People v. Mangubat (G.R. No. 172068, August 07, 2007)


The Court of Appeals (CA) found appellant Rolando Mangubat @ "Lando" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of simple rape on two (2) counts and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count. The decision affirmed with modifications that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which found appellant guilty of qualified rape on two (2) counts and sentenced him to death for each count. The victim was a 10-year-old granddaughter of the accused.

When arraigned in both cases, appellant entered a common plea of "Not guilty." Thereafter, the cases were heard jointly.

Sometime in 1997, [AAA], who was born on 7 March 1987, was raped by her step-grandfather, appellant Rolando Mangubat, at their house at Barangay Palayan, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro while her grandmother and Rolando's common-law wife, [BBB], was working in Manila. [AAA] knew that Rolando was able to partially insert his penis into her vagina because of the pain that she felt then.

Later, on 13 June 1998, at about 8:00 p.m., [AAA] was invited by her cousin, [CCC], to the latter's house, where they helped one "Kuya" [DDD] check some test papers. After an hour, [AAA's] uncle, [EEE], arrived, and told her "[AAA] tawag ka ni tatay, lagot ka, may garrote ka." Frightened, [AAA] immediately headed for home, and went upstairs to sleep. Thereupon, [EEE] told [AAA] that Rolando was asking if she would eat dinner, to which she replied negatively because she had already taken her dinner.

After the dinner, at around 9:00 p.m., [EEE] and [AAA's] brother went out to watch television at a nearby store, leaving [AAA] and Rolando in the house. Later, Rolando asked [AAA] to get some oil, and rub it to his body, which she did. Also, Rolando ordered [AAA] to lie down on his bed, and to remove her shorts and panty, which she obeyed for fear of bodily harm. Rolando then laid himself on top of [AAA], and inserted his penis in her vagina, Hurt, [AAA] cried, and called out for [BBB], who was in Manila at that time.

[AAA] did not report the incident to her mother for fear that Rolando might kill them. Instead, [AAA] reported the matter to a certain "Bogs" at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which later brought her to Dr. Adelaido Malaluan for a physical examination.

Thereafter, [AAA] was brought to a police headquarter, where she detailed her traumatic experience in the presence of the investigating officer and her grandmother [BBB], who had already learned of the incident. [BBB] confirmed [AAA's] report, and explained that [AAA] bears Rolando's surname, instead of her father's surname, because they caused her surname to be registered after Rolando's, as she was in their custody since her early childhood. [6]

Denial is appellant's main plea in exculpation. Denying the charges against him, appellant averred that the cases were filed by AAA in retaliation to his having whipped her for refusing to do an errand on June 13, 1998, the date the alleged rape was committed. Appellant added that it was not possible for him to have raped AAA nor could the alleged rape incidents have happened inside their house - a one-room affair with no division.

Testifying for the defense, BBB, AAA's grandmother and appellant's common-law wife, belied the accusations hurled against her common-law husband and claimed that on June 13, 1998, while she was doing the laundry, appellant who was then sick with influenza, was in bed. While asserting that her common-law husband was examined at a health clinic and issued a prescription for his sickness, BBB, however, could not present the alleged prescription issued to him. She also denied having executed a sworn statement against appellant and professed that her decision to testify in his favor was because there was no truth to AAA's allegations.

ISSUE: In his Brief, appellant contends that the trial court erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape on two counts and in imposing upon him the penalty of death for each count. The People, however, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), submits that the trial court properly convicted appellant of qualified rape and correctly sentenced him with death in each count.

HELD: The appeal must fail. The conviction of Mangubat is AFFIRMED.

In the review of rape cases where, most often than not, the credibility of the victim is in issue, the Court consistently relies on the assessment of the trial court.[9] It has long been held that the trial court's evaluation of the credibility of witnesses should be viewed as correct and entitled to the highest respect because it has the opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor and deportment on the witness box, and the manner in which they give their testimony.[10]

Undoubtedly, AAA was twice sexually violated by appellant - the first, in 1997 when she was barely ten (10) years old and the other, on June 13, 1998 when she was already eleven (11) years old. Both incidents of rape happened inside their house at barangay Palayan, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro.

In a clear, spontaneous and straightforward manner, AAA narrated in tears her harrowing experience with appellant.  It is noteworthy that despite rigid cross-examinations, AAA remained consistent and categorical in recounting the sordid details of the two (2) incidents of rape perpetrated against her by appellant.

Most importantly, AAA's rape on June 13, 1998 was confirmed by the medical findings of the medico-legal officer who examined her.

AAA's clear and categorical narration of the sexual assaults against her, free from material inconsistencies and coupled with spontaneous outburst of emotions, deserves full faith and credence. The rule is that when a rape victim's testimony is straightforward and candid, unshaken by rigid cross-examinations and unflawed by inconsistencies or contradictions in its material points, the same must be given full faith and credit.[17] Hence, the testimony of the rape victim alone is sufficient to convict. More so, when, as here, such testimony is corroborated by the physical findings of penetration.[18]

True, there was no medical certificate presented showing any injury or lacerations in AAA's hymen; nonetheless, such does not negate the possibility of rape. Medical findings are at best corroborative and therefore not indispensable in proving the commission of the crime of rape,[19] inasmuch as the victim's testimony alone, if credible, is sufficient to convict. Besides, for rape to be consummated, full penetration is not necessary. Penile invasion necessarily entails contact with the labia and it suffices that there is proof of the entrance of the male organ with the labia of the pudendum of the female organ. Thus, penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even without rupture or laceration of the hymen, is enough to justify a conviction for rape.[20]Likewise, AAA's failure to specify the exact date of her rape in 1997 is immaterial considering that the exact date of commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. For, the gravamen of the offense of rape is the fact of carnal knowledge under any of the following circumstances: (1) by using force or intimidation; (2) when the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and (3) when the woman is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented.[21] Also, AAA's delay in disclosing her sexual defilement is understandable, given the fact that such procrastination was attributable to her fear for her life and that of her mother. In any event, long silence and delay in reporting the crime of rape have not always been construed as an indication of a false accusation.[22] And this principle applies with greater force where, as in this case, the victim was 10-11 years old at the time of the rape incidents, and was therefore susceptible to intimidation and threats of physical harm.

With respect to appellant's defenses of denial and alibi, the same cannot prevail over the positive and categorical statements of AAA. Denial, when unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative, self-serving and merits no weight in law and cannot, therefore, be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses testifying in the affirmative.[23] Verily, an affirmative testimony is far stronger than a negative testimony, especially so when it comes from the mouth of a credible witness,[24] as AAA in this case. On the other hand, alibi is often viewed with suspicion and received with great caution not only because it is inherently weak and unreliable but also because it is easy to fabricate. Appellant's alibi that he was sick in bed at the time of the rape on June 13, 1998 is much too flimsy an excuse to be believed, while his claim that AAA accused him of rape as a revenge for his having physically maltreated her is utterly preposterous and downright unworthy of belief. Mere resentment is not so compelling as to have motivated a young girl to accuse a person who practically took care of her since birth and whom she already considers as her tatay, of such a serious crime as rape.
No woman, least of all a child, would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts and subject herself to public trial or ridicule if she has not, in truth been a victim of rape and impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her. Testimonies of child-victims are given full-faith and credit, since when a girl says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity. In assessing the testimony of the child victim, the standards used for adults should not apply. Rather her testimony should be viewed as a narration of a minor who barely understands sex and sexuality.
On the whole, we are thus convinced that when AAA testified during trial that she has been raped, she said, in effect, all that was necessary to show that she has indeed been raped.

We now review the penalty imposed. The admissions are invoked by the People to justify the imposition of the penalty of death on appellant. We are not persuaded. The qualifying circumstance of relationship cannot be established by mere testimony or even by the accused's very own admission. So it is that in People v. Pascual Balbarona,[35] the Court ruled:
Circumstances that qualify a crime and increase its penalty to death cannot be the subject of stipulation. An accused cannot be condemned to suffer the extreme penalty of death on the basis of stipulations or his own admissions. This strict rule is warranted by the seriousness of the penalty of death.
Here, apart from the admissions of appellant and BBB, no further and/or independent proof was proffered by the prosecution to establish the fact of their marriage with certainty. Lest it be forgotten, elementary is the doctrine that upon the prosecution lies the burden of proving all the elements of a crime including the qualifying circumstances.[36] The prosecution cannot rely on the defense to prove its case.

Given the reality that the prosecution in this case failed to prove the alleged special qualifying circumstance of relationship, appellant can only be adjudged guilty of simple rape punishable by reclusion perpetua.

[1] Penned by Justice Santiago Javier Ranada and concurred in by Justices Mario L. Guarina and Roberto A. Barrios (deceased); CA Rollo, pp. 114-122.
[2] G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.
[4] G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006.
[9] People v. Bernie Teodoro, G.R. No. 170473, October 12, 2006.
[10] People v. Alviz, G.R. Nos. 144551-55, June 29, 2004, 433 SCRA 164, 172.
[11] People v. Wilson Suarez, et al., G.R. Nos. 153573-76, April 15, 2005, 456 SCRA 333.
[17] People v. Chito P. Ucab, G.R. No. 133227, October 10, 2002, 390 SCRA 564, 572.
[19] People v. Federico Arnaiz, G.R. No. 171447, November 29, 2006.
[20] People v. Jouriel Dimacuha, G.R. Nos. 152592-93, February 13, 2004, 422 SCRA 688, 693.
[21] People v. Avelino Latag, G.R. Nos. 140411-13, December 11, 2003, 418 SCRA 122.
[22] People v. Wilson Suarez, et al., supra.
[23] People v. Alviz, supra at p. 172.
[24] People v. Federico Arnaiz, supra.
[25] AAA was ten years old when the first rape occurred in 1997 and eleven at the time of the second rape on June 13, 1998. She was also eleven when the two (2) Informations were filed on July 20, 1998 and at the time she testified in court.
[27] In part, said Article reads:

Article 266-A. Rape; When and How Committed. - Rape is committed:

1) By a man who 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 consciousness;

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 mentioned above be present.

xxx xxx xxx

[28] Said Article pertinently provides:

Article 266-B. Penalties. -

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;
xxx xxx xxx

[29] People v. Ruperto Ramos, G.R. No. 142577 December 27, 2002, 394 SCRA 452, 469.
[31] People v. Pascual Balbarona, G.R. No. 146854, April 28, 2004, 428 SCRA 127.
[33] See People v. Mamac, G.R. No. 130332, May 31, 2000, 332 SCRA 547, 556.
[36] People v. Ruperto Ramos, supra.
[37] People v. Esperida, G.R. Nos. 139637-38 January 22, 2003, 395 SCRA 679, 686.
[38] People v. Cayabyab, G.R. No. 167147, August 3, 2005 465 SCRA 681, 693.