369 Phil. 989

EN BANC

[ G.R. No. 127574, July 20, 1999 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. WILFREDO SUGANO Y ALARCON, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

Lani M. Sugano, then fifteen years of age, charged her father Wilfredo Sugano with rape committed on three (3) different occasions in 1994. The sworn complaints read respectively as follows:

Criminal Case No. 94-1061
"The undersigned complainant after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law, accuses WILFREDO SUGANO y ALARCON, of the crime of Rape, committed as follows:
That on or about June 30, 1994, at 4:00 o'clock in the early morning, more or less, at Agora, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with the use of force and with lewd design, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with complainant Lani M. Sugano, 15 years old, a virgin, against the will of the latter.
That the offense is committed with the aggravating circumstance of insult or in disregard of the respect (due the offended party) on account of the fact that the accused is the father of the complainant.

Contrary to and in Violation of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Article 14, par. 3 of the same code as amended by R.A. No. 7659."[1]

Criminal Case No. 94-1062

"The undersigned Complainant after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law, accuses WILFREDO SUGANO y ALARCON, of the crime of Rape, committed as follows:
"That on July 25, 1994, at 2:00 o'clock in the early morning, more or less, inside Agora Market, Agora, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with the use of force and lewd design, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with complainant Lani M. Sugano, 15 years old, a virgin, against the will of the latter.
That the offense is committed with the aggravating circumstance of insult or in disregard of the respect (due the offended party) on account of the fact that the accused is the father of the complainant.

Contrary to and in violation of Article 335, in relation to Article 14, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R. A. No. 7659."[2]

Criminal Case No. 94-1063

"The undersigned Complainant after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law, accuses WILFREDO SUGANO y ALARCON, of the crime of Rape, committed as follows:
That on August 28, 1994, at about 3:00 o'clock in the early morning, more or less, inside Agora Market, Agora, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with the use of force and lewd design, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with complainant Lani M. Sugano, a 15-year-old virgin, against the latter's will.
That the offense is committed with the aggravating circumstance of insult or in disregard of the respect (due the offended party) on account of the fact that the accused is the father of the complainant.

Contrary to and in violation of Article 335, in relation to Article 14, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R. A. No. 7659."[3]
The accused pleaded "not guilty" upon arraignment.

At the trial, the prosecution presented six (6) witnesses, namely: Lani Sugano, the private complainant; Liezel Sugano, the complainant's nine-year old sister; Dr. Aziel Diel, a doctor at the Northern Mindanao Regional Hospital, who issued the Medical Certificate marked as Exhibit "A"; Ernie Palanan, a reporter in Bombo Radyo, Cagayan de Oro City; Emarie Lumbre, a social worker of the DSWD; and SPO4 Loreto Veloz of the PNP Cagayan de Oro City.

The prosecution's version of the incidents stated in the appellee's brief is as follows:
"Complainant Lanie Sugano was 15 years old at the time the three (3) incidents of rape complained of were committed (p. 5, TSN, March 1, 1995; p. 46, TSN, March 13, 1995). She was the eldest among five (5) siblings. (p. 13, TSN, ibid.; p. 8, TSN, December 7, 1995) Appellant, a carpenter by occupation, lived with his family in their market stall inside the Agora Market at Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, (pp. 5-10, TSN, December 7, 1995). Every day, appellant's wife, Salvacion Sugano, would leave their stall early in the morning to sell snacks and drinks at a bus terminal located about sixty (60) meters away (p. 12, TSN, March 1, 1995; pp. 36-37, TSN, March 13, 1995; pp. 12-15, 21, TSN, December 7, 1995).

At about 4:00 o'clock in the morning of June 30, 1994, Lanie Sugano was left alone asleep inside their stall (p. 6 TSN, March 1, 1995). Momentarily, she was awakened when she felt someone heavy on top of her. She noticed too that her shorts and panty had been removed. When fully awakened, she found out that it was her father on top of her. Immediately, Lanie kicked and pushed him aside. She shouted for help but no one heard her. To overcome Lanies' resistance, appellant slapped her hard. She lost consciousness. When Lanie regained consciousness she found that she had been sexually abused. When her mother arrived later that morning, Lanie reported what appellant did to her. Her mother, however, did not believe her. (pp. TSN, 7-10 ibid.)

Appellant's evil desires persisted. At about 2:00 o'clock in the early morning of July 25, 1994, while Lanie was asleep, appellant once more molested her. Her father removed her shorts and panty. And when Lanie woke up she found her father on top of her. Again, appellant raped her. Lanie resisted but her puny attempts to thwart off her father were futile. When the incident occurred Lanie's mother was away attending to their business. Lanie again reported the sexual assault perpetrated by appellant. As before, her mother refused to believe her. Lanie asked her mother to examine her vagina in an effort to convince her. But, her mother brushed aside her story as totally incredible and what's more branded her a liar. All Lanie could do was cry (pp. 10-13, TSN, March 1, 1995).

Lanie thought that the dastardly act would not be repeated for a third time. She was wrong. At about 3:00 o'clock in the early morning of August 28, 1994, Lanie was again raped by her father. As the two previous incidents of rape, her father attacked while she was asleep. When she woke up and tried to resist, her father repeatedly beat her to submission with a wooden stick locally known as "kulise". As she had done in the previous incidents, Lanie again reported the matter to her mother and showed to her the contusions resulting from the beating she received. As usual, her mother was unmoved and unbelieving (pp. 13-15, TSN, March 1, 1995).

On September 2, 1994, a desperate Lanie escaped from their abode and sought the help of her Aunt Loling, her mother's sister, in Barangay Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City. Lanie narrated to her aunt what she had suffered in the hands of her father. Lanie's aunt advised her not to return to their stall. Firstly, she suggested that the matter be kept within the family and settled amicably. Lanie did not like her aunt's suggestion and vowed to pursue the case on her own. Her aunt then advised her to go home but Lanie refused (pp. 15-16, TSN, March 1, 1995).

Undaunted, Lani proceeded to the house of her friend, Lina Montellano, and sought her help. Lina gladly offered assistance. Accompanied by Lina and Lanie's sister, Liezel, Lanie went to "Radio Bombo", a local radio station in Cagayan de Oro City where she was interviewed. Lanie revealed her ordeal on the air (pp. 16-17, TSN, March 1, 1995; pp. 21-23, TSN, May 2, 1995).

On September 5, 1994, Lanie was accompanied to the hospital for physical examination (pp. 18-19, TSN, March 1, 1995). Dr. Azil Diel, resident physician of Northern Mindanao Regional Training Hospital, Cagayan de Oro City, examined her (pp. 17-24, TSN, March 14, 1995). On the basis of her examination Dr. Diel issued a Living Case Report (p. 3, Exhibit "A", Record) with the following findings, to wit:
xxx Genital Examination:

Mons-pubis- sparse fully grown pubic hair.
Introitus- nulliparous
Labia majora & minora- coaptated
Hymen- healed incomplete superficial laceration at 3 o'clock & incomplete superficial lacerations at 6, 9 & 11 o'clock positions at the face of the watch, the edges of which are sharp & coaptable.

Conclusion:

Medical evidence suggestive of sexual intercourse is present xxx

xxx (p. 15, Exhibit "A", Record)
Lanie and Liezel were referred to the DSWD for custody (pp. 6-8, TSN, May 5, 1995; pp. 25-27, TSN, May 2, 1995). Thereafter, Lanie was accompanied to the PNP station, and thereafter to the City Prosecutor's Office where she formally filed her complaint (pp. 17-18, TSN, March 1, 1995; pp. 8-10, TSN, May 5, 1995; pp. 15-26, TSN, May 23, 1995.)"[4]
The evidence of the defense consisted of the sole testimony of the accused:
"Wilfredo Sugano testified that the accusations against him were merely concocted and fabricated by his daughter to spite him as he had in the past been beating her. He did it for no other reason but to discipline his daughter as she always go out of their house and would not return home. He testified that during the alleged incidents, he was always in the company of his wife in the early morning hours of those dates assisting her in selling snacks at the Agora market for which reason could not have raped his daughter. (TSN, Dec. 7, 1995, pp. 14-22)[5]
The trial court rendered judgment on August 27, 1996 as follows:
"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, accused Wilfredo Sugano y Alarcon, is hereby found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended and hereby sentences him in Criminal Cases Nos. 94-1061, 94-1062 and 94-1063 to death by electrocution in each case; accused is likewise, ordered to pay Lani Sugano in each case, the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) by way of moral damages conformably to current jurisprudence. Costs against the accused."[6]
The case is before us on automatic review, accused raising a lone assignment of error:
"The trial court gravely erred in giving full weight and credence to the testimony of the private complainant despite its manifest inconsistencies."
Accused-appellant argues in his brief that Lani testified that she lost consciousness when her father slapped her during the first alleged rape that took place on June 30, 1994; yet she stated that she suffered extreme pain because of the insertion of her father's penis into her vagina. Lani testified that she was sexually assaulted by her father without being kissed in the neck or in the lips or touching her breast, an "unusual fashion in carrying out the lust of the accused." It is also contended that the alleged rape could not possibly have been consummated without being noticed by the other occupants of the house. Accused-appellant suggests that because Lani had a boyfriend, and ran away from home for a few days before she submitted herself to a medical examination, the positive result of the medical examination might have been borne out of the relationship with her boyfriend. Moreover, it was an unnatural reaction for Lani not to leave her home after the first alleged rape considering that her mother was nonchalant about her fate. Finally, accused-appellant claims that Liezel's testimony was rehearsed as shown by her "eloquent" replies to routine questions but she "mumble(d)" when asked "unprecedented but simple" questions.

We are not persuaded by the appellant's arguments.

The evidence for the prosecution consisted principally of the testimony of the complainant Lani Sugano. As regards the incident that happened on August 28, 1994, her testimony is corroborated by her nine-year old sister Liezel.

This Court has time and again ruled that the sole testimony of the victim in a rape case is sufficient to sustain a conviction if such testimony is credible.[7] By the very nature of rape cases, conviction or acquittal depends almost entirely on the credibility of the complainants because of the fact that usually only two people - the accused and the complainant- can testify as to its commission.[8]

We have scrutinized the testimony of the witnesses together with the evidence and find that the trial court's finding of conviction should be sustained.

The testimony of the victim is clear and positive:

That on June 30, 1994 at 4:00 o'clock in the morning she was sleeping in a "room" (which is only separated from the "sala" by a piece of wood) in the market stall at Agora Lapasan market where the family was staying; her mother was in the market selling snacks at the "painitan" located at the crossing about 60-65 meters away from the said stall; her father, the accused, entered the room, removed her short pants and panties, and mounter her. She was awakened when her father was on top of her, and she kicked him and pushed ("wakli") him away and shouted for help twice, but nobody came. Her sister, who was sleeping to her left was not awakened as she was in deep slumber. She could not do anything because "the accused slapped her hard on the left cheek and she became unconscious". The following morning, she reported to her mother that she was raped (meaning "sexually abused") but her mother did not believe her.[9] She did not report the incident to the police authorities because she was afraid that her father will be placed in prison and he is working for the family.[10]

The incident was repeated on July 25, 1994 at two o'clock in the morning when Lani's mother was again in the market selling snacks ("painit") and she was sleeping alone (her brother and sister were sleeping in the sala), in the same place at the Agora market, when accused-appellant went inside the room, removed her panties and short pants, hit her with a "batuta" (nightstick) at the back; when she was lying "upward", her father removed her short pants and panties, mounted her and had sexual intercourse with her. She shouted, but nobody responded; she reported the incident to her mother when the latter arrived at 7:00 o'clock in the morning. Her mother again did not believe her. Lani asked her mother to look at her vagina, but the latter still did not believe her and she kept on crying.[11]

Lani was abused again on August 28, 1994 at about 3:00 o'clock in the morning in the same place at Agora. When her father removed her panties and short pants, she could not do anything because he beat her twice with a "kulise" at the waistline. She suffered a contusion, and she reported both the beating and the sexual abuse to her mother, but the latter told her that she will ask first her father but she did not do so.[12] This time, Lani's younger sister, nine-year old Liezel witnessed the incident. Liezel testified that she was sleeping with Lani on the bed when the accused carried her to the sala; she was awakened but her father did not know that she was awake because her eyes were closed. Liezel saw their father remove the short pants and panties of Lani, and thereafter mounted her, and made the push and pull ("kiyo") motion. She heard Liezel shout "tabang" for help but their father covered the mouth of her sister. There was a little light coming from a fluorescent lamp at the post in the market. Liezel went back to sleep. She heard Lani report the incident to their mother but the latter did not believe her.[13]

Lani left her house on September 2, 1994 and went to her aunt Loling (her mother's sister) at Barangay Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City, but her aunt suggested that the case be hushed up and settled amicably. She refused to heed her auntie's advice to return to her home, and instead went to Lina Montellano, her mother's friend.

Lani finally decided to report to the authorities upon the suggestion of Lina Montellano. On the same day, September 4, 1994, she, accompanied by Lina and her sister, went to Bombo Radyo and she was brought to the police station by Ernie Palanon, a reporter of Radio Station DXIF, and to the Northern Mindanao Regional Hospital for medical examination.[14]

Dr. Aziel A. Diel, who prepared the medical certificate (Living Case Report) dated September 5, 1994 marked as Exh. "A", which reads:
"GENITAL EXAMINATION:

Mons-pubis- sparse fully grown pubic hair.

Introitus- nulliparous

Labia majora & minora- coaptated

Hymen-healed incomplete superficial laceration at 3 o'clock & incomplete superficial lacerations at 6, 9 & 11 o'clock positions at the face of the watch, the edges of which are sharp & coaptable.

CONCLUSION: Medical evidence suggestive of sexual intercourse is present."
testified to explain her conclusion that the medical evidence was suggestive of sexual intercourse, and that in case of lacerations that are less than three months, the edges are still sharp and coaptable, connoting "recent injury". She admitted that it is probable that the injury may have been caused by masturbation or by riding a bicycle.[15]

The accused denied the charges against him; he testified that the accusations were concocted by his daughter to spite him as he has been whipping her (with a rattan stick) when she commits mistakes.[16] He raised alibi as a defense, and claimed that he was with his wife at their stall in the public market, watching their "painitan" or cafetina, in the early morning of June 30, 1994, July 25, 1994, and August 28, 1994.[17] He testified that Lani has a boyfriend, but admitted that he did not know of any sweetheart of Lani before his detention.[18]

As correctly pointed out by trial the court, the focal issue is one of credibility. The court a quo found the testimony of Lani, except for some minor lapses and inconsistencies, as "straightforward, unwavering and steadfast" and as having shown to its satisfaction and "beyond moral certainty" that she was indeed defiled, and deflowered by no less than her own father, and that she was sexually assaulted "in almost similar fashion" in the early morning hours of June 30, 1994, July 25, 1994 and August 28, 1994. Lani's testimony depicting the rape incident that took place on August 28, 1994 was also corroborated by the testimony of her younger sister Liezel, who was awakened when her father transferred her from where she was sleeping with Lani, to the sala, and saw Lani being raped by their father. The medical findings of Dr. Diel confirm Lani's state of being a non-virgin.

It is axiomatic that the factual findings of the trial court, particularly on the credibility of the witnesses who testified before it, are entitled to the highest respect. In rape cases, when a woman says that 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 the basis thereof.[19] It is rather inconceivable that a daughter should concoct a story that she was repeatedly raped by her father when family honor is at stake, not to mention that this would mean sending her father to jail.[20]

We are unable to find the alleged weaknesses in Lani's testimony that were pointed out in appellant's brief and that are alleged to affect its credibility. The fact that Lani was rendered unconscious when her father slapped her during the first rape incident on June 30, 1994 is not inconsistent with her statement that she suffered extreme pain because of the insertion of her father's penis into her vagina. The pain would not necessarily disappear instantaneously after the rape was already consummated. Also, the fact that the accused did not kiss the lips or neck, nor touch the breasts of Lani before mounting her does not rule out forcible sexual assault. The supposed gestures in the "usual fashion" preceding sexual congress are preliminary acts of love-making that are not expected to accompany forcible assault, where the accused is only bent on merely satisfying his bestial and lustful desires.

The fact that the rapes were carried out unnoticed by the brothers and sister of Lani does not make the occurrences unbelievable. Liezel who was sleeping with Lani in the early morning of June 30, 1994, was in deep slumber, and Lani was unconscious after being slapped very strongly on the face. During the rape incident on July 25, 1994, her brothers and sister were in the sala. The third rape that occurred on August 28, 1994 was witnessed by Liezel, who testified in court to corroborate her sister Lani's version of the incident.

The suggestion that the findings in the medical examination were due to Lani's relationship with her boyfriend is a conjecture that is not borne out by the evidence. Even the accused admitted that he did not know of Lani's suitor Lomo Lupanay before he was detained.[21]

The contention that Lani's answers were rehearsed is not substantiated. The allegation is not borne out by an examination of her responses to the questions propounded to her. We are unable to see how the fact that the three rape incidents transpired in the same place at about the same time and that the sexual assault was carried out in more or less "similar fashion" as observed by the trial court, would make Lani's testimony fabricated nor her accusations improbable.

The defense of alibi is self-serving and uncorroborated. Even the wife of the accused, who refused to believe Lani's accusations, and who was supposed to be with the accused during the occurrence of the incidents in question, was not presented as witness. Moreover, alibi cannot prevail in view of the positive identification of the accused by Lani, and the absence of proof that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the rape incidents at the time of their occurrence.

In view of all foregoing, we sustain the trial court's finding of conviction based principally on the testimony of the complainant Lani. We have no basis in the evidence to rule otherwise.

Lani Sugano was born on November 26, 1979. She was only fifteen years old when she was abused by her father.[22] Incestuous rape is defined and penalized in Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R. A. No. 7659,[23] which provides that the death penalty shall be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
"1. When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity with the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim."
With respect to the sufficiency of the allegations for qualified rape, it is believed that the two informations which both state that the offense is committed with the "aggravating circumstance of insult or in disregard of the respect (due the offended party) on account of the fact that the accused is the father of the complainant" properly plead the special circumstance of relationship of father and daughter that would enable "a person of common understanding[24]" to know what offense is intended to be charged. True, informations could have stated simply that the crime was attended by the special qualifying circumstance of the victim's relationship with the culprit but the accused could not have been misled by the wording of the informations. A person of ordinary intelligence could not plead with logic that he had no notice that he is being charged with the repeated rape of his fifteen year -old daughter. Moreover, the informations not only stated the twin qualifying circumstances of relationship between the rapist and the victim, i.e, the accused is the father of the complainant, and the victim's age, i.e., 15 years old; they also expressly mentioned that the charges are in violation of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to paragraph 3 Article 14 of the same code as amended by R. A. 7659.

Four members of the Court- although maintaining adherence to the separate opinions expressed in People vs. Echegaray (267 SCRA 682) that R. A. No. 7659, insofar as it prescribes the death penalty, is unconstitutional- nevertheless submit to the ruling of the Court, by a majority vote, that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should accordingly be imposed.

With respect to the monetary liability of the accused-appellant, in addition to the amount of P50,000.00 awarded by the court a quo which is in accordance with the amount currently fixed for moral damages for rape, the accused should pay P75,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto for each count of incestuous rape, pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence.[25]

WHEREFORE, the conviction of accused-appellant is hereby AFFIRMED in Criminal Cases Nos. 94-1061; 94-1062 and 94-1063, sentencing him to the supreme penalty of death, with the modification that the complainant shall be awarded in addition to moral damages, civil indemnity ex delicto in the amount of P75,000.00 for each count of rape.

In accordance with Section 25 of R. A. No. 7659, amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, upon finality of this decision, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, p. 8.

[2] Rollo, p. 9.

[3] Rollo, p. 10.

[4] Rollo, pp. 150-155.

[5] Rollo, p. 79.

[6] Rollo, pp. 54-55.

[7] People vs. Villorente, 210 SCRA 647; People vs. Soliao, 194 SCRA 250.

[8] People vs. Godoy, 250 SCRA 678.

[9] Tsn, March 1, 1995, pp. 6-10.

[10] Tsn, March 13, 1995, pp. 23-25, pp. 48-50.

[11] Tsn, March 1, 1995, pp. 11-13; March 13, 1995, pp. 26-32.

[12] Tsn, March 1, 1995, pp. 14-15.

[13] Tsn, March 15, 1995, pp. 5-9; pp. 13-14; 24-27.

[14] Tsn, May 2, 1995.

[15] Tsn, March 14, 1995, at pp. 29-33.

[16] Tsn, December 7, 1995, p. 33; pp. 42-44.

[17] At pp. 14-18, ibid.

[18] At pp. 38-39, ibid.

[19] People vs. Tismo, 204 SCRA 535; People vs. Adora, 275 SCRA 441.

[20] People vs. Erardo, 127 SCRA 250; People vs. Tabao, 240 SCRA 758.

[21] Tsn, December 7, 1995, p. 25; p. 38.

[22] Exh. A, p. 73; OR, Exh. B-2, p. 74 OR; Tsn, December 7, 1997 .p 8.

[23] R. A. 8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, took effect only on October 22, 1997.

[24] Section 9, Rule 110.

[25] People vs. Mengote, G. R. No. L-130491, prom. March 25, 1999; People vs. Mahinay, G.R. No. 122485, prom. February 1, 1999.



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