402 Phil. 343

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 138959, January 16, 2001 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. DANILO OSING Y BIEN, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

MELO, J.:

Before us is an appeal from the decision dated September 16, 1998 of Branch xxx of the Regional Trial Court of xxx, finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the complainant AAA in the amount of P30,000.00 as moral damages.

Accused-appellant was charged with the crime of rape in an Information dated November 7, 1997 which reads:
That on or about the 24th day of October, 1997, in the City of xxx, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force, violence, and intimidation and with lewd design, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with one AAA, an eight year old minor, against her will and consent.

(p. 4, Rollo.)
On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. Thereupon, trial proceeded in due course.

The prosecution presented the victim, AAA, who testified that accused-appellant is her neighbor in xxx; that on October 24, 1997, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, she was dragged inside a vacant house by accused-appellant and brought upstairs to one of the rooms where accused-appellant immediately undressed and kissed her (tsn, January 29, 1998, pp. 2-3); and that accused-appellant then removed his clothes, spread a mat on the floor, forced her down, and inserted his penis into her vagina, but only the head of accused-appellant’s penis penetrated her, nevertheless giving her pain. At this point, AAA heard her father calling her. She thus went down and left accused-appellant. However, she did not tell her father about the incident (tsn, February 26, 1998, pp. 3-8). It was her mother, BBB whom AAA informed about her ravishment by accused-appellant. Forthwith, they proceeded to their barangay authorities and reported the incident. Accused-appellant was subsequently apprehended and charged with rape (Pinag-isang Salaysay, Record, p. 4).

Dr. Emmanuel L. Aranas, medico-legal officer of Southern Police District, Fort Bonifacio, Makati City, testified that on October 28, 1997, he conducted a genital examination on the hymen of the victim, and found that AAA’s hymen had a healed laceration at 3 o’clock position which was shallow, meaning that said laceration did not go beyond 50% of the diameter He opined that the laceration could have been caused by the insertion of a penis into the victim’s hymen (tsn, January 23, 1998, pp. 2-4). He then prepared a report showing that the victim is in a non-virgin state and that there are no external signs of physical force (Exhibit B, Records, p. 36).

On the other hand, the defense presented as its lone witness accused-appellant himself. He denied the charge and insisted that the accusation was merely fabricated by the victim’s father as a result of a previous altercation during a drinking spree (tsn, June 1, 1998, pp. 2-4).

On September 16, 1998, the trial court rendered its assailed decision, finding accused-appellant guilty as charged and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua and further ordering him to pay AAA P30,000.00 as moral damages (p. 18, Rollo).

Accused-appellant is now before us pleading for reversal, premised on his shotgun type of argument that his guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. He casts aspersions on complainant’s testimony for being inconsistent and uncorroborated. He likewise maintains that the medico-legal findings negate sexual assault as there were no external signs of force found on the victim. Further, accused-appellant claims that there was no evidence that his penis directly hit the labia of AAA’s private part.

After careful and circumspect study of the record of the case, we find no cogent justification for decreeing a reversal of the judgment rendered by the trial court.

Error-free testimony cannot be expected, most especially when a witness is recounting details of a harrowing experience, one which even an adult would like to bury in oblivion (People vs. Tumala, Jr., 284 SCRA 436 [1998]). To be sure, AAA’s testimony may not be described as flawless, but the triviality of inconsistencies can hardly affect either the substance or the veracity and weight of her testimony which, on the contrary, can serve to reinforce than weaken credibility. It could be that these inconsistencies were the result of lapses in the memory of a then 8-year old child, confused and traumatized by the bestial act done on her by accused-appellant.

Moreover, in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape, oftentimes the only evidence that can be offered to prove the guilt of the perpetrator is the testimony of the offended woman herself. Thus, her testimony, standing alone, can be made the basis of conviction if such testimony meets the test of credibility (People vs. Banela, 301 SCRA 84 [1999]). It is, therefore, immaterial and irrelevant whether AAA’s testimony was corroborated or not. Corroborative testimony, frequently unavailable in rape cases, is not essential to warrant a conviction for the crime.

Times without number, to the point of being almost dull from overuse, the Court has upheld the principle that in an appeal, where the culpability or innocence of an accused would hinge on the issue of credibility of witnesses and the veracity of their testimony, findings of the trial court are given the highest degree of respect. The reason for this rule, as the Court has repeatedly explained, is that a trial judge has an excellent chance of being able to personally observe the expression of declarants on the witness stand and their demeanor under questioning, which opportunity is not equally available to an appellate court (People vs. Deleverio, 289 SCRA 547 [1998]).

As regards accused-appellant’s contention that the charge of rape against him was merely instigated by the victim’s parents because of a previous quarrel with AAA’s father, we apply the rule that the revelation of an innocent child whose chastity was abused deserves full credence (People vs. Dacoba, 289 SCRA 265 [1998]). Likewise, it is unnatural for a parent to use his offspring as an engine of malice, especially if it will subject a daughter to embarrassment and even stigma (People vs. Galleno, 291 SCRA 761 [1998]). Moreover, in cases of rape of a child of very tender age, the Court will additionally consider the fact that no parents in their right mind would possibly stoop so low as to subject their daughter to the hardships and shame concomitant to a rape prosecution just to assuage their own hurt feelings (People vs. Perez, G.R. No. 129213, December 2, 1999). In fact, AAA’s mother, BBB, when she came to know of the rape, immediately went to their own barangay authorities to lodge the complaint against accused-appellant, which manifests her earnest desire to have the person responsible for her daughter’s defilement punished.

Accused-appellant strongly relies on the testimony of medico-legal officer, Dr. Emmanuel L. Arañas, that the hymenal laceration found on the victim could have been inflicted a week or more prior to the physical examination on October 28, 1997 (tsn, January 23, 1998, p. 3). Thus, according to accused-appellant, the laceration could not have been inflicted on October 24, 1997, the date of the alleged rape incident, which is barely four days before the physical examination on October 28, 1997, thus reinforcing his claim that complainant was merely coached by her mother. Accused-appellant ignores the circumstance that the date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime (People vs. Bugarin, 273 SCRA 384 [1997]). The exact date of the crime has no substantial bearing on its commission, especially when this has been demonstrated in vivid detail by complainant herself, as clearly shown in her testimony, to wit:
FISCAL MANGROBANG:
  
 
May I proceed, Your Honor.
 
Q
Madam witness, last time, you testified that in the night of October 24, 1997 the accused in this case removed your dress and underwear and thereafter laid you on the mat. And after that, the accused, likewise, removed his cloth and underwear. After the accused removed his cloth and underwear, what did he do next, if any?
 
A
He inserted his penis to my private part.
 
Q
And what did you feel when this Osing inserted his penis to your organ?
 
A
I felt pain.
 
Q
After pushing and inserting his penis to your organ, what happened next?
 
A
Then, after that, I was pulled by my father asking me to go down.
 
Q
Who is your father you are referring to?
 
A
CCC.
 
Q
Miss Witness, if you would see again this Osing, would you be able to recognize him?
 
A
Yes, sir.
 
Q
Will you please look around and point to him if he is present in this court room.
 
WITNESS:
 
A
He is Danilo Osing. (Witness points to a man inside the courtroom who stands up and identifies himself to be Danilo Osing).
 
FISCAL MANGROBANG:
 
Q
Madam Witness, how long have you known this accused on October 24, 1997?
 
A

I have known him for a long time.

 
Q
Why do you know him for a long time?
 
A
He was our neighbor, sir.
 
FISCAL MANGROBANG:
 
 
That is all, Your Honor.
 
COURT:
 
 
Cross examination?
 
ATTY RAMOS:
 
 
Yes, Your Honor.
 
 

May I proceed, Your Honor.

 
COURT:
 
 
Proceed.
 
CROSS EXAM. BY ATTY. RAMOS:
 
Q
Miss Witness, what was your position?
 
 
Were you lying down or standing up when accused inserted his penis to your private part?
 
WITNESS:
 
A
“Nakatuwad” (Squat position)
 
 
(tsn, February 26, 1998, pp. 2-5.)
Similarly, in her answer to questions of the defense counsel during cross-examination, AAA remained steadfast and unwavering, thus:
ATTY RAMOS:
  
Q Miss witness, who is now your companion in coming to this court?
  
A My mama.
  
Q Tell me the truth. Were you advised on what to say in this court by your mother or not?
  
A No sir.
  
 
(Ibid, p. 7.)
What cannot be brushed aside is the fact that complainant’s hymen had healed laceration at 3 o’clock position, coupled with the medico-legal finding that complainant is in a non-virgin state physically, indubitably showing that rape under Article 335(3) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, was committed. The evidence presented has duly established beyond a ray of doubt that accused-appellant was responsible therefor.

Likewise, accused-appellant argues that he cannot be held guilty of the crime of rape as there is no proof that his penis directly hit the labia of private complainant. We are not persuaded. It must be stressed that mere touching, no matter how slight of the labia or lips of the female organ by the male genital, even without rupture or laceration of the hymen, is sufficient to consummate rape. The absence of fresh hymenal laceration does not disprove sexual abuse, especially when the victim is a young girl, as in this case (People vs. Oliva, 282 SCRA 470 [1997]). As earlier observed, the victim’s testimony shows plainly that there was actual carnal knowledge. In unmistakable terms, she testified on cross-examination to the fact of actual penetration as follows:
ATTY. RAMOS:
  
 Q So your answer that you gave to the Fiscal that accused was not able to put his penis to your private part is not true?
  
 A He was able to insert the head of his penis to my organ.
  
 
(tsn, February 26, 1998, p. 7.)
In a desperate if not futile attempt to provide basis for his appeal, accused-appellant underscores the lack of external signs of force upon the victim as seemingly indicated in the medico-legal findings. This, he contends, negates sexual assault. However, it has been repeatedly ruled that absence of external signs of physical injuries does not cancel out the commission of rape, since proof of injuries is not an essential element of the crime (People vs. Casipit, 232 SCRA 638 [1994]). Moreover, the prosecution has adequately established that private complainant was only 8 years old at the time of the rape incident, as evidenced by her Certificate of Live Birth (Exhibit “C”, Record, p. 37). Thus, the instant case is one of statutory rape, the gravamen of which is carnal knowledge of a woman below 12 years of age, needing no proof that the assailant used force or intimidation in the commission of rape (People vs. Pacistol, 284 SCRA 520 [1998]). Verily, to convict accused-appellant in the case at bar, the only circumstance that needs to be proved is the fact of intercourse which was sufficiently substantiated by the prosecution.

Accused-appellant’s bare denial cannot overcome the categorical testimony of the victim. It is well-settled that greater weight is given to the positive identification of the accused by the prosecution witnesses than to the accused’s denial and explanation concerning the commission of the crime, especially if said denial is unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence (People vs. Taneo, 284 SCRA 251 [1998]).

The trial court awarded the amount of P30,000.00 as moral damages. However, in the light of this Court’s pronouncement in People vs. Prades (293 SCRA 411 [1998]), the same shall be increased to P50,000.00 without need of pleading therefor, or proof of the basis thereof. In addition, the victim must also be awarded the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity which needs no proof other than the conviction of the accused for the rape proved (People vs. Betonio, 279 SCRA 532 [1997]).

WHEREFORE, the judgment of the lower court finding accused-appellant Danilo Osing guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant is ordered to indemnify the offended party, AAA, in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity, and to pay the additional amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages.

SO ORDERED.

Vitug, Panganiban, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.



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