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408 Phil. 838


[ G.R. No. 137967, April 19, 2001 ]




This is an appeal from the decision,[1] dated January 26, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, San Carlos City, Pangasinan, finding accused-appellant Pedro De la Cruz guilty of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the victim, Sinclaire De Guzman, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity.

The information against accused-appellant alleged:

That on or about July 13, 1998, in the afternoon in Barangay Dumpay, municipality of Basista, province of Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force or intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with Sinclaire C. de Guzman, a minor of 14 years old against her will and consent and to her damage and prejudice.[2] The prosecution presented as its witnesses the victim, Sinclaire De Guzman, her mother, Emelita De Guzman, her father, Pedro De Guzman, Dr. Casimiro Bacugan, Jr., SPO2 Rodrigo Seguin, and Dr. Policarpio Manuel, whose testimonies show the following:

Sinclaire De Guzman is the seventh child of Emelita and Pedro De Guzman.  Accused-appellant is a cousin of Pedro De Guzman, the latter's father being the brother of accused-appellant's mother.[3] Emelita De Guzman worked as a basket weaver,[4] while Pedro De Guzman was a driver of a freight truck making trips to any point in Luzon at least three times a week.[5] Sinclaire finished only the second grade of elementary school because of meningitis.  When she testified on December 22, 1998,  she was already 14 years old.

Sinclaire testified that at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon of July 13, 1998, she had a stomach ache.  For this reason, she went to the house of accused-appellant, whom she called Tiyo Ado, for some oil of wintergreen.  She said that when she asked accused-appellant for the liniment, the latter told  her to go upstairs where the bottle of oil of wintergreen was. According to Sinclaire, she went downstairs after finding the bottle and then applied the liniment on her stomach.  She said she bade accused-appellant good-bye, but he called her and told her to come near him. Sinclaire claimed that when she got near accused-appellant, the latter grabbed her by the shoulders, forced her to lie down on a wooden bed, and removed her trousers. He then proceeded to remove his own pants, went on top of her, and succeeded in having sexual intercourse with her.  Sinclaire said she told him to stop because she was getting hurt, but accused-appellant did not stop until he reached climax.  Afterwards, he told her that he would give her money if she did not tell her parents what he had done to her.  Sinclaire said she stood up from the bed and walked home crying.  When she reached home, she went upstairs to wipe her private parts and saw that it was bloodied.

Sinclaire could not remember when for the first time she was raped by accused-appellant.  Nor did she tell her parents about the first time she was raped by accused-appellant.[6] However, because this had been the second time accused-appellant had raped her, she decided to tell  her mother, Emelita De Guzman, about her misfortune.  Together, they told Pedro De Guzman, Sinclaire's father, what had happened.  Thus, the following morning, they went to the office of the National Bureau of Investigation in Dagupan City and reported the incident.  Sinclaire was taken to the provincial hospital in Dagupan City for physical examination.  Afterwards, she was taken to the police station in Basista, where she filed a complaint against accused-appellant.

SPO2 Rodrigo Seguin, member of the Philippine National Police assigned to the Basista Police Station, testified that on July 18, 1998, he took down the statements of Sinclaire and Pedro De Guzman and entered Sinclaire's complaint  in the police blotter.[7] Dr. Casimiro Bacugan, Jr., the medico-legal officer who examined Sinclaire De Guzman, issued a medical certificate, dated July 16, 1998, containing the following findings:

GO,  IMP  :  July 1st week, 98 4 days
PMP         :  June 1st, 98 4 days
Conscious, coherent, ambulatory, not in C-P distress
Abdomen   :  Flat, soft, nontender
Genitalia    : Hymen with healed laceration at 2, 3, 7 o'clock position, Admits 1 finger with ease
I.E.           : Cervix closed, uterus small, adnexae free, bleeding negative with whitish vaginal discharge
Cervico vaginal smear for presence of spermatozoa.

Result        :  Negative for spermatozoa.[8] Dr. Bacugan testified that he examined Sinclaire De Guzman at the Medical Center in Dagupan City on July 15, 1998.  He said he found Sinclaire not to be pregnant and to have never been pregnant before.  Sinclaire's hymen showed healed lacerations at the 2, 3, and 7 o'clock positions, which Dr. Bacugan stated were caused more than one week prior to the examination. He clarified that he could not say that the lacerations were only a few days old because there was neither congestion nor bleeding in the hymen and the edges were already healed.[9] Dr. Policarpio Manuel, on the other hand, testified on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of Sinclaire De Guzman.  He stated that Sinclaire De Guzman was taken to the San Carlos Provincial Hospital on August 27, 1998 for medical treatment.  She was suffering from epilepsy granmal, a convulsive seizure characterized by drooling of saliva and rolling of the eyeballs. According to Dr. Manuel, epilepsy granmal affects the mental and behavioral functions of the patient. Behavioral changes means that the patient exhibited disorientation or suffered from hallucinations. Mental malfunction means that the patient had a poor memory or was unable to have good perceptions.  Motor dysfunction means that the patient was physically weak, unable to stand or hold things. Sensory dysfunction means that the patient would lose consciousness. Lastly, autonomic dysfunction means that the patient would urinate or defecate unknowingly.  Dr. Manuel explained that these dysfunctions are symptoms of an epileptic disorder. In an epileptic state, the patient would have a poor memory and her perception would be altered.  In other words, because of her physical and mental dysfunctions, Sinclaire was both physically and emotionally weak. On cross-examination, however, Dr. Manuel stated that the patient's memory or comprehension would be affected only if she was having an epileptic attack.  It was thus possible that her memory would not be affected at all if she was not suffering from an attack at any given time. Sinclaire's epileptic attacks would vary, from once a week to every other day.[10] For its part, the defense presented as witnesses accused-appellant himself, his sons, Carlo and Peter De la Cruz, and Dr. Anthony Castro, an ophthalmologist.

Accused-appellant denied the allegations against him.  He testified that he used to work as a machine operator in a printing press, but he had to stop working in 1976 because an eye ailment rendered him blind.[11] In the afternoon of July 13, 1998, Sinclaire went to his house to ask for coffee.  He told her to go upstairs because his son, Peter, was there.  Peter, however, told her that there was no more coffee. Sinclaire then went back to him and asked him for money.  When he told her that he had no money, she put her hand in his pocket because she did not believe what he had told her.  At that point, Carlo, another son of accused-appellant, arrived home and saw them. Carlo asked what was going on and accused-appellant said that Sinclaire was trying to get money from him. Sinclaire then left the house. Accused-appellant said he did not rape Sinclaire De Guzman.[12] He claimed that Sinclaire's family filed the rape case against him because they had many debts to pay and they knew that he was expecting to receive his Social Security System (SSS) benefits in the amount of P70,000.00 to P80,000.00.[13] Carlo and Peter De la Cruz, sons of accused-appellant, corroborated their father's testimony.  Carlo De la Cruz, 22 years old, testified that he arrived home at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon of July 13, 1998 and found Sinclaire embracing his father with her hand inside his pocket.  When he asked what was going on, accused-appellant explained that Sinclaire was trying to get money from him.[14] Peter De la Cruz, 21 years old, testified that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of July 13, 1998,  while he was resting upstairs in their house,  Sinclaire De Guzman arrived and asked for coffee.  After he told her that there was no more coffee, she proceeded downstairs where accused-appellant was seated.  She asked accused-appellant for money, but the latter said that he had no money. Peter then heard his Kuya Carlo asking what was going on and his father replying that Sinclaire was asking for money.  Sinclaire then left.[15] Carlo and Peter De la Cruz testified that their father, accused-appellant, had been blind ever since they could remember.[16] Dr. Anthony Castro, an ophthalmologist, also testified for the defense.  On direct examination, he stated that he examined accused-appellant's visual acuity and found the patient to be totally blind.  Dr. Castro explained that accused-appellant could not perceive visual stimuli, such as light. Only with the assistance of a very strong light could accused-appellant discern such stimuli.  On cross-examination, he testified that blindness could be total or partial and a totally blind patient could not perceive even a single slit of light.  Visual acuity would be the maximum vision that a patient could perceive.  For example, if at one foot the patient could perceive hand movements, he would be considered to have a visual acuity of hand movement.  If the patient could not recognize hand movements, a test would be made on his light perception.  If the patient could recognize light, he would be asked whether the light was on the upper or lower quadrant.  If he could determine where the light was, he would be considered to have good light perception.  If he could not distinguish the light, then the patient would be considered to have poor light perception.  On the basis of his examination of accused-appellant, Dr. Castro concluded that the latter was totally blind.  He surmised that the blindness had taken place more than two to three years before the examination.  He explained that if the patient became blind less than two to three years prior to the examination, there should have been a hardening of the eyeball.  In the case of accused-appellant, his eyeballs were soft.  Thus, Dr. Castro concluded that accused-appellant had been blind for more than five years.[17]

On January 26, 1999, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused Pedro De la Cruz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE as defined under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659 and hereby imposes upon said Pedro De la Cruz the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and to pay civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 to the victim Sinclaire De Guzman.


Hence this appeal. Accused-appellant makes the following assignment of errors:



Accused-appellant contends that Sinclaire De Guzman's story is incredible and difficult to believe.  He stresses the fact that he has been blind for 20 years and that complainant could have simply pushed him away or easily escaped from his clutches had he really tried to rape her.  That she did not means that he did not even attempt to molest her.[20] We agree with accused-appellant. Courts are guided by the following principles in adjudging rape cases: (a) An accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove the same; (b) In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) The evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.[21] By the very nature of the crime, judgments in rape cases turn on the credibility of the complainant as only the participants can testify as to its occurrence.[22] In several cases,[23] we have held that the lone uncorroborated testimony of the complainant is sufficient to warrant a conviction, provided that such is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. However, we have also held that the testimony of the complainant should not be received with precipitate credulity but with the utmost caution.[24] The test for determining the credibility of complainant's testimony is whether it is in conformity with common knowledge and consistent with the experience of mankind. Whatever is repugnant to these standards becomes incredible and lies outside of judicial cognizance.[25] While we are mindful of the rule that the findings of the trial court regarding the credibility of witnesses are generally accorded great respect, and even finality, on appeal, this does not preclude a re-evaluation of the evidence to determine whether a fact or circumstance has not been overlooked or misinterpreted by the trial court.[26] We have not hesitated to reverse judgments of conviction where there are strong indications pointing to the possibility that the rape charge is false.[27] In this case, several circumstances lead us to doubt complainant's claim that she was raped by  accused-appellant.

First.  Complainant Sinclaire De Guzman testified that accused-appellant grabbed her shoulders, forced her to lie on a wooden bed, removed her trousers, and, after removing his own trousers, inserted his penis into her vagina.[28] It should be noted, however, that accused-appellant is blind and has been so for several years prior to the commission of the alleged rape. Dr. Anthony Castro, an ophthalmologist, testified that accused-appellant is totally blind[29] and issued a certification, dated December 30, 1998, to this effect.[30] Emelita De Guzman, complainant's own mother, likewise admitted this fact.[31] Considering the foregoing, complainant's claim that accused-appellant grabbed her by the shoulders, threw her on the bed, removed her pants, and raped her becomes doubtful.  There is no claim that accused-appellant removed complainant's trousers and then removed his pants while he was on top of her.  If that were the case, however, she could easily have tried to wiggle out of accused-appellant's clutches.  On the other hand, if it were true that accused-appellant forced her to lie on the wooden bed, then complainant could have tried to escape while accused-appellant was removing his trousers.  It is doubtful that complainant could not have fled while accused-appellant was removing his pants.  Indeed, complainant could have fled as soon as she sensed accused-appellant's intentions because there was no way accused-appellant could have run after her as he was totally blind.

Complainant maintains that she tried to push accused-appellant away when he was already on top of her.[32] As already stated, however, complainant could have tried to escape from accused-appellant when he was trying to remove his trousers.  Furthermore, complainant's father, Pedro De Guzman, testified that the distance between their house and that of accused-appellant is only 10 meters.[33] She could thus have shouted for help, but she did not.  Instead of making an attempt to escape, complainant said she lay on the wooden bed while accused-appellant removed his trousers. Such conduct is inconsistent with the behavior of someone who had been forced to submit to an unwanted sexual act.

In several cases,[34] we held that the failure of the complainant to even attempt to escape from her supposed assailant despite opportunities to do so undermined her credibility and rendered her testimony unworthy of belief.  For, although different women react differently in similar situations, it is unnatural for a would-be victim of rape not to make even a feeble attempt to escape when opportunities arose for doing so.[35] Second.  The Office of the Solicitor General argues that the force or violence employed upon a victim is relative, and the victim's failure to shout or to resist did not make voluntary her submission to the criminal acts of the accused.[36] On this point, the trial court ruled:

Intimidation in rape cases is not calibrated nor governed by hard and fast rules.  At her tender age of 14 years and epileptic, Sinclaire could not be expected to act with equanimity of disposition and with nerve[s] of steel, or to act like a mature and experienced woman who would know what to do under the circumstances, or to have courage and intelligence to disregard the threat.

The force employed by the appellant on the victim need not be irresistible.  Only such force sufficient to consummate the criminal purpose of the accused is required (PP vs. Erese, G.R. No. 120579, November 5, 1997).

Sinclaire would not publicly admit that she had been raped by the accused, voluntarily allow herself to be medically probed, endure humility and quite delicate questions in the course of a full blown trial if her accusations were merely malicious concoctions.

The Court believes the version and story of Sinclaire as no woman would subject herself  to the stigma and indignities her accusations would entail unless she is telling the truth.  It is observed that the complainant's testimony being straightforward and candid, had a ring of truth.  She would not have dared stand the rigors and humiliation of a public trial if she had not indeed been raped by the accused.  The tears she had while narrating how she was ravished by the accused were real.[37]

This is too simplistic a view to adopt regarding a crime that could cost  the accused  his liberty for the rest of his life. To warrant a conviction, it is necessary that the complainant's story, standing alone independently of the presumption, be believable. Otherwise, if such presumption alone is sufficient to convict the accused, every accusation of rape would result in the conviction of the accused, contrary to the fundamental right of the accused in every criminal prosecution to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.[38] The presumption that a woman would not make an accusation of rape had it not been the truth finds justification in the natural reticence of a woman to expose herself to a trial which would further degrade her and make her relive an experience that she would in fact want to forget.  Against such a presumption, however, must be weighed the constitutional right of the accused to be presumed innocent.  In People v. Godoy,[39] it was held:

The presumption of innocence . .  .  is founded upon the first principles of justice, and is not a mere form but a substantial part of the law. It is not overcome by mere suspicion or conjecture; a probability that the defendant committed the crime; nor by the fact that he had the opportunity to do so.  Its purpose is to balance the scales in what would otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone individual pitted against the People and all the resources at their command.  Its inexorable mandate is that, for all the authority and influence of the prosecution, the accused must be acquitted and set free if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of a doubt.  This is in consonance with the rule that conflicts in evidence must be resolved upon the theory of innocence rather than upon a theory of guilt when it is possible to do so.

Keeping these principles in mind, we find that the prosecution failed to establish that accused-appellant employed force and intimidation upon complainant in order to have sex with her.  To be sure, intimidation is very subjective and must be viewed in the light of the victim's perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the crime.  But it is improbable in this case for complainant not to make an outcry against accused-appellant, who was unarmed and blind.[40] The mere fact that complainant is an epileptic does not justify the inference that she was helpless.  Dr. Manuel, complainant's physician, testified that a person would otherwise be normal if he or she was not suffering from an epileptic attack.[41] In this case, there was no evidence to show that complainant was having an epileptic attack at the time of the alleged rape and was thus an easy prey for accused-appellant.  In the light of Dr. Manuel's statement and the absence of any evidence to the contrary, complainant must be presumed to possess the emotional and mental faculties that would enable her to appraise the alleged dire situation she was facing and to act accordingly.

Third.  Complainant claims that the rape which occurred on July 13, 1998 was the second one committed against her by accused-appellant.  It is understandable for complainant not to remember the exact date when the alleged first rape took place.  However, she could not even state the month or year that accused-appellant first raped her.  She did not say how and under what circumstances she was raped by accused-appellant.  Nor did she tell her parents what accused-appellant had allegedly done to her.  All these cast doubt on her allegation that she was raped by accused-appellant before July 13, 1998.  It is simply hard to believe that a 14-year old girl could forget an event which could not be anything but memorable.  Rape is such a traumatic experience to be erased from one's mind so completely that not a single detail could be remembered of such an episode.

It bears repeating here that for evidence to be believed, it must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but must be credible in itself such as the common experience and observation of mankind can approve of as probable under the circumstances.[42] Considering the questions that remain unanswered and the gaps which generate conjecture and speculation as to how she was raped by accused-appellant, we cannot but conclude that complainant's testimony fails to establish beyond reasonable doubt accused-appellant's guilt.

Fourth.  When the testimony of the complainant is inherently weak, it is still possible for other corroborative evidence to sufficiently and convincingly prove the rape charge beyond reasonable doubt.[43] In this case, however, while the medical findings showed that complainant suffered lacerations in her vagina at the 2, 3, and 7 o'clock positions,[44] Dr. Bacugan testified that the lacerations were already healed and were more than a week old at the time he examined complainant.  Dr. Bacugan examined complainant on July 15, 1998.[45] On the other hand, complainant was allegedly raped on July 13, 1998.[46] Since the lacerations found on complainant were more than a week old at the time of her physical examination, it follows that she had sexual intercourse, whether consented to or not, at least one week prior to her examination.  Hence, her claim that accused-appellant raped her on July 13, 1998, two days prior to her physical examination, is unsupported by the medical findings.  Considering the results of her examination, complainant could either have been actually raped at least a week prior to her medical examination, by accused-appellant or by another, or she had not been raped at all.  Faced with these possibilities, this Court must uphold the innocence of accused-appellant as his guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.  Where the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction.[47] Fifth. Emelita and Pedro De Guzman, complainant's parents, also corroborated her testimony as to how she was allegedly raped by accused-appellant.  However, their testimonies are so similar, even in the words they used, that one cannot help suspecting that their testimonies had been coached and rehearsed. Claiming that complainant told them what had happened to her, they testified on even the minutest detail of the alleged assault, such as how complainant was forced to lie on the bed, how accused-appellant supposedly used his fingers to guide his penis into complainant's vagina, and how their daughter felt pain which stopped only when accused-appellant reached climax.  A witness whose testimony is so perfect in all aspects, without a flaw and remembering even the minutest details which jibe beautifully with one another, lays himself or herself open to the suspicion of having been coached or having memorized statements earlier rehearsed.[48] In this case, the similarity and  richness in the details of the testimonies of complainant's parents suggest that the claim of rape is concocted.

Although an absolute guarantee of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict a person of a crime, there must at least be moral certainty that each element essential to constitute the offense and accused-appellant's identity as the person who committed the same were established by the prosecution.  Proof beyond reasonable doubt is meant to be that, all things given, the mind of the Court can rest easy on the certainty of the guilt of accused-appellant.[49] In this case, doubts have arisen not only as to the culpability of accused-appellant but as to the occurrence of the crime itself.  We cannot in good conscience convict accused-appellant considering all these reasons.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, San Carlos City, Pangasinan is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and accused-appellant is ACQUITTED of the crime of rape as charged and is ordered immediately released unless there are other legal grounds for his continued detention.

The Director of Prisons is directed to implement this Decision and to report to the Court immediately the action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt hereof.


Bellosillo, J. (Chairman), Quisumbing, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Per Judge Bienvenido R. Estrada.

[2] Records, p. 1.

[3] TSN (Emelita De Guzman), pp. 3-4, Nov. 11, 1998.

[4] Id., p. 2.

[5] TSN (Pedro De Guzman), p. 2, Nov. 27, 1998.

[6] TSN, pp. 8-13, Dec. 22, 1998.  See also TSN (Emelita de Guzman), pp. 2-5, Oct. 9, 1998 and TSN (Pedro De Guzman), pp. 3-7, Nov. 27, 1998.

[7] TSN, pp. 3-5, Dec. 8, 1998.

[8] Exh. B; Records, p. 9.

[9] TSN, pp. 5-9, Nov. 25, 1998.

[10] TSN, pp. 3-5, Dec.  28, 1998.

[11] TSN, pp. 4-5, Jan. 18, 1999.

[12] TSN, pp. 9-12, Jan. 11, 1999.

[13] TSN, pp. 5, 11, Jan. 18, 1999.

[14] TSN, p. 9,  Dec. 28, 1998.

[15] TSN, pp. 7-8, Dec. 29, 1998.

[16] TSN (Carlo De la Cruz), p. 11, Dec. 28, 1998; TSN (Peter De la Cruz), p. 9, Dec. 29, 1998.

[17] TSN, pp. 2-9, Jan. 11, 1999.

[18] Decision, p. 6; Records, p. 182.

[19] Brief for the Accused-Appellant, p. 1; Rollo, p. 49.

[20] Id.,  pp. 5-6; id.,  pp. 53-54.

[21] People v. Desamparado, G.R. No. 130651, November 22, 2000.

[22] People v. Abuan, 284 SCRA 46 (1998).

[23] People v. Docdoc, G.R. No. 134679, August 8, 2000; People v. Estrera, 285 SCRA 372 (1998).

[24] People v. Domogoy, 305 SCRA 75 (1999).

[25] People v. San Juan, G.R. No. 130969, February 29, 2000.

[26] People v. Domogoy, supra.

[27] People v. Medel, 286 SCRA 567 (1998).

[28] TSN, p. 10, Dec. 22, 1998.

[29] TSN, pp. 4, 7, 9, Jan. 11, 1999.  See also Exh. 1;  Records, p. 151.

[30] Exh. 2; Records, p. 152.

[31] TSN, p. 4, Nov. 11, 1998.

[32] TSN, p. 10, Dec. 22, 1998.

[33] TSN, p. 9, Nov.  27, 1998.

[34] People v. Docdoc, supra; People v. San Diego, G.R. No. 129297, March 17, 2000; People v. Claudio, G.R. No. 133694, February 29, 2000.

[35] People v. Claudio, supra.

[36] Brief for the Appellee, pp. 12-13; Rollo, pp. 80-81.

[37] Decision, pp. 5-6; Records, pp. 181-182.

[38]People v. Sandagon, 233 SCRA 108 (1994).

[39] People v. Godoy, 250 SCRA 676, 727 (1995).

[40] See People v. Clemente, 316 SCRA 786 (1999).

[41] TSN, p. 6, Dec. 28, 1998.

[42] People v. San Juan, supra.

[43] People v. Godoy,  supra.

[44] Exh. B; Records, p. 9.

[45] TSN, p. 5, Nov.  25, 1998.

[46] Records, p. 1.

[47] People v. Agresor, 320 SCRA 302 (1999).

[48] See People v. Roche, G.R. No. 115182, April 6, 2000 and People v. Hillado, 307 SCRA 535 (1999).

[49] See People v. De la Cruz, G.R. No. 133921, June 1, 2000.

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