594 Phil. 806
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
On November 4, 2003, accused-appellant, duly assisted by Atty. Marcelino K. Wacas of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), entered a plea of "not guilty" in Criminal Case Nos. 85-2003, 86-2003 and 87-2003. CRIM. CASE NO. 85-2003
The undersigned accuses [accused-appellant], a detention prisoner at the PNP of Tabuk, of the crime of RAPE, defined and penalized under Republic Act Numbered 8353, committed as follows:
That on or about September 5, 2003 at San Julian, Tabuk, Kalinga, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused, through force, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of her daughter [AAA], who is a minor, fourteen (14) years of age, against her will.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Accordingly, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape attendant the qualifying and aggravating circumstances of minority and relationship, victim [AAA] being 15 years old and daughter of [accused-appellant] and hereby sentences the said accused the supreme penalty of death and to indemnify minor victim P75,000.00, by way of civil indemnity, moral damages in the amount of P100,000.00 and P50,000.00 by way of exemplary damages, plus cost.The records of these cases were forwarded to this Court for automatic review, in view of the death penalty imposed.
Transmit the record of the case to the Office of the Clerk of Court, Supreme Court of the Philippines for review.
[AAA], then fourteen (14) years old having been born on October 2, 1988, is the daughter of the [accused-appellant] and BBB, a barangay midwife; they were married on May 10, 1986. On September 5, 2003 at around 2:00 in the afternoon, [AAA], a third year high school student at Tabuk National High School was in their house together with her mentally retarded sister CCC. At that time, their mother [BBB] was in San Julian Elementary School. Suddenly [AAA]'s father [accused-appellant], a farmer, arrived drunk and forced the victim to have sexual intercourse with him. She struggled but her efforts were in vain since [accused-appellant] was strong. [Accused-appellant] removed his pants and pinned the victim on the bed, pulled down her pants and inserted his penis into her vagina. [AAA] cried. After doing the bestial act, [accused-appellant] left but not before threatening [AAA] that he would kill her, her mother and siblings if she reported the matter. As further testified by the victim, she had been sleeping with her father on the cement floor of their unfinished house for some time and that her father started staying with them only in 2002 since he had been staying in Laguna as a soldier in the Philippine Army.On the other hand, accused-appellant testified on his own version of the events which transpired on September 5, 2003:
Terrified and disgusted by what happened to her, the victim left home on September 10, 2003. She stayed in the house of Rita Carbonel in San Francisco, Tabuk, Kalinga. On September 11, 2003, [BBB] came looking for her and it was only then that the victim revealed the sexual assaults committed by her father. Without delay, [BBB] accompanied her daughter to the police headquarters where the victim's statement was taken.
[BBB] testified that she and [accused-appellant] were married on May 10, 1986 at Calanasan, Cagayan. Although she did not present any document to prove such assertion nor did she expressly and categorically state that [accused-appellant] was the victim's father, the victim repeatedly referred to [accused-appellant] as her father all throughout her testimony. Their relationship was never refuted by the [accused-appellant] who in fact admitted in open court that [AAA] was one of his daughters.
For his part, [accused-appellant] testified that on September 5, 2003, he came home drunk and fell asleep naked on the cemented floor; that he was awakened when someone placed a mat and a blanket for him. He thought that his daughter was his wife, so he had sex with her. [Accused-appellant] manifested remorse and declared that he pleaded guilty as he had no money to fight his case also to secure a reduction of the penalty that will be imposed on him.On June 30, 2006, the CA promulgated the herein challenged decision affirming in most part the decision of the trial court with modification only in the amount of the award of moral and exemplary damages. Pertinently, the CA decision reads in part:
With respect to the civil aspect of the crimes, We sustain the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 since rape was committed in its qualified form. However, the trial court's award of P100,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages must be modified. In line with existing jurisprudence, the award of moral damages should be in the amount of P75,000.00, without need of further proof. Likewise, exemplary damages is reduced to P25,000.00 in line with existing jurisprudence.On April 23, 2007, the CA forwarded the records of the case to this Court for automatic review.
A final note: Notwithstanding current moves for the abolition of the death penalty, no legislation or rules have yet been promulgated relative thereto as of the time of the writing of his Decision, hence We are constrained to affirm the penalty imposed by the court a quo which We find to be conformable to the facts and existing law.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed Decision is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that the award of moral damages is reduced to P75,000.00 and exemplary damages to P25,000.00 or a total of P175,000.00. Let the record of this case be elevated to the Honorable Supreme Court for review pursuant to Rule 124, Section 13 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended by A.M. No. 00-5-03-SC.
SEC. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence.- When the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may also present evidence on his behalf.Explicitly, when the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of his culpability. The accused may also present evidence on his behalf. Under the foregoing Rule, three things are enjoined upon the trial court when a plea of guilty to a capital offense is entered: (1) the court must conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness of the plea and the accused's full comprehension of the consequences thereof; (2) the court must require the prosecution to present evidence to prove the guilt of the accused and the precise degree of his culpability; and (3) the court must ask the accused if he desires to present evidence on his behalf and allow him to do so if he desires.
The rationale behind the rule is that courts must proceed with more care where the possible punishment is in its severest form--death--for the reason that the execution of such a sentence is irrevocable and experience has shown that innocent persons have at times pleaded guilty. The primordial purpose then is to avoid improvident pleas of guilt on the part of an accused when grave crimes are involved since he might be admitting his guilt before the court and thus forfeit his life and liberty without having fully understood the meaning, significance and consequences of his plea. Moreover, the requirement of taking further evidence would aid the Supreme Court on appellate review in determining the propriety or impropriety of the plea.It is not enough to inquire as to the voluntariness of the plea; the court must explain fully to the accused that once convicted, he could be meted the death penalty; that death is a single and indivisible penalty and will be imposed regardless of any mitigating circumstance that may have attended the commission of the felony. Thus, the importance of the court's obligation cannot be overemphasized, for one cannot dispel the possibility that the accused may have been led to believe that due to his voluntary plea of guilty, he may be imposed a lesser penalty, which was precisely what happened here.
Clearly, Section 3, Rule 116 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure was not satisfactorily complied with. The trial court should have taken the necessary measures to see to it that accused-appellant really and freely comprehended the meaning, full significance and consequences of his plea but it did not. It failed to explain to accused-appellant that the penalty imposable for the crime attended by the qualifying circumstance of minority and filiation, as alleged in the Information against him, is death, whether or not he pleads guilty and regardless of the presence of other mitigating circumstances. Accused-appellant's justification that he had no money to defend his case and his belief that the penalty would be reduced if he pleaded guilty were not sufficient reasons for the trial court to allow a change of plea from not guilty to one of guilty. It was the duty of the judge to see to it that the accused did not labor under this mistaken impression.
COURT Q Mr. Lopit y Abulao you have been arraigned yesterday with the Information for Rape in Criminal Case No. 85-2003, did you confer with your newly designated counsel de oficio regarding your plea? WITNESS A Yes, Your Honor. Q After having been confer (sic) with him that you entered a plea of guilty for the Information of Rape you voluntary done (sic) of your own perception? A Yes, Your Honor. Q Will you tell us the reason why you have pleaded guilty to the offense? A I have no money to fight my case, Your Honor. Q Is that the reason why you have admitted or because you are repenting for the intention you have committed? A That is the only reason, Your Honor. Q Are you telling us that you did not rape your daughter? A No, Your Honor. Q If you did not rape your daughter, why did you plead guilty? A Atty. Wagas told me to admit one case in order to reduce the penalty, Your Honor. Q In fact there are three (3) Criminal Cases for Rape allotted against you involving your daughter, is that correct? A Yes, Your Honor. Q Did you believe that beneficial to you to admit one? A Yes, Your Honor. Q And that is the reason you pleaded guilty? A Yes, Your Honor. Q Is it not therefore the lack of money that to fight a case and prompted you to plea of guilty? A Yes, both Your Honor. Q So it is the reason? A Yes Your Honor.
My mother went to San Juan Elementary School at 2: o'clock he was forcing me but I refused. He was strong and I kicked him and he put my pants down and then he took advantage of me.AAA recounted how accused-appellant was able to insert his private organ into hers in the midst of her tears and in full view of her mentally challenged sister who was unfortunately oblivious of their father's dastardly act. After satisfying his bestial instinct, accused-appellant left his daughter AAA with a threat: "No agipulong ka, patayen kayo amin." (If you will report, I will kill you all).
Art. 266-A. Rape. When and how committed. - Rape is committed-In the prosecution of criminal cases, especially those involving the extreme penalty of death, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which an accused is charged must be established. Qualifying circumstances or special qualifying circumstances must be proved with equal certainty and clearness as the crime itself; otherwise, there can be no conviction of the crime in its qualified form. As a qualifying circumstance of the crime of rape, the concurrence of the victim's minority and her relationship to the accused-appellant must be both alleged and proven beyond reasonable doubt.
1.) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;
Art. 266-B. Penalties.- Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.
xxx xxx xxx
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying 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 within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim;
Jurisprudence dictates that when the law specifies certain circumstances that will qualify an offense and thus attach to it a greater degree of penalty, such circumstances must be both alleged and proven in order to justify the imposition of the graver penalty. Recent rulings of the Court relative to the rape of minors invariably state that in order to justify the imposition of death, there must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by the accused. A duly certified certificate of live birth accurately showing the complainant's age, or some other official document or record such as a school record, has been recognized as competent evidence.There is no showing that the victim's birth certificate and accused-appellant's marriage contract were lost or destroyed or were unavailable without the prosecution's fault. Therefore, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged special qualifying circumstance of minority attended the commission of the crime of rape. Hence, accused-appellant should be convicted only of simple rape. Simple rape is punishable by a single indivisible penalty of reclusion perpetua. Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code provides that in "all cases in which the law prescribes a single indivisible penalty, it shall be applied by the courts regardless of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may have attended the commission of the deed."
In the instant case, we find insufficient the bare testimony of private complainants and their mother as to their ages as well as their kinship to the appellant. x x x [We] cannot agree with the solicitor general that appellant's admission of his relationship with his victims would suffice. Elementary is the doctrine that the prosecution bears the burden of proving all the elements of a crime, including the qualifying circumstances. In sum, the death penalty cannot be imposed.