High schoolers' hymen NOT broken so CA acquits alleged rapist

CA-G.R. CR-H.C. NO. 01703

FIFTH DIVISION

[ CA-G.R. CR-H.C. NO. 01703, June 30, 2006 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ARNOLFO SINGH Y ISAP, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N


BARRIOS, J.:

The appellant Arnolfo Singh y Isap (or hereafter Singh) in August 1994 was living in 106 San Pedro St. in Tondo, Manila, with his live-in partner Teresita Lumangaya (or Teresita) and her daughters, the complainants Sydney Lumangaya Cortez (or Sydney) and Emily Lumangaya Cortez (or Emily). Sydney and Emily, who were then respectively 17 and 16 years old and high school students, with their mother Teresita left their abode on September 12, 1994 and ended up in Anabu, Imus, Cavite as the housemaids of the spouses Rogelio and Jovita Libed. Within days Singh was able to trace them and wanted them back. But Sydney and Emily refused, and with the sympathizing Libed spouses and their father Enrique Cortez who was located in Laguna, they complained of rape against Singh before the PNP in Imus, Cavite.

This eventually resulted in Singh being arrested at home and without warrant by seven (7) Imus policemen on September 15, 1994, and charged with Rape before the Regional Trial Court of Manila on the following specifications:
That on or about the 12th day of August, 1994, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, violence and intimidation, to wit: by then and there pulling said Sidney Cortez, y Lumangaya by the arms into the room of the house, boxing her on by the arms into the room of the house, boxing her on the stomach and laying her on the floor covered with linolium, at the same time threatening to kill her should she resist or cry for help, have sexual intercourse with said complainant, a girl 17 years of age, against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (Information, p. 3)
and
That on or about the month of August, 1994, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, violence and intimidation, to wit: by then and there punching her on the stomach and on the shoulder and laying her down, at the same time threatening to kill her should she resist, have sexual intercourse with Emily Cortez y Lumangaya, his step-daughter, a girl 16 years of age, against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (Information, p. 9)
After Singh pleaded Not Guilty to both charges, the prosecution presented as witnesses the complainants Sydney Lumangaya Cortez and Emily Lumangaya Cortez, WPD Investigating Officer SPO2 Laura Cipres, NBI Medico-Legal Officer Dr. Aurea Villena, Jovita Libed, and Analina Lopez of the Human Rights Commission, and the documents Living Case No. MG-94-1043 as Exh. “B” and Living Case No. MG-94-1044 as Exh. “C”. The defense presented the accused Arnolfo Isap Singh, the mother of the complainants Teresita Lumangaya, Norma Isap and Ruben Yabut.

The trial court synthesized the testimonies of the complainants Sydney and Emily as follows:
On August 1994, Sydney Cortez y Lumangaya was 17 years old and a High School student of Timoteo Paez High School, Tondo, Manila, while Emily Cortez y Lumangaya was 16 years old and also a High School student of the same school.

Sydney testified that in the year 1990, when she was barely thirteen (13) years old, she was sexually abused by accused, her step-father at their home in Pandi, Bulacan. Her mother went to the market and while she was watching television, accused suddenly grabbed her and poked a knife at her neck and threatened to kill her. With the knife at his right hand pointed at her, accused undressed her with his left hand and place his body on top of her. Accused forcibly spread her two legs and inserted his penis into her organ and made a push and pull movement. During the sexual encounter, she experienced pain in her vagina and noticed blood oozed from it. After the sexual intercourse, accused warned Sydney not to tell anyone about what happened and threatened to kill them. She further narrated that her defilement did not end there. On August 12, 1994, while her mother and cousin went to Secretary Drilon’s office, she was left with accused at their house in 106 San Pedro Street, Tondo, Manila. When she about to go out of their house, she was suddenly grabbed by the accused and forcibly laid down on the floor. Despite her resistance, accused did not stop but instead boxed her stomach. Accused removed her short and underwear. Likewise, accused removed his short and underwear, lay on top of her and inserted his organ into her private part and made a push and pull movement. Accused even threatened her not to tell her mother otherwise, he will kill her mother and made her his wife. Sydney further testified that she was able to tell her ordeal to her sister, Emily (the other complainant) and mother and they agreed to escape from the accused. Eventually, in the afternoon of September 12, 1994, Sydney, Emily and their mother were able to escape from the accused and went to Bulacan. After a week, accused was able to locate them so that they were forced to transfer to Imus, Cavite. They lived in Anabu, Imus, Cavite, at the house of Mrs. Jovita Libed, where they were employed as housemaids. After three (3) days, accused was able to locate them and forced them to go with him in Tondo, Manila, but they refused. Sydney was able to tell her ordeal with the accused to Mrs. Libed. With the help of Mrs. Libed, they were able to locate the whereabouts of their natural father, Enrique Cortez, in Laguna. Together with Mrs. Libed, Mr. Libed and their father, they went to Imus Police Station, they were advised to file their complaint in Manila. On September 17, 1994, she executed a Sworn Statement at WPD, Manila (Exhibit “A”). Afterwhich, she was advised to proceed to the National Bureau of Investigation for physical examination. Meanwhile, the accused was turned over to Western Police District, Manila from Imus Police Station.

On cross-examination, she averted that she left their house at 9:20 in the morning of August 12, 1994 to attend her class which started from 9:40 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. She further averred that she could not tell her ordeal to her mother or the school authorities or to anybody because she knew accused will make good his threat to kill them. She admitted that since 1990 up to August 1994, accused had continuously raped her.

Emily Cortez testified that she had been sexually molested by accused since 1990 up to 1994. The first time that she was sexually molested by accused was in 1990 in Pandi, Bulacan. She testified that accused poked a knife at her and gradually undressed her. Her pleas and struggles proved futile as accused was determined to pursue his evil desire. Accused forcibly laid her on the floor and placed himself on top of her.

She further testified that it was the 1st week August 1994 when she was left alone with accused at their house in Tondo, Manila, considering that her sister’s (Sydney) schedule of exam was 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 n.n., while her schedule of exam is from 12:00 n.n. – 4:00 p.m. It was then that accused closed the door and windows of their house and suddenly embraced her and forced to remove her short pants and panty. Despite her struggle and resistance, accused succeeded in undressing her. Afterwhich, accused forced her to lie on the floor and placed himself on top of her and forced to insert his penis into her private part. Further, she testified that she saw a mucus-like came out from the private part of accused.

Despite the fact that she disliked the things that accused had done to her, she could not report the matter to her mother or her sister because of the threat of accused.

However, on September 2, 1994 at break time, she was able to confide to her sister (Sydney) of the sexual abuses she experienced with accused, not knowing that the latter shared a similar experience. It was then that together with their mother, they decided to escape from accused.

On cross-examination, she admitted that despite the fact that for almost 4 years that accused sexually molested her, she did not report her ordeal to anybody because she believed that accused will make good his threat of killing them. She recalled accused telling hr “Huwag magsusumbong kahit kanino at papatayin ko kayong mag-iina. Pati pulis, hindi kayo paniniwalaan”. (Don’t tell anybody and I will kill all of you. Even the police will not believe you.) Further, she could not talk to her classmate or teacher or even went to the clinic of the T. Paez High School because the accused has been watching her all the time.” (Decision, pp. 671-672, record)
SPO2 Laura Cipres was assigned as Police Investigator for the Women’s Desk, General Assignment Division, WPD. On September 16, 1994 Sydney and Emily filed a complaint for Rape against Singh. She referred them for genital examination with the National Bureau of Investigation. The next day, she conducted her investigation with Sydney and Emily resulting in the latter executing a Sworn Statement (Exh. “A”), afterwhich she prepared the Crime Report (Exh. “C”) and Booking and Information Sheet (Exh. “D”). During the investigation, she noticed that both complainants were crying and positively identified Singh as the culprit.

Dr. Aurea Villena of the NBI conducted the pertinent examinations on the complainants Sydney and Emily, the findings and conclusions of which are as stated respectively in Living Case No. MG-94-1043 (Exh. “B”) and Living Case No. MG-94-1044 (Exh. “D”). With her conclusion therein, she opined that despite the fact that complete penetration is not possible without producing any genital injury, partial penetration is possible.

Jovita Libed told how the mother Teresita and her daughters Sidney and Emily were brought to her household to serve as helps. They had to pay a fee or commission to the person who brought them. But a few days later Singh arrived and wanted to bring them home, but she required that they first reimburse her of her expenses in hiring them. Singh and Teresita left saying they will come back with the money but never did. Teresita was insisting on her daughters to come with her but they had refused. They confided to the Libeds what Singh has been doing to them, and they sympathized with Sidney and Emily and decided to help them. Teresita had complained against them with the Human Rights Commission, so the Libeds helped find their father and were able to arrange that he indorse their custody to the Libeds. The Libeds actively assisted in the complaint and prosecution of Singh.

Analina Lopez of the Human Rights Commission said that Teresita went to their office complaining that her minor daughters Sydney and Emily were being kept from her by the spouses Rogelio and Jovita Libed. But because of the stand of these minors and the Libed spouses, their office found the Solomonic solution by getting the minors’ father Enrique Cortez to assert his custody over them and then forthwith turn them over to the Libed spouses.

The accused set up the tandem defenses of denial and alibi. Singh denied having raped either Sydney or Emily, and testified that he treated and loved them as if they were his own daughters. He worked as a plumber to sustain their schooling and needs. As he was wont to do, on August 12, 1994 he went out to look for jobs to do at around 8:00 in the morning and was out working up to 3:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. On September 2, 1994, he scolded Sydney for being hard-headed and always sassy to him and her mother. He even told Sydney, “Lumayas ka rito, palamunin ka lang dito.” In the afternoon of that day he no longer found his common-law wife Teresita and her daughters. He started to look for them and was finally able to locate them at Anabu I, Imus, Cavite, in the house of Jovita Libed. However, on September 15, 1994, he was caught by surprise when seven (7) policemen from Imus, Cavite, arrested him for rape and jailed him without any investigation conducted.

Further, he testified he was not investigated nor assisted by counsel during the inquest. He further claimed that while detained at the Imus Municipal Jail, he was beaten and mauled by policemen to force him to admit the charges against him. However, he could not identify them as he was blindfolded. After he was brought to the General Assignment Division, WPD, Manila and while inside a cell, he was pointed to by the private complainants.

He claimed that the only reason that Sydney filed the charge against him was because he was always scolding her for being hard headed. However on the part of Emily, she just went along with her sister Sydney in filing the instant cases.

Teresita Lumangaya, mother of the complainants, testified that she did not believe her daughters’ claims of rape. She had a quarrel with Singh and so she left bringing her said daughters and they found work as maids of the Libeds. Singh later found them and wanted to bring them home but the Libeds would not let them go without first getting reimbursed for the sums they have spent for them. But they did not have the money, so she resorted for help with the Human Rights Commission. She was just surprised that her daughters filed the charges against Singh with the backing of the Libeds.

Ruben Yabut corroborated the alibi given by Singh, saying that on the relevant time Singh was doing some plumbing job for him at his home. Norma Isap is the aunt of Singh, and she testified that he was a fine person and could not have done the things he was accused of.

The trial ran for years and before different Presiding Judges. When it did end, judgment was rendered Singh was found guilty on both charges in the Decision which disposed:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court finds accused ARNOLFO SINGH y ISAP, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape (2 courts) under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, as charged in both Information.

In Criminal Case No. 94-139021, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law; and, to indemnify private complainant SYDNEY CORTEZ y LUMANGAYA the sum of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos by way of moral damages.

In Criminal Case No. 94-139022, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law; and, to indemnify private complainant EMILY CORTEZ y LUMANGAYA the sum of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos by way of moral damages.

Considering that the accused is a detention prisoner, he is hereby credited with the full length of time that he has been under detention.

SO ORDERED. (pp. 679-680, record)
Appealed, Singh assigns that the trial court committed these reversible errors:
I

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING FULL FAITH AND CREDENCE TO THE INCREDIBLE AND INCONSISTENT TESTIMONY OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. (p. 64, rollo)
Of the six (6) witnesses presented by the prosecution and four (4) by the defense, the ponente presided only in the taking of the testimonies of defense witnesses Ruben Yabut and Norma Isap. Ruben Yabut testified that he had hired Singh to do a plumbing job on the day that he was supposed to have raped Sydney. As for Norma Isap, only part of her testimony was made before the ponente and this witness testified only on the good character of Singh, her nephew.

This peripheral and limited participation of the ponente at the trial is mentioned ahead to avoid a misapplication of the basic rule in evidence that the trial court’s factual findings are accorded respect, even finality, absent any showing that certain facts of weight and substance bearing on the elements of the crime have been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied (People vs. Sy, G. R. No. 147348, Sept. 24, 2002). This jurisprudence relies heavily on the rule that the weighing of evidence, particularly when there are conflicts in the testimonies of witnesses, is best left to the trial court, which had the unique opportunity to observe their demeanor, conduct and manner while testifying. This basis does not hold true in this case where the ponente, like this Court, had access only to the cold and impersonal records of the proceedings and We are thus not under the usual constraints of the factual findings and conclusions reached by a trial court.

In the review of rape cases, We are almost invariably guided by the following principles: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense (People vs. Capareda, G. R. No. 128363, May 27, 2004). It has also been a constant jurisprudence since 1901 that when a woman states that she has been raped, she says in effect all that would be necessary to show that rape did take place. However, the testimony of the victim must be scrutinized with extreme caution. The prosecution's evidence must stand or fall on its own merits (People vs. Sumarago, G. R. Nos. 140873-77, Feb. 6, 2004).

These principles and jurisprudence do not make the conviction of the accused a done thing on the mere pronouncement of the complainant of the mantra that she has been raped. As caveats added, it is essential that the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution and that the prosecution's evidence must stand or fall on its own merits. For always and in the last analysis, these principles and jurisprudence must bow to the superior presumption of innocence accorded by the constitution to every man regardless of the crime or felony he is charged of.

What immediately comes to the fore are the testimony and certifications (Exhs. “B”, p. 202 & “D”, p. 203) issued by Dr. Aurea Villena of the NBI of her pertinent medical examination of Sydney and Emily made on September 16, 1994. In her medical certifications she stated of Sydney that:
GENERAL PHYSICAL EXAMINATION:

Height: 157.0 cms. Weight: 107.0 lbs.

Fairly nourished, conscious, coherent, ambulatory subject. Breast, developed, hemispherical, doughy. Areolane, light brown, 2.2. cm. in diameter. Nipples, light brown, protruding, 0.6 cm. in diameter.

No extragenital physical injuries noted.

****

GENITAL EXAMINATION:

Pubic hair, fully grown, moderately abundant. Labia majora and minora, coaptated. Fourchette, tense. Vestibular mucosa, pinkish. Hymen, moderately thick, moderately tall, intact. Hymenal orifice, admits a tube, 2.0 cm. in diameter. Vaginal walls, tight. Rugosities, prominent.

****

CONCLUSIONS:
  1. No evident sign of extragenital physical injury noted on the body of the subject at the time of examination.

  2. Hymen, intact and its orifice, small (2.0 cm. in diameter) as to preclude complete penetration by an average-sized adult Filipino male organ in full erection without producing any genital injury.

    ****
and of Emily that:
GENERAL PHYSICAL EXAMINATION:

Height: 156.0 cms. Weight: 108.5 lbs.

Fairly nourished, conscious, coherent, ambulatory subject. Breasts, developed, hemispherical, doughy. Areolae, light brown, 3.0 cm. in diameter. Nipples, light brown, protruding, 1.0 cm. in diameter.

No extragenital physical injuries noted.

GENITAL EXAMINATION:

Pubic hair, fully grown, moderately abundant. Labia majora and minora, coaptated. Fourchette, lax. Vestibular mucosa, pinkish. Hymen, moderately tall, thick, intact. Hymenal orifice admits a tube 2.0 cm. in diameter. Vaginal walls, tight. Rugosities, prominent.

CONCLUSIONS:
  1. No evident sign of extragenital physical injury noted on the body of the subject at the time of examination.

  2. Hymen, intact and its orifice, small (2.0 cm in diameter) as to preclude complete penetration by an average-sized adult Filipino male organ in full erection without producing any genital injury. (emphasis provided)
She amplified these in her testimony that the hymens of both Sydney and Emily were intact and showed no lacerations, and that “When there is a hymen laceration, it will be permanent and that could be reflected in the examination, sir” (tsn 7/15/96, p. 9). She added that it is possible that penetration may not cause injury to the hymen if it were elastic. She explained:
Q. On cross-examination, you testified that hymen of the victim could not show of physical injuries when the hymen is elastic, could you tell the Court what do you mean by “elastic”? A. When the hymen of a woman can admit 2.0 cms. test tube without causing laceration, the hymen is elastic, sir.

Q. In these cases of the victims, have you occasion to examine whether their hymen is elastic or not? A. The hymens of the victims are not elastic, Your Honor. (tsn 7/15/96, p. 11)
The prosecution charged that Singh last raped Sydney on August 12, 1994 and Emily in the first week of August 1994. Before that he had been raping them for four (4) years with the frequency and regularity which Sidney said was “About 3 to 5 times a week, sir” (tsn 5/31/95, p. 16).

The jurisprudence here is of course that proof of hymenal laceration is not an element of rape. An intact hymen does not negate a finding that the victim was raped. To sustain a conviction for rape, full penetration of the female genital organ is not necessary. It is enough that there is proof of entry of the male organ into the labia of the pudendum of the female organ. Penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even without laceration of the hymen, is enough to constitute rape, and even the briefest of contact is deemed rape (People vs. Boromeo, G. R. No. 150501, June 3, 2004).

But the circumstances of the instant cases call for a second and different look at things. Supposedly, for four (4) years Singh was using force and violence to rape Sydney and Emily with such ardor, frequency and regularity, and yet their hymens were found intact and uninjured. Their hymens were found inflexible and should have been torn. But these were intact. Could it be then that Singh limited himself to partial penetration and never reached their hymens? But he was said to have fully inserted his penis and penetrated their sexual organs, performing with abandon the coital movements, and doing this savagely and passionately. It could not be believed that Singh was repeatedly raping them and every time sated himself fully by merely touching his penis on the labia of the pudendum of their vaginas. Verily, evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness, but must be credible in itself — such as the common experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the circumstances (People vs. Ting Lan Uy, G. R. No. 157399, Nov. 17, 2005). We find that the claim of repeated rapes, just does not jibe with the physical evidence.

Teresita, the very mother of the complainants, did not believe their claims of rape. In the process she said things which could be the explanation of why her daughters made the false charges. She said she wanted to go with Singh and bring her daughters when he fetched them. But the Libeds would not let them go without first reimbursing them of the fees and expenses in getting their services as domestics. But neither Singh nor Teresita had the amount, and they failed to raise it. The Libeds refused to let go of her daughters and so she sought the help of the Human Rights Commission. In time she found out that they already wanted to stay with the Libeds and with their help had filed charges of rape against Singh. The cases dragged on but her daughters could not backtrack on their complaints because she learned that Sydney had become enamored with the son of the Libeds with whom she bore a child.

Be that as it may, still the prosecution has the burden of proving every single fact establishing guilt. Foremost of this to sustain a conviction for rape, is carnal knowledge or penetration of the victim's vagina by the perpetrator's penis under any of the circumstances enumerated in the Code (People vs. Estado, G. R. No. 150867, Feb. 5, 2004).

The physical evidence belie the claim of rape in these cases, more so the antecedent rapes that were supposedly committed day in and day out for four (4) years. This is not at all explained away or attenuated by the trite and lukewarm hypothetical answer of “Possible” made by Dr. Aurea Villena when asked if it were possible for rape still to have been committed. Possibilities, however, cannot replace proof beyond reasonable doubt (del Rosario vs. Cedillo, AM No. MTJ-04-1557, Oct. 21, 2004), and the presumption of innocence is not overcome by mere suspicion, conjecture, or a probability that the accused committed the crime (People vs. Ramos, G. R. No. 155292-93, Feb. 13, 2004). An accusation even of the most delicate and sensitive of crimes is not synonymous with guilt. The prosecution as always must overthrow the presumption of innocence with proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. To meet this standard, there is need for the most careful scrutiny of the testimony of the State, both oral and documentary, independently of whatever defense is offered by the accused. It is thus required that every circumstance favoring innocence be duly taken into account. The proof against him must survive the test of reason; the strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment (Torralba vs. People, G. R. No. 153699, Aug. 22, 2005).

An acquittal based on reasonable doubt will prosper even though the accused's innocence may be doubted, for a criminal conviction rests on the strength of the evidence of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense. And, if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction, and, thus, that which is favorable to the accused should be considered (dela Cruz vs. People, G. R. No. 150439, July 29, 2005). After all mas vale que queden sin castigar diez reos presuntos, que se castigue uno inocente. It is better to set a guilty man free than to imprison an innocent man (People vs. Suarez, G. R. Nos. 153573-76, April 15, 2005).

And so for the failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the felonies charged were committed and concomitantly that Singh is guilty thereof –

WHEREFORE, the appeal in both cases is GRANTED and the appealed Decision dated January 23, 2004 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Singh is ACQUITTED of both charges, and is ordered immediately set at liberty unless he is detained for some other lawful cause. The Director of Prisons is ordered to make a report of compliance within five (5) days from receipt of this.

SO ORDERED.

GuariƱa III and Romilla-Lontok, JJ., concur.

Popular Posts