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402 Phil. 899


[ G.R. Nos. 134566-67, January 22, 2001 ]




For automatic review is the June 1, 1998 Decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite City, Branch 16, imposing the supreme penalty of death on accused-appellant Gonyeto Francisco y Capellan, in Criminal Case Nos. 248-96 and 249-96, for two counts of rape committed against his own daughter and stepdaughter, aged thirteen (13) and sixteen (16) years, respectively.
The informations indicting accused-appellant state:

In Criminal Case No. 248-96:

That on or about the 23rd day of July, 1996, at Barangay Wawa III, Municipality of Rosario, Province of Cavite, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs, taking advantage of superior strength and moral ascendancy over her person being his own stepdaughter who is only 17 (sic) years of age, and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with her (Wennie C. Merioles) against her will and consent.


In Criminal Case No. 249-96:

That on or about the 19th day of July, 1996, at Barangay Wawa III, Municipality of Rosario, Province of Cavite, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs, taking advantage of superior strength and moral ascendancy over her person being his own daughter who is only 13 years of age, and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with her (Rachelle Francisco y Calitis) against her will and consent.

Upon arraignment on September 11, 1996, with the assistance of counsel de officio, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to both charges.[4] Thereafter, the cases were consolidated and tried jointly, with the prosecution presenting Dra. Ida P. Daniel, Dr. Ronaldo B. Mendez, and private complainants Winnie C. Merioles and Rachelle C. Francisco as witnesses.

On the other hand, accused-appellant and Julius Roquin, administrative assistant of Cities Construction, testified for the defense.

The prosecution's version of the facts are synthesized by the Solicitor General in the Appellee's Brief, thus -
Facts Common to Criminal Case Nos. 248-96 and 249-96

Private complainants Wennie Merioles (Criminal Case No. 248-96) and Rachelle Francisco (Criminal Case No. 249-96) are stepsisters. Their mother, Nicomedes Francisco, is married to appellant Gonyeto Francisco (p. 12, tsn, September 18, 1997) who is the father of Rachelle. They live in a two-storey house situated in Wawa II (sic), Little Baguio, Rosario, Cavite. Appellant was employed as driver with the Cities Corporation at the Export Processing Zone, Rosario, Cavite.

Criminal Case No. 248-96

On July 23, 1996, Wennie Merioles did not attend school because of flood (p. 16, tsn, October 20, 1996). Wennie was then 16 years old and in high school. Appellant, Wennie's stepfather, also stayed home because he was suffering from rheumatism (p.18, tsn, ibid.) Nicomedes Francisco, who alternatively worked as a laundry woman if not engaged in selling fish, had gone out of their house by 8:00 A.M. (pp. 13-14, tsn, ibid)

At around 9:00 A.M., appellant summoned Wennie to the room downstairs (pp. 17-20, tsn, ibid.). When she got there, appellant told her that he wanted to have sex with her (p. 22, tsn, ibid.) At first, Wennie refused but when appellant threatened to kill her and warned her, "sige, pag hindi ka pumayag, makakatikim ka sa akin," she acceded to his request. Appellant then proceeded to ravish her. (pp. 4-5, 27-28, tsn, ibid.)

What happened on July 23, 1996 was but the last of the countless sexual molestations endured by Wennie. The first occurred when she was only 11 years old. (p. 34., tsn, ibid.)

Criminal Case No. 249-96

On July 19, 1996, Rachelle Francisco, thirteen (13) years old, was instructed by her mother to stay home to attend to her younger brother and sister aged 3 1/2 and 5 years old (p.9, tsn, November 27, 1996). Sometime in the afternoon (p.11, tsn, ibid), when Rachelle's mother was no longer around, appellant told her younger brother and sister to get out of the house. Thereafter, he summoned Rachelle upstairs and ordered her to undress. When Rachelle refused, he told her, "maghuhubad ka o hindi." Still, Rachelle chose not to undress. Appellant reacted by saying, "hanggang mamaya tatamaan ka sa akin". Rachelle succumbed to the intimidation and acceded by removing her clothes (upper). Thereafter, appellant started to kiss her and fondle her breast. Appellant caused her to lie down. Rachelle removed her skirt and panty. When she was naked, appellant undressed himself and inserted his penis into her vagina but only penetrated her a little as she told him, "nasasaktan ako." Rachelle bore the ordeal for five (5) minutes. (pp. 39-40, tsn, ibid.)

Just like her stepsister Wennie, Rachelle was regularly abused sexually by appellant. She could not remember the first time appellant molested her. (p.37, tsn, ibid.).[5]

On July 29, 1996, private complainants mustered enough courage to reveal their traumatic experience to their mother[6] who lost no time in accompanying them to the National Bureau of Investigation for medical examination. The medico-legal findings of Dr. Rolando B. Mendez on private complainant Wennie C. Merioles yielded the following results:


Pubic hair, fully grown moderate. Labia majora and Labia minora, gaping. Fourchette, lax. Vestibule pinkish, smooth. Hymen original annular, moderately tall, moderately thick, with old healed, superficial lacerations at 7 and 8 o'clock positions corresponding to the face of a watch, edges of which are rounded and non coaptable. Hymenal orifice, admits a tube 2.5 cm in diameter. Vaginal walls, light, Rugosities (sic), prominent.


1. No evident sign of extragenital physical injuries noted on the body of the subject at the time of examination.

2. Old healed superficial hymenal lacerations, present.[7]

As to private complainant Rachelle C. Francisco, the result of the examination by Dra. Ida P. Daniel indicates that:


Pubic hair, fine, short, scanty. Labia majora, coaptated. Labia minora, gaping. Fourchette, lax. Vestibular mucosa, pinkish. Hymen, admits a tube 2.5 cms., in diameter with moderate resistance. Vaginal walls, lax. Rugosities, shallow.


1. No evident sign of extragenital physical injuries noted on the body of the subject at the time of examination.

2. Hymen, intact, distensible and its orifice wide (2.5 cms in diameter) to allow complete penetration by an average sized adult Filipino male organ in full erection without producing genital injury.[8]
Accused-appellant on the other hand, testified that he is married to Nicomedes C. Francisco, mother of private complainants. Asked if he contracted any other marriage prior to that with Nicomedes, he said that he had a "first wife" by the name of Pacita, who is now living in the province.[9]

Insisting on his innocence, accused-appellant interposed the defense of denial and alibi. He posited that on July 19 and 23, 1996, when the rape complained of were allegedly committed, he was at work. He testified that as a driver of Construction Cities, he worked continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and then from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., while waiting for the evening shift.[10] To bolster his claim, accused-appellant presented Julius Roquin, administrative assistant of Cities Construction who declared that per the daily time record, accused-appellant worked in the company from July 12 to July 29, 1996; and that on July 23, 1996, he reported for work from 7:00 am to 5:00 p.m.[11]

On June 1, 1998, after finding the version of the prosecution credible, the trial court rendered the judgment of conviction under review. The dispositive portion thereof reads:
WHEREFORE, finding the accused Gonyeto Francisco y Capellan GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as principal, the Court hereby imposes upon him:

For the crime of rape, in Criminal Case No. 248-96, committed by him against his stepdaughter Wennie Merioles, which relationship he never disclaimed, the absolute penalty of DEATH by lethal injection, and to indemnify her the sums of P50,000.00 and P20,000.00, as moral and exemplary damages;

For the crime of rape, in Criminal Case No. 249-96, committed by him against his daughter, Rachelle Francisco, the absolute penalty of DEATH by lethal injection, and to indemnify her the sums of P50,000.00 and P20,000.00, as moral and exemplary damages.

Costs against the accused.

In his Brief, accused-appellant, through the Public Attorney's Office, contends that:





In an appeal from a judgment of conviction in rape cases, the issue boils down, almost invariably, to the credibility of the victim and, just as often, the Court is constrained to rely on the observations given by the trial court, with its vantage, not equally enjoyed by the appellate court, during the reception of testimony. It has thus since become doctrinal that the evaluation of testimonial evidence by the trial court is accorded great respect precisely for its chance to observe first hand the demeanor on the stand of the witness, a matter which is important in determining whether what has been said should be taken to be the truth or falsehood[14]

In the case at bar, the trial court gave full faith and credit to the testimony of private complainants, thus -
x x x During their respective testimonies both of them were terse and direct in the answers, even on cross-examination and clarificatory questioning, which would not be the case if their testimonies were conjured or rehearsed, for then such would be adorned by flowery details. The Court takes the conciseness of their answer and the straightforward manner in which they were given as mirrors of the gruesome experience they have suffered in the hands of accused, the memories of which, provoked by direct and often provocative questioning, they excised to brevity in an attempt to obscure it from their young minds. Their narrations of their respective harrowing experience were too rich and vivid in details, that they could not be easily set aside and branded as mere fabrications.

It has not also escaped the Court's attention that when both complainants were asked to identify the person of the accused, both boldly confronted the accused and pointed to him as their defiler. In the case of Wennie, she looked directly at accused, pointed to him and resonantly said, "siya ho", as if daring him to deny her claim as he bowed his head in silence. While Rachelle may not have been as emphatic, she was equally firm and forthright in identifying him.

The manner by which Wennie and Rachelle have given evidence against the accused has left the Court with no reason to doubt the truth and candor of their testimonies.[15]
Verily, the trial court is in a better position to determine if the victim is telling the truth or merely narrating a concocted tale, and to weigh conflicting testimonies because the trial court, heard the witnesses themselves, observed their deportment and manner of testifying, and had full access to vital aids: e.g., the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the hesitation, the sincere or flippant or sneering tone, the heat, the calmness, the yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it, the scant or full realization of the solemnity of the oath, the carriage and mien.[16]

Moreover, a thorough and careful review of the transcript of stenographic notes discloses that the testimonies of private complainants could indeed come only from those who truly suffered the ordeal. It is simply improbable that private complainants who are of tender ages, innocent and guileless, would brazenly impute a crime so serious as rape to a man, they consider their father/stepfather, if it were not true.[17] Their disclosure that they had been raped, coupled with their voluntary submission to medical examination, and willingness to undergo public trial where they could be compelled to give out the details of the assault against their dignity, cannot be easily dismissed as mere concoction.[18]

In a desperate attempt to free himself from liability, accused-appellant contends that the accusations hurled against him were all fabricated by private complainants' mother, Nicomedes C. Francisco. According to him, he sired a son by another woman and this allegedly angered Nicomedes, prompting her to retaliate by instigating the private complainants to file a rape case against him.[19]

The contentions are without merit. They are simply too improbable to merit any consideration. It is hard to believe that Nicomedes would expose her own daughters to ridicule. Indeed, no mother would sacrifice her own daughters, children of tender years, and subject them to the rigors and humiliation of a public trial for rape, if she were not motivated by an honest desire to have her daughters' transgressor punished accordingly.[20]

So also, we find no merit in the claim of accused-appellant that the sexual intercourse between him and the private complainants, assuming it indeed took place, was consensual and voluntary on the part of the latter. The records reveal that private complainant Wennie C. Merioles refused to accede to accused-appellant's sexual advances, and it was only when accused-appellant threatened to kill her and warned her, "sige, pag hindi ka pumayag, makakatikim ka sa akin," that she was finally cowed into submission. In the same manner, accused-appellant threatened private complainant Rachelle C. Francisco that, "hanggang mamaya tatamaan ka sa akin," before she was forced to give in to the despicable acts of accused-appellant.

Furthermore, and more importantly, actual force or intimidation need not even be employed for rape to be committed, as in the present case, where the over powering influence of accused-appellant who is private complainants' father and stepfather, suffices.[21] Undoubtedly, private complainants' tender age and accused-appellant's custodial control and domination over them rendered the former so meek and subservient to the lecherous advances of the latter.

Settled is the rule that in a rape committed by a father/stepfather against his own daughter/stepdaughter, the former's moral ascendancy and influence over the latter substitutes for violence and intimidation. That ascendancy or influence necessarily flows from the father/stepfather's parental authority, which the Constitution and the laws recognize, support and enhance, as well as from the children's duty to obey and observe reverence and respect towards their parents. Such reverence and respect are deeply ingrained in the minds of Filipino children and are recognized by law. Abuse of both by a father/stepfather can subjugate his daughter/stepdaughter's will, thereby forcing her to do whatever he wants.[22]

Then too, there is no ground to give credence to the defense of denial and alibi interposed by accused-appellant. These defenses are inherently weak and cannot prevail over a positive identification.[23] It is elementary that for alibi to prosper, the accused must not only prove his presence at another place at the time of the commission of the offense, but he must also demonstrate that it would be physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis at the time of the commission of the crime.[24]

In the case at bar, pertinent records show that it was not physically impossible for accused-appellant to be at the scene of the crime, which is merely an hour's walk from his place of work. Using a tricycle, which is the common mode of transportation in the locality of Rosario, the three (3) kilometer distance from the house of accused-appellant and his place of work could be traversed in less than an hour.

In the same vein, the daily time record of accused-appellant, indicating that he was at work on those days that the crime was committed, cannot exculpate him from liability. These daily time records were not even certified by accused-appellant as true and correct; neither were they approved by the time keeper. The testimony of Julius Roquin, who keeps the daily time record of the employees in the company where accused-appellant used to work, would likewise be of no help to him. As admitted by Julius Roquin, he did not see if accused-appellant actually reported for work on the dates material to this case.

Clearly, the trial court did not err in disregarding the defenses put up by accused appellant. Not only did accused-appellant fail to discharge the burden of proving the impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime at the time of the commission thereof, he was also positively identified by the private complainants as the person who raped them.

In meting out the supreme penalty of death, the trial court applied Article 335, of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. Pertinent portion thereof states that -

x x x x x x x x x
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:

1.When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim;
x x x x x x x x x.

As consistently held by this Court, the seven circumstances (including minority and relationship) added by R.A. 7659 to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, are special qualifying circumstances, the presence of any of which takes the case out of the purview of simple rape and effectively qualifies the crime to one punishable by death.[25] Corollary thereto, the Court, in People v. Javier,[26] stressed that in a criminal prosecution especially of cases involving the extreme penalty of death, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which the accused is charged must be established by the prosecution in order for said penalty to be upheld. Therefore, to warrant the imposition of the supreme penalty of death in the instant case, the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship must be proved with equal certainty and clearness as the crime itself.

Applying the foregoing provision and legal precepts in point, the Court is left with no choice but to reduce the penalty of accused-appellant to reclusion perpetua. While it is true that the age of private complainants were specifically alleged in the information in Criminal Case Nos. 248-96 and 249-96, no birth certificate was presented by the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the age of private complainants.

Thus, in People v. Bawang,[27] the Court said -
x x x However, while the offended party averred that she was fourteen years old at the time, she presented no birth certificate to substantiate the averment. It has been held -

"At all events, it is the burden of the prosecution to prove with certainty the fact that the victim was below 18 when the rape was committed in order to justify the imposition of the death penalty. The record of the case is bereft of any independent evidence, such as the victim's duly certified Certificate of Live Birth, accurately showing private complainant's age. The fact that accused-appellant Manuel has not denied the allegation in the complaint that Maricel was 16 years old when the crime was committed cannot make up for the failure of the prosecution to discharge its burden in this regard. Because of this lapse, as well as the corresponding failure of the trial court to make a categorical finding as to the minority of the victim, we hold that the qualifying circumstance of minority under Republic Act No. 7659 cannot be appreciated in this case, and accordingly the death penalty cannot be imposed."
Finally, the qualifying circumstance of relationship as to private complainant, Wennie Merioles in Criminal Case No. 248-96, was similarly not established beyond any scintilla of doubt. The testimony of accused-appellant that he is married to Nicomedes Francisco, mother of Wennie is not sufficient, considering that accused-appellant also testified that before Nicomedes, he had a "first wife" by the name of Pacita, who now lives in the province. The doubt could have been easily resolved by the presentation of a marriage certificate. However, the prosecution failed to so present a marriage certificate to prove the fact of marriage between accused-appellant and Nicomedes Francisco. Hence, the relationship of accused-appellant to private complainant Wennie Merioles as her step-father, which presupposes a valid marriage[28] between accused-appellant and private complainant's mother, was not proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. Accordingly, the qualifying circumstance of relationship in Criminal Case No. 248-96 could likewise not raise the penalty of rape to death.

In light of the foregoing, accused-appellant could only be held liable for simple rape, in both cases, and sentenced to the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count.

Pursuant to Article 100[29] of the Revised Penal Code, and in line with prevailing jurisprudence,[30] accused-appellant should be held liable to pay the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto in addition to the P50,000.00 as moral damages and P20,000.00 as exemplary damages awarded by the court a quo.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite City, Branch 16, in Criminal Case Nos. 248-96 and 249-96, finding accused-appellant Gonyeto Francisco y Capellan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape on two counts is AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA in Criminal Case Nos. 248-96 and 249-96; and to pay private complainants Wennie C. Merioles and Rachelle C. Francisco the sum of P50,000.00, or a total of P100,000.00, by way of civil indemnity; P50,000.00, or a total of P100,000.00, as moral damages; and P20,000.00, or a total of P40,000.00, as exemplary damages. Costs against accused-appellant.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, De Leon, Jr., and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

[1] Penned by Judge Manuel A. Mayo.

[2] Rollo, pp. 19-20.

[3] Rollo, p. 20.

[4] Original Records, pp. 13-14.

[5] Rollo, pp. 128-131.

[6] TSN, October 30, 1996, p. 30.

[7] Record, Criminal Case No. 248-96, p. 5.

[8] Record, Criminal Case No. 249-96, p. 5.

[9] TSN, September 18, 1997, pp. 12 and 18.

[10] TSN, July 31, 1997, pp. 12-13.

[11] TSN, October 16, 1997, pp. 5-6.

[12] Rollo, p. 45.

[13] Rollo, pp. 59-60.

[14] People v. Lopez, 302 SCRA 669, 675 (1999); citing People v. Atuel, 261 SCRA 339 (1996).

[15] Rollo, pp. 31-33.

[16] People v. Sagucio, 277 SCRA 183, 188-189 (1997); citing People v. Excija, 258 SCRA 424 (1996).

[17] People v. Molas, 286 SCRA 684, 691 (1998); citing People v. Sagaral, 267 SCRA 671 (1997).

[18] Ibid., p. 690, citing People v. Cabillan, 267 SCRA 258 (1997); People v. Gaban, 262 SCRA 593 (1996); and People v. Derpo, 168 SCRA 447 (1988).

[19] TSN, September 18, 1997, p. 6.

[20] People v. Tumala, Jr., 284 SCRA 436, 443 (1998).

[21] People v. Robles, 170 SCRA 557, 561 (1989); citing People v. Erardo, 127 SCRA 250 (1984).

[22] People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613, 631 (1992); citing People v. Erardo, 127 SCRA 250 (1984); People v. Lucas, 181 SCRA 316 (1990); People v. Caballes, 199 SCRA 152 (1991); Article 311, Civil Code and Article 211, The Family Code of the Philippines; and People v. Robles, 170 SCRA 557, 561 (1989); citing People v. Alcid, 135 SCRA 280 (1985).

[23] People v. Caisip, 290 SCRA 451, 456 (1998) and People v. Culala, 316 SCRA 582, 590-591 (1999); citing People v. Lacatan, 295 SCRA 203 (1998).

[24] People v. Barellano, 319 SCRA 567, 586 (1999); citing People v. Fuertes, 296 SCRA 602 (1998) and People v. Alcantara, 254 SCRA 384 (1996).

[25] People v. Bawang, G.R. No. 131942, October 5, 2000; citing People v. Dominador Historillo, G.R. No. 130408, June 16, 2000 and People v. Garcia, 281 SCRA 463 (1997).

[26] 311 SCRA 122, 141 (1999).

[27] Supra.; citing People v. Cula, G.R. No. 133146, March 28, 2000.

[28] People v. Brigildo, G.R. No. 124129, January 28, 2000.

[29] Art. 100. Civil liability of a person guilty of felony. - Every person criminally liable is also civilly liable.

[30] People v. Gabriel Flores, G.R. No. 130713, January 20, 2000.

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