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441 Phil. 758


[ G.R. No. 147968, December 04, 2002 ]




In this Decision, the Court reiterates the familiar doctrine that the lone credible testimony of the victim in a prosecution for rape is sufficient to sustain a verdict of conviction. Courts take judicial notice of the fact that, more often than not, rape is committed in solitude and is witnessed only by the complainant and the offender. Thus, a finding of innocence or guilt is oftentimes dependent on the assessment of their credibility.

Statement of the Case 

Rogelio Bitancor appeals the February 1, 2001 Decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bohol (Branch 50) in Criminal Case No. 96-67, convicting him of rape. The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision reads as follows: 

“PREMISES considered, the Court hereby finds accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape. As this offense was committed before the enactment of R.A. 7695, otherwise known as the Heinous Crimes Law, the offense is punishable under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. 

“Accordingly, there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the Court hereby sentences the accused Rogelio Bitancor, alias Boy to the penalty imposable under the said law, which is reclusion perpetua. He is further ordered to indemnify the victim the amount of P200 in actual damages, and P50,000 in moral damages.”[2]

The Complaint, dated July 27, 1996,[3] charged appellant as follows: 

“That sometimes [sic] in the evening of 22 July 1996, at night o’clock [sic] more or less, in sitio Camonggayan, Barangay Catungawan Sur, [M]unicipality of Guindulman, [P]rovince of Bohol, Philippines and within the preliminary jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously by means of violence and intimidation have sexual intercourse with the complainant against her will."[4]

During his arraignment on November 13, 1997, appellant, assisted by his counsel,[5]  pleaded not guilty to the charge.[6] After pre-trial and trial in due course, the lower court rendered the assailed judgment.

The Facts 

Version of the Prosecution 

In its Brief,[7] the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) presents the prosecution’s version of the facts in this wise: 

“Complainant Donafaye Amparo was born on July 24, 1985. She was turning eleven (11) when her harrowing experience happened [o]n the evening of July 22, 1996. She knew appellant because they were neighbors at Sitio Camonggayan, Guindulman, Bohol. 

“On that fateful night, complainant and thirteen (13) year old Jackelyn Aranay were walking on their way home after watching television at the residence of Vicente and Monda Bernaldez. While walking, they noticed appellant following them. They got scared and ran. But complainant stumbled down and appellant caught up with her. Jackelyn continued running and left complainant behind. Appellant held complainant’s hands and brought her to [a] nearby gemelina tree. There, appellant forcibly removed her panty and inserted his finger into her vagina. Soon afterwards, appellant also inserted his penis into her vagina. Complainant felt pain, but was not able to shout for help as appellant was covering her mouth. She bit his fingers and tried to run away but appellant caught up with her again. Thereupon, appellant boxed her thighs, raised her up and threw her to the ground five (5) times. Thereafter, appellant warned her not to report to anyone or he would kill her. Complainant went home but did not tell about the incident, fearful that appellant would kill her. 

“Trinidad Amparo, complainant’s mother, testified that she learned of the rape incident four (4) days after or on July 26, 1996. Trinidad brought complainant and her youngest son Orley to Goniang Olivar, a ‘hilot’. Trinidad noticed that complainant was having difficulty walking. The latter also complained of pain in her body. Goniang, the ‘hilot,’ also noticed swellings in complainant’s body. 

“Back home, Trinidad asked complainant how she got the swellings on her body, but the latter did not answer. Later in the afternoon, however, complainant finally confided to her mother what appellant did to her. She also confided her initial reluctance to reveal what happened because of appellant’s threat to kill her. 

“The following morning, Trinidad, together with her sister-in-law, went to the Guindulman Police Station to report the rape incident. The police forthwith arrested appellant whom complainant readily identified as the person who raped her. 

“Dr. Lina Cero, medical officer of the Jagna District Hospital, examined complainant and found discoloration of the skin (erythema) on the anterium perimeum and the mons pubis which was tender to touch. She explained that the discoloration could have been caused by trauma reaction like hypersensitivity, probably because of an erected penis. It was tender to touch, meaning it was painful when touched. She also found that the periurethral and perihymenal areas were swollen. Both sides of the labial folds had fresh wounds, which could have been inflicted less than a week ago. She also found several hymenal lacerations. Hence, Dr. Cero concluded that there was penetration of the vagina, though it was not full. 

“Dr. Cero observed that there was an abnormal gait in complainant’s manner of walking indicating pain or discomfort in the perineal area of her thigh. She also found erythema on the buttocks with faint hematoma on the right thigh indicating pain on the buttocks and right thigh when touched. She sent specimen to the laboratory to determine the presence of spermatozoa in complainant’s sex organ. 

“Medical Technologist Corazon Jamila testified that Dr. Cero gave her a slide with vaginal smear for examination. Her findings reveal non-motile spermatozoa. Although the examination was conducted more or less seven (7) days after the incident, it was possible that spermatozoa could still be found in the victim’s vagina.”[8] (Citations omitted)

Version of the Defense 

In his Brief,[9] appellant denies the charge and gives his version of the facts, thus: 

JOSEFA ACERON testified that on July 22, 1996, she was watching TV in the house of Monda Olalia, together with the victim and Jacquelyn. At 9:00 p.m., they decided to go home. Nobody was following them when they were going home. When they passed the house of Gideon Castelo, Abar, younger brother of the victim, her mother and elder sister joined them on their way home. She executed a joint affidavit with Jacquelyn Aranay to prove that the victim was not raped by the accused on July 22, 1996. 

FELIPE ACERON denied the claim of Trinidad Amparo, mother of the victim, that it was he and his father who tried to prevent the accused from raping the victim because if that was the case, he will be the one to personally file a case against the accused because the victim’s father is his cousin. He is not related to the accused. 

GORGONIA OLAIVAR testified that she is a ‘hilot’. On July 24, 1996, Donafaye together with his mother Trinidad went to her place complaining of back ache so she massaged the victim. She noticed a hematoma at Donafaye’s back and when she asked about it, the mother answered that her daughter fell from a swing in school. 

JACQUELYN ARANAY testified that on July 22, 1996, she and Josefa went to Minda’s residence in order to watch TV. Upon arrival at Minda’s house, they saw the victim watching TV. They left the house at around 9:00 p.m. On their way home, they passed at Gideon’s house and thereat they saw Abner, the mother of Josefa and Nenie Bitancor watching TV and the latter joined them in going home. While they were walking, she did not notice the accused following them. She even saw the victim and Abner proceed to their house. On July 27, 1996, the accused was arrested for allegedly raping the victim. However, Abner the younger brother of the victim told her that his sister was not raped but fell from a swing. Abner made the statement in front of many people. 

GIDEON CASTULO testified that on July 22, 1996 at around 9:00 p.m. while he was fixing his motorcycle, many people were watching TV in his house, among them Abner, younger brother of the victim. He did not see the accused at the date and time of the alleged rape. 

FIDEL BESAS testified that on July 22, 1996, there was a mahjong game in his house and the accused arrived at around 7:00 p.m. He requested the accused to collect the tong for him because he was not feeling well. The accused did not leave his house from 7:00 up to 12:00 p.m. when the mahjong game ended. 

VISITACION DECENA testified that the only reason she can think of why the Amparo family charged his brother with rape is revenge because the cousin of the victim’s father was imprisoned for almost thirteen (13) years for raping the accused’s younger sister, Ruby. When she had a fight with Trinidad, mother of the victim, the latter told her that they have taken their revenge because her brother Rogelio is already in jail. 

ROGELIO BITANCOR vehemently denied the charge imputed against him. He testified that the Amparo family is out for revenge because of the imprisonment of Felipe Amparo, cousin of the victim’s father, who raped his sister Ruby. He likewise testified that on July 22, 1996, he was at the house of his neighbor, Edie Besas, because there was a mahjong session going on. He left the place at around 12:00 o’clock midnight.”[10]  (Citations ommitted)

Ruling of the Trial Court 

The trial court gave credence to the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. It explained as follows: “x x x [A] criminal case is not won by the number of witnesses but by the quality of their testimony. The negative testimonies of the defense witnesses pales in comparison with the positive assertions of the prosecution witnesses.”

It also said appellant’s claim that “this case was fabricated by the victim’s parents to avenge the earlier conviction of the victim’s distant relative appears to be too far fetched and contrived. If at all, the accused would have a more credible motive for revenge as the victim in that earlier rape case was his own younger sister!”[11]

Hence, this appeal.[12]


Appellant submits this sole issue for our consideration: 

“The lower court erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty of the crime of rape although the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”[13]

The Court’s Ruling 

The appeal has no merit.

Sole Issue: 
  Sufficiency of the Prosecution Evidence   

Appellant assails the sufficiency of the prosecution evidence because allegedly: 1) the testimony of private complainant is not credible; 2) the charge was merely fabricated; and 3) his defense of alibi was wrongly disregarded by the lower court, considering that he had presented more witnesses than the prosecution.

We disagree. In reviewing rape cases, this Court has always been guided by the following principles: (a) an accusation of rape can be made with facility -- if it is hard to prove, it is even more difficult for the accused to disprove; (b) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime in which only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (c) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and not draw strength merely from the weakness of that for the defense.[14] In the instant case, the records and the evidence support the conclusion that the prosecution’s version of the incident is much more credible than that of the defense.

It is well-entrenched jurisprudence that the lone testimony of the victim in a prosecution for rape, if credible, is sufficient to sustain a verdict of conviction. The rationale is that, owing to the nature of the offense, the only evidence that can be adduced to establish the guilt of the accused is usually only the offended party’s testimony.[15]

Verily, when a woman says she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has been committed; and if her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on that sole basis.[16] Appellant’s denial cannot prevail over private complainant’s direct, positive and categorical assertion that rings with truth. Denial is inherently a weak defense which cannot outweigh positive testimony.[17] As between a categorical statement that has the earmarks of truth on the one hand and bare denial, on the other, the former is generally held to prevail.[18]

Further, the RTC gave credence to the testimony of the offended party. Since the trial court had the opportunity to examine her demeanor and conduct on the stand, we do not find any reason to depart from its findings.[19]

Time and time again, we have said that the assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, because of its unique, firsthand opportunity to observe them under examination. Its findings on such matters are binding and conclusive on appellate courts. That is, unless it has overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted some facts or circumstances of weight and substance.[20]  Appellate courts have access only to inanimate transcripts of the stenographic notes of the witnesses’ testimonies during the trial and the various pieces of documentary evidence adduced by both parties. Hence, they generally rely on the trial court’s assessment regarding the credibility of the witnesses.[21]

Appellant also assails private complainant’s identification of him as her ravisher. He alleges that the darkness made it impossible for her to positively identify her attacker. While it may be true that the crime took place in a dark area, this fact did not prevent the identification of the criminal. As testified to by Gideon Castulo, the place where the crime took place was illumined by the light coming from his house.[22]

We have held that wick lamps, flashlights, even moonlight and starlight may, in proper situations, be sufficient illumination. Thus, attacks on the credibility of witnesses on this ground is unmeritorious.[23] Moreover, herein private complainant, being so close to her rapist, was able to have a good look at him. Indeed, a man and a woman cannot be physically closer to each other than during a sexual act.[24]

The girl testified to how appellant had ravished her on that fateful night as follows:                             

After you viewed or watched TV in the house of Monda or whom you now say is the place of Vicente Bernaldez, where did you go?
I went home.


Let it be noted that the witness is crying.
Who was your companion when you went home after watching TV in the house of Vicente Bernaldez[?]
We two with Jackilyn.
Jackilyn Besas?
Yes, sir.
Now, on your way home, do you remember if there was [a]ny unusual incident that happened?
Yes, sir.
Please relate it to the court what was that unusual incident that happened?
When we were going home together with Jackilyn, when we turned our back, this Boy Bitancor was there following us, so we ran and then I stumbled and Boy held my hand and brought me to the Gemelina tree.
What did Boy Bitancor do to you near the Gemelina tree?
He removed my panty.
Then what more did he do?
He fingered me after removing my panty.
What more did he do?
He inserted his organ in my vagina.
What more after inserting the organ in your vagina what more happened?
He boxed my thighs.
When you said that the accused, Boy Bitancor inserted his penis into your vagina, his penis really entered your vagina?
I did not notice because I felt pain.

 How long did the organ of the accused stay in your vagina, if at all?
A Quite a long time.
When the accused you said raped you, did you not shout?
No, because he covered my mouth.
x x x x x x x x x
When the accused Boy Bitancor or Rogelio Bitancor pulled you near to the gemelina tree, where was Jackilyn Besas?
In their house.
Now, you mean Jackilyn Besas who was your companion at that time left you and went to her house?
Yes, sir, she left me.
How did Jackilyn leave you or go away?
She ran away.
 Did Jackilyn see you when the accused pulled you to the gemelina tree?
Now, after the accused you said raped you, did he say anything?
That he will kill me if I will tell my father and mother.
Now you said that Boy Bitancor raped you, what then did Boy Bitancor do to you at that time?
He threw me.
Will you please demonstrate to the court when you said you were thrown by the accused?
He threw me down and pulled me up again.
 Why did he do that, do you know why he did that?
  (No answer).
Q Do you know the reason?
  (No answer)
After you were being raped where did the accused go?
Towards his home.
What about you at that time after you were being raped by the accused, where did you go?
I went home.
Who was in the house when you arrived home?
My mother.
Did you not report to your mother about the fact that you were being raped by the accused?
Why did you not tell your mother that you were raped?
Because I was afraid.
What were you afraid of?
Because according to Boy if I will tell my mother I will be killed. x x x
x x x x x x
 What day was that when the incident happened, was it a Monday, Tuesday or what?
 AMonday evening.
What time was that more or less?
9:00 o’clock in the evening.
x x x x x x x x x
What grade were you at that time on July 22, 1996?
Grade IV.
 Are you sure that it was the accused considering that it was already 9:00 o’clock in the evening?
A Yes, because I was able to recognize his voice.”[25]

In addition, as correctly ruled by the trial court, the injuries sustained by the victim on her thighs and buttocks supported her testimony that appellant had boxed her on her thighs and thrown her to the ground after raping her. Furthermore, the presence of sperm cells in her sexual organ bolstered her claim of rape more than words or anger alone could prove.[26] 

Finally, her testimony that she was physically and sexually assaulted was adequately substantiated by Dr. Lina R. Cero’s medical findings, which we reproduce as follows:

“x x x x x x x x x

“= Hymenal Lacerations at 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock 

= Admits tip of 5th finger with voluntary resistance due to pain 

Other Physical Findings: 

= Abnormal gait (nag-gaak) 

= Tenderness and erythema buttocks with faint hematoma right thigh 

Laboratory Examination: 

= Positive sperm determination”[27]

Weak Defense

Appellant interposes alibi. He claims to have been at the mahjong den of Fidel Besas at the time of the incident. However, for alibi to prosper, appellant must prove not only that he was elsewhere when the crime was committed, but also that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.[28]

Countless times, we have declared that alibi is an inherently weak defense. Unless supported by clear and convincing evidence, it cannot prevail over the positive declaration of a victim who, in a natural and straightforward manner, convincingly identifies the accused-appellant.[29] Positive identification, where consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter, prevails over denial. On the other hand, denial -- if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence -- is negative, self-serving and undeserving of any weight in law.[30]

Clearly, the evidence for the defense does not support appellant’s claim. First, Besas, the owner of the mahjong den, declared that at seven o’clock on the evening of July 22, 1996, appellant was already at the den where he stayed until twelve midnight.[31] This fact contradicts the latter’s claim that he had gone to the mahjong den after dinner, around nine o’clock in the evening, and stayed there until twelve midnight.[32] Second, the proximity of the mahjong den to the locus criminis (which was only two hundred meters away)[33]  did not preclude the possibility that he could have perpetrated the crime before going to Besas’ house around nine o’clock in the evening.

Fabrication Theory

Finally, appellant’s defense of fabrication also deserves scant consideration. The RTC aptly dismissed it as follows: “The claim by the accused that this case was fabricated by the victim’s parents to avenge the earlier conviction of the victim’s distant relative appears to be too far fetched and contrived. If at all, the accused would have had a more credible motive for revenge, as the victim in that earlier rape case was his own younger sister.”[34] Verily, no member of the family of the victim would subject her to the stigma and embarrassment concomitant with a rape trial, if she was not motivated solely by an honest desire to have the malefactor punished.[35]

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION  that, consistent with prevailing jurisprudence,[36] appellant is ordered to pay the victim the amount of P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto, in addition to the award of moral damages awarded by the trial court. Costs against appellant.


Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., abroad on official business.  

[1] Rollo, pp. 30-47; records, pp. 187-204; penned by Judge Dionisio R. Calibo Jr.

[2] Assailed Decision, p. 18; rollo, p. 47; records, p. 204. 

[3] Signed by Complainant Donafaye T. Amparo and certified by Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge Abundio T. Payot. 

[4] Rollo, p. 10. 

[5] Atty. Wilfredo Mayol. 

[6] Order dated November 13, 1997; records, p. 57. 

[7] Rollo, pp. 87-105. This was signed by Assistant Solicitor General Carlos N. Ortega, Assistant Solicitor General Amy C. Lazaro-Javier and Associate Solicitor Elmira S. Cruz. 

[8] Appellee’s Brief, pp. 2-7; rollo, pp. 90-95. 

[9] Rollo, pp. 55-66. This was signed by Attys. Amelia C. Garchitorena, Elpidio C. Bacuyag and Ma. Vanessa B. Donato-Balmaceda of the Public Attorney’s Office. 

[10] Appellant’s Brief, pp. 4-6; rollo, pp. 60-62. 

[11] Assailed Decision, pp.17-18; rollo, pp. 46-47. 

[12] This case was deemed submitted for decision on August 15, 2002, upon the filing of a Manifestation (in lieu of Reply Brief) by appellant. 

[13] Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; rollo, p. 57. Original in upper case. 

[14] People v. Antido, 278 SCRA 425, 440, September 4, 1997; People v. Restoles, 339 SCRA 40, 48-49, August 25, 2000. 

[15] People v. Daramay, GR Nos. 140235 & 142748, May 9, 2002; People v. Lucban, 322 SCRA 313, 315, January 19, 2000. 

[16] People v. Lao, 249 SCRA 75, October 6, 1995. 

[17] People v. Acabo, 259 SCRA 75, July 17, 1996; People v. Perez, 270 SCRA 526, March 26, 1997; People v. Travero, 276 SCRA 301, July 28, 1997; People v. Erese, 281 SCRA 316, November 5, 1997; People v. Pontilar Jr., 275 SCRA 338, July 11, 1997. 

[18] People v. Biago, 182 SCRA 411, February 21, 1990. 

[19] People v. Gomez, 279 SCRA 688, September 29, 1997. 

[20] People v. Pontilar Jr., supra. 

[21] People v. Acabo, supra; People v. Bawar, 262 SCRA 325, September 23, 1996. 

[22] TSN, October 14, 1999, p. 10. 

[23] People v. Villaruel, 261 SCRA 386, September 4, 1996. 

[24] People v. Gomez, supra, pp. 694-695; citing People v. Castañeda, 252 SCRA 247, 255, January 24, 1996. 

[25] TSN, February 5, 1998, pp. 7-12. 

[26] People v. Patong, 224 SCRA 571, July 14, 1993; People v. Belo, 299 SCRA 654, 665, December 4, 1998. 

[27] Record of Documentary Evidence, p. 2. 

[28] People v. Reduca, 301 SCRA 516, January 21, 1999. 

[29] People v. Sumampong, 290 SCRA 471, May 21, 1998. 

[30] People v. Ondalok, 272 SCRA 631, May 27, 1997. 

[31] TSN, October 15, 1999, p. 7. 

[32] TSN, May 9, 2000, pp. 7-9. 

[33] Id., p. 14. 

[34] Assailed Decision, pp. 17-18; rollo pp. 46-47. 

[35] People v. Bersabe, 289 SCRA 685, April 27, 1998. 

[36] People v. Mahinay, 302 SCRA 455, February 1, 1999.

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