On Valentine's Day, 'provincemate,' husband's friend rapes 21yo laundrywoman

DECISION: WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with regard to the penalty of reclusion perpetua and MODIFIED as to the indemnity to be paid to the offended party which is reduced to TWENTY THOUSAND (P 20,000.00) PESOS. With costs against the accused- appellant.

FACTS: Ironically, a Valentine's [D]ay brought not love but tragedy to the life of Erlinda M. Ferrer.

In a Complaint dated October 4, 1978, the accused Ricardo Muñoz was charged as follows: That on or about February 14, 1978, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, violence and intimidation, to wit: by then and there boxing the undersigned complainant several times on the different parts of her body, particularly on the head, thighs and stomach until she weakened, then pushing her to the floor of the jeep and further boxing her thighs as she was pressing them together, then tearing off her panty at the same time pointing a knife on her neck, have sexual intercourse with said undersigned complainant, against her will.

Upon arraignment, the accused pleaded "not guilty" to the crime charged.

After hearing on the merits, the then Court of First Instance of Manila, Sixth Judicial District, Branch XXIV, rendered its decision on September 17, 1981, sentencing Ricardo Muñoz to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for the crime of rape as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. The accused was also ordered to indemnify the offended party in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P 50,000,00) PESOS as moral damages and for the costs of the suit. The accused-appellant comes now to this Court for a reversal of the lower court's decision.

According to the prosecution, the complainant, Erlinda M. Ferrer, at the time of her sexual assault, was 21 years old, married, and residing at MCU Kalaanan Market, Caloocan City. During her cross-examination, however, she admitted that she was already 29 years old.

The complainant was a laundrywoman at the time of the commission of the crime. The accused was personally known to her as he used to eat in the small carinderia at her and her husband's residence; furthermore, he was a "provincemate" and a friend of her husband.

Erlinda M. Ferrer testified that on February 14, 1978, at around 9:00 o'clock in the evening, she was waiting for a ride at the corner of Jose Abad Santos Street, near the corner of Hermosa Street, Tondo, in Manila. She had come from the house of Patrolman Damaso Reyes, her husband's cousin, situated at Pilar Street, inside the Manuguit Subdivision, also in Manila, where she worked as a laundress. After about thirty minutes, a passenger jeepney stopped in front of her, and she recognized the person behind the wheels as Ricardo Muñoz, the accused. There were no passengers in the jeepney;Muñoz asked her where she was going, and she said she was bound for home. He offered her a ride, saying he was headed in the same direction. Since she was acquainted with the accused, Erlinda Ferrer accepted the offer. Besides, it was getting late, and she did not know when a regular passenger jeepney would turn up. She boarded the vehicle and sat beside the accused in the front seat. Not for a single moment did she doubt the good intention of the accused. But, unknowingly, Erlinda had placed her life and well-being in the hands of a man who had, as the following narration of events will show, evil in his heart.

Erlinda thought there was nothing wrong when the accused turned right, towards a gasoline station. She assumed the accused would stop the jeep for some gasoline. But the accused did not stop the vehicle, however, instead, he drove on, with a great sense of hurry, towards Rizal Avenue. When Erlinda noticed that the accused was proceeding in the wrong direction, she exclaimed that he had taken the wrong route. But he did not seem to listen to her; nor did he stop his vehicle. Erlinda was seized by an instinctive fear. Something was terribly wrong here, she thought. She protested, and insisted that she be dropped off right there and then. The accused had now gotten angry; he drew a knife from nowhere and pressed it to her left side, and warned her that he would kill her if she as much as attempted to get off the jeepney. The accused then drove to the corner of Rizal Avenue, turned to Pampanga Street, and then suddenly stopped in a dark spot where he would perform the perfidious act of rape, which is the ultimate expression of contempt for women.

The accused stopped his jeepney behind a parked truck that was out of order. He told Erlinda to alight from the vehicle, but she refused. So he poked his knife at her and bodily dragged her to the rear portion of the jeepney. She shouted for help, but the accused boxed her on the left ear. Erlinda felt dizzy from the blow, nevertheless she still tried to put up resistance against her attacker. This time, the accused boxed her on the head and on both thighs even as she pleaded with him not to touch her for the sake of her children. Dazed by the blows inflicted by the accused, Erlinda fell to the jeepney floor. He fell on top of her and with sheer force pinned her arm against the floor. Realizing that she could not possibly get up and free herself on account of the superior strength and position of the accused, she pressed her thighs tightly together in order to foil his attempt at having sexual intercourse with her. The day's hard work and the blows she received from the accused took their toll; her own strength waned, and she lay helpless on the floor. With a knife pressed at his hapless victim's neck, the accused succeeded in raising her skirt, pulling down and tearing her panty, and finally in having sexual intercourse with her. His lust satisfied, the accused stood up and told Erlinda to leave the place and warned her that harm would be brought on her and her family if she reported the incident to the police authorities. The distraught Erlinda proceeded to Quiapo, Manila, to the house of her aunt, Piran Malisi.
On February 16, 1978, two days after the incident, Erlinda, accompanied by her sister-in-law, Mrs. Macaraeg, reported the crime to the Western Police District, North Bay Boulevard, Tondo, Manila. Her statement was taken down by Police Investigator Jose Ranjo, who noted the bruises on her thighs, arms, and face, and proceeded to the scene of the crime, an isolated place in front of a building at No. 1825 Pampanga, Tondo, Manila, at the back of the residence of former Councilor Lucero. He advised Erlinda to go to the National Bureau of Investigation for a medical examination. 9 Erlinda promptly did that, and was physically examined by the NBI Medico Legal Officer, Dr. Remigio Bertulfo, who found contusions on her head, left arm, and both thighs. The doctor concluded that the injuries had been sustained on the alleged date of infliction. An examination of Erlinda's hymen further revealed that she could have had sexual intercourse with a man on or about the alleged date of the commission of the crime.10 Shortly after the NBI examination, Erlinda M. Ferrer filed a complaint for rape against Ricardo Muñoz.

At the trial, the accused was hard put to exculpate himself, and presented for his defense, alibi and his having a love affair with the complainant. He related on the witness stand that in the evening of February 14, 1978, at around 9:00 o'clock, he was at his home in Macabebe, Pampanga. It was his day off from his driving duty. He testified that the day previous, on February 13, he had gone home and stayed with his family up to February 15, the day he was scheduled to report back to work as a jeepney driver in Caloocan City. He claimed further that he and Erlinda were lovers who had had several trysts in different motels; because of their relationship, the accused declared that a complaint for rape against him by her would be a big lie. According to the accused, he had known Erlinda since 1976 when he began taking his meals at her small eatery at the Calaanan Market. In the course of time, the accused and complainant became close, and they often discussed Erlinda's marital problems. She had confided that her husband was not giving her money, so she was forced to do other people's laundry. In tears, she told him that her husband was having an illicit affair with another woman. As the days passed by they became even closer; the accused would even take his daily bath in the bathroom of Erlinda's restaurant, with Erlinda personally preparing the bathroom facilities. She also started gifting him with polo shirts, undershirts, briefs, and toiletries. Eventually, they became intimate lovers frequenting different motels. The accused, however, testified that their intimacies had been limited to kissing and embracing and that they did not have sexual intercourse.

He averred that their last tryst was on February 11, 1978—three days before the commission of the crime--at the Apollo Hotel at BBB, Valenzuela, Bulacan where Erlinda entered her name and residence certificate number in the hotel register before they took a room. When they were inside the room, she proposed that they elope. He refused and told her that he would have to study the matter. They left the hotel and the accused accompanied Erlinda home. Upon reaching her home, Erlinda's husband woke up and he saw that she had brought home some clothes. When asked where she had come from, Erlinda told her husband that she had eloped with the accused. Enraged by her reply, her husband hit her on different parts of her body. This explained, according to the accused, the contusions and bruises of the complainant. Witnessing the beating of Erlinda, the accused, Ricardo Munoz, left the place unnoticed and went home to Macabebe, Pampanga. There he told his wife that Erlinda's husband was suspecting that he was having relations with Erlinda. He stayed home for three days and returned to Caloocan on February 15, 1978. He further averred that he was charged with rape by Erlinda through a vengeful husband.

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OBITER DICTUM: The Court hastens to add that rape victims like Erlinda Ferrer must be admired for their courage to bring their attackers to the courts, at a great sacrifice to their own honor and that of their families. Societies generally are not kind to violated women, exposing them to ridicule and shame when they report their having been violated. Rape victims bear the responsibility of proving that they had been raped, that they had not invited seduction, or had not been unchaste. The process of bearing the burden of proof an cause deep, and in some cases, irreparable emotional damage on the victims and the people around their lives. On the other hand, the harsh hand of social injustice does not seem to apply to the rapists.

Violence committed against women need not come in the form of physical brutality alone. In societies where the men are still considered superior to the women, gender violation presents itself through the emotional and sexual exploitation of women who are vulnerable and weak. There must come a time when men should consider women with great respect and not trifle with their inferior strengths. In the same vein, there must come a time when societies should be made up of men and women who are equal in every level of existence, and who do not exploit the poor and powerless. Two women, Angela Phillips and Jill Rakusen, in the book Our Bodies, Our Selves, talk about the kinds of rape apart from that committed under great threat. They write: "Although most of us think of rape as a clear-cut, unjustifiable sexual act forced on a woman against her will, many people, especially men (but not only men) have misconceptions about what rape is and what it isn't. In their minds rape is rape when it happens in an alley, when it is committed by a stranger, or when there are bruises and signs of physical violence; but for them rape is not really rape when it happens in a bed, when it's committed by a friend or acquaintance, . . . or when a woman appears not to be physically harmed. Many of us women know that these later rapes are just as much 'real rape' as the former. More men need to understand this too." (G.R. No. L-61152. July 29, 1988)