has been detained, the period of detention shall be credited to him in full if he agrees voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules upon convicted prisoners, otherwise, for only four-fifths (4/5) thereof.

A motion for reconsideration of the decision was denied in an order, dated 12 August 1998, of the court a quo.

In his appeal to this Court, appellant has raised a number of points.

The alleged pregnancy of AAA, appellant would argue, "was already very apparent on 01 March 1999" (should be 01 March 1997), yet CCC confronted her daughter only on 03 March 1997 which, to him, was quite unusual and indicative of a touched-up version of what really had happened.

The Court is inclined to agree with the Solicitor General in pointing out that the -
"x x x statement of complainant's mother that she did not right away confront her daughter despite having noticed the latter's change in appearance does not necessarily indicate a fabricated charge. Noticing the change in appearance is one thing but drawing the conclusion that the change was due to pregnancy is another matter. Although she might have noticed that there was some change in her daughter's physique, she might have never entertained the suspicion that it was because of pregnancy. Thus, even if the weight increase was noticed, she might have thought that her daughter was simply gaining weight, thus she saw no reason for alarm and no need to confront her. Pregnancy was farthest from her mind as there was no reason for her to entertain such thought considering the young age of her daughter, especially since the latter took efforts to conceal from her what she went through in appellant's hands. Thus, bereft of any clue that her daughter was already in trouble, she only saw the need to confront her when she noticed her daughter's pallor on March 3, 1997, after they came from the cemetery. It was only then that she discovered AAA's true condition. Thus, her failure to right away confront her daughter should not be taken against her, especially since it was only caused by the circumstances cited above." [6]
The failure of AAA to immediately report the assault on her virtue to her family or to the police would not necessarily negate the fact of its commission. The threat made on her life, as well as on the life of the members of her family, was to her far too real. Indeed, it would not be an uncommon occurrence for a young and immature girl, to conceal for a time the rape committed on her because of the rapist's threats on her life, or of the fear of public humiliation or simply of lack of courage. [7]

Appellant calls attention to alleged improbabilities and inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence.

AAA's declaration that there was only one road going to her grandmother's house was an error of fact. She might have been inaccurate in her statement but she did not commit a deliberate lie. AAA even corrected herself during the ocular inspection and pointed, in fact, to another route going to her grandmother's house but that she kept on using one route in going to and from her grandmother's house as being the shortest and least circuitous way.

With respect to the absence of any sign of abrasion found on AAA, it might be recalled that she was medically examined only on 03 March 1997 or months after she had suffered the abrasions and marks of injury which by then would have already disappeared.

Appellant would fault AAA for her "selective memory" by remembering some details of the incidents but forgetting other matters that should not have easily escaped attention. It would not really be unusual for one to recollect a good number of things about an eventful incident but what should be strange is when one can put to mind everything. Rape victims are not expected to mechanically keep tab and give an accurate account of the exact dates of the rape. It is not farfetched for a victim of a harrowing and traumatic encounter to even shut off certain portions of that experience. [8] Behavioral psychology also teaches us that different people react dissimilarly to similar situations. [9] Verily, the exact date of rape is not an essential element of the crime, and the mere failure to give a precise date, let alone an incorrect estimate, will not discredit the testimony of the victim. [10]

The alleged existence of enmity between the Mirafuentes and the AAA’s family, which appellant would also stress on, should neither be enough to ignore the testimony of AAA nor be considered as being the reason that has impelled AAA to make a wrongful accusation. It is highly improbable for a girl of her age (only 16 at the time she testified) to so fabricate a charge so humiliating to herself and her family had she not been truly exposed to the painful and traumatic experience of the sexual assault. [11] And for parents, it would be too high a price to pay in exposing their daughter to public ridicule and indignity, coupled with the rigors of a public trial, just to vent an ire on an accused.

The supposed improbabilities and inconsistencies made much of by the defense in its attempt to discredit AAA are really but de minimus in character and insufficient to blur, or cast doubt on, her integrity. Indeed, the spontaneity of her testimony is even heightened by minor discrepancies which, in fact, are normally viewed to add credence and veracity to the narration.[12]

Already well-settled and often said is the rule that findings of trial courts which are factual in nature and which revolve on matters of credibility of witnesses deserve to be respected when no glaring errors bordering on a gross misapprehension of the facts, or where no speculative, arbitrary and unsupported conclusions, can be gleaned from such findings. [13] This Court, in closely reviewing the records, is convinced that the trial court's evaluation of the evidence, particularly AAA's testimony, has been sufficiently objective and fairly calibrated. This much is evident from the decision appealed from and the trial court's observation-
"x x x First, the complainant is a simple country girl living in a farm, aged 16 at the time of trial, unsophisticated in appearance and deportment, having reached only Grade III (TSN of October 7, 1997, pp. 11-12), and of short and small build. Her appearance lends credence to her words. Second, her testimony even under the maze of cross-examination remains credible and inherently true. Her testimony about each occasion, the fears she had in walking alone and the remonstrance she gave to her mother, the obedience she ultimately showed, her memory about the coconut trees amidst tall sugarcanes and grasses, her indifference (or `temper' as her mother would usually describe) and her reaction immediately after each rape incident, the crying that she had done, her description of the surroundings and the place of the incident – all these can attest to or impart a grain of truth in the occurrence of the rape incidents. Third, AAA's own credibility and her testimony were never impeached nor denied by accused's own testimony and evidence. The private complainant, was credible, her testimony was credible, this appreciation remained so throughout her cross-examination and the accused's evidence. The allegation as to AAA's promiscuity even at an early age of 9 as testified to by accused's son, Fredie, did not destroy her credibility as a witness and complainant. In the appreciation of the Court, that allegation of Fredie and of his mother about family disputes between the Mirafuentes family and the AAA’s family, were not sufficient to destroy the credibility and the testimony of the private complainant. Fourth, the prosecution was able to show that AAA's pregnancy and childbirth was the proximate result of the rape incidents that occurred sometime in the first and second weeks of October 1996, and in November 1996. The immediate action or measure taken by the mother immediately after her discovery of AAA's pregnancy, and the legal course of action taken by the parents after AAA revealed to them the painful truth, indicate the civil manner of reaction which would only reinforce the observation already adverted to that the private complainant's testimony is clothed with naturalness, and any insinuation of vengeance (coming from AAA's parents) which the filing of the rape complaints could create (and which is the tenor of the accused's evidence) would not hold in the face of a showing about AAA's and her parents' propensity towards lawful means in addressing their grievance against the accused.

"In short, the prosecution's evidence for the herein three complaints, from Dr. Esperanza Agudo to AAA to CCC (AAA's mother) to DDD (the DSWD representative), put forth in clear, unmistakable and straightforward manner the elements of rape, made strong and credible by each witness testimonial corroboration." [14]
The determination by a trial judge on the evaluation of testimony before it is a matter rightly within its realm of discretion [15] and should be received with great regard. The Court sees no justification for now ignoring that long-standing rule.

Appellant's alibi is extremely weak. Defense witness Geline Cabali herself stated that the farm in xxx where accused-appellant has claimed to be is actually not that distant from xxx, the rape scene. On cross-examination, she has also admitted not being fully aware of appellant's whereabouts in the farm during the time of the incidents in question as she would now and then leave the farm premises.

All things fully considered, this Court holds that the trial court did not commit the errors ascribed to it by appellant, and that the prosecution has so discharged its burden as required by law, i.e., to adduce that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. [16]

The Court affirms the grant of civil indemnity of P50,000.00 to the victim AAA for each of the sexual assaults, or a total of P150,000.00, to which, consistently with prevailing jurisprudence, should be added moral damages of another P50,000.00 likewise for each offense. [17] As regards the award of actual damages, the Court observes that the trial court has ordered appellant to pay the DSWD the sum of P20,000.00 but no evidence on record has been presented to show the incurrence thereof. The award for actual damages must thus be deleted.

The trial court has imposed the penalty of "Imprisonment for forty (40) years of reclusion perpetua, there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances." The penalty prescribed by Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code for the crime of rape is reclusion perpetua. When, however, the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon, like a knife, such as in the case at bar, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death (Article 335, Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659, Section 11). Reclusion perpetua and death are two indivisible penalties. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance present, the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua should be imposed on appellant in each of the three criminal cases. [18] Reclusion perpetua is considered to be an indivisible penalty without any minimum, medium or maximum period and must be imposed in its entire duration and full extent. [19] Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, however, provides that the maximum period in regard to service of the sentence shall not exceed forty years.

WHEREFORE, the joint judgment of the court a quo convicting accused-appellant of rape on three counts is AFFIRMED. He is sentenced to serve the penalty of reclusion perpetua on each of the three criminal cases No. 5090-0, No. 5091-0 and No. 5092-0. The award of P50,000.00 civil indemnity for each count of rape adjudged by the trial court is AFFIRMED. In addition, he shall pay to the complainant by way of moral damages the amount of P50,000.00 for each rape. The award, however, of P20,000.00 actual damages payable to the DSWD is DELETED for want of proof. Costs against accused-appellant.


Melo, (Chairman), Panganiban, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, p. 7.

[2] Rollo, p. 9.

[3] Rollo, p. 11.

[4] Records of Criminal Case No. 5090-0, p. 4.

[5] Rollo, pp. 81-82.

[6] Rollo, pp. 115-117.

[7] People vs. Adora, 275 SCRA 441; People vs. Lucas, 181 SCRA 316.

[8] People vs. Zaballero, 274 SCRA 627; People vs. Bugarin, 273 SCRA 384; People vs. Butron, 272 SCRA 352.

[9] People vs. Ibay, 233 SCRA 15.

[10] See People vs. Quitoriano, 266 SCRA 373.

[11] People vs. Cabillan, 267 SCRA 258.

[12] People vs. Collado, 196 SCRA 519.

[13] People vs. Flores, 252 SCRA 31; People vs. Bahuyan, 238 SCRA 330; People vs. Sanchez, 250 SCRA 14.

[14] Rollo, pp. 78-79.

[15] People vs. Martinez, 236 SCRA 13; People vs. Pelones, 230 SCRA 379.

[16] Rule 133, Section 2; Rule 131, Section 2, Rules of Court; People vs. Fernando, 156 SCRA 35; People vs. Sadang, 233 SCRA 412.

[17] People vs. Pili, 289 SCRA 118; People vs. Prades, 293 SCRA 411; People vs. Fuertes, 296 SCRA 602.

[18] Article 63 in relation to Article 335, Revised Penal Code.

[19] People vs. Magallano, 266 SCRA 305; People vs. Gatward, 267 SCRA 785; People vs. Baculi, 246 SCRA 756; People vs. Uycoque, 246 SCRA 769.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.