Qualified rape; minority, relationship

With respect to the element that makes the offense qualified rape, that is, the minority of the victim coupled with the fact that the accused is related to her within the third civil degree, it bears stressing that both minority and the third degree relationship must be established.

In the case of People v. Galvez (G.R. No. 212929. July 29, 2015), no birth certificate was offered in evidence to prove AAA’s age. Neither was there any other authentic document offered to prove AAA’s age. It must also be pointed out that there is doubt as to AAA’s real age based on the records of this case as, for instance, she testified to being 12 years old, on December 13, 1995 (6 months after the incident of rape). The Medico-Legal Certificate dated May 24, 1995 stated that AAA was 14 years old. Ms. Angustia R. Clavecilla also testified that AAA was 12 years old at the time the felony was committed. AAA herself said that she does not know when she was born. Contrary to this, the Informations alleged that she was 13 years old at the time the felony was committed.

In People v. Ortega (G.R. No. 186235), the Supreme Court explained how to resolve this doubt in the victim’s age: "Given the doubt as to AAA’s exact age, the RTC properly convicted Ortega only of simple rape punishable by reclusion perpetua."In People v. Alvarado, the death penalty was not imposed because the victim’s age was not satisfactorily established, thus:
“We agree, however, that accused-appellant should not have been meted the death penalty on the ground that the age of complainant was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. The information alleged that, on July 26, 1997, the date of the rape, Arlene was 14 years old. In her testimony, Arlene stated that she was 14 years old at the time of the incident. Accused-appellant confirmed this during the presentation of the defense evidence, but Lonelisa Alvarado, complainant’s mother, testified that Arlene was born on November 23, 1983, which would mean she was only 13 years old on the date of the commission of the crime. No other evidence was ever presented, such as her certificate of live birth or any other document, to prove Arlene’s exact age at the time of the crime. As minority is a qualifying circumstance, it must be proved with equal certainty and clearness as the crime itself. There must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by accused-appellant. Since there is doubt as to Arlene’s exact age, accused-appellant must be held guilty of simple rape only and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
The High Court further stressed in People v. Villarama (445 Phil. 323, 341-342, 2003) that:
“Court decisions on the rape of minors invariably state that, in order to justify the imposition of the death penalty, there must be independent evidence showing the age of the victim. Testimonies on the victim’s age given by the prosecution witnesses or the lack of denial of the accused or even his admission thereof on the witness stand [are] not sufficient. This Court has held that, to justify the imposition of the death penalty for rape committed against a child below 7, the minority of the victim must be proved with equal certainty and clarity as the crime itself. The failure to sufficiently establish the victim’s age with factual certainty and beyond reasonable doubt is fatal and consequently bars conviction for rape in its qualified form.”
It must likewise be remembered that the minority of the victim must concur with the second component which is the third degree relationship between the victim and the offender. As to such second component of the qualifying circumstance, People v. Libo-on (410 Phil. 378, 406-407, 2001) teaches:
It is well-settled that this attendant circumstance, as well as the other circumstances introduced by Republic Act Nos. 7659 and 8493 are in the nature of qualifying circumstances. These attendant circumstances are not ordinary aggravating circumstances which merely increase the period of the penalty. Rather, these are special qualifying circumstances which must be specifically pleaded or alleged with certainty in the information; otherwise, the death penalty cannot be imposed.
In this regard, we have previously held that if the offender is merely a relation – not a parent, ascendant, step-parent, or guardian or common-law spouse of the mother of the victim – it must be alleged in the information that he is “a relative by consanguinity or affinity (as the case may be) within the third civil degree.” Thus, in the instant case, the allegation that accused-appellant is the uncle of private complainant is not specific enough to satisfy the special qualifying circumstance of relationship. The relationship by consanguinity or affinity between appellant and complainant was not alleged in the information in this case. Even if it were so alleged, it was still necessary to specifically allege that such relationship was within the third civil degree.
In the case of People v. Galvez (G.R. No. 212929. July 29, 2015), since the Informations contained only a statement that the accused-appellant was the uncle of AAA without stating that they were relatives within the third civil degree, the qualifying circumstance of relationship cannot likewise be appreciated in the case at bar.

In sum, since the prosecution was able to prove the elements of carnal knowledge and the moral ascendancy of accused-appellant over AAA but failed to clearly prove the age of AAA and allege the third degree relationship between accused-appellant and AAA, accused-appellant should be convicted of the crimes of simple rape only.
ADDITIONAL READINGS:

[1] REVISED PENAL CODE (1930), Article 335, as amended by R.A. No. 7659 (1993).
[2] TSN, December 13, 1995, p. 16; records, p. 370.
[3] G.R. No. 186235, January 25, 2012, 664 SCRA 273, 290-292.
[4] 429 Phil. 208, 224 (2002) as cited in People v. Ortega, id. at 290-291.
[5] 445 Phil. 323, 341-342 (2003) as cited in People v. Ortega, id. at 291-292.
[6] 410 Phil. 378, 406-407 (2001).

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