People v. Mabalo (G.R. No. 238839, February 27, 2019)

[ G.R. No. 238839, February 27, 2019 ]
This is an appeal of the Decision[1] dated January 26, 2018 of the Court of Appeals (CA ) affirming the Judgment[2]dated 5, 2016 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), xxxxxxxxxxx  Branch 9,  City of xxxxxxxxxxx  in Criminal Case No. 08-262219, which found Anthony Mabalo y Bacani guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Simple Rape under Article 266-A, par. l(a) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8353.

The facts follow.

Private complainant, AAA[3] was allegedly 14 years old when the incident and lived with her family at a two-storey house located at xxxxxxxxxxx, in the City of xxxxxxxxxxx. The house had three (3) rooms on the first floor which were occupied by AAA, her parents, appellant and his wife, and another boarder. AAA stayed in one of the two rooms on the second floor.

Around 12:30 a.m. of June 24, 2008, appellant arrived at the house and went to his room. Meanwhile, AAA was alone in the living room watching television. At that time, appellant's wife left the former two days earlier after they quarreled. At 2:30 a.m., AAA noticed appellant coming out of his room and was surprised when appellant suddenly approached her and held her right thigh with his left hand. Appellant proceeded to push AAA on the floor on a lying position and covered her mouth with his left hand, while using his right hand to pull down his pants and underwear. After appellant was able to expose his penis, he lifted his hips, opened her legs and inserted his manhood into her vagina. AAA felt pain in her abdomen, while appellant made two (2) pumping motions before he ejaculated. AAA attempted to struggle against appellant but her asthma made her weak. Thereafter, appellant explicitly told AAA not to tell anyone about what happened between them.

A few hours after the incident, AAA told her mother while she was visiting the latter's workplace about what happened between her and appellant. Afterwards, AAA and her mother went to the   xxxxxxxxxxx  Police Station and executed a sworn statement. AAA was then given a general physical examination and an anogenital examination at the Philippine General Hospital. The Final Medico-legal Report yielded the following findings: "anogenital findings are diagnostic of blunt force or penetrating trauma."

On the same date, around 1:00 p.m., appellant was arrested.

Hence, an Information was filed against appellant for the crime of Rape, in relation to R.A. No. 7610 which reads as follows:
That on or about June 24, 2008, in the City of xxxxxxxxxxx, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there[,] willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, by means of force, violence and intimidation have (sic) carnal knowledge with said AAA, a minor, 14 years old, to wit: by then and there touching her thigh, forcibly holding her hands with his left arm, covering her mouth using his left hand, using his right hand on (sic) removing her short (sic) and pant (sic), kissing her neck, inserting his penis to the vagina of said AAA, succeeding in having carnal knowledge with her, against her will and consent, thereby gravely endangering her normal growth and development and to the damage and prejudice of said AAA.

Contrary to law.[4]

During his arraignment, appellant, without the assistance of a counsel and after manifesting his willingness and readiness to be arraigned, entered a plea of not guilty.

After pre-trial, the trial on the merits ensued.

The prosecution presented the testimonies of AAA, SPO1 Solomon Santos, SPO1 Napoleon Reyes, and Dr. Merle Tan.

Appellant, on the other hand, denied raping AAA. In his  testimony, he claimed that at 3:00 a.m. of June 24, 2008, he was along xxxxxxxxxxx selling breakfast meals, soap, bread, and coffee. According to him, while he was working, he was in the company of his relatives. He was shocked to learn that he was being accused of raping AAA and could not think of any reason why he was implicated in the said crime. He only learned of such accusation when he was invited to the barangay hall where he was confronted by AAA's mother.

On September 5, 2016, the RTC rendered its judgment finding appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged against him. The dispositive portion of the RTC's decision reads, as follows:
WHEREFORE, accused ANTHONY MABALO y BACANI is hereby found GUlLTY beyond reasonable doubt of RAPE under Article 266-A paragraph l(a) of the Revised Penal Code. in relation to Republic Act No. 7610. He is sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, and is ORDERED to pay the victim (75,000.00) as civil indemnity, (75,000.00) as moral damages, and P75,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus interest of 6% per annum on the amount of damages, reckoned from the finality of this decision until full payment.

Appellant elevated the case to the CA, and on January 26, 2018, the appellate court dismissed appellant's appeal and found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Simple Rape, in a decision which has the following as its dispositive portion:

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the Judgment dated 5 September 2016 of the Regional Trial Court,xxxxxxxxxxx  in Crim. Case No. 08-262219 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

The CA ruled that, even though the prosecution failed to prove that AAA was a minor at the time the incident took place, appellant may still be convicted of simple rape as all the elements of the said crime have been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Thus, appellant comes to this Court for the resolution of his appeal. According to appellant, the trial court erred in relying on AAA's testimony because it is not credible. Appellant also argues that he did not employ force, intimidation or violence upon AAA. Another contention raised by appellant is that the sexual organ of AAA was found negative for spermatozoa. Lastly, appellant claims that the prosecution failed to establish AAA's minority.

The appeal has no merit.

In this case, the RTC found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape in relation to R.A. No. 7610. On appeal, the CA found him guilty of Simple Rape under Article 266-A, paragraph 1(a) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353. This Court, in People v. Joel Jaime,[7] expounded on the difference between simple rape under Art. 266- A, par. 1(a) of the RPC and that of the provisions of R.A. 7610, thus:

Under Article 266-A, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of rape is committed when a man shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: (a) through force, threat, or intimidation; (b) when the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; (c) by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and (d) when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances previously mentioned are present. It is penalized with reclusion perpetua as provided under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353.

On the other hand, Section 5(b), Article III of Republic Act No. 7610 provides:
Section 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse.-Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.

x x x x

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse; Provided, That when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct as the case may be: Provided, That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period; and

x x x x
The essential elements of Section 5(b) are: (a) the accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (b) the said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and, (c) the child whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.[10] The imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua, except that the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period.

In People v. Abay,[8] the RTC found the accused "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing the crime of rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 5, Article III of R.A. No. 7610" and imposed upon him the death penalty; although, on appeal, the CA found the accused guilty only of simple rape and reduced the penalty imposed to reclusion perpetua. The Court instructs that if the victim is 12 years or older, the offender should be charged with either sexual abuse under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, or rape under Article 266-A (except paragraph l(d)) of the Revised , Penal Code; but, he cannot be accused of both crimes. Otherwise, his right against double jeopardy will be prejudiced. Neither can these two (2) crimes be complexed. The Court's disquisition in the Abay case reads:

Under Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 in relation to RA 8353, of the victim of sexual abuse is below 12 years of age, the offender should not be prosecuted for sexual abuse but for statutory rape under Article 266-A(l)(d) of the revised Penal Code and penalized with reclusion perpetua. On the other hand, if the victim is 12 years or older, the offender should be charged with either sexual abuse under Section 5(b of RA 7610 or rape under A1iicle 266-A (except paragraph 1[d]) of the Revised Penal Code. However, the offender cannot be accused of both crimes for the same act because his right against double jeopardy will be prejudiced. A person cannot be subjected twice to criminal liability for a single criminal act. Likewise, rape cannot be complexed with a violation of Section 5(b) of RA 7610. Under Section 48 of the Revised Penal Code (on complex crimes, a felony under the Revised Penal Code (such as rape) cannot be complexed with an offense by a special law.
Although the Information alleged that AAA was 14 years old at the time of the incident, no ·proof was presented to attest the truth of such statement. In People v. Pruna,[9] this Court laid down the guidelines in determining the age of the victim:
1. The best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the certificate of live birth of such party.

2. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificate and school records which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age.

3. If the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or destroyed or otherwise unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim's mother or a member of the family either by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence shall be sufficient under the following circumstances:

a. If the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 7 years old;

b. If the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 12 years old;

c. If the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than 18 years old.
4. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document, or the testimony of the victim's mother or relatives concerning the victim's age, the complainant's testimony will suffice provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused.

5. It is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended .party. The failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be taken against him.

6. The trial court should always make a categorical finding as to the age of the victim.
Without the Certificate of Live Birth and other means by which AAA's age as alleged in the Information could have been ascertained beyond doubt, this Court is constrained to agree with the CA and deem the crime committed as Simple Rape.

In reviewing rape cases, We are guided by the following well­ entrenched principles: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility: it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove it; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.[10]The determination of the credibility of the offended party's testimony is a most basic consideration in every prosecution for rape, for the lone testimony of the victim, if credible, is sufficient to sustain the verdict of conviction.[11] As in most rape cases, the ultimate issue in this case is credibility. In this regard, when the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, appellate courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court, considering that the latter is in a better position to decide the question as it heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during trial.[12] The exceptions to the rule are when such evaluation was reached arbitrarily, or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstance of weight and substance which could affect the result of the case.[13] Here, AAA related her painful ordeal in a clear and unwavering manner, thus:
You said you were rape[d]. How were you rape[d]?
He held my right thigh using his left hand and then push[ed] me to [lie] on the floor, he covered my mouth with his left hand, Ma'am.
And then when covering your mouth[,] what happened to the other palm of the accused?
He uses his right hand to pull down my pants, Ma'am.
By the way, what [were] you wearing at the time?
Jogging pants and sleeveless shirt, Ma'am.
[Were] you wearing a panty?
Yes, Ma'am.
x x x x
After pulling down your panty[,] what else happened?
He unzipped his short pants and brought out his penis, Ma'am.
Which part of his arm did he [use] to bring out his penis?
His right hand, Ma'am.
After that[,] when the accused brought out his penis[,] what else happened?
He lifted his hips, open[ed] my legs and inserted his penis, Ma'am.
Where did he [insert] his penis?
On my private part, Ma'am.
How did you know that his penis was already inserted in your private part?
There was as if something was broken and my abdomen hurts, Ma'am.
When he inserted his penis into your private part, did the accused do any motion?
Yes, Ma'am.
How can you [describe] that motion?
There was a pumping motion, Ma'am.
Do you recall how many times did he make the pumping motion?
Two (2) times, Ma'am.
After that pumping motion[,] what else happened?
I felt something [come] off from him, Ma'am.
Was this something that came off from him some sort of a liquid?
Yes, Ma'am.
x x x x
After you felt that there [was] liquid coming from the accused, what else happened?
Before he stood up, he still [covered] my mouth [with] his hand and put back his penis inside [his] short[s], Ma'am.
Did he not [utter] any word while raping you?
No, Ma'am.
After he zipped his short pants[,] what happened to you?
I pulled up my panty and jogging pants and the accused went inside his room.
Did he not say anything?
He told me not to tell anybody, Ma'am.[l4]

In addition, such positive identification of the appellant as the one who raped her is corroborated by the result of the medico-legal examination conducted on her. As aptly ruled by the CA:

Whereas a single and consistent testimony of the victim would suffice to sustain a conviction, it is worthy to note that the prosecution was able to further buttress the testimony of AAA by presenting the testimony of both officers, SPO1 Santos and SPO1 Reyes, who both attested to the arrest of Accused-Appellant. Of similar import is the presentation of Dr. Tan's medico-legal report which appear to affirm AAA's version of the story. Such findings reveal the impression that is "diagnostic of blunt force or penetrating trauma," which, according to Dr. Tan, are bruises that may be caused by hard or blunt objects, such as a penis. While it is a shopworn rule that medical finding is not an element of rape and cannot establish the one responsible for the same, jurisprudence dictates that it is corroborative of the testimony of the rape victim that she has been raped. [15]
Appellant reiterates his defense of denial and alibi. Denial and alibi are viewed by this Court with disfavor,[16]considering these are inherently weak defenses,[17] especially in light of private complainant's positive and straightforward declarations identifying accused-appellant[18] as the one who committed the bastardly act against her, as well as her straightforward and convincing testimony detailing the circumstances and events leading to the rape.[19] Appellant offered nothing but denial and a flimsy excuse that he was at a certain place when the incident happened. As correctly observed by the CA:
Aside from the fact that he miserably failed to present the testimony of any of his relatives who he claims to be with him at the time of the incident and could attest to his whereabouts, Accused-Appellant was unable to prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the place of the crime or at its immediate vicinity;  militating against his defense. Accused­-Appellant himself testified that xxxxxxxxxxx, where he claims to have been, and the residence of AAA, is but a mere walking distance away.  Consequently, Accused-Appellant cannot insist that his denial should not have been completely disregarded due to the blatant lack of substantiating evidence, other than his own concocted story.[20]
Again, it must be remembered that, when a woman says that she has been raped, she says, in effect, all that is necessary to show that she has indeed been raped.[21] A victim of rape would not come out in the open if her motive were anything other than to obtain justice. Her testimony as to who abused her is credible where she has absolutely no motive to incriminate and testify against the accused.[22]

WHEREFORE, the appeal of Anthony Mabalo y Bacani is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Consequently, the Decision dated January 26, 2018 of the Court of Appeals, finding the same appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Simple Rape under Article 266-A, par. l(a) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353, is AFFIRMED.


Leonen, Reyes, Hernando and Carandang, JJ., concur.

March 14, 2019

N O T I C E    O F  J U D G M E N T


Please take notice that on February 27, 2019 a Decision, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on March 14, 2019 at 1:45 p.m.

Very truly yours,

Division Clerk of Court

* Designated Additional Member per Special Order No. 2624 dated November 28, 2018.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza (now Presiding Justice), with the concurrence of Associate Justices Mario V. Lopez and Victoria Isabel A. Paredes; rollo, pp. 2-15.

[2] Penned by Presiding Judge Jacqueline S. Martin-Balictar; CA rollo, pp. 56-62.

[3] Pursuant to R.A. No. 7610, "An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes;" R.A. No. 9262, "An Act Defining Violence against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefore, and for Other Purposes;" Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the "Rule on Violence against Women and Their Children," effective November 15, 2004; and People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 (2006), the real name of the rape victim is withheld and, instead, fictitious initials are used to represent her. Also, the personal circumstances of the victim or any other information tending to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, is disclosed (People v. CCC, G.R. No. 220492, July 11, 2018).

[4] Records, p. 1.

[5] CA rollo, p. 62.

[6] Id. at 106.

[7] G.R. No. 225332, July 23, 2018.

[8] 599 Phil. 390, 394-396 (2009).

[9] 439 Phil. 440, 470-471 (2002), "cited in People v. Ausa, 792 Phil. 437,444-445 (2016)

[10]People v. Padilla, 617 Phil. 170, 182-183 (2009); People v. Ramos, 577 Phil. 197, 304 (2008).

[11]People v. Peralta, 619 Phil. 268, 273 (2009).

[12] Remiendo v. People, 618 Phil. 273,287 (2009).

[13] People v. Panganiban, 412 Phil. 98, 107 (2001).

[14] TSN, August 24, 2010, pp. 7-12.

[15] Rollo, p. 12. (Citations omitted)

[16] People v. Malana, 646 Phil. 290, 308 (2010), citing People v. Peralta, supra note 11 , at 274.

[17] People v. Estrada, 624 Phil. 211, 217 (2010).

[18] People v. Paculba, 628 Phil. 662,672-673 (2010); People v. Achas, 612 Phil. 652, 666 (2009).

[19] Id.

[20] Rollo, p. 13. (Citation omitted) .

[21] People v. Paculba, supra note 18, at 676.

[22] People v. Ugos, 586 Phil. 765, 774 (2008); People v. Milian, 477 Phil. 790, 804-805 (2004).