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402 Phil. 734


[ G.R. No. 129769, January 19, 2001 ]




Accused-appellant Antonio Belga was charged with rape in an Information which reads, thus:
That on or about 12:00 o'clock midnight of March 21, 1992, at Barangay Binatagan, Municipality of Basud, Province of Camarines Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there willfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with (sic) one ANNALYN B. BENITES, against the latter's will and by means of force, and intimidation, to her damage and prejudice.

Upon arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded "not guilty" to the charge. Trial on the merits ensued.

The prosecution established that in the evening of March 21, 1992 at around 12:00 o'clock midnight, the 18-year-old Annalyn B. Benites and her grandmother attended the "Pabasa ng Pasion" in the house of Domingo Belga, accused-appellant's father. That pabasa was also attended by Armando Vecida, Domingo Belga and his wife, Mario Bermas, Francisco Paular and Antonio Penarubia. Annalyn testified that at around 11:00 o'clock of said date, some persons, including Antonio, were drinking gin near the place where the pabasa was being held. She could not estimate the distance between the place where the drinking session was being held and the table where she was sleeping. She recalled, though, that there was a wall separating the table she was sleeping on and the room where the pabasa was being held.

Accused-appellant Antonio's drinking mates left when the drinking session was over. Antonio then went over to the table where Annalyn was sleeping. Antonio slept on the other side of the table with their heads opposite each other. After some time, Antonio mashed her breast, removed her panty and inserted his penis into her vagina. She did not resist as Antonio threatened her with a knife. The following morning, Elizabeth Belga, Antonio's sister asked her if she was suffering from stomach pain as she could not move from the table. She just kept quiet for fear that Elizabeth might tell her friends what happened to her. Thereafter, she left the house and reported to her parents what Antonio did to her.

Fernando Benites, Annalyn's father, testified that his 18-year old daughter had no educational attainment as she was mentally retarded.

Mario Bermas, Antonio's drinking partner that night, corroborated Annalyn's testimony regarding the latter's position prior to the incident as well as the layout of the locus criminis.

On March 23, 1992, Annalyn submitted herself to medical examination. Thereafter, a medical certificate[1] was correspondingly issued finding that she had "incomplete, healed, hymenal laceration at 3 and 4 o'clock positions" and that her "vagina admits two (2) fingers with ease."

Antonio denied the accusation against him. He alleged that he arrived at the house of his father on March 20, 1992 and stayed there up to 5:00 o'clock in the morning of March 21, 1992. He claimed that at midnight of March 20, 1992, he was at the table in the kitchen which was about 2 meters from the place where the pabasa was being held. There was no divider between the place where the pabasa was being held and the kitchen. He was engaged in a drinking session with some men. He alleged that it was not possible for him to have committed said crime considering that there were people in the kitchen.

Antonio's testimony was corroborated by Armando Vecida, Teodora Belga and Lourdes de la Torre. Essentially, they testified that they were at the house of Domingo at around the time the alleged incident supposedly happened up to the morning of the following day. They claimed that no rape could have been committed because of the presence of people participating in the pabasa particularly in the kitchen where the drinking spree was being held as well as where the food was being prepared.

The trial court rejected accused-appellant's defense and gave credence to complainant's testimony. Thus, it ruled:
"WHEREFORE, finding the accused ANTONIO BELGA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, he is hereby convicted of said crime and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the victim the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) as moral damages and TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (P20,000.00) as exemplary damages."[2]
Accused-appellant Antonio is now before this Court raising the following errors allegedly committed by the trial court:

In essence, the defense claims that the rape could not have been committed because of the presence of many people participating in the pabasa. The defense further avers that Annalyn, being abnormal, could be easily coached and her statements tailored.

We are not persuaded.

In rape cases, courts are guided by the following principles: (1) to accuse a man of rape is easy, but to disprove it is difficult though the accused may be innocent; (2) considering that in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit and not be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.[3]

In the case at bar, the trial court has to rely on its own assessment of the credibility of both parties, particularly that of the complainant. Credible witness and credible testimony are the two essential elements for the determination of the weight of a particular testimony. This principle could not ring any truer than in this case where the prosecution relies mainly on the testimony of the complainant, corroborated by the medico-legal findings of a physician.[4] Be that as it may, the accused may be convicted on the basis of the lone, uncorroborated testimony of the rape victim, provided that her testimony is clear, positive, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature.[5]

The trial court found Annalyn to be credible, sincere and unequivocal when she testified as follows:
"Prosecutor Villafuerte:

Q.After Antonio Belga held your breast, what happened next?


A.He removed my panty.

Q.And so he was able to remove that?
A.Yes, sir.

Q.Did you not resist?
A.I did not resist.

A.Because he is going to kill me.

Q.After removing your panty, what did he do next?
A.He inserted his penis into my vagina."[6]
Annalyn's testimony was corroborated by the medical finding that she had indeed been raped. This was not disputed by the defense.

Furthermore, by his own admission, Antonio was at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. Nonetheless, he insisted he could not have raped Annalyn due to the presence of people in the area. He claimed that the "pabasa was taking place at the other end of the table which was just around two (2) armslength from where the complainant was sleeping and in (sic) the same table where the drinking spree took place."

Antonio's claim that the pabasa was held on the same table where Annalyn was sleeping and where the drinking session was held is hard to believe. Aside from the inappropriateness of the scenario which Antonio painted before this Court, Annalyn testified that the pabasa took place in another part of the house separated by a divider from the kitchen where the crime took place.[7] Antonio's prevarication was exposed when even his own witness, Teodora Belga, corroborated Annalyn's testimony.[8]

Even granting that there were people in the house when the crime was committed, it must be stressed that lust is no respecter of places. Rape can be committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, inside a house where there are several occupants and even in the same room where other members of the family are sleeping.[9] In another case, this Court held that for rape to be committed, it is not necessary for the place to be ideal, for rapists bear no respect for locale and time when they carry out their evil deed. The presence of people nearby does not deter rapists from committing their odious act.[10]

Besides, no woman would concoct a story of defloration, allow examination of her private parts and subject herself to public trial or ridicule if she has not, in truth, been a victim of rape and impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her. It is settled jurisprudence that when a woman says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed.[11]

We agree with the following factual finding of the court a quo:
"But it was midnight when the rape happened after having their drinking spree. Accused went to sleep on top of the table and he saw the complainant sleeping on the other side of the table. There is no other person in the kitchen except the accused and complainant, hence, the accused's criminal intent was consummated."
Time and again, we have held that when the decision hinges on the credibility of witnesses and their respective testimonies, the trial court's observations and conclusions deserve great respect and are often accorded finality, unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight which the lower court may have overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case. The trial judge enjoys the advantage of observing the witness' deportment and manner of testifying, her "furtive glance, blush of conscious shame, hesitation, flippant or sneering tone, calmness, sigh, or the scant or full realization of an oath" -- all of which are useful aids for an accurate determination of a witness' honesty and sincerity.[12] The trial judge, therefore, can better determine if such witnesses were telling the truth, being in the ideal position to weigh conflicting testimonies.[13] Unless certain facts of substance and value were overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, its assessment must be respected for it had the opportunity to observe the conduct and demeanor of the witnessess while testifying and detect if they are lying.[14]

Significantly, accused-appellant Antonio was not able to ascribe any motive that would have prompted Annalyn to file a case of rape against him. When there is no evidence to show any improper motive on the part of the complainant to testify against the accused or to falsely implicate him in the commission of the crime, the logical conclusion is that the testimony is worthy of full faith and credence.[15]

The trial court, however, erred in ordering accused-appellant to "indemnify the victim the amount of FIFTY-THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) as moral damages." As reiterated in People v. Arillas[16] citing People v. Prades:
"Jurisprudence has elucidated that the award authorized by the criminal law as civil indemnity ex delicto for the offended party, in the amount authorized by the prevailing judicial policy and aside from other proven actual damages, is itself equivalent to actual or compensatory damages in civil law. For that matter, the civil liability ex delicto provided by the Revised Penal Code, that is, restitution, reparation and indemnification, all correspond to actual or compensatory damages in the Civil Code, since the other damages provided therein are moral, nominal, temperate or moderate, liquidated, and exemplary or corrective damages which have altogether different concepts and fundaments.

We reiterate here that said civil indemnity is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape; it is distinct from and should not be denominated as moral damages which are based on different jural foundations and assessed by the court in the exercise of sound discretion." (Emphasis supplied)
The trial court likewise erred in awarding P20,000.00 as exemplary damages. Under Article 2231 of the Civil Code, exemplary damages may be awarded if the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.[17] In this case, no aggravating circumstance attended the commission of the crime.

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the assailed Decision, finding accused-appellant Antonio Belga guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he is ordered to pay Annalyn Benitez indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 and moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00. The award of P20,000.00 as exemplary damages is DELETED for lack of factual basis. Costs against accused-appellant.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.

[1] Records, p. 3.

[2] Penned by Judge Sancho Dames II.

[3] People v. Hofilena, G.R. No. 134772, June 22, 2000.

[4] People v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 124368, June 8, 2000.

[5] People v. Alicante, G.R. Nos. 127026-27, May 31, 2000.

[6] TSN, April 27, 1993, pp. 8-9.

[7] Ibid.

[8] TSN, July 10, 1995, p. 6.

[9] People v. Lusa, 288 SCRA 296 [1998].

[10] People v. Antonio, G.R. No. 122473, June 8, 2000.

[11] People v. Manuel, 298 SCRA 184 [1998].

[12] People v. Manuel, supra.

[13] People v. Tipay, G.R. No. 131472, March 28, 2000.

[14] People v. Siao, G.R. No. 126021, March 3, 2000.

[15] People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 120280, April 12, 2000.

[16] G.R. No. 130593, June 19, 2000.

[17] People v. Dizon, G.R. No. 129893, December 10, 1999.

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