Rape qualified by minority, relationship

THIRD DIVISION  [ G.R. No. 195102, April 26, 2017 ]  PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. ROLANDO RAMOS Y MANLAPIG, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

The accused-appellant seeks to reverse the decision promulgated on September 16, 2010,[1] whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed with modification in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03333 his conviction for five counts of qualified rape handed down on March 29, 2008 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 67, in Binangonan, Rizal in Criminal Case Nos. 01-064 to 01-068,[2] and instead declared him guilty of five counts of simple rape.

On December 12, 2000, five informations were filed in the RTC charging the accused-appellant with qualified rape, three counts of which were committed in violation of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code while two counts were committed in violation of Article 266-A, paragraph 1, in relation to Article 266-B, of the Revised Penal Code. The informations specified as follows:
Criminal Case No. 01-065

That on or about the 17th day of March 1997, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the father of complainant AAA, actuated by lust and with lewd designs and by means of force, threat, intimidation and grave abuse of authority and taking advantage of his moral ascendancy and influence, armed with a knife, a deadly weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with AAA, a minor, 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

Criminal Case No. 01-067

Sometime in the month of June 1997, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being the father of complainant AAA, actuated by lust, with lewd design and by means of force, threat, intimidation and grave abuse of authority and taking advantage of his moral ascendancy and influence, armed with a knife, a deadly weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse with the said AAA, a minor, 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law. 
Criminal Case No. 01-068

That on or about the 20th day of March 1997, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being the father of complainant AAA, actuated by lust and with lewd designs and by means of force, threat, intimidation, and grave abuse of authority and taking advantage of his moral ascendancy and influence, armed with a knife, a deadly weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with AAA, a minor, 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime against her will and consent.

Contrary to law. 
Criminal Case No. 01-066

Sometime in the month of March 1999, nightime (sic), in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the father of complainant AAA, actuated by lust, with lewd design and by means of force, threat and intimidation and grave abuse of authority and taking advantage of his moral ascendancy and influence, armed with a knife, a deadly weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse with the said AAA, a minor, 16 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

Criminal Case No. 01-0064

That on or about the 15th day of February 2000, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused being the father of complainant AAA, actuated by lust and with lewd designs or by means of force, threat, intimidation and grave abuse of authority and taking advantage of his moral ascendancy of authority and influence, armed with a knife, a deadly weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously have carnal knowledge or sexual intercourse with AAA against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.[3]
The evidence of the Prosecution was summarized by the CA in the assailed decision, as follows:
At the trial of the case, AAA testified that she came home from school around 1:00 p.m. on March 17, 1997. She was about to change her clothes in a room separated by a curtain from her father's room when her father, appellant Ramos, suddenly appeared and poked a kitchen knife about 1½ inches wide and 10 inches long (including the handle) at her. Appellant ordered AAA not to shout and not to resist or else he would kill her mother and siblings. Appellant told her, "Hubarin mo yang parity mo. Gagamitin long kita sandali" to which she replied, "Pa, huwag po, anak niyo po ako." Thereafter, he told her not to make any noise then punched her in the stomach. AAA lost consciousness and woke up completely naked at around 2:00 p.m. unaware of what transpired while she was out cold. She just noticed that there was blood on her parents' bed coming from her genitalia and she felt pain all over her body.The dastardly act was repeated on March 20, 1997 when AAA arrived home from school. Appellant held AAA at knifepoint and told her not to resist because after all, he had already taken her. She pleaded, "Pa, anak niyo po ako, bakit niyo po ginagawa sa akin ito?" and appellant responded, "Pinag-aaral kita, pinalalamon kita." Appellant continued to hurt and poke her with the knife. Then he lifted her, placed her on his bed and held both her hands and spread her legs, removed her panties, raised her skirt then inserted his penis into her sex organ and did a pumping motion. Appellant did not ejaculate but masturbated instead. After he was through with AAA, appellant left.

A similar incident occurred during Father's Day sometime in June 1997. At around 10:00 p.m. while AAA was sleeping beside her sister CCC and while everyone in the family was present at home, appellant entered AAA's room and pressed the smallest toe on her right foot. The act caused her to jerk her foot and the pain brought about by the pressing caused her to cry which awakened CCC. CCC told AAA to be quiet and went back to sleep. After a lapse of time, AAA felt someone pinch her arm. When she rose up she almost fell from the second deck of her double-deck bed because appellant grabbed and pulled her down while poking a knife at her. Then appellant covered her mouth and dragged her towards the living room saying things like "Wag ka na maingay, sumunod ka na lang sa sasabihin ko, " "Kung gusto mo ipitin o sasaksakin kita," and "Tutal may nangyari naman sa atin, sundin mo na lang ang sasabihin ko. " As AAA stepped back terrified of her father's intentions and begging him to stop, appellant said, "Gumalaw ka na diyan, kumilos ka na, tanggalin mo shorts mo." When AAA refused, appellant approached her and removed her shorts and pushed her down to [the] floor saying, "Sige sasaksakin na lang kita, pag naasar ako sa iyo, sasaksakin na lang kita. " Then appellant mounted on her, uttering, "Kasi gusto mo nasasaktan ka. Sana sumunod ka na lang sa akin." Then he separated her thighs and inserted his penis in her vagina and made a pumping motion. After appellant was through with her, he left.

Then on March 26, 1999 past 11:00 p.m., while the family was sound asleep, AAA was fixing things in their living room when appellant came from his bedroom and approached her with a knife. She said, "Pa, huwag" which angered appellant and the latter replied, "Nag-iingay ka na naman, kung gusto mo patayin kital" And as appellant was approaching her, appellant furthered, "Sundin mo na lang lahat ang gusto ko." Then appellant told her to change clothes and when she did not obey him, appellant punched her in the stomach. Then he ordered her again to change her clothes, prompting her to go to a cabinet facing the living room to change. As AAA was changing, appellant stood behind and watched while poking a knife at her. Then appellant removed her panties and ordered her to lie down. As he grabbed her by the arm, AAA tripped, causing her to fall to the ground. Appellant then mounted on her and had sex with her.

On February 15, 2000, appellant together with AAA and his son MMM went to the Mormon church to clean as appellant was the custodian thereof. After doing some cleaning, the three all went upstairs to get some boxes. Then appellant and MMM went downstairs and AAA was left to sweep and clean upstairs. After sweeping for 5-6 minutes, appellant came back with a knife, poked it at her, pulled down her shorts and panties and told her "Mahiga ka na dyan! Huwag ka nang maglaban-laban dahil baka dumating na ang kapatid mo " Then appellant raped her for ten minutes. Then sensing that someone was coming up the stairs, appellant immediately moved away from AAA.

It was MMM who came up the stairs. According to AAA, MMM saw her still naked on the lower part of her body and angrily told her, "Ate magsuot ka nga dyan ng short!" He also saw appellant beside her putting on his shorts. Then MMM told her to go home.

The following day, February 16, 2000, appellant discovered AAA's diary and upon reading it, he found out that AAA had written that he should not have been her father because he is a demon. This angered appellant and drove him to beat AAA in front of the family. However, AAA was not able to tell her mother of the rape incidents because she was afraid her father would harm her family. Then sometime in July 2000, AAA fled the family home leaving a letter to her mother telling the latter that she had been raped by appellant.

MMM, AAA's younger brother, corroborated his sister's testimony that on February 15, 2000, he, together with AAA and appellant, went to clean the Mormon church. He took some boxes from the church and brought them to their house. When he returned to the church he went up to the second floor and upon reaching the same he saw appellant and AAA naked with their genitals exposed. He also saw that his sister was crying. After AAA had left, appellant called MMM and told him not to talk to their mother about what he saw or else he (appellant) would stop sending them support. MMM thus kept what he witnessed to himself and he only informed his mother of the incident that he saw after AAA confided to their mother. [4]
On the other hand, the accused-appellant presented himself, his mother DDD (grandmother of AAA, the victim), and his daughter CCC (a sister of AAA). Their testimonies were summed up by the CA in its assailed decision, to wit:
DDD, AAA's grandmother and appellant's mother, testified that AAA is a hardheaded child who always answers [back to] her parents. She said that AAA stopped going to school because she was in the company of gangmates who did bad things. In 1997, barangay tanods arrested her together with her friends for possession of shabu.

As part of his evidence to prove that the sexual act he committed on AAA was consensual, appellant presented as witness AAA's sister, CCC, who executed a sworn statement to complain about the abuse committed by appellant on her and AAA.

At the trial, CCC testified that in February 1997, she saw her sister sitting on the lap of their father while both of them were naked. She recounted that her father was holding his sister's waist and was moving her sister up and down. She also recounted the time when she herself was subjected to sexual abuse by her father. She narrated that in 1996 appellant asked her to rub his stomach because it was painful. When she did, appellant asked her to lower her hand until she was able to touch his penis. Then in 1999, while she was sleeping, appellant woke her up whispering, "Mi, pakantot kapara tumalino ka."

After CCC gave her testimony and was subjected to cross-examination, appellant tried to impeach her as witness but to no avail.

As for appellant, he denied ever committing the crimes AAA was accusing her (sic) of, claiming that it was impossible for him to do so considering that he was working in Marikina City from 1996 to 1998. His work would start 8:00 a.m. then would end at 5:00 p.m. But since he had to render overtime, he would get off at 9:00 p.m. then arrive at home around 11:00 p.m. According to appellant, AAA filed the rape charges against him in order to get back at him for being a strict father especially when he found out that AAA had been using shabu. He also claimed to have seen AAA engaging in a sexual intercourse with the latter's boyfriend, a certain Michael, in their neighbor's house for which appellant spanked AAA for committing the act.[5]
On March 29, 2008, the RTC found and pronounced the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of all the five counts of qualified rape charged, disposing:
The foregoing considered, we find the accused Rolando M. Ramos GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of qualified rape under Article 335, Revised Penal Code (Crim. Case Nos. 01-065, 067 and 068) and two counts of qualified rape under Article 266-A. Paragraph 1 in relation to Article 266-B, Revised Penal Code (Crim. Case Nos. 01-064 and 066) and sentence him to serve a penalty of Reclusion Perpetua for each of the five counts.

We further order him to pay AAA P75,000.00 as civil indemnity for each of the five counts for a total of P375,000.00, P75,000.00 as moral damages for each of the five counts for a total of P375,000.00 and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages for each of the five counts for a total of P500,000.00 plus costs.

SO ORDERED.[6]
On appeal, the CA downgraded the five counts of qualified rape to simple rape considering that the State did not present AAA's birth certificate or another competent evidence to establish her minority at the time of the commission of the crimes.[7] Accordingly, the CA reduced to P50,000.00 for each count of rape the civil indemnity and moral damages awarded to AAA, and set exemplary damages of P25,000.00 for each count. [8]

The accused-appellant still appeals. On June 8, 2011, the Court noted the respective manifestations of the Office of the Solicitor General adopting its appellee's brief dated April 2, 2009 as its supplemental brief, and of the Public Attorney's Office waiving the supplemental brief.

Ruling of the Court

We AFFIRM the convictions for five counts of rape with further modification of the civil liabilities.

We reiterate that the findings of fact of the CA, when they affirm those of the trial court, are conclusive on this Court, which is not a trier of facts, unless the findings of the trial and the appellate courts are palpably unsupported by the evidence on record, or unless the judgment itself is based on a misapprehension of facts.[9] Such conclusiveness derives from the trial court's having the firsthand opportunity to observe the demeanor and manner of the victim when she testified at the trial.[10]

Moreover, AAA positively identified the accused-appellant, her own father, as the rapist on each occasion of the five counts of rape. The RTC and the CA considered her account of the rapes credible and trustworthy. We concur with both courts. We also note that her testimony on the rape that the accused-appellant had committed at the Mormon church was fully corroborated by MMM, her brother.

The attempt of the accused-appellant to discredit AAA by making it appear that some of the sexual acts had been consensual should necessarily fail. In so attempting, he presented CCC, the sister of AAA and another daughter of his. But his attempt backfired after CCC herself stated in court the effect that he had also subjected her to sexual abuse. Such testimony from CCC directly reinforced the credibility of AAA. To deflect the reinforcement of AAA's credibility, he then tried to impeach CCC despite her being his own witness. Such effort only highlighted his lack of credibility.

When it was his turn to testify, the accused-appellant denied committing some of the rapes complained of by pleading alibi. His alibi became worthless, however, in light of his defense being to the effect that some of the rapes had been consensual.

The RTC and the CA rightly disregarded the defense of the accused-appellant. Denial, the usual refuge of sexual offenders, is an inherently weak defense. To be believed, the denial must be buttressed by persuasive evidence of non-culpability.[11] Denial and alibi, being in the nature of self-serving negative evidence, cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declarations of a credible witness like AAA who testified on affirmative matters.[12]

Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the death penalty is imposed when the victim is under 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. Minority and relationship are thus special qualifying circumstances in rape that warrant the imposition of the mandatory penalty of death. Yet, such circumstances must be specifically averred in the information and duly established during trial. They should concur in the case. The failure to prove either one, even if both circumstances were alleged, would not support the conviction of the accused for qualified rape. Indeed, such circumstances, being special qualifying circumstances, must be alleged and proved beyond reasonable doubt.[13]

The State had the burden to prove the minority age of AAA at the time the rapes were committed. Sadly, the State did not tender independent proof of AAA's minority at the time of the rapes, like her certificate of live birth. Hence, the CA duly disregarded the circumstance of minority in arriving at the correct characterization of the crimes. Considering that minority and relationship did not concur, the accused-appellant was properly found guilty of five counts of simple rape. Consequently, the penalty for each count of rape is reclusion perpetua, pursuant to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code.

Nonetheless, we modify the civil liability of the accused-appellant to conform to People v. Jugueta, [14] pursuant to which civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages are each fixed at P75,000.00, plus interest of 6% per annum from the finality of this resolution until full payment.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on September 16, 2010 subject to the MODIFICATION that accused ROLANDO RAMOS MANLAPIG shall pay to victim AAA for each count of rape the following: (1) P75,000.00 as civil indemnity; (2) P75,000.00 as moral damages; and (3) P75,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

The accused-appellant shall further pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-28; penned by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza, with Associate Justice RosalindaAsuncion-Vicente and Associate Justice Elihu A. Ybañez concurring.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 45-48; penned by Presiding Judge Dennis Patrick Z. Perez.

[3] Rollo, pp. 2-5.

[4] Id. at 6-10.

[5] Id. at 11-12.

[6] CA rollo, pp. 47-48.

[7] Rollo, p. 25.

[8] Id. at 27.

[9] Pangonorom vPeople, G.R. No. 143380, April 11, 2005, 455 SCRA 211, 220.

[10] People v. Quimzon, G.R. No. 133541, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 261, 271; People v. Brecinio, G.R. No. 138534, March 17,2004, 425 SCRA 616, 622.

[11] People vs. Asilan, G.R. No. 188322, April 11, 2012, 669 SCRA 405, 419.

[12] People v. Mala, G.R. No. 152351, September 18, 2003, 411 SCRA 327, 336.

[13] People v. Valez, G.R. No. 136738, March 12, 2001, 354 SCRA 225, 241.

[14] G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016.

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