G.R. No. 200307. August 16, 2017

CASE DIGEST: [G.R. No. 200307, August 16, 2017]. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES V. RODRIGO DACUMOS, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

The accused appeals the decision promulgated on June 1, 2011, whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed his conviction for two counts of rape through the decision handed down by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 34, in Balaoan, La Union.

FACTS: Upon the invitation of her three cousins, Clara agreed to sleep over at the boarding house located in Poblacion, Santol, La Union and owned by her uncle, the accused, whose wife was the sister of Clara's father. Clara and her cousins slept in the sala, while the accused positioned himself at their feet. Clara was roused from sleep by someone pulling her and removing her shorts. She recognized the person to be the accused. When she tried to shout, he covered her mouth and proceeded to sexually molest her. He succeeded in consummating the sexual assault, and threatened to kill her if she would report the rape. He repeated his threats each time they met. The rape happened in July 1995 when she was 12 years old.

In September 1996, her cousins again invited Clara to sleep at the same boarding house. Clara agreed because her declining the invitation would make her cousins suspect something amiss with her. After all of them were sleeping, Clara woke up because she felt the presence of the accused lying down beside her. She told him that she wanted to go home, but he prevented her from leaving. As she was about to fall asleep, he started removing her shorts and underwear. He covered her mouth and threatened to hack her if she should make any noise. He succeeded in sexually assaulting her, and threatened to kill her if she would tell anyone of what he had done.

In 2002, Clara mustered the courage to tell her Uncle Lando of the two rapes. The medico-legal examination conducted on her showed a completely lacerated hymen at 4 o'clock position and partial laceration at 9 o'clock position.

Consequently, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of La Union charged the accused with two counts of rape under the following informations filed in the RTC.

Having entered his plea of not guilty during arraignment, the accused denied raping Clara, and insisted that he could not have slept at the boarding house because it was too narrow and cramped; that he resided in Pugil, Santol, La Union; and that he slept in the boarding house only twice a year - during graduation and town fiesta, and was always with his wife.

On May 4, 2005, the RTC convicted the accused as charged.

The RTC accorded credence to Clara's candid and straightforward testimony. It observed that the delay of Clara in reporting the crimes was well explained by the constant threats the accused had made against her; and that his insistence that rape could not have been committed inside the narrow and cramped boarding house was unworthy of consideration because lust did not respect time and place, and despite the cousins of Clara being nearby albeit deep in slumber.[15]

The accused appealed, but the CA dismissed the appeal through the assailed decision promulgated on June 1, 2011,[16] to wit:
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing discussion, the present appeal is perforce DISMISSED and the assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED in its entirety.

SO ORDERED.[17]
The CA ruled that Clara's failure to shout or to offer resistance should not be construed as her voluntary submission to the accused considering that there was no standard form of behavioral response when a female of her age was confronted with a heinous act such as rape;[18] and that her delay in reporting the rapes did not engender any doubt about her credibility, and should not be taken against her, particularly because she was then young and overwhelmed by a measure of confusion, fear, shame and shock.[19]

In this appeal, the accused submits the following errors:

I
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME OF RAPE DESPITE THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

II
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BASED SOLELY ON THE INCREDIBLE AND IMPLAUSIBLE TESTIMONY OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT[20]
The accused disparages Clara's testimony as inconsistent and inaccurate because she could not recall how long he had molested her on the two occasions. He wonders why she did not scream to call the attention of her cousins who were lying down beside her. He insists that the boarding house was too small a place within which to commit rape.[21] He notes that she could not even recall the exact dates and times of the two rapes.[22] He posits that she did not offer any resistance during the whole time that he had supposedly abused her;[23] and that the fact that her delay in reporting the incident for seven years rendered her accusations doubtful.[24]

RULING: We dismiss the appeal.

In resolving rape cases, primordial consideration is given to the credibility of the victim's testimony. The settled rule is that the trial court's conclusions on the credibility of witnesses in rape cases are generally accorded great weight and respect, and at times even finality, unless there appears in the record certain facts or circumstances of weight and value which the lower court overlooked or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case.

Furthermore, a categorical and positive identification of an accused, without any showing of ill-motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial. Indeed, denial and alibi deserve scant consideration when the Prosecution presents strong, clear and convincing evidence identifying the accused as the perpetrator.

A review of the records convincingly demonstrates that the accused was guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the two counts of rape. His alibi and defense could not prevail over Clara's positive and candid testimony. He failed to establish the impossibility of his being at the place of the incident considering that his place of residence was only from 20 minutes to an hour away. For alibi to prosper, it was not enough to show that the accused was in another place at the time of the crime, but he must also demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the same time. It was also established that the accused would visit the boarding house during market days on Mondays, Tuesdays or Fridays. This lent more credibility to Clara's testimony that the first incident happened on a Monday. Lastly, the size of the boarding house could not be a valid defense considering our consistent rulings to the effect that neither a cramped quarter nor the presence of other people would deter the commission of rape.

There is likewise no reason for the Court to suspect Clara's testimony considering that no sane woman would concoct a story of her defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and subject herself to public trial or ridicule if she had not, in truth, been a victim of rape and impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her. The weight of such testimonies may be countered by physical evidence to the contrary, or indubitable proof that the accused could not have committed the rape, but in the absence of such countervailing proof, these testimonies shall be accorded utmost value.

The CA rightly concluded that the delay in reporting the two incidents of rape was explained by the constant threats by the accused. It is also settled that delay in exposing the commission of rape is not an indication of a fabricated charge. The threat or intimidation must be viewed in light of the victim's perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the crime and thereabouts, instead of by any hard and fast rule. Many victims of rape never complain or file criminal charges against the rapist, for they prefer to silently bear the ignominy and pain, rather than reveal their shame to the world or risk the offender's making good on his threats. The Court deems the repeated threats of the accused sufficient to have produced fear in Clara given her age at the time of the rapes.

Considering that Clara was then a minor and that the accused was her relative by affinity within the third civil degree, the accused was properly convicted of two counts of qualified rape and should have been properly punished with death. Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, which took effect on December 31, 1993 and was the law in force at the time of the commission of the rapes,[36] set death as the penalty for qualified rape, to wit:
Article 335. When and how rape is committed. - Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman 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 years of age or is demented, x x x x

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant 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.

xxxx
Yet, the intervening passage of Republic Act No. 9346[37] has saved the accused from the supreme penalty. In that respect, Section 1 of Republic Act No. 9346 provides:
Section 1. The imposition of the penalty of death is hereby prohibited. - Accordingly, Republic Act No. Eight Thousand One Hundred Seventy-Seven (R. A. No. 8177), otherwise known as the Act Designating Death by Lethal Injection, is hereby repealed. Republic Act No. Seven Thousand Six Hundred Fifty-Nine (R. A. No. 7659), otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law, and all other laws, executive orders and decrees, insofar as they impose the death penalty are hereby repealed or amended accordingly.
Pursuant to Section 3[38] of Republic Act No. 9346, the accused shall instead suffer reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.

Consistent with People v. Jugueta,[39] we increase the amounts of the damages in each count to P100,000.00 as civil indemnity; P100,000.00 as moral damages; and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, and impose interest of 6% per annum on such damages from the finality of this decision until full payment.

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the appeal; and AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on June 1, 2011, subject to the MODIFICATION that: (a) the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole is imposed on accused RODRIGO DACUMOS for each count of qualified rape; and (b) his civil liabilities for each count of qualified rape are increased to P100,000.00 as civil indemnity; P100,000.00 as moral damages; and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, with interest on such damages at the rate of 6% per annum reckoned from the finality of this resolution until full satisfaction.

The accused shall further pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo pp. 2-10 ; penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes (later a Member of the Court, now retired), with Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now a Member of the Court) and Associate Justice Elihu A. YbaƱez concurring.

[2] A fictitious name is hereby used to conceal the victim's true identity in line with People v. Cabalquinto (G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419), which requires that the real names of the rape victim and of the members of her immediate family or household members, and other information tending to establish or compromise the identity of the victim not be disclosed.

[3] TSN dated May 15, 2003, p. 2.

[4] Id. at 7-8.

[5] Id. at 2.

[6] Id. at 9-11.

[7] Not the true name, per People v. Cabalquinto, supra.

[8] RTC records (Crim. Case "No. 2937), p. 68.

[9] Id. at 1.

[10] RTC records (Crim. Case No. 2938), p. 1.

[11] RTC records (Crim. Case No. 2937), p. 7.

[12] TSN dated December 6, 2006, p. 3.

[13] Id. at 6.

[14] CA rollo, p. 30.

[15] Id. at 29-30.

[16] Supra, note 1.

[17] Rollo, p. 10.

[18] Id. at 6.

[19] Id. at 7.

[20] CA rollo, p. 78.

[21] Id. at 81.

[22] Id. at 82.

[23] Id. at 83-84.

[24] Id. at 84-85.

[25] People vGarcia, G.R. No. 177740, April 5, 2010, 617 SCRA 318, 331.

[26] People vBon, G.R. No. 166401, October 30, 2006, 506 SCRA 168, 186.

[27] TSN dated September 20, 2006, p. 5.

[28] People v. Bon, supra, note 26.

[29] TSN dated September 1, 2005, p. 6; November 23, 2005, p. 3.

[30] TSN dated May 15, 2003, p. 3.

[31] People v. Ignacio, G.R. Nos. 106644-45, June 7, 1994, 233 SCRA 1, 7.

[32] People v. Esteban, G.R. No. 200920, June 9, 2014, 725 SCRA 517, 525-526; People v. Frias, G.R. No. 203068, September 18, 2013, 706 SCRA 156, 167.

[33] People v. Macapanas, G.R. No. 187049, May 4, 2010, 620 SCRA 54, 65; People v. Mahinay, G.R. No. 179190, January 20, 2009, 576 SCRA 777, 783.

[34] People v. Lizano, G.R. No. 174470, April 27, 2007, 522 SCRA 803, 812.

[35] People v. Geromo, G.R.No.126169, December 21, 1999, 321 SCRA 355, 364.

[36] Republic Act No. 7659 was approved on December 13, 1993, and published in the Manila Bulletin and Malaya issues of December 16, 1993 and in the Official Gazette, Vol. 90, No. 3, p. 311 (January 17, 1994). The law took effect on December 31, 1993 based on its Section 28, which provides: This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in two (2) newspapers of general circulation. The publication shall not be later than seven (7) days after the approval hereof.

[37]An Act Prohibiting The Imposition of Death Penalty in The Philippines, repealing Republic Act 8177 otherwise known as the Act Designating Death By Lethal Injection, Republic Act 7659 otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law and all other laws, executive orders and decrees (Signed on June 24, 2006).

[38] Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 provides:

Sec. 3. Persons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua, by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended.

[39] G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016, 788 SCRA 331.

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