SC: 13yo rape victim's testimony 'given full credit'

THIRD DIVISION [ G.R. No. 214764, June 29, 2016 ] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. NARDING METRILLO Y FATROSINIA.

The accused-appellant, Narding Metrillo y Fatrosinia (Metrillo), challenges in this appeal[1] the Decision[2] dated May 31, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CRHC-04783, which affirmed the Joint Judgment[3] of conviction for two (2) counts of Qualified Rape rendered against him on November 17, 2010 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 31, in Criminal Case Nos. 6132-33-SPL.

The 13-year-old victim, AAA,[4] testified that sometime in March 2004, while sleeping in their residence in San Pedro, Laguna, her father, Metrillo, pointed a knife at her side and right cheek. With his other hand, Metrillo removed her panty and short pants and inserted his penis into her vagina. Thereafter, she heard her father say "teka lalabasan na ako" and a white substance came out of his penis. On account of Metrillo's threat to harm her, she did not report what her father did to her that night.[5]According to AAA, the rape was repeated many times that she cannot remember their exact dates but claimed that the last incident happened in October 2006. She further testified that it would usually happen at 2 p.m., whenever her father had taken shabu. During those times, her mother was out working and her siblings were attending their classes in school.[6]

On November 20, 2006, knowing that Metrillo would rape her again after the former told her to skip class, AAA went to her uncle's house in the nearby barangay. She gathered her courage and informed him that she had been repeatedly raped by her father.- Immediately, her uncle accompanied her to the barangay hall and the police station to lodge a complaint.[7]

The prosecution likewise presented Dr. Roy Camarillo, Medico-Legal Officer of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory at Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba City. He testified that after examination, he found that AAA sustained shallow and deep-healed hymenal lacerations possibly caused by the penetration or insertion of a blunt object like an erect male penis or finger. He concluded that AAA was sexually abused.[8]

For his defense, Metrillo denied the charges against him and claimed that AAA filed the instant case because he reprimanded her from staying out late at night which she resented. Also, he imputed ill motive on the part of his brother-in-law citing as reason an alleged land dispute.[9]

Ruling of the RTC

In the Joint Judgment[10] dated November 17, 2010, the RTC found Metrillo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of qualified rape and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. He was also ordered to pay AAA the following sums: (i) P150,000.00 as civil indemnity; (ii) P150,000.00 as moral damages; and (iii) P60,000.00 as exemplary damages.

Ruling of the CA

The CA, in its Decision[11] dated May 31, 2013, affirmed in toto the RTC's joint judgment. The CA held that Metrillo failed to substantiate and corroborate his defense of denial.[12] Moreover, it found that AAA positively and categorically declared that she was molested and deflowered by Metrillo.[13]

The main issue presented in this case is whether or not the CA erred in finding sufficient evidence to affirm Metrillo's conviction for two (2) counts of qualified rape.

Ruling of the Court

The defense argues in the main the lack of credibility of AAA's testimony. Metrillo alleged that AAA's failure to offer resistance and to shout or make an outcry during the carnal act was not consistent with that of a rape victim, thereby creating serious doubt as to her credibility. This Court, however, previously ruled that the trial court's findings on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies deserve the highest respect. Since the trial judge saw and heard the witnesses and observed how they testified under intense questioning, he was in a better position to weigh the evidence.[14] Here, the trial court, affirmed by the CA, found AAA's testimony credible. It was, according to the trial court, straightforward and categorical.

Also, the Court finds the defense of alibi presented by Metrillo self-serving and undeserving of any credence in view of AAA's categorical, positive and clear identification of him as the perpetrator of the crime.

Moreover, there is no compelling reason to disbelieve AAA's declaration given that she was only 13 years old when she was first ravished by her own father. It is settled that the testimony of a rape victim, especially a child of tender years, is given full weight and credit.[15] There is also no showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied facts or circumstances which would affect the outcome of the case.

As to the damages awarded for the crime of qualified rape, however, modifications are in order. Considering that the penalty imposable is reclusion perpelua pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346,[16] the award of P150,000.00 as civil indemnity must be reduced to P100,000.00. Also the award of P150,000.00 as moral damages should be reduced to P100,000.00. Moreover, the award of exemplary damages in the amount of P60,000.00 should be increased to P100,000.00 based on prevailing jurisprudence.[17]

In addition, interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed on all damages awarded from the date of finality of this Resolution until fully paid.[18]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated May 31, 2013 of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CRHC-04783, finding Narding Metrillo y Fatrosinia GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of two counts of Qualified Rape, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that he is ORDERED to pay AAA the reduced amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity and P100,000.00 as moral damages as well as the increased amount of P100,000.00 as exemplary damages. Interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum is likewise imposed on all the damages awarded from the date of finality of this Resolution until fully paid.

[1] CA rollo, pp. 131-132.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba, with Associate Justices Ramon M. Bato, Jr. and Ricardo R. Rosario concurring; id. at 112-127.

[3] Rendered by Judge Sonia T. Yu-Casano; id. at 67-75.

[4] The real name of the victim, her personal circumstances and other information which tend to establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall not be disclosed to protect her privacy and fictitious initials shall, instead, be used, in accordance with People v. Cabalquinto, 533 Phil. 703 [2006], and A.M. No. 04-11-09-SC dated September 19, 2006.

[5] CA rollo, p. 68.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 68-69.

[8] Id. at 69.

[9] Id. at 69-70.

[10] Id. at 67-75.

[11] Id. at 112-127.

[12] Id. at 126.

[13] Id. at 121.

[14] People v. Ofemiano, 625 Phil. 92, 98 (2010).

[15] People v. Gani, 710 Phil. 466, 473 (2013).

[16] AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES. Approved on June 24, 2006.

[17] People of the Philippines v. Ireneo Jugueta, G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016.

[18] Nacar v. Gallery Frames, et al., 716 Phil. 267 (2013).

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