Hymen wound = NOT important to prove Rape

THIRD DIVISION [ G.R. No. 234685, January 08, 2018 ] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. ALFONSO TAN.

This resolves the appeal by accused-appellant Alfonso Tan (Tan) from his conviction by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 81, Romblon, Romblon, promulgated on June 7, 2016, for the crime of rape, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, Special Sixteenth Division, in its presently assailed Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 08569dated August 31, 2017.

Accused-appellant was charged in an Information worded as follows:
That on or about the 23rd day of August 2007, at around 8:00 o'clock in the evening at Brgy. Carmen, San Agustin, Province of Romblon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, through force, threat, intimidation, and by taking advantage of the minority and lack of education of [AAA], did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously had carnal knowledge of [AAA], a minor, 12 years of age at the time of the rape incident, without her consent and against her will, and that the commission of the crime of rape demeans, debases, and degrades the intrinsic worth and dignity of said [AAA] as a human being.

Contrary to law.
During arraignment, Tan pleaded Not Guilty. He filed a Petition to Grant and Fix Bail, and reception of evidence for that purpose immediately followed.[1]

Version of the Prosecution

AAA testified that on the day of the incident, on August 23, 2007, she was raped by a "Sir Alfon," whom she identified in open court to be the accused-appellant Tan. The incident happened at the nipa hut owned by Tan at Barangay Carmen, San Agustin, Romblon, at around 8:00 in the evening. At the time, her friend CCC was with her. Sir Alfon asked her to massage him, and she proceeded to massage Tan's neck, back, hands, and feet. Tan then went inside the room of the hut, and called her to go inside. CCC remained outside the hut. Once inside, Tan tightly embraced her, laid her on the bed, removed her shorts, and spread her legs. The accused then inserted his penis into her vagina. The penis of Tan did not fully penetrate her, but only half of it.The act lasted for about five minutes. Later, she felt pain and she noticed that her vagina was bleeding. She stood up and put on her panty and underwear, and Tan gave her One Hundred Pesos (P100.00), warning her not to tell her parents and classmates about the incident.[2]

AAA's mother, BBB, also testified that on September 14, 2007, her daughter confided in her that Sir Alfon, referring to accused-appellant Tan, raped her. She immediately brought AAA to San Agustin Police Station to report the matter. Along with a local DSWD personnel, they brought AAA to Tablas Island District Hospital, to be examined medically by Dr. Fermin Fatalla (Dr. Fatalla). After the examination, she read the medical examination report, which indicated that there were no lacerations or injury in AAA's vagina. She did not believe the report, and on September 24, 2007, she and her daughter went to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Romblon to report the matter. A second medical examination was conducted, this time by Dr. Jacqueline San Juan-Panday (Dr. San Juan-Panday), which indicated that there was incomplete laceration.[3] BBB knows the accused, Sir Alfon, because the mother of his wife is a close friend. Sir Alfon is a utility worker in XYZ Elementary School.

Dr. San Juan-Panday, a private medical doctor, conducted the medical examination on AAA on September 24, 2007. Her examination of AAA revealed that the latter had small incomplete laceration at the 3 o'clock position, and the laceration can be described as superficial and deep. As explained at the stand, the laceration is superficial which means that it does not go beyond half of the hymen. According to her, the superficial laceration of the hymen of a twelve (12) year old can be caused by a shallow penetration because the hymen can only be destroyed by a male sexual organ.[4]

Version of the Defense

Accused-appellant Tan testified in his own defense. He testified that he is 47 years old, married, and works as an Administrative Aide of Carmen Elementary School and a resident of Brgy. Carmen, San Agustin, Romblon. At around 8:00 in the evening of August 23, 2007, he was in is house with his wife and his three children aged 11, 7, and 5. The family was watching television in the living room when AAA arrived and told him that she was going to watch television too. It was not the first time that AAA came to Alfonso's house because she would go there in the past with her mother. After watching the news on television for about fifteen minutes, AAA went out. Soon after, he went to bed, and denied going anywhere else after. He also denied ever asking AAA to give him a massage, and denied that he had sexual intercourse with her.

Ruling of the RTC

In its Judgment promulgated on June 7, 2016, the RTC found accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged. The trial court gave full credence to the straightforward testimony by the victim, AAA. It ruled that accused-appellant's attempt to discredit the testimony of the victim, for her failure or inability to recall the minutest details of the incident complained of, deserves scant consideration, because an errorless testimony cannot be expected of a victim, for she may not be able to remember and recount every ugly detail of the harrowing and appalling experience.[5] The RTC took particular note of the testimony of the accused-appellant that the victim came to his house on a Sunday to watch news on television for about 15 minutes. The RTC noted:
[c]ommon experience tells us that a child has no interest yet in watching the news as they only loved to watch drama and adventure type television program specially to a girl like the victim, more so if doing the same would have to make them travel on foot for about a kilometer. To the mind of this Court, the only strong reason is that she was sent there to do an errand, and that is to perform a massage to her Sir Alfon, who obviously took advantage of his moral ascendancy over the victim, and not because the victim wants to watch at their television. During the direct testimony of the victim and her mother, they would always refer to accused Alfonso M. Tan as "Sir Alfon" although he is not even a teacher in Carmen Elementary School.[6]
The RTC ruled that the prosecution was able to successfully establish all the elements of rape under paragraph 1 (a), Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code. Said the RTC:
What is now clear is that the victim was able to identify the accused in open court as the one who was the author of the despicable act she complained of. The Supreme Court held that bare denial of the accused cannot overcome the categorical and positive testimony of the victim. Being unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, his defense deserves no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of [AAA], who is, to the mind of this Court, a credible witness.

Certainly, medical examination is not indispensable in the prosecution of rape. The victim's testimony alone, if credible, suffices to convict. It is a well-settled rule that a medical report is not even necessary in a prosecution for rape, as long as the evidence on hand convinces the court that conviction is proper. The fact that the hymen was still intact does not negate the existence of rape, because there can be rape even without the rupture of the hymen, (citations omitted)
Finally, the RTC ruled that the minority of the victim cannot be appreciated against the accused-appellant, considering that no other evidence was introduced regarding the matter except the bare testimony of the victim AAA. Hence, her minority cannot be considered an aggravating or qualifying circumstance. Citing People v. Tabanggay, the RTC ruled that there must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than her own testimony and the absence of denial by the accused. While the prosecution presented a photocopy of the victim's birth certificate, no probative value can be given to it, because it was neither duly certified, nor formally offered in evidence. Thus, the RTC concluded that the victim's minority was not sufficiently proven.

Nevertheless, it proceeded to sentence the accused-appellant for rape, as it dispositively held:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds accused ALFONSO M. TAN GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of RAPE under paragraph 1 (a) Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, and is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay the victim, AAA the amount of Php 50,000.00 as civil indemnity, Php 75,000.00 as moral damages.

The bond posted by the accused is cancelled and let a commitment order be issued forthwith.[7]
Accused-appellant appealed his conviction to the CA.

Ruling of the CA

In the presently assailed Decision of the CA,[8] it affirmed the conviction of the accused-appellant for rape. The CA stressed that when it comes to credibility of witnesses, the trial court's assessment deserves great weight and is even conclusive on the appellate court, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight or influence. The CA then concurred with the finding of the trial court that the straightforward and credible testimony of the victim is sufficient to convict accused-appellant for rape. The CA further noted that hymenal injury, which the accused-appellant claims to be absent, has never been an element of rape, because the essence of rape is the carnal knowledge of a female either against her will or without her consent.[9] Moreover, the CA agreed with the finding of the trial court that the moral ascendancy of the accused-appellant over the victim properly substitutes for the element of force, threat, or intimidation. The CA wrote:
It must be emphasized at this point that "The force, violence, or intimidation in rape is a relative term, depending not only on the age, size, and strength of the parties but also on their relationship with each other." Hence, it has been held that "for rape to exist, it is not necessary that the force and intimidation employed in accomplishing it be so great or of such character as could not be resisted, it is only necessary that the force or intimidation be sufficient to consummate the purpose which the accused had in mind. Intimidation must be viewed in the light of the victim's perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the crime and not by any hard and fast rule.[10]
The CA, however, increased the award for civil indemnity to P75,000, and added an award for exemplary damages in the amount of P75,000.00. The CA maintained the trial court's award of P75,000 for moral damages. The CA then disposed of the appeal thus:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 81, Romblon, Romblon, in Criminal Case No. 2918, finding Alfonso Tan guilty of the crime of Rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS in that the accused-appellant is ORDERED to pay AAA the amount of Php75,000 as civil indemnity, Php75,000 as moral damages, and Php75,000.00 as exemplary damages with interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of the Decision until fully paid.[11]
The Issue

The sole issue in the pending appeal is whether the CA gravely erred in affirming the conviction of accused-appellant for the crime of rape.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal lacks merit. The prosecution has sufficiently established his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, his conviction must be sustained.

The accused-appellant's defense falls flat in the face of the direct, credible, and straightforward testimony of the victim. The element of carnal knowledge was sufficiently established by the credible narration of events by the victim, and her positive identification of the accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the offense. Jurisprudence is replete with rulings to the effect that the testimonies of child victims are given full weight and credit. The Court's pronouncement in People v. Corpuz[12] is instructive:
When a woman, more so if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity. 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.
Here, the minority of the victim, as well as the candidness, spontaneity, and straightforwardness observed by the trial court in her testimony, only leads more credence to her testimony that rape actually occurred. On the other hand, the accused-appellant can only offer his bare denial, not supported by any other evidence on record.

Neither is the first medical examination report indicating that there was no laceration of the victim's hymen a fatal flaw in the case of the prosecution. As correctly ruled by the trial court, laceration of the hymen has never been an element of rape. As held by the Court in People v. Trayco, "full penetration of the vaginal orifice is not an essential ingredient, nor is the rupture of the hymen necessary, to conclude that carnal knowledge took place; the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis that is capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge."[13]In addition, the first medical examination report did not contain a definitive statement that sexual abuse could not have been committed. Meanwhile, the second medical examination report, as well as the testimony of Dr. San Juan-Panday, directly identifies penile penetration to be the cause for the superficial laceration found in the victim's hymen. That, coupled with the victim's testimony, is sufficient to convict the accused-appellant. In People v. Pamintuan,[14] the Court had the opportunity to rule that a medico-legal report is not indispensable to the prosecution of a rape case, it being merely corroborative in nature. Hence, the credible identification of the victim, AAA, that the accused-appellant raped her, is the most important proof of the commission of the crime.

Hence, the Court is constrained to affirm the accused-appellant's conviction for rape. Additionally, We note that the CA correctly adjusted the amounts of the monetary awards, in keeping with recent jurisprudence. The CA also correctly imposed an additional award of P75,000 to serve as exemplary damages.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals, Special Sixteenth Division, in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 08569, dated August 31, 2017, affirming the accused-appellant's conviction for the offense of rape, is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.

SO ORDERED.

[1] RTC Decision, p. 2, rollo, p. 197.
[2] Rollo, p. 198.
[3] Rollo, p. 199.
[4] Rollo, p. 200.
[5] Rollo, p. 76
[6] Rollo, p. 202.
[7] Rollo, p. 206.
[8] Penned by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza and concurred in by Associate Justices Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez and Renato C. Francisco.
[9] Rollo, p. 18.
[10] Rollo, p. 20.
[11] Rollo, p. 2118.
[12] G.R. No. 168101, February 13, 2006.
[13] G.R. No. 171313, August 14, 2009.
[14] G.R. No. 192239, June 5, 2013.

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