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386 Phil. 827


[ G.R. No. 131357, April 12, 2000 ]




In resolving the sole issue raised by appellant, the Court relies on the time-tested doctrine that the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses should be upheld, if it is not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which, if considered, would materially affect the result of the case.

The Case

Filed before this Court is an appeal by Ernesto Garchitorena, who seeks reversal of the September 30, 1997 Decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela, Metro Manila (Branch 171) in Criminal Case No. 5510-V-96. The Decision found him guilty of rape and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua.

In an Information[2] dated May 6, 1996, Assistant City Prosecutor Eriberto A. Aricheta charged appellant with rape by means of force and intimidation. The Information reads as follows:
"That on or about February 18, 1996 in Valenzuela, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force and intimidation employed upon the person of one JENNIFER ACOSTA y ALEJO, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with the said JENNIFER ACOSTA y ALEJO, against her will and without her consent."
Upon his arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial proceeded in due course. Thereafter, the court a quo rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, finding accused Ernesto Garchitorena y Medina [g]uilty beyond reasonable doubt, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of [r]eclusion [p]erpetua and to pay the costs.

"Accused is likewise sentenced to indemnify the offended party the sum of P50,000.00."[3]
The Facts
Version of the Prosecution

In its Brief,[4] the Office of the Solicitor General[5] presents the following narration of the facts:
"Jennifer Acosta was nineteen (19) years old at the time she testified in court in 1996. Appellant is her step grandfather, being the live-in partner of her paternal grandmother Rosalina Acosta. Rosalina is separated from her husband. Rosalina and appellant took Jennifer to their custody when the latter was only two (2) years old and until Jennifer was about ten (10) or eleven (11) years old. During that period, however, Jennifer would reside alternately in her grandmother and appellant’s house at No. 1078 Sta. Monica Subdivision, Ugong, Valenzuela, Metro Manila and her parents’ house at # 2007 La Mesa St., Ugong, Valenzuela. Rosalina and appellant’s house is about two hundred (200) steps away, or about five (5) minutes walk [from] Jennifer’s parents’ house.

"Jennifer was ten (10) or eleven (11) years old when she resided permanently at her parents[‘] x x x house. But Jennifer would still go to her grandmother’s house when she would call for her. Sometimes appellant would fetch Jennifer from her parents’ house pretending that her grandmother needed her. If Jennifer would refuse to go with appellant, Clarita would scold her. When she was ten (10) years old, Jennifer noticed that appellant treated her differently, such as placing her on his lap, kissing her on the neck or on the cheeks and touching her private parts. Jennifer calls appellant Daddy because her grandmother told her to address appellant as such. According to Jennifer, appellant started raping her when she reached the age of ten (10), but she could no longer remember how many times appellant raped her. The rapes were committed not only in her grandmother’s house but also in her parents’ house. She did not tell anyone about the rapes committed by appellant against her because he threatened to kill her, her grandmother and sister should she (Jennifer) do so.

"On February 18, 1996, a Sunday, Jennifer was at the chapel until 11:00 a.m. Thereafter she went home [to] her parents’ house and had lunch with her parents and sister. Around 1:00 p.m., she went to her grandmother’s house. When she arrived at her grandmother’s house, appellant and her grandmother were eating lunch at the kitchen. Since Jennifer had eaten her lunch, she took a little food at her grandmother’s house. The kitchen was at the back of the store owned by her grandmother and outside the house. After eating, Jennifer went to the sala of the house and lay down on the sofa while appellant left and her grandmother went to the store. The sala was about twenty (20) to twenty-five (25) meters away from the store. The sofa where Jennifer had [lain] down [on] was beside a window. When one opens the door of the house, one would immediately see the sofa. When Jennifer was lying on the sofa, her head was towards the door, so she could not see the door. She had slept for less than an hour when she was awakened by a kiss planted by appellant on her right cheek. Jennifer was then wearing a T-shirt and a garterized short pants while appellant was wearing a T-shirt and pants. She could no longer remember whether appellant wore long or short pants. When Jennifer opened her eyes, she saw appellant on her right side and she uttered ‘Daddy’. She attempted to stand up, but appellant’s right hand held her left hand and appellant kissed her on the lips. Jennifer could not do anything but cry. She could not shout because she was afraid of him. Then, with his right hand, appellant touched her breasts. Thereupon, appellant raised her T-shirt and her bra with his right hand and alternately kissed and touched her exposed breasts. While appellant was doing all these to her, she constantly pleaded with him to stop, but her plea was useless. Thereafter, appellant pulled down her garterized short pants and panty. When her panty was removed, appellant touched her vagina with his right hand and inserted a finger into her vagina. At this point, Jennifer closed her eyes and when she opened them she saw appellant removing his brief. Appellant then placed himself on top of her and masturbated with his right hand. As appellant was on top of her, he kissed her. Jennifer was repelled by that (‘nadidiri ako sa kanya’). Then appellant inserted his penis into her vagina. Suddenly, Jennifer’s grandmother called out to appellant. Appellant stood up, hurriedly fixed himself up and told Jennifer not to leave because he would come back. But as soon as appellant left, Jennifer fixed herself up and went home.

"When Jennifer arrived at her parent’s house, she tried to act normally. But her mother asked why she was frowning and she told her mother that she had a headache. Her mother became suspicious. Then on March 30, 1996, her mother asked her if she had a problem. Jennifer did not answer until her mother slapped her. Then Jennifer told her mother ‘Nanay, hirap na hirap na ako’ and told her mother that appellant was molesting her. Her mother said, ‘napakawalanghiya niya’.

"Dr. Noel Minay, a [m]edico-[l]egal [o]fficer of the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila conducted a physical examination on Jennifer on April 2, 1996. Dr. Minay testified that there was no physical injury on the body of Jennifer, but he found an old healed hymenal laceration at [the] 6 o’clock position. His examination revealed that Jennifer was no longer physically [a] virgin."[6]
Version of the Defense

In his Brief,[7] appellant did not present his version of the facts, but merely stated that Witnesses Rogelio and Rosalinda Acosta both testified that complainant had gone to his residence several times after the date when the alleged rape took place, and that there was thus no indication that the relationship between him and complainant was strained or abnormal.

Ruling of the Trial Court

After examining the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense, as well as the demeanor of the witnesses of both sides, the trial court concluded that the prosecution’s account was more credible.

The trial court accorded full faith to the victim’s narration of the incident which occurred on February 18, 1996. It observed that a girl of tender age would not willingly falsify a rape charge. Her lack of sufficient discretion and judgment, as well as the threats to her life and the lives of her sister and her grandmother, prevented her from resisting appellant’s advances, thus enabling him to perpetrate the crime. The trial court also noted the findings of the medicolegal officer, which lent support to the fact that rape had been committed against the victim.

Hence, this appeal.[8]

Assignment of Errors

In his Brief, appellant interposes this lone assignment of error:
"The trial court erred in convicting the accused on the basis of the incredible and conflicting statements of the complainant and despite the positive testimony in favor of the accused."[9]

The Court’s Ruling

The appeal is devoid of merit.

Solitary Issue:
Credibility of the Witness

Appellant contends that the trial court misapplied the doctrine that a girl of tender age would not disclose that she was raped if it were not true, arguing that complainant herein was already 19 years old at the time of the rape. He also contends that her actions of going back to his house and even eating with him after the supposed rape showed that it did not take place. Lastly, he argues that her Appellant contends that the trial court misapplied the doctrine that a girl of tender age would not disclose that she was raped if it were not true, arguing that complainant herein was already 19 years old. He further contends that her testimony should not be believed because it contained many inconsistencies.

The contentions of appellant are incorrect. He was convicted on the basis of the victim’s testimony which the trial court deemed to be a true and honest narration of the events that occurred on that fateful day. During direct examination, Jennifer clearly testified as to how she had been raped by her grandfather, herein appellant. We quote hereunder the pertinent portion of her testimony:

"FISCAL RAZON: (To the witness)
QNow, when he arrived, what happened?
AHe kissed me.
QWhere were you kissed?
A[On] my cheeks.
QAnd after you were kissed, what happened?
AI was awakened. When I was about to stand up, he held my hands.
QAnd after holding your hands, what happened?
AThen he again kissed me.
QWhere were you kissed the second time?
A[On] my lips.
QAnd after you were kissed on the lips, what did the accused do?
AHe touched my breast.
QBy the way, how were you attired at that time?
AI was wearing shorts and T-shirt.
QWhat about your bra, were you then wearing bra?
AYes, sir.
QNow you stated that the accused touched your breast, what happened after that?
AWhile he was kissing me, he was holding my breast.
Q[Which hand] of the accused was touching your breast?
ARight hand.
QWhat about his left hand, what was his left hand doing?
AHis left hand was holding my hands.
QAfter your breast [was] touched, what happened?
AWhen he stopped touching my breast, he pulled up my T-shirt.
QAnd after your T-shirt was pulled up, what happened?
AThen he pulled up my bra.
QAnd after he pulled your bra, what did he do next?
AHe kissed my breast.
QAnd after kissing your breast, what did he do?
AAfter cooling down, he pulled down my shorts.
QAnd after pulling down your shorts, what did he do?
AHe removed my panty.
QAnd after he removed your panty, what did he do?
AHe touched my vagina.
QAnd after touching your vagina, what did he do next?
AHe inserted his finger.
QAnd after he inserted his finger into your vagina, what did he do next, if any?
AHe contin[u]ously inserted his finger.
QAnd how was he attired at that time?
AHe was wearing [pants].
QAnd what was your position while this thing was being done to your person?
AI was lying down, face up.
QAnd after he repeatedly inserted his finger into your vagina, what did he do next?
AThen he released me and unbuttoned his pants.
QAnd after he unbuttoned his pants, what did he do?
AHe put [out] his private part.
QAnd after that, what did he do?
AHe kissed me and went back to me, and placed himself on top of me.
x x x      x x x      x x x
QWhen he placed himself on top of you, what did he do to you?
AWhile he was kissing me, he was holding his penis and he was masturbating.
QAfter he had masturbated, what did he do, if any?
AHe inserted his penis into my vagina.
QNow, a while ago, you stated that he unbuttoned his pants, and brought out his penis[;] how far was he from you?
AHe was just beside me.
QWhen he inserted his penis into your vagina, what was your feeling?
AIt was painful."[10]

True, the statement of the complainant that she was ravished in the sala conflicted with that of Rogelio Acosta who, testifying for the defense, claimed that he was watching television in the same place at that time. After hearing the testimonies of both parties, however, the trial court attached greater weight and credence to the testimony of the victim, Jennifer Acosta. This Court finds no compelling reason to reverse or alter its holding. It is a time-tested doctrine that a trial court’s assessment of the credibility of a witness is entitled to great weight and is even conclusive and binding, if it is not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence.[11]

Furthermore, the trial court found no motive for complainant to testify falsely against appellant who was a close relative. In People v. Tidula, this Court stated that a witness’ testimony against a blood relative is given great weight, if it is not found to have been motivated by any ill will. The Court held:
"A witness’ testimony is accorded great weight, particularly when his or her accusation is directed against a close relative. For one to prosecute a blood relative -- especially when, as in this case, no ill or evil motive is shown -- goes beyond logic and normal human experience."[12]
Appellant insists that Jennifer fabricated the rape charge, because she had felt that her grandparents were too strict with her and her suitors. This allegation does not hold water, because no proof was ever offered to substantiate it. Moreover, one does not fabricate so serious a charge as rape simply because one’s grandparents are strict, especially in this case wherein complainant was not even living with them but only visited them from time to time. In any event, her testimony is corroborated by the findings of the NBI medicolegal officer,[13] who found an old healed laceration in her sexual organ after conducting a genital inspection.

In insisting that the trial court erred in finding that Jennifer did not resist, appellant is not correct either. In rape cases, the force applied need not be irresistible.[14] It merely has to be enough to successfully carry out the assailant’s carnal desire. In the present case, appellant did apply sufficient force and intimidation to consummate his lustful desire.

During her testimony, Jennifer stated that appellant held her hands while kissing her. Also, she explained that she did not shout or ask for help because she was afraid, and that he threatened to kill her grandmother and her sister. She testified as follows:
"QWhy did you not shout and ask for help from anybody?
AI was afraid of him.
QWhy were you afraid?
ABecause when he was doing that thing to me, when he was raping me, he told me that he [would] kill my grandmother and my sister.
QAnd after the penis was inserted into your vagina. what happened?
AWhen his penis was already inside my vagina, my grandmother shouted, calling him.
QYou stated a while ago that your grandmother was inside?
AInside the store.
QHow come that she was able to call on your grandfather[?]
ABecause the store was just outside x x x the house.
QHow far was it [from] the house of your grandmother?
AMore or less ten (10) meters away."[15]

Lastly, appellant’s argument that complainant would not have returned to his house if the rape had really occurred can also be easily dispensed with. She was reported to have been to appellant’s house after February 18, 1996, but prior to March 30, 1996. However, she told her mother about the rape only on the latter date because she had at first been reluctant to talk about it out of either fear or humiliation. Thus, prior to March 30, 1996, complainant had to pretend that everything was normal. Not going to appellant’s house which she was known to have frequented could have caused suspicion that something was amiss.

It can be seen from her testimony, however, that she did not go to that house on the mentioned dates without anyone accompanying her. She testified thus:
"Q[On w]hat other dates [did] you [see] Jennifer Acosta at the house of your mother?
AOn March 22, 1997 x x x my brother arrived from abroad[;] the next day March 23, 1996 Jennifer Acosta went to our house.
QAnd who were the companion[s] of Jennifer Acosta when she arrived at the house of your mother on March 23, if any?
AShe was accompanied by her father and her mother.
QWho else?
AAnd he[r] sister.
QAfter March 23 was there any occasion [on which] Jennifer Acost[a] went to the house of your mother?
AFrom March 23 to March 29, 1996 they came to our [house] to play domino.
QAnd who was her companion at the time she returned on March 24 to March 29?
AHer younger sister."[16]

The trial court correctly awarded the amount of P50,000 by way of civil indemnity, which was mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape.[17] This Court likewise awards an additional sum of P50,000 by way of moral damages. The fact that complainant has suffered trauma which constitutes the basis for moral damages is too obvious to still require the victim’s recital thereof at the trial.[18]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DENIED and the Decision of the Regional Trial Court AFFIRMED, with the modification that appellant is ordered to pay the victim the amount of P50,000 as moral damages, in addition to the trial court’s grant of P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto. Costs against appellant.


Melo, (Chairman), Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Vitug, J., abroad, on official business.

[1] Written by Judge Adriano R. Osorio; rollo, pp. 18-31.
[2] Rollo, p. 7.
[3] Assailed Decision, p. 14; rollo, p. 31.
[4] Rollo, pp. 107- 130.
[5] The Appellee’s Brief was signed by Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez, Assistant Solicitor General Mariano M. Martinez and Associate Solicitor Olivia V. Non.
[6] Appellee’s Brief, pp. 3-9; rollo, pp. 109-115.
[7] The Appellant’s Brief was signed by Atty. Timoteo B. Aquino.
[8] The case was deemed submitted for resolution on January 25, 2000, upon receipt by this Court of the Appellee’s Brief. The filing of a reply brief was deemed waived, as none was submitted within the reglementary period.
[9] Appellant’s Brief, p. 3; rollo, p. 48.
[10] TSN, September 6, 1996, pp. 15-20.
[11] People v. Lozano, 296 SCRA 403, 414, September 25, 1998. See also People v. Jimenez, 302 SCRA 607, February 4, 1999; People v. Angeles, 275 SCRA 19, July 1 1997; People v. Atuel, 261 SCRA 339, September 3, 1996; People v. Cura, 240 SCRA 234, January 18, 1995; and People v. Malunes, 247 SCRA 317, August 14, 1995.
[12] People v. Tidula, 292 SCRA 596, 617, July 16, 1998, per Panganiban, J. See also Severino Antonio v. CA, 273 SCRA 328, June 13, 1997.
[13] Dr. Noel Minay.
[14] People v. Zaballero, 274 SCRA 627, June 30, 1997; People v. Dones, 254 SCRA 696, March 13, 1996.
[15] TSN, September 6, 1996, p. 26.
[16] TSN, April 14, 1997, p. 17.
[17] See People v. Victor, 292 SCRA 186, July 9, 1998; People v. Fuertes, 296 SCRA 602, September 29, 1998 and People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411, July 30, 1998.
[18] People v. Ignacio, 294 SCRA 542, August 24, 1998; People v. Lampaza, GR No. 138876, November 24, 1999.

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