Delayed rape report does NOT weaken the charge

FIRST DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 198788, January 15, 2014 ]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES V. ANTON GALERA A.K.A. JORDAN GALERA.


We resolve the appeal, filed by accused-appellant Anton Galera, from the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision dated 11 March 2011 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. NO. 03630.[1] The CA Decision affirmed that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Agoo, La Union, Branch 32, in Criminal Case No. A-5202.[2] The RTC found accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape.

The RTC Ruling

In its Decision dated 29 October 2008, the RTC convicted accused-appellant of rape committed against AAA. It gave credence to the evidence of the prosecution particularly the victim's candid, straightforward and consistent testimony that accused-appellant suddenly accosted her while she was on her way home after fetching water and brought her to a forested area, where he consummated the crime by threatening to kill her if she resisted.[3] The victim, a mental retardate, kept quiet about the rape because accused-appellant also threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The victim was only able to reveal her ordeal when her mother noticed that she had become pregnant.[4] The victim was also able to categorically identify accused-appellant in court.[5]

The RTC rejected accused-appellant's alibi.[6] The trial court explained that the testimony of the accused that he was working in Baguio City from September 2002 to 2005 did not rule out his presence at the scene of the crime in nearby Rosario, La Union in September 2004.[7] In fact, he even admitted to staying in the latter place on holidays and weekends. Consequently, the RTC sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He was also ordered to indemnify the victim in the sum of P50,000 and to pay the same amount as moral damages.[8]

The CA Ruling

The CA affirmed the Decision of the RTC. It agreed with the trial court that the testimony of the victim was credible. The CA said that as long as her testimony met the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on that sole basis. It also emphasized that she could not have spoken so explicitly on the details of the rape if she had not in fact gone through such harrowing experience. It also noted that AAA was able to identify the accused-appellant not just once but twice in spite of attempts by the defense to confuse her.We now rule on the final review of this case.

Our Ruling

We deny the appeal and affirm the assailed CA Decision in all respects.

Unless trial courts are found to have plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value, their conclusions on the credibility of witnesses should be respected.[9] We see no reason to deviate from this rule in the case at bar. After a thorough examination of the transcript[10] of the testimony of AAA, it is clear to this Court that her testimony was spontaneous, clear, candid, and free from serious material inconsistencies. We emphasize that a victim's testimony alone, if credible as in this case, is sufficient to convict the accused of the crime.[11]

We also note that the failure of AAA to report her ordeal is not unique. Many victims of rape would choose to suffer in silence rather than put the life of their loved ones in danger. Delay in reporting rape cases does not by itself undermine the charge, where the delay is grounded on threats from the accused.[12] Delay in revealing the commission of a crime such as rape does not necessarily render the charge unworthy of belief.[13] This is because the victim may choose to keep quiet rather than expose her defilement to the harsh glare of public scrutiny. Only when the delay is unreasonable or unexplained may it work to discredit the complainant.[14] Moreover, rape victims should not be expected to act reasonably at all times.[15] Indeed, the workings of the human mind are unpredictable when placed under emotional stress.[16]

READ: SC acquits impotent 69-year-old rape accused - Project Jurisprudence.

Accused-appellant assails the credibility of AAA based upon the admission of her mother that the latter had supplied some of the answers in the victim's statement before the NBI. While such fact may render AAA's statement before the NBI unreliable, it does not detract from the credibility of her testimony in open court which the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, found credible. We also emphasize that no mother in her right mind would subject her child to the humiliation, disgrace and trauma attendant to the prosecution of rape cases, unless the mother was motivated by her desire to incarcerate the person responsible for her daughter's defilement.[17]

We also reject accused-appellant's defense of alibi. We reiterate that alibi is an inherently weak defense that is easy to fabricate.[18] Accused-appellant failed to present clear and convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs criminis at the time the crime was committed, such that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed.[19] As the CA noted, Baguio City is only two hours away by bus from Rosario, La Union, where the crime was committed.[20] Moreover, accused-appellant admitted that he would go home to Rosario on weekends.[21] The Certification that he offered as evidence that purportedly attested to the fact that he was in Baguio City at the time the rape was committed does not deserve weight for being hearsay, since it was not authenticated by its author.[22] Also, as the trial court noted, the certification showed that there were days when he did not report for work. [23]

This Court is, therefore, convinced without any reservation that accused-appellant is guilty of rape. As for the penalty, we find that reclusion perpetua was properly imposed. We also affirm the amounts of damages awarded. However, we additionally award P30,000 as exemplary damages to discourage criminals from preying on hapless victims such as mental retardates.[24] We also impose interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum on all damages awarded from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.[25]

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED. Accused-appellant Anton Galera, a.k.a Jordan Galera, is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is also ordered to pay P50,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as moral damages and P30,000 as exemplary damages. Interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum is imposed on all damages awarded from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando and concurred in by Associate Justices Celia C. Librea-Leagogo and Michael P. Elbinias; rollo, pp. 2-15.[2] Penned by Presiding Judge Jennifer A. Pilar; CA rollo, pp. 21 -26.
[3] CA rollo, p. 58; RTC Decision dated 29 October 2008, p. 2.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at p. 61; RTC Decision dated 29 October 2008, p. 5.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id. at p. 62; RTC Decision dated 29 October 2008, p. 6.
[9] People v. Padre-e, 319 Phil. 545, 554 (1995).
[10] TSN, 6 February 2008, p. 11; TSN, 4 June 2008, p.5.
[11] People v. Dion, G.R. No. 181035,4 July 201 1,653 SCRA 117, 137, citing People v. Ferrer, 415 Phil. 188, 199 (2001).
[12] People v. Villanueva, 324 Phil. 443 (1996).
[13] People v. Casil, 311 Phil. 300 (1995).
[14] People v. Navarette, Jr., G.R. No. 191365, 22 February 2012, 666 SCRA 689, citing People v. Ariola, 418 Phil. 808, 821 (2001).
[15] People v. Sevilla, 377 Phil 933 (1999); People v. Lampaza, 377 Phil. 119 (1999); People v. Santos, 418 Phil. 299 (2001).
[16] People v. Burgos, 421 Phil. 1006 (2001).
[17] People v. Lomerio, 383 Phil. 434, 452 (2000).
[18] People v. Arpon, G.R. No. 183563, 14 December 2011, 662 SCRA 506, 529.
[19] Id.
[20] Rollo, p. 13. CA Decision dated 11 March 2011, p. 12.
[21] Id. at p. 14. CA Decision dated 11 March 2011, p. 13.
[22] Id.
[23] CA rollo, p. 26; RTC Decision dated 29 October 2008, p. 6.
[24] People v. Welfredo Garcia, G.R. No. 202128, 19 June 2013; People vMoises Caoile, G.R. No. 203041, June 5, 2013; People v. Marcial Bayrante, G.R. No. 188978, 13 June 2012.
[25] People v. Caoile, G.R. No. 203041, 5 June 2013 citing Sison v. People, G.R. No. 187229, 22 February 2012, 666 SCRA 645.

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