G.R. No. 194258. Jan 15, 2014

FIRST DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 194258, January 15, 2014 ]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES V. RODOLFO APORDO HELIM ALIAS "OMPO".


This is an appeal from the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) Cagayan de Oro City affirming the Judgment[2] of the Regional Trial Court of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, Branch 19 (RTC), finding appellant guilty of four counts of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count.

THE INFORMATION

Criminal Case No. 3530
The undersigned Provincial Prosecutor accuses RODOLFO HELIM alias OMPO of the crime of RAPE, committed as follows:
That on or about 9:00 o'clock in the evening of January 30, 2005, at Sitio Malingawon, Barangay Biwang, Municipality of Bagumbayan, Province of Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with lewd and unchaste designs, with used [sic] of a deadly weapon (12 Gauge Shotgun), and by means of force and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, lie and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of one [AAA],[3] his fourteen (14) years [sic] old step daughter against her will and consent which act of the respondents [sic] debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being.

The aggravating/qualifying circumstance that the victim is below eighteen (18) years old, and stepdaughter of the accused and with used [sic] of a deadly weapon attended the commission of the crime of rape.
CONTRARY TO LAW, particularly under Article 266-A par. 1 subparagraph (a) and (c) in relation to Article 266-B paragraph 2 and 6 sub-paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines and Republic Act No. 7610.

Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, August 28, 2006.[4]
Filed against appellant were three more identically worded Informations for rape docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 3531-3533 committed on 10 February 2005 at 9:00 p.m., 10 February 2005 at 10:00 p.m., and 8 March 2005 at 6:00 p.m., respectively.[5]

RULING OF THE RTC

On 3 March 2008, the RTC rendered a Judgment finding appellant guilty of four counts of rape qualified by the twin circumstances of minority and relationship under Article 266-B, paragraph 6(1) of the Revised Penal Code. The RTC sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count.[6] For each of the four counts of rape, appellant was also ordered to pay AAA the amounts of P75,000 as civil indemnity, P75,000 as moral damages and P25,000 as exemplary damages.The use of a deadly weapon was not considered in the imposition of the penalty, although the trial court noted that appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA while holding a 12-gauge shotgun.[7]

The RTC entertained no doubt as to the truth of the narration of AAA and found it inconceivable for a girl of such young age to concoct a rape complaint.[8] That she did not put up a determined resistance to the sexual advances of appellant did not make her claim of rape any less true.[9] Being the stepfather of AAA, appellant had sufficient moral ascendancy and influence to intimidate and force her to submit to his desire.[10]

The trial court also alluded to the medical findings of the municipal health officer - that AAA's hymen had been lacerated - as the most telling and irrefutable physical evidence of sexual abuse. Worse, AAA was found to be 10 weeks pregnant at the time of the medical examination on 21 March 2005,[11] most likely caused by the first instance of sexual abuse.

The RTC gave no weight to the defense of appellant that AAA filed the rape complaints to get back at him for beating her. Appellant claimed that the reason he punished AAA was that she had stolen the money set aside for the school and food expenses of the family.[12] The trial court did not believe that this was a satisfactory reason for AAA to impute to appellant a charge as serious as rape.[13]

RULING OF THE CA

On 28 July 2010, the CA rendered a Decision affirming the Judgment of the RTC, with the modification that the award of exemplary damages for each count of rape was increased to P30,000.[14]

The CA extended full confirmation to the correctness of the factual findings of the trial court.[15] According to the appellate court, the testimony of AAA bore all the earmarks of truth and credibility. It stated that if she was really motivated by the beating she got from appellant, she could have easily filed a case against him for maltreatment, and not sexual abuse.[16]

ISSUE

Whether the prosecution was able to prove the guilt of appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

OUR RULING

We answer in the affirmative.

As early as People v. Royeras,[17] we have already enunciated that when a girl says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed. This is particularly true in the case of child-victims, whose testimonies are given full weight and credit by the courts, considering their relative vulnerability and the repercussions that they would face if what they narrated were not true.[18]

In this case, AAA has shown by her testimony that she was indeed raped by appellant. She had been left in his care when her mother started working in Manila in 2003.[19] She had no one else with her other than her younger brother.[20] Appellant would threaten AAA that he would kill her and her brother if she told anybody.[21] Furthermore, the stage of her pregnancy at the time of the medical examination coincided with the first instance of sexual abuse that she narrated.

Appellant insists that the admission of AAA that she was maltreated is enough to show that she had ill motive to testify against him.[22] We find no merit in this argument. There is sense in the CA's reasoning that if retribution for the beating was what she sought, AAA could have just filed a case for maltreatment.

Appellant also assails the validity of his warrantless arrest, because it does not fall under any of the circumstances provided in Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.[23] According to him, he was arrested 10 days after the last alleged rape.[24]

We cannot uphold this contention either. Before his arraignment, appellant never raised the issue of the illegality of his arrest or moved for the quashal of the Informations against him on this ground. His failure to question the legality of his arrest before entering his plea operated as a waiver of that defense.[25]

We find merit, however, in appellant's assertion that each and every charge of rape is a separate and distinct crime, and each should be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution.[26] AAA's statement was that she could only recall the first instance of rape that took place on 30 January 2005. On that day, appellant beat her, threatened her with a 12-gauge shotgun, forcibly took off her shorts and underwear and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of her.[27]

However, the statement that appellant raped her almost the same way during the second, third and fourth instances[28] is insufficient to convict him under the corresponding criminal Informations. A simple assertion that the subsequent instances of rape occurred in the same manner as the previous incident is clearly inadequate and grossly insufficient to establish the guilt of appellant to a degree of moral certainty. [29]

We therefore adopt the findings of the RTC as affirmed by the CA only insofar as the rape charged under Criminal Case No. 3530 is concerned. Appellant must be acquitted of the charges of rape under Criminal Case Nos. 3531-3533 on the ground of reasonable doubt.

We modify the penalty imposed on appellant.

The criminal Information for rape under Criminal Case No. 3530 alleges the qualifying circumstances of minority, relationship, and the use of a deadly weapon.

Contrary to the allegations of appellant, the minority of AAA was established by the prosecution through the presentation of her Certificate of Live Birth,[30] which stated that she was born on 11 August 1991. As correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General,[31] she was only 13 years old on 30 January 2005.

However, while appellant has admitted that he is married to the mother of AAA and that he is the victim's stepfather,[32] it was still incumbent upon the prosecution to present the marriage contract between appellant and AAA's mother.[33] We had occasion to rule that the declaration of the appellant that he is married to the victim's mother, even if made in the course of the proceedings in the trial court, is not conclusive proof that the two are legally married.[34] An admission alone, without more, does not establish the fact of the stepfather-stepdaughter relationship between appellant and the rape victim.

Nevertheless, we find that the prosecution, through the testimony of AAA, has established the use of a deadly weapon, particularly a 12-gauge shotgun, in the commission of the rape. The record shows that appellant threatened AAA and leveled his gun at her during the rape.[35]

Rape, when committed with the use of a deadly weapon, is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death.[36] Death is imposed when an aggravating circumstance is present in the commission of the crime.[37]

It is worth noting that the RTC appreciated the twin circumstances of minority and relationship. When either one of the twin special qualifying circumstances of relationship and minority is omitted or lacking, that which is pleaded in the Information and proved by the evidence may be considered as an aggravating circumstance.[38] Thus, in People v. Esperanza,[39] we held that the minority of the victim may be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance when pleaded in the Informations and proved by her birth certificate. In this case, AAA's minority was pleaded in the Informations and proven by her Certificate of Live Birth.

Finding that appellant committed rape with the use of a deadly weapon, and appreciating minority as an aggravating circumstance, we rule that the proper penalty to be imposed on appellant is death. Since the imposition of the death penalty has been prohibited by Republic Act No. 9346,[40] the penalty that shall be imposed on appellant is reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.[41]

As to the award of damages, we find that the awards of civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages made by the CA are in keeping with prevailing jurisprudence.[42] These awards shall earn interest at the rate of 6% from the finality of this Resolution until fully paid.[43]

WHEREFORE, appellant Rodolfo Apordo Helim alias "Ompo" is found GUILTY of the crime of rape charged under Criminal Case No. 3530 and hereby SENTENCED to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole in lieu of death. He is also ORDERED to pay AAA the amounts of P75,000 as civil indemnity, P75,000 as moral damages, and P30,000 as exemplary damages plus legal interest at the rate of 6% from the finality of this Resolution until the amounts due are fully paid.

Appellant is ACQUITTED of the charges of rape under Criminal Case Nos. 3531-3533 on the ground of reasonable doubt.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 5-21. The Decision dated 28 July 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) Cagayan de Oro City Twenty-first Division in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00619-MIN was penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, with Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Edgardo T. Lloren concurring.[2] CA rollo, pp. 3-26; in Criminal Case Nos. 3530, 3531, 3532 and 3533 dated 3 March 2008.
[3] The real name of the victim is withheld to protect her identity and privacy, pursuant to Section 29 of Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act).
[4] Records, p. 1.
[5] CA rollo, pp. 30-35.
[6] Id. at 23-26.
[7] Id. at 17.
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 18.
[10] Id.
[11] Id. at 8-9.
[12] Id. at 12.
[13] Id. at 20.
[14] Rollo, p. 20.
[15] Id. at 18.
[16] Id.
[17] 155 Phil. 609 (1974).
[18] People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 200529, 19 September 2012, 681 SCRA 465.
[19] CA rollo, p. 12.
[20] Id. at 15.
[21] Id. at 16.
[22] Id. at 54.
[23] Section 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. — A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:
(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;
(b) When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and
(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. In cases falling under paragraph (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112. (5a)
[24] CA rollo, p. 55.
[25] People v. Tan, G.R. No. 191069, 15 November 2010, 634 SCRA 773, 786.
[26] CA rollo, p. 56.
[27] Records, p. 9.
[28] Id.
[29] People v. Dela Torre, 464 Phil. 23 (2004); People v. Lilo, 444 Phil. 778 (2003).
[30] Records, p. 82.
[31] CA rollo, p. 114.
[32] Id. at 12.
[33] People v. Santos, 452 Phil. 1046 (2003); People v. De Taza, G.R. Nos. 136286-89, 11 September 2003, 410 SCRA 518; People v. Silvano, 428 Phil. 729 (2002).
[34] People v. Victor, 441 Phil. 798 (2002); People v. Evangelista, 419 Phil. 80 (2001).
[35] Records, pp. 9, 12-13.
[36] REVISED PENAL CODE, Art. 266-B, par. 2.
[37] Id. at Art. 63, par. 2(1).
[38] People v. Bayya, 384 Phil. 519 (2000); People v. Escaño, 427 Phil. 162 (2002).
[39] 453 Phil. 54 (2003).
[40] An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines, which took effect on 24 June 2006.
[41] Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 states: "Person convicted of offenses punishable 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.
[42] People v. Osma, Jr., G.R. No. 187734, 29 August 2012, 679 SCRA 428; People v. Lauga, G.R. No. 186228, 15 March 2010, 615 SCRA 548.
[43] People v. Vitero, G.R. No. 175327, 3 April 2013, 695 SCRA 54; People v. Amistoso, G.R. No. 201447, 9 January 2013, 688 SCRA 376.

Popular Posts