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618 Phil. 533

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 187084, October 12, 2009 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. CARLITO PABOL, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

VELASCO JR., J.:

For review before the Court is the Decision[1] dated August 31, 2007 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-H.C. No. 00644, affirming the November 14, 2003 judgment[2] in Crim. Case No. N-98-096-J of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 45 in Bais City, Negros Oriental. The RTC found accused-appellant Carlito Pabol guilty of rape.

The Facts

In an amended information dated August 21, 1998 filed with the RTC, appellant was charged with rape with less serious physical injuries, allegedly committed as follows:

That at around 6:00 o'clock in the morning of October 9, 1997 at Barangay Pacuan, Jimalalud, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused waylaid the victim [AAA][3] who was then and there alone, and by means of force and bodily attacks, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously did lie, and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of said victim against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[4]

When arraigned, appellant, assisted by a public attorney, pleaded not guilty. During trial, the prosecution presented AAA, the offended private party, her sister, BBB, Dr. Maritoni Ceniza, Dr. Alain Go, and PO2 Pepe Bomediano. Only appellant testified in his defense.

The following facts were found by the trial court:

On October 9, 1997 at around 6:00 in the morning, AAA, then a 14- year old Grade V student, was on her way to school, passing by the lower portion of the house of appellant, a neighbor. Along the way, AAA met appellant who inquired about the whereabouts of her father. After she had told appellant that her father was home, appellant suddenly struck her on the right side of her face[5] causing her to fall. Appellant then hugged her from behind, sat her on his lap and struck her breast with a piece of stone. When she shouted for help, appellant covered her mouth. At that point, she fell unconscious. When she had woken up some two hours later, she found herself alone on the shoulder of the road, covered by tall grasses, and with her school bag on her head. She sustained wounds on her face. Both of her ears were sliced. Her blouse was opened and there were traces of blood on her panty. She later told the court that she experienced pain between her legs when urinating.[6]

AAA's elder sister, BBB, testified seeing AAA leave for school at around 6:00 a.m. on October 9, 1997. She said that AAA's usual route to school was past the house of appellant. At around 8:00 a.m. on the same day, while nursing her baby, BBB saw a bloodied AAA walking towards their house with a torn dress. BBB lost no time in rushing towards and hugging her little sister. AAA, when asked, related that it was appellant who inflicted the wounds on her face. Thereupon, BBB brought AAA to Gov. William Villegas District Hospital in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental for treatment.

Dr. Ceniza attended to AAA. Testifying on the medical certificate she prepared, Dr. Ceniza revealed that AAA sustained, among others, multiple lacerated wounds on the forehead. Specifically, the doctor's report contained the following findings:

I. Multiple lacerated wounds forehead
  1. 2cm x 0.5cm Traversing eyebrow, right
  2. 1cm x 0.5cm - Middle forehead
  3. 2cm x 0.5cm - -do-
  4. 3cm x 0.5cm - -do-
  5. 1cm x 0.5cm - -do-
  6. 3cm x 0.5cm above eyebrow, left
II. Lacerated wounds vertex
  1. 3cm x 0.5cm
  2. 3cm x 0.5
III. Lacerated wound occipital area
  1. 2cm x 0.5cm
IV. Lacerated wound Pinna, right
  1. 2m through and through
V. Lacerated wound Pinna, left 1cm

VI. Lacerated wounds Post auricular area, left
  1. 4cm x 0.5cm
  2. 2cm x 0.5cm
  3. 2cm superficial
  4. 1cm superficial
VII. Multiple Abrasion
  1. Chin
  2. Cheek, left
  3. Anterior neck
  4. Right hand
  5. Left hand
  6. Left forearm
  7. Left thigh
  8. Left knee
VIII. Contusion mandibular area, right[7]

BBB further testified that, in the afternoon of October 9, 1997, she noticed bloodstains on AAA's panty when the latter changed clothing, making her suspect that AAA is no longer a virgin. The following day, BBB brought AAA again to the hospital for a vaginal examination. The examining doctor, Dr. Go,[8] found AAA to have a completely healed laceration at 8 o'clock position. [9] The laceration, according to the doctor, could have been due to previous sexual intercourse, injection and trauma, among other causes. The healing period of hymenal laceration is from four to 10 days. Even as she noticed that the victim's vagina could admit two fingers, Dr. Go could not determine whether or not AAA is a virgin. When cross-examined, Dr. Go stated the observation that if a woman had sexual intercourse by force, she would sustain hematoma if the injury is recent. That type of hematoma would heal in seven to 10 days depending on its size. In the absence of resistance on the part of the woman, the hematoma may be slight and would heal from four to ten days. Dr. Go added that vaginal lacerations could be due to causes other than a penile insertion and that it is not unusual for virgins to have ruptured hymens. On re-direct examination, Dr. Go stated that it is possible that the hematoma of the victim would be much less severe if the woman were unconscious when it was caused.[10]

AAA testified that, out of embarrassment of talking about the pain she felt in her vagina, she did not truthfully answer some of the questions during the preliminary investigation. On cross-examination, AAA admitted to not noticing appellant undressing himself, removing her panty, or inserting his sex organ into hers because she was unconscious at some point during the incident. [11]

The prosecution presented PO2 Bomediano who testified about appellant's flight after the October 9, 1997 occurrence. PO2 Bomediano also related that, when he and a colleague in the force arrested appellant five years later, the latter readily gave himself up.[12]

Appellant's defense consisted mainly of partial denial. He testified knowing AAA's father, a neighbor who he claimed was indebted to him. He admitted hurting AAA on October 9, 1997, but denied allegations of rape. According to appellant, he slapped and boxed AAA when she got mad when asked where her father was. Appellant added that he then dragged the unconscious AAA to the shoulder of the road and ran away for fear of having killed her. He denied raping AAA.

By decision dated November 14, 2003, the trial court found the accused guilty of simple rape only, noting that when a rapist employs force the rape victim invariably sustains injury. The dispositive portion of the RTC's decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds accused CARLITO PABOL guilty beyond reasonable [doubt] of the crime of simple rape defined under Article 266-A (1) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, to indemnify the victim AAA the sum of Php50,000.00 and to pay her the sum of Php50,000.00 as moral damages, plus costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.[13]
The Ruling of the CA

Agreeing with and relying on the findings of the trial court as to what transpired between AAA and appellant in the fateful morning of October 9, 1997, the CA affirmed appellant's conviction. The appellate court held that rape was established by circumstantial evidence based on the victim's credible and straight account. The dispositive portion of the CA's decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the assailed decision is AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against appellant.

SO ORDERED.[14]

Hence, this appeal is before us.

Assignment of Errors

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT CARNAL KNOWLEDGE WAS ESTABLISHED BY PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING FULL WEIGHT AND CREDENCE to the TESTIMONY OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE

Appellant is obviously questioning the credibility and sufficiency of the inculpatory evidence against him. He insists that the prosecution failed to prove the fact of his having carnal knowledge of the victim. Since AAA, according to appellant, testified to having passed out during the October 9, 1997 encounter, she could not competently testify as to what transpired between the time she was hit by appellant and the moment she regained consciousness. The bloodstains on her underwear could have come from anywhere since she sustained various injuries. The pain in her vagina could also be attributed to the beating and blows she received from the hands of appellant. Appellant also points out that the vaginal examination of the victim was conducted four days after the incident. That the hymenal laceration was completely healed when AAA was examined suggests, according to him, that the laceration could have been caused by prior sexual intercourse, not necessarily by his alleged act of molestation.

Appellant argues, too, that there is a complex crime of rape with less serious physical injuries; nonetheless, he could not be convicted of the lesser crime of less serious physical injuries because the amended information merely charged him with simple rape. He, thus, prays for his acquittal since carnal knowledge was not proved.

The Ruling of the Court

The appeal has no merit.

Appellant harps at every turn on the absence of direct evidence to show he had forced himself sexually on AAA. Direct evidence, however, is not the only way to establish guilt. Circumstantial evidence is a recognized method to establish the commission and the authorship of a crime. The Rules of Court in fact contains provisions on the matter.

Circumstantial evidence, also known as indirect or presumptive evidence, refers to proof of collateral facts and circumstances whence the existence of the main fact may be inferred according to reason and common experience.[15] It can support a conviction as long as the following requisites prescribed under Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court are satisfied:

Sec. 4. Circumstantial evidence, when sufficient.Ā¾Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:

(a) There is more than one circumstance;
(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and
(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

In People v. Delim, we held that:

For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all the circumstances must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that accused is guilty and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt. If the prosecution adduced the requisite circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of accused beyond reasonable doubt, the burden of evidence shifts to the accused to controvert the evidence of the prosecution. [16]
In the case at bar, the prosecution has successfully established the following circumstances and facts that, when taken together, very well constitute evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, to wit: (1) appellant having met AAA on the latter's way to school and hitting her on the face; (2) the positive identification of appellant as the person she met while she was on her way to school; (3) appellant then hugging AAA from behind, sitting her on his lap and striking her breast with a piece of stone; (4) AAA shouting for help and appellant covering her mouth; (5) appellant hitting AAA until she lost consciousness and then dragging her body to the side of the road; (6) AAA waking up two hours later to discover that her ears had been sliced, her blouse opened, and her underwear stained with her own blood; (7) AAA feeling pain in her private part after the incident; and (8) AAA sustaining hymenal laceration. Given the foregoing circumstances, there is no other conclusion that we can make with moral certainty other than that appellant raped the victim.

As the trial court aptly held:

The testimony of the private offended (sic) bears the ring of truth. When the testimony of a rape victim is plain and straightforward and unflawed by any material or significant inconsistency, it deserves full faith and credit (People vs. Lopez, 302 SCRA 669). A victim who says she has been raped always says all that there is to be said (People vs. Borja, 267 SCRA 370). In clear, candid and straightforward manner, the victim narrated to the court how she was assaulted by the accused. After hitting her right face and she fell down from behind, the accused hugged [the victim] and this showed that the accused had the clear intent of sexually assaulting her. He also let her sit in (sic) his lap and not [contented], he struck her breast with [a] piece of stone causing her to be unconscious. The private offended (sic) cried when she narrated her ordeal. Yes, the private offended (sic) did not see how the accused raped her, for how can she see the rapist when she was unconscious. But the fact that the panty that she wore that fateful morning was stained with blood, that she sustained vaginal laceration and that after the incident she felt pain every time she urinated, fortify that indeed she was raped by the accused when she was unconscious.[17]

It cannot be over-emphasized that appellant admitted hitting the victim and leaving her on the side of the road. His gratuitous allegations that he did not rape AAA and that he ran away because he thought he had killed her do not inspire concurrence. Denial is the weakest of defenses for, like alibi, it is easy to fabricate and concoct.[18] Appellant offered nothing in support of his denial. Not one witness was presented to testify on his whereabouts soon after the incident. After admitting to the assault of a 14-year-old girl, he cannot plausibly expect this Court to believe that something else caused her defloration. Faced with all the established facts of this case, however, appellant's mere denial cannot hold water.

Jurisprudence is replete with cases of rape where conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. In People v. Coja, People v. Darilay, People v. Abulencia, People v. Salonga, et al., People v. Sabardan, People v. Gaufo, and People v. Perez,[19] to cite a few, the victims were unconscious but the circumstances in those cases all point to the accused as the perpetrator. Similarly in this case, we find sufficient evidence to affirm appellant's conviction. Lest it be overlooked, as a final consideration, the immature AAA had no motive--and none was ascribed by the defense--to falsely impute the commission of a serious crime against appellant.

Finally, we sustain the trial court's award of moral damages and civil indemnity, it being in accordance with recent jurisprudence. As a public example, however, to protect hapless individuals from molestation, we decree an award of exemplary damages in the amount of PhP 30,000 in line with People v. Sia.[20]

WHEREFORE, the CA Decision dated August 31, 2007 is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that appellant Carlito Pabol is further ordered to pay the private offended party the amount of PhP 30,000 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Chico-Nazario, Nachura, and Peralta, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, pp. 5-11. Penned by Associate Justice Agustin S. Dizon and concurred in by Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Pampio A. Abarintos.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 16-27. Penned by Judge Victor C. Patrimonio.

[3] The real name and the personal circumstances of the victim and her immediate relatives are withheld per Republic Act No. (RA) 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) and RA 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act). See People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419, 425-426.

[4] CA rollo, p. 8.

[5] Rollo, p. 8; citing TSN, November 11, 2002, pp. 7-9.

[6] CA rollo, p. 17.

[7] Id. at 20.

[8] In his testimony, Dr. Go made it appear that he examined AAA on October 13, 1997.

[9] CA rollo, p. 19.

[10] Id. at 21-22.

[11] Id. at 17-18.

[12] Id. at 22-23.

[13] Id. at 27.

[14] Rollo, p. 11.

[15] People v. Delim, G.R. No. 142773, January 28, 2003, 396 SCRA 386, 401.

[16] Id. at 401-402; citing People v. Casingal, G.R. No. 87163, March 29, 1995, 243 SCRA 37.

[17] CA rollo, pp. 25-26.

[18] People v. Enoja, G.R. No. 102596, December 17, 1999, 321 SCRA 7.

[19] G.R. No. 179277, June 18, 2008, 555 SCRA 176; G.R. Nos. 139751-52, January 26, 2004, 421 SCRA 45; G.R. No. 138403, August 22, 2001, 363 SCRA 496; G.R. No. 128647, March 31, 2000, 329 SCRA 468; G.R. No. 132135, May 21, 2004, 429 SCRA 9; 469 Phil. 66 (2004); and 366 Phil. 741 (1999), respectively.

[20] G.R. No. 174059, February 27, 2009.

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