356 Phil. 497

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. Nos. 116516-20, September 07, 1998 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE VS. NEMESIO FERRER Y DE GUZMAN, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

ROMERO, J.:

Nemesio Ferrer y de Guzman, a 60-year old farmer from Barangay Baybay, Aguilar, Pangasinan was charged by his neighbor, 14-year old Irene Paral of five counts of rape. The first information[1] reads:
"That on or about the 25th day of September 1993 in the morning, in Barangay Baybay, Municipality of Aguilar, Province of Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with Irene A. Paral against her will, to her damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code."
The four other Informations[2] charged accused-appellant with rape allegedly committed on October 2, 8, 16 and 22, 1993. The cases were tried jointly.

On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded "not guilty." Whereupon, trial on the merits ensued. The prosecution presented Dra. Wilma Flores Peralta, the Rural Health Officer of Aguilar, Pangasinan, and the alleged victim, as witnesses. The defense on the other hand has accused-appellant and his son-in-law Jorge Dian[3] as witnesses.

The prosecution established the following facts:

Fourteen-year old Irene Paral and accused-appellant were neighbors, the latter owning a farm located near the house of the Parals in Barangay Baybay, Aguilar, Pangasinan. As part of her routine, Irene would go every morning to a nearby creek, approximately 120 meters away from their house, to wash clothes. In the afternoon, Irene would again go near the creek to gather firewood.

On September 25, 1993 at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, Irene was washing clothes in the creek when suddenly, accused-appellant approached her from behind, grabbed her hair, pointed a knife at her neck and forcibly pulled her towards an area with tall grass, around ten meters away from the creek. Thereafter, accused-appellant pushed her to the ground and told her to keep quiet. Accused-appellant then started removing the short pants of Irene but the latter resisted and kicked the accused. Accused-appellant retaliated by boxing the thighs of his victim. The strength of Irene proved no match to that of her ravisher. Having subdued his prey, accused-appellant removed Irene’s underwear and proceeded to remove his own. Accused-appellant then went on top of Irene and had sexual intercourse with her. Although in pain, Irene struggled and attempted to resist the invasion of her womanhood by accused-appellant but to no avail for the latter was pointing a knife at her all throughout her ordeal. Having momentarily satisfied his lust, accused-appellant stood up and put on his pants. After warning Irene not to divulge the incident to anybody, else her family would be in peril, accused-appellant left.

After the incident, Irene gathered herself, returned to the creek and finished washing the clothes. She did not go back immediately to their house as she was also afraid of the wrath of her mother if she does not finish her chore.

Seven days after her first ordeal, Irene was again subjected to another painful experience at the hands of accused-appellant. On October 2, 1993, Irene was again washing clothes in the creek when accused-appellant, propelled by his lustful desires, surreptitiously approached Irene from behind, pointed a knife at her neck and dragged her to a nearby cogonal area. Accused-appellant pushed her to the ground, undressed her and succeeded in violating her again. As with the first time, accused-appellant was armed with a knife and threatened to kill Irene and her family in case she should disclose the incident to anybody. When Irene struggled, accused-appellant boxed her thighs and pointed the knife at her. The incident happened a third time on October 8, 1993.

After sexually molesting Irene on three separate occasions, accused-appellant’s lust apparently remained unsatisfied. In the afternoon of October 16, 1993, Irene was gathering firewood when accused-appellant suddenly approached her and threatened her with a knife. Accused-appellant went through the motions of an accustomed ritual and succeeded in violating her again followed by the threat to harm her and her family if she revealed the incident to anybody.

On October 22, 1993 at 4:30 in the afternoon, Irene was on her way to the creek when, without any warning, accused-appellant dragged her to an area planted with cassava plants where he prepared to mount her when suddenly one Arnel Abaday passed by. Frightened, accused-appellant threatened Irene not to make any outcry and fled.

Since she could no longer bear the abuses she had suffered at the hands of accused-appellant, Irene narrated her harrowing experience to her mother and brother.

Dra. Wilma Flores Peralta, Rural Health Officer of Aguilar, Pangasinan examined Irene and her findings, also contained in a medical certificate,[4] revealed the following:
"1) Hymenal lacerations, old at 9:00, 1:00 and 5:00 o’clock positions; there are old lacerations in the hymen showing that there is stretching of the hymen or penetration like a penis of a man inserted in the vagina. The lacerations were probably caused in the months of September and October 1993;

2)  Introitus admits one finger with ease as there was already previous insertion of a penis of a man inside the vagina;

3)  Cervix soft which indicates that the patient is pregnant, because normally a non-pregnant woman’s cervix is firm;

4)  Uterus enlarged, 2 fingerbreath above symphyses pubis which shows that patient is pregnant 2 to 3 months and the intercourse could have happened in october 1993. Per the medical record or the patient, the latter’s last menstrual period was September 25, 1993 and the expected date of delivery is July 1994. The date of the incident was recorded to determine the period of conception of the victim. the patient was only 14 years old at the time she examined her."
Understandably, accused-appellant came up with a different version. He alleged that on September 24, 1993 he was sitting under the shade of a camachile tree watching his carabao when Irene arrived and asked for money. Since he had no money with him, he promised to give Irene some amount the following day. When they met the next day, Irene asked him to follow her to the creek where she would be washing clothes. When they were already near the creek, accused-appellant tried to hand the money to Irene but the latter insisted that she would only receive the money in the area where there were tall cogon grasses, about ten meters away from the creek.

Allegedly acting upon Irene’s instructions, accused-appellant went to the grassy area where, upon arrival of Irene, the latter undressed herself and offered herself to him. When he removed his brief and discovered that his penis remained flaccid, Irene held it and rubbed it against her vagina but when erection failed, Irene became angry, whereupon, he gave the money to her and left. Subsequent events allegedly happened in the same manner.

Jorge Dian, son-in-law of accused-appellant, testified that he noticed that everytime his father-in-law and complaining witness met, they would smile at each other and on one occasion, he even saw his father-in-law give Irene some money.

On rebuttal, Irene testified that on each occasion that accused-appellant raped her, the latter had an erection and his penis penetrated her vagina. She likewise denied asking money from accused-appellant as her parents could afford to spend for her needs.

After trial on the merits, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused-appellant guilty of four counts of rape and one count of attempted rape. The dispositive portion reads:
"WHEREFORE, in light of all the foregoing considerations, the court renders judgment against the accused Nemesio Ferrer as follows:

In Criminal Cases Nos. L-4962, 4963, 4964 and 4965, the court finds and holds the accused, Nemesio Ferrer, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of Rape, charged in the Informations filed against him, defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, and conformable thereto, hereby sentences said accused, to suffer in each case the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and its accessory penalties provided by law and further to pay the costs of the proceedings.

In Criminal Case No. L-4966, the court likewise finds and holds the accused, Nemesio Ferrer, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Attempted Rape, defined and penalized under the provisions of Article 335 in relation to Article 6 of the said code and conformable thereto, hereby sentences said accused to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years of prision correcional as minimum to ten (10) years of prision mayor as maximum and to pay the cost of the proceedings.

The court further orders the accused to indemnify the offended party the sum of Three Hundred Thousand (P300,000.00) Pesos as moral damages in all the cases without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The court likewise orders the accused to acknowledge and support the child in the womb of the complainant, as his illegitimate child.

And applying the three-fold rule in favor of the accused, the total duration of the penalty to be served by him in all the cases shall not exceed forty (40) years. The preventive imprisonment served by him in relation to the cases shall be fully credited in his favor pursuant to the provisions of R.A. No. 6127."
The said decision stated that "in the ultimate and final analysis and evaluation of the totality of the evidence presented during the trial, the court finds that the evidence adduced by the prosecution is overwhelming against the sham and pretended innocence of the accused and has established a moral certainty of the guilt of Nemesio Ferrer of the offenses filed against him."[5]

Accused-appellant is now before this Court arguing for the reversal and setting aside of his conviction and praying for his acquittal. In his appeal, accused-appellant claims that the lower court erred:
1.  In giving credit to the testimony of the victim which is incredible;

2.  In not scrutinizing with extreme caution the testimony of the victim who really caused her pregnancy, whether a male member of her family or the accused himself;

3.  In not acquitting the accused, this guilt having not been satisfactorily proven beyond reasonable doubt.
This Court, seeing through accused-appellant’s fabricated yarn, is not persuaded. His conviction must stand. Accused-appellant attempted to cast doubt on the testimony of Irene that he was armed with a knife when he intimidated and raped her. If indeed there was a knife, then the prosecution should have at least presented it during the trial.

This Court disagrees. During trial, what was presented and offered by the prosecution was the testimonial evidence of Irene. It did not attempt to offer the knife since in the first place, the knife was never in the possession of the prosecution but with the accused-appellant. Secondly, it is not necessary for the prosecution to corroborate Irene’s testimony with a physical evidence, i.e., the knife. If found to be true and convincing, it suffices to convict accused-appellant of the crimes charged.

The trial court, which is in the best position to weigh all the pieces of evidence presented, accorded Irene’s testimony sufficient weight to support accused-appellant’s conviction. The lower court ruled:
"The oral testimony of the offended party supported by the fact that herein complainant is now five months pregnant strongly proved the proposition that the accusations imputed against the accused are credible and worthy of belief. In responding to questions propounded to her, the offended party was sincere and frank and at times shed tears from her eyes as she recalled and narrated the harrowing and excruciating pains of the tragedy that befell upon her, young as she is. There was no hesitancy nor artificiality in her voice when she testified on salient aspects of the incidents in question. It is admitted that there are contradictions in her testimony but such inconsistencies in the testimony of a witness, if only on minor details reinforce rather than weaken her testimony."[6]
Needless to say, it is settled jurisprudence that testimonies of child-victims are given full weight and credit, since when a woman or a girl-child says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed.[7]

On the other hand, the court a quo totally disregarded accused-appellant’s testimony. It said:
"The court had also the occasion to observe the accused when he took the witness stand. There was insincerity in his voice and could not immediately answer the questions asked of him and instead of looking straightforward, he oftentimes stooped as if he wanted to hide the shame and guilt of what he had done to the offended party."[8]
At this stage, suffice it to say that the determination of a witness’ credibility is properly within the domain of the trial court as it is in the best position to observe his demeanor and bodily movements. Findings of fact, as this Court has reiterated in a host of cases, are within the competence and province of trial courts. Absent any showing that they overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which would have affected the result of the case, this Court accords highest respect to their factual findings and to their resolution of the issue of credibility.[9] In the instant case, the findings of fact of the court below, must perforce stand.

Additionally, the defense failed to ascribe any ill-motive on the part of the prosecution which could have undermined the credibility of the complaining witness. Such failure only served to buttress the credibility of the latter. It is settled that where there is no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why a prosecution witness would testify falsely against an accused or falsely implicate him in a heinous crime, the testimony is worthy of full faith and credit.[10]

The defense insists that the sexual congress was actually initiated by and with the consent of Irene and that any resistance she put up was only a token one.

This Court is not convinced. As perceptively observed by the trial court, there was a great disparity between the physical build of the parties. Irene was a young and frail 14-year old while accused-appellant was a 60-year old with a much bigger and sturdier build. As aptly described by the trial court:
"With the physical condition of the accused compared to the complainant, the court believes that any tenacious resistance which Irene Paral will put up will be an exercise in futility."[11]
The lack of physical injuries on the part of complaining witness did not, in any way, negate the theory that force was employed by accused-appellant in consummating the crimes. In rape cases, the degree of force and resistance is relative, depending on the circumstances of each case and on the physical capabilities of each party. Besides, it is not exactly true that Irene did not suffer any physical injuries. As borne out by the medical records, Irene suffered hymenal lacerations.

In any case, the law does not impose upon a rape victim the burden of proving resistance. Physical resistance need not be established in rape when intimidation is exercised upon her and she submits herself against her will to the rapist’s lust because of fear for life and personal safety.[12]

Besides the absence of physical injuries could be explained by the fact that 39 days after the last rape incident had already lapsed when Irene underwent medical examination. Consequently, any discoloration or hematoma in her thighs caused by the assault of accused-appellant may have already disappeared.

Accused-appellant likewise contends that it would be very improbable, if not possible, on his part to have sexual intercourse with Irene considering that at his old age, he is no longer capable of erection. This Court cannot subscribe to this argument. The testimony to the effect that he is no longer capable of erection is, at most, self-serving. Accused-appellant insists on being 60 years of age but he failed to submit any proof to substantiate his claim. Age is not the criterion in determining sexual interest and potency. Besides, erection is only necessary for penetration. As this Court has time and again ruled, penetration is not an essential element of rape. Mere touching of the labia or pudendum by male organ is enough to consummate the crime of rape.[13]

Prescinding therefrom, accused-appellant’s contention of lack of penetration was satisfactorily disproved by the medical findings which showed lacerations in the hymen of Irene which could have only been caused by an introduction or penetration of a blunt object, such as a male organ. The penetration of accused-appellant’s penis into the vagina of Irene was satisfactorily and conclusively proven by the pregnancy of the latter.

Finally, this Court dismisses with alacrity the theory of the defense that each sexual congress of accused-appellant with Irene was upon the enticement and solicitation of the latter. At the time of the incidents, Irene was an innocent, unsophisticated barrio lass of 14, while accused-appellant, assuming that he is not lying about his age, was an elderly man of 60. It is most unseemly that such a young girl would sell her young body for a paltry sum of P100, P60 or P10.

Under prevailing jurisprudence, moral damages are imposable in rape cases involving young girls between thirteen and nineteen years of age, taking into account the immeasurable havoc wrought on their youthful feminine psyche.[14]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision is hereby AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS that the accused-appellant is ORDERED to pay: (1) P50,000.00 for each count of rape, and (2) moral damages in the sum of P100,000.00.

Costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Purisima, JJ., concur.


[1] Rollo, p. 11.

[2] Rollo, pp. 7-10.

[3] Mentioned as "Jorhill Bayan" in the Decision.

[4] Exhibit "A", Records.

[5] Decision, Rollo, p. 34.

[6] Supra, p. 32.

[7] People v. Lusa, G.R. No. 122246, March 27, 1998.

[8] See Note 5, pp. 32-33.

[9] People v. Penero, G.R. No. 116292, July 31, 1997.

[10] People v. Abrecinoz, G.R. Nos. 122474-76, October 17, 1997.

[11] Supra, p. 32.

[12] See Note 8, supra.

[13] People v. Castromero, G.R. No. 118992, October 9, 1997.

[14] People v. Erese, G.R. No. 120579, November 5, 1997.



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