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618 Phil. 273


[ G.R. No. 184874, October 09, 2009 ]




This is a petition[1] for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision[2] dated November 16, 2007 and the Resolution[3] dated October 3, 2008 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 29316 entitled, "People of the Philippines v. Robert Remiendo y Siblawan."

The case arose from the filing of two criminal informations, both dated March 10, 2008, against petitioner Robert Remiendo y Siblawan (Remiendo), that read—
Criminal Case No. 98-CR-2999

That in or about the month of March 1997, at Badiwan, Municipality of Tuba, Benguet Province, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [AAA], a girl below 12 years of age.


Criminal Case No. 98-CR-3000

That in or about the month of May 1997, at Badiwan, Municipality of Tuba, Benguet Province, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [AAA], a girl below 12 years of age.

Upon arraignment, Remiendo pled "not guilty" to both charges. After pretrial, a joint trial ensued before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 62, La Trinidad, Benguet. Both the prosecution and the defense presented their respective evidence, summarized by the CA in its Decision, to wit:
The prosecution presented the following version of facts:

The complainant [AAA] was born on 16 February 1986. At the time of the commission of the offense, she was a minor below 12 years of age. She knew accused-appellant Robert Remiendo as he was residing near the house where her family used to stay. Sometime in March 1997, she was sexually assaulted by accused-appellant inside said house. On that day, her parents and brother left for work after breakfast, and she was left alone in the house. Accused-appellant came in, pushed her into the room, and threatened to kill her if she reported what happened. He undressed himself and the complainant. The latter was standing and refused to remove her panty but she obliged when accused-appellant insisted. Then he made her lie on the bed and placed his penis in her vagina. The complainant struggled, moved, and pushed accused-appellant. She felt pain when accused-appellant inserted his penis into her vagina. She cried until accused-appellant left, but she did not shout because accused-appellant warned her not to, or else he would kick her. She put on her clothes after accused-appellant left. Her parents arrived in the afternoon but she did not tell them what happened to her because her mother might whip her.

Sometime in May 1997, [AAA] was again sexually assaulted by accused-appellant, which took place in the house of the latter. At that time, she was on her way to see her mother at her workplace after she had lunch. When she passed by the house of accused-appellant, the latter pulled her into his house and brought her into his room. She cried and shouted but accused-appellant told her to keep quiet. She struggled but was helpless because accused-appellant was stronger. They were alone in the room. Accused-appellant removed his clothes and told her to remove her panty. Afraid, she removed her panty and was made to lie on the bed. Accused-appellant inserted his penis into her vagina and she felt pain. She kept on moving but she could not push away accused-appellant. She moved her shoulders and pushed accused-appellant with both hands but he was stronger. Afterwards, accused-appellant moved away and threatened to kill her if she told anyone what happened. She responded that she would not tell anyone. Later, she executed a sworn statement and identified accused-appellant as the person who raped her.

Dr. Ronald R. Bandonill, Medico-Legal Officer of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Cordillera Administrative Region, physically examined the complainant on 2 January 1998. Said medico-legal officer testified that [AAA] was thirteen (13) years old and a Grade III pupil at Badiwan Tuba, Benguet at the time of the examination. She was four feet and eleven inches (4'11") tall, weighed 78 pounds, fairly nourished, and fairly developed. She was conscious, coherent, and cooperative. She was ambulatory and had no extra-genital injuries. Upon examination of her genital area, he found old lacerations of the hymen at 5:00 and 7:00 o'clock positions, which meant that her hymen was altered by a hard rigid instrument. The lacerations were done more than three (3) months prior to the examination. To determine the approximate size of the object that the hymenal opening could accommodate, he inserted a test tube. The 2.5-centimeter diameter of said tube was admitted with ease by the hymenal orifice. He noted that the vaginal walls were lax and the ridges inside were smothered. The complainant told him that accused-appellant raped her. He presented a written report of his findings.

On 12 July 1998, psychiatrist Dr. Elsie I. Caducoy conducted an examination of the mental condition of the complainant. The latter was also scheduled for psychological examination to be conducted by Elma Buadken. The result of the examination showed that [AAA] is suffering from psychosis and organicity. She has a below average intelligence quotient of 88, but not on the level of mental retardation. She can perform simple tasks but needs guidance. As to her studies, she can hardly comprehend what is being taught to her. Having psychosis means that her brain is afflicted with a disease. Her medical history showed that she suffered head and body injuries brought about by being sideswiped by a motor vehicle sometime in 1996. She was confined in the hospital for twelve (12) days. Said injuries substantially contributed to her present condition. Organicity, on the other hand, means that the complainant suffers from a cloud of memory, upward rolling of the eyeballs, stiffening of the extremities, loss of consciousness, and epileptic seizures. Her psychosis occurs after seizure. She is not, however, insane. During a seizure, she does not know what is going on, but afterwards she returns to her level of consciousness. With regular medication, her seizures will be greatly minimized. During her interview, the complainant had a seizure and the psychiatrist had to wait until her consciousness level returned. The complainant then revealed that accused-appellant and a certain Reynoso Cera raped her. The psychiatrist opined that during the rape, she did not have a seizure because if she had, she would not have remembered what had happened. The fact that she was able to narrate what happened and who raped her suggested that she was on her conscious level at such time. A written report of the foregoing findings was submitted in court.

The defense presented the following version of facts:

Lea F. Chiwayan, thirteen (13) years old, testified that she was a friend, playmate, and neighbor of the complainant. She testified that she and [AAA] played together and talked about their "crushes." The complainant told Lea Chiwayan that she had a crush on accused-appellant. Sometime in April or May 1997, the complainant said that her brother had molested her, and that he and his father had sexual intercourse with her in their house in Poyopoy, Tuba. Sometime in August 1997, the complainant confided that Reynoso Cera raped her in his house. She told Lea Chiwayan that she did not feel anything because she was used to having sexual intercourse with brother and father. One Saturday afternoon, Lea Chiwayan and the complainant were playing when they saw accused-appellant going to the basketball court near the church. They followed him and watched a basketball game. After the game, Lea Chiwayan went home with the others while the complainant stayed behind. A few seconds after they left, the complainant ran after them and told them that something happened between her and accused-appellant. She said that accused-appellant pulled her towards the back of the church and had sexual intercourse with her. The complainant later took back what she said because she was only joking. She then asked Lea Chiwayan not to tell the accused-appellant. However, Lea Chiwayan told accused-appellant what the complainant told them. Accused-appellant confronted the complainant. He flicked a finger on her head, kicked and spanked her. He said, "what are you saying, why did I do that, if I like and I do it, I'll not do it with you, you should be ashamed of yourself." He then borrowed the vehicle of a certain Junie, started the engine, and stepped on the gas such that the fumes from the exhaust pipe were directed at the complainant. Later, Lea Chiwayan learned that [AAA] filed a case against accused-appellant.

Dolores L. Daniel, Grade II teacher of [AAA] for the school year 1997-1998, testified that the latter was unruly and a liar. The complainant would pick fights and steal money from her classmates. However, the witness admitted that there was no written record in school that she reprimanded complainant for her behavior. She knew that the complainant had an accident before.

Victor Daniel, a jitney operator, testified that accused-appellant was one of his drivers. He described accused-appellant as a hardworking and industrious person. When he learned that Robert Remiendo was accused of rape, he was outraged because he knew the daily activities of accused-appellant. The latter could not have done such act under his strict supervision.

Accused-appellant testified that he knew the complainant, as she was a townmate of his mother. In September 1996, he and his parents were then residing in Badiwan. When the complainant figured in an accident at that time, he was the one who informed her parents. The first time he saw the complainant was during the time when he was doing some repairs on his jitney. He saw the complainant and her playmates go inside the jitney. He told them to alight from the vehicle. Sometime in June 1997, he again saw the complainant and her sister playing inside the jitney. He told them to alight as they were disturbing him. On the day he was playing basketball at the church grounds in Badiwan, Lea and Emma Chiwayan approached him and asked him if it was true that he raped [AAA]. He asked where the latter was and went to see her. Out of anger, he borrowed the vehicle of Junie, started the engine, directed the exhaust pipe at the complainant, and revved the engine so the smoke would go straight to her. He slapped her and said "if I would like someone, it would not be you because there are a lot of girls better than you." During the Christmas party in Badiwan, he again saw the complainant roaming around the dance area. He told her to get out as she irritated the people dancing. The complainant said nothing and left the dance floor. Thereafter, he saw the complainant laughing and smiling. He learned that he was charged with two (2) counts of rape when he received a subpoena issued by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in January 1998.[6]
In its Joint Judgment[7] dated October 27, 2004, the RTC found Remiendo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of statutory rape. The RTC disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the court finds ROBERT REMIENDO y SIBLAWAN guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of rape as charged in the Information docketed as Criminal Case No. 98-CR-2999 and in the Information docketed as Criminal Case No. 98-CR-3000, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum for each count of rape.

He shall further indemnify the offended party [AAA] the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) by way of civil indemnity, the sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) by way of moral damages, and the sum of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) by way of exemplary damages.

Pursuant to Administrative Circular No. 4-92-A of the Court Administrator, the Provincial Jail Warden of Benguet Province is directed to immediately transfer the said accused, Robert Remiendo, to the custody of the Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila after the expiration of fifteen (15) days from date of promulgation unless otherwise ordered by this Court.

Let a copy of this Judgment be furnished the Provincial Jail Warden of Benguet Province for his information, guidance and compliance.

Aggrieved, Remiendo interposed his appeal before the CA. In its assailed Decision, the CA affirmed the RTC, modifying only the civil liability imposed upon Remiendo. The fallo of the CA Decision reads—
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Joint Judgment dated 27 October 2004 rendered by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, La Trinidad, Benguet, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION on the civil liability of accused-appellant. He is ordered to pay the complainant, for each count of rape, the sum of (a) P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, (b) P50,000.00 as moral damages, and (c) P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

Remiendo moved to reconsider the November 16, 2007 Decision, but the CA denied the motion in its October 3, 2008 Resolution; hence, this petition alleging that—
Remiendo questions his conviction for statutory rape despite the purported absence of competent proof that AAA was below 12 years old at the time of the alleged commission of the crimes. According to him, the Certificate of Live Birth of AAA offered by the prosecution during its formal offer of exhibits was not admitted by the RTC in its Order[11] dated September 14, 1999 because "it was neither identified by any witness, nor marked as exhibit during the trial though reserved for marking during the pretrial." He further posits that, on the basis of the testimonies of the defense witnesses and the Elementary School Permanent Record,[12] AAA was more than 12 years old in March and May 1997.

Considering that AAA was more than 12 years of age, Remiendo then questions her credibility as a witness, claiming that she was smiling during her testimony; and that her failure to flee from the situation, even taking off her panties herself, belies her charges of statutory rape against him.

We disagree.

As provided in Article 266-A (1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, sexual intercourse with a girl below 12 years old is statutory rape. Its two elements are: (1) that the accused has carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below 12 years of age. Sexual congress with a girl under 12 years old is always rape.[13]

As regards the appreciation of the age of a rape victim, the Court, in People v. Pruna,[14] laid down the following guidelines:
  1. The best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party.

  2. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificate and school records which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age.

  3. If the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or destroyed or otherwise unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim's mother or a member of the family either by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules of Evidence shall be sufficient under the following circumstances:
    1. If the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 7 years old;

    2. If the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 12 years old;

    3. If the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 18 years old.
  1. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document, or the testimony of the victim's mother or relatives concerning the victim's age, the complainant's testimony will suffice provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused.

  2. It is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended party. The failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be taken against him.

  3. The trial court should always make a categorical finding as to the age of the victim.[15]
In this case, the prosecution offered in evidence a certified true copy of AAA's Certificate of Live Birth[16] as part of the testimonies of AAA and her mother that AAA was born on February 21, 1986. It was reserved for marking as part of the exhibits for the prosecution, as shown in the Pretrial Order[17] dated November 16, 1998. During the trial, in order to abbreviate the proceedings, the parties agreed to stipulate on the testimony of AAA's mother, specifically on the following facts:
  1. That she is [BBB], the natural mother of [AAA], the victim in these two (2) Criminal Cases Nos. 98-CR-2999 and 98-CR-3000;

  2. That on January 5, 1998[,] she executed an affidavit-complaint for and on behalf of her daughter which she subscribed before NBI agent Atty. Dave Alunan; and

  3. That the subject matter of her sworn statement against Reynoso Cera and Robert Remiendo is the alleged statutory rape against [AAA].[18]
And part of the affidavit-complaint of BBB is the statement that AAA was born on February 21, 1986.[19]

A certificate of live birth is a public document that consists of entries (regarding the facts of birth) in public records (Civil Registry) made in the performance of a duty by a public officer (Civil Registrar). As such, it is prima facie evidence of the fact of birth of a child,[20] and it does not need authentication. It can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Thus, despite the September 14, 1999 Order, the RTC correctly appreciated the same in its Joint Judgment.

Nevertheless, even assuming that the Certificate of Live Birth was not appreciated by the RTC, the prosecution was able to establish that AAA was below 12 years old during the two occasions of rape per the guidelines laid down in Pruna. It is significant to note that both AAA and BBB testified that AAA was born on February 21, 1986. This fact was neither denied nor objected to by the defense. The argument of Remiendo that the prosecution admitted in the course of trial that AAA's birthday was February 21, 1984 cannot stand. As quoted by Remiendo in his petition—

Anyway, it is stated in that document that the birth date of [AAA] was February 21, 1983. Do you agree that that is an entry there?

Pros. Suanding:

Yes, your honor. We agree, your honor.[21]
This statement cannot qualify as a judicial admission on the birth date of AAA. A judicial admission is an admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case and it dispenses with proof with respect to the matter or fact admitted. It may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake or that no such admission was made.[22] In this case, what was only admitted was that the entry of AAA's date of birth appearing in her school record is February 21, 1983. There was no such admission that the said date was the correct birthday of AAA. And as between the school record and the testimonies of AAA and her mother BBB, the latter must prevail.

As to the credibility of AAA as a witness, jurisprudence instructs us that the trial court's assessment deserves great weight, and is even conclusive and binding, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence. The reason is obvious. Having the full opportunity to observe directly the witnesses' deportment and manner of testifying, the trial court is in a better position than the appellate court to evaluate testimonial evidence properly.[23]

Testimonies of rape victims who are young and immature deserve full credence, inasmuch as no young woman, especially of tender age, would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter pervert herself by being the subject of a public trial, if she was not motivated solely by the desire to obtain justice for the wrong committed against her. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth. It is highly improbable that a girl of tender years, one not yet exposed to the ways of the world, would impute to any man a crime so serious as rape if what she claims is not true.[24]

What is more, AAA's testimony of rape was corroborated by the NBI medico-legal examination showing healed lacerations on her hymen. Hymenal lacerations, whether healed or fresh, are the best evidence of forcible defloration. When the consistent and forthright testimony of a rape victim is consistent with medical findings, there is sufficient basis to warrant a conclusion that the essential requisites of carnal knowledge have been established. When there is no evidence to show any improper motive on the part of the rape victim to testify falsely against the accused or to falsely implicate him in the commission of a crime, the logical conclusion is that the testimony is worthy of full faith and credence.[25] In this case, Remiendo failed to convince us to rule otherwise.

Remiendo also posits that he should benefit from the mandate of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9344, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

The pertinent provision of R.A. No. 9344 reads -
SEC. 6. Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility. - A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.

A child above fifteen (15) years but below eighteen (18) years of age shall be likewise exempt from criminal liability and be subjected to an intervention program, unless he/she acted with discernment, in which case, such child shall be subjected to the appropriate proceedings in accordance with this Act.

The exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.[26]
Remiendo argues that the prosecution failed to establish that he acted with discernment in the commission of the crimes charged. Thus, he claims that he should be exempt from criminal liability.

We differ. Discernment is the mental capacity to understand the difference between right and wrong. The prosecution is burdened to prove that the accused acted with discernment by evidence of physical appearance, attitude or deportment not only before and during the commission of the act, but also after and during the trial. The surrounding circumstances must demonstrate that the minor knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. Such circumstance includes the gruesome nature of the crime and the minor's cunning and shrewdness.[27]

Culled from the records of this case, it is manifest that Remiendo acted with discernment, being able to distinguish between right and wrong and knowing fully well the consequences of his acts against AAA. During the rape that occurred in March 1997, Remiendo waited for AAA to be left alone at her house before he came, and, while doing his dastardly act, threatened to kick her should she shout for help. In May 1997, Remiendo again ravished AAA in the room of his house when the latter passed by and, thereafter, threatened to kill her if she told anybody about what had just happened. Per his own testimony, he knew that committing rape was wrong because he claimed to have been enraged when he was asked by AAA's playmates if he indeed raped AAA, to the point of slapping her and revving up the engine of a jitney and directing the smoke from the exhaust pipe towards her.

Remiendo, being above 15 and under 18 years of age at the time of the rape,[28] and having acted with discernment, but having already reached 21 years of age at the time of the imposition of his sentence by the trial court, his claim for the benefits of R.A. No. 9344 is rendered moot and academic in view of Section 40[29] thereof which provides -
SEC. 40. Return of the Child in Conflict with the Law to Court. - If the court finds that the objective of the disposition measures imposed upon the child in conflict with the law have not been fulfilled, or if the child in conflict with the law has willfully failed to comply with the conditions of his/her disposition or rehabilitation program, the child in conflict with the law shall be brought before the court for execution of judgment.

If the child in conflict with the law has reached eighteen (18) years of age while under suspended sentence, the court shall determine whether to discharge the child in accordance with this Act, to order execution of sentence, or to extend the suspended sentence for a certain period or until the child reaches the maximum age of twenty-one (21) years.[30]
Remiendo was born on January 21, 1982. The Joint Judgment was promulgated on October 27, 2004. Thus, at the time of the imposition of his sentence, Remiendo was already 22 years old and could no longer be considered a child for the purposes of the application of R.A. No. 9344.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, and the Decision dated November 16, 2007 and the Resolution dated October 3, 2008 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. No costs.


Carpio, (Chairperson), Carpio Morales*, Velasco, Jr., and Peralta, JJ., concur.

* Additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario per Special Order No. 720 dated October 5, 2009.

[1] Rollo, pp. 9-33.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo, with Associate Justices Marina L. Buzon and Rosmari D. Carandang, concurring; id. at 35-55.

[3] Rollo, pp. 57-58.

[4] Records (Crim. Case No. 98-CR-2999), p. 1.

[5] Records (Crim. Case No. 98-CR-3000), p. 1.

[6] Rollo, pp. 37-44.

[7] Id. at 59-85.

[8] Id. at 85.

[9] Id. at 54-55.

[10] Id. at 20-21,

[11] Records (Crim. Case No. 98-CR-2999), p. 288.

[12] Exhibit "11" for the defense indicating that AAA's date of birth is February 21, 1983.

[13] People of the Philippines v. Elister Basmayor y Grascilla, G.R. No. 182791, February 10, 2009.

[14] 439 Phil. 440, 470-471 (2002).

[15] As cited in People v. Barcena, G.R. No. 168737, February 16, 2006, 482 SCRA 543, 558-559.

[16] Records (Crim. Case No. 98-CR-2999), p. 273.

[17] Id. at 125-127.

[18] Id. at 264.

[19] Id. at 279.

[20] RULES OF COURT, Rule 132, Sec. 23; Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., G.R. No. 154953, June 26, 2008, 555 SCRA 477; People v. Delantar, G.R. No. 169143, February 2, 2007, 514 SCRA 115.

[21] TSN, January 27, 1999, p. 5.

[22] RULES OF COURT, Rule 129, Sec. 4; Jesus Cuenco v. Talisay Tourist Sports Complex, Inc. and Matias B. Aznar III, G.R. No. 174154, October 17, 2008; Camitan v. Fidelity Investment Corporation, G.R. No. 163684, April 16, 2008, 551 SCRA 540.

[23] People of the Philippines v. Jose Perez y Dalegdeg, G.R. No. 182924, December 24, 2008.

[24] People of the Philippines v. Elister Basmayor y Grascilla, supra note 13.

[25] Id.

[26] Emphasis supplied.

[27] Llave v. People, G.R No. 166040, April 26, 2006, 488 SCRA 376.

[28] Per the Certificate of Live Birth of Robert Remiendo. (Records [Crim. Case No. 98-CR-2999], p. 54.)

[29] Padua v. People, G.R. No. 168546, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 519.

[30] Emphasis supplied.

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