Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 117472 June 25, 1996
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
LEO ECHEGARAY y PILO, accused-appellant.
Amidst the endless debates on whether or not the reimposition of the death penalty is indeed a deterrent as far as the commission of heinous crimes is concerned and while the attendant details pertaining to the execution of a death sentence remain as yet another burning issue, we are tasked with providing a clear-cut resolution of whether or not the herein accused-appellant deserves to forfeit his place in human society for the infliction of the primitive and bestial act of incestuous lust on his own blood.
Before us for automatic review is the judgment of conviction, dated September 7, 1994, for the crime of Rape, rendered after marathon hearing by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 104, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused LEO ECHEGARAY Y PILO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE as charged in the complaint, aggravated by the fact that the same was commited by the accused who is the father/stepfather of the complainant, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH, as provided for under RA. No. 7659, to pay the complainant Rodessa Echegaray the sum
of P50,000.00 as damages, plus all the accessory penalties provided by law, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs.1
We note, however, that the charge had been formulated in this manner:
C O M P L A I N T
The undersigned accuses LEO ECHEGARAY Y PILO of the crime of RAPE, committed as follows:
That on or about the month of April 1994, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, by means of force and intimidation did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the undersigned complainant, his daughter, a minor, 10 years of age, all against her will and without her consent, to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW2
Upon being arraigned on August 1, 1994, the accused-appellant, assisted by his counsel de oficio, entered the plea of "not guilty."
These are the pertinent facts of the case as summarized by the Solicitor-General in his brief:
This is a case of rape by the father of his ten-year old daughter.
Complainant RODESSA ECHEGARAY is a ten-year old girl and a fifth-grader, born on September 11, 1983. Rodessa is the eldest of five siblings. She has three brothers aged 6, 5 and 2, respectively, and a 3-month old baby sister. Her parents are Rosalie and Leo Echegaray, the latter being the accused-appellant himself. The victim lives with her family in a small house located at No. 199 Fernandez St., Barangay San Antonio, San Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City (pp. 5-9, Aug. 9, 1994, TSN).
Sometime in the afternoon of April 1994, while Rodessa was looking after her three brothers in their house as her mother attended a gambling session in another place, she heard her father, the accused-appellant in this case, order her brothers to go out of the house (pp. 10-11, ibid). As soon as her brothers left, accused-appellant Leo Echegaray approached Rodessa and suddenly dragged her inside the room (p. 12, ibid). Before she could question the appellant, the latter immediately, removed her panty and made her lie on the floor (p. 13, ibid). Thereafter, appellant likewise removed his underwear and immediately placed himself on top of Rodessa. Subsequently, appellant forcefully inserted his penis into Rodessa's organ causing her to suffer intense pain (pp. 14-15, ibid). While appellant was pumping on her, he even uttered. "Masarap ba, masarap ba?" and to which Rodessa answered: "Tama na Papa, masakit" (p. 16, ibid). Rodessa's plea proved futile as appellant continued with his act. After satisfying his bestial instinct, appellant threatened to kill her mother if she would divulge what had happened. Scared that her mother would be killed by appellant, Rodessa kept to herself the ordeal she suffered. She was very afraid of appellant because the latter, most of the time, was high on drugs (pp. 17-18, ibid.). The same sexual assault happened up to the fifth time and this usually took place when her mother was out of the house (p. 19, ibid.). However, after the fifth time, Rodessa decided to inform her grandmother, Asuncion Rivera, who in turn told Rosalie, Radessa's mother. Rodessa and her mother proceeded to the Barangay Captain where Rodessa confided the sexual assaults she suffered. Thereafter, Rodessa was brought to the precinct where she executed an affidavit (p. 21, ibid.). From there, she was accompanied to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory for medical examination (p. 22, ibid.).
Rodessa testified that the said sexual assaults happened only during the time when her mother was pregnant. Rodessa added that at first, her mother was on her side. However, when appellant was detained, her mother kept on telling her. "Kawawa naman ang Tatay mo, nakakulong" (pp. 39-40, ibid.).
When Rodessa was examined by the medico-legal officer in the person of Dra. Ma. Cristina B. Preyna,3
the complainant was described as physically on a non-virgin state, as evidenced by the presence of laceration of the hymen of said complainant (TSN, Aug. 22, 1995, pp. 8-9).4
On the other hand, the accused-appellant's brief presents a different story:
. . . the defense presented its first witness, Rosalie Echegaray. She asserted that the RAPE charge against the accused was only the figment of her mothers dirty mind. That her daughter's complaint was forced upon her by her grandma and the answers in the sworn statement of Rodessa were coached. That the accusation of RAPE was motivated by Rodessa's grandmother's greed over the lot situated at the Madrigal Estate-NHA Project, Barangay San Antonio, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City, which her grandmother's paramour, Conrado Alfonso gave to the accused in order to persuade the latter to admit that Rodessa executed an affidavit of desistance after it turned out that her complaint of attempted homicide was substituted with the crime of RAPE at the instance of her mother. That when her mother came to know about the affidavit of desistance, she placed her granddaughter under the custody of the Barangay Captain. That her mother was never a real mother to her.
She stated that her complaint against accused was for attempted homicide as her husband poured alcohol on her body and attempted to burn her. She identified the certification issued by the NHA and Tag No. 87-0393 (Exh. 2). That the Certification based on the Masterlist (Exh. 3) indicates that the property is co-owned by accused and Conrado Alfonso. That Rodessa is her daughter sired by Conrado Alfonso, the latter being the paramour of her mother. That Conrado Alfonso waived his right and participation over the lot in favor of the accused in consideration of the latter's accepting the fact that he is the father of Rodessa to simulate the love triangle and to conceal the nauseating sex orgies from Conrado Alfonso's real wife.
Accused testified in his behalf and stated that the grandmother of the complainant has a very strong motive in implicating him to the crime of RAPE since she was interested to become the sole owner of a property awarded to her live-in partner by the Madrigal Estate-NHA Project. That he could not have committed the imputed crime because he considers Rodessa as his own daughter. That he is a painter-contractor and on the date of the alleged commission of the crime, he was painting the house of one Divina Ang of Barangay Vitalis, Parañaque, Metro Manila (Exh. 4). The travel time between his work place to his residence is three (3) hours considering the condition of traffic. That the painting contract is evidenced by a document denominated "Contract of Services" duly accomplished (see submarkings of Exh. 4). He asserted that he has a big sexual organ which when used to a girl 11 years old like Rodessa, the said female organ will be "mawawarak." That it is abnormal to report the imputed commission of the crime to the grandmother of the victim.
Accused further stated that her (sic) mother-in-law trumped-up a charge of drug pushing earlier and he pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of using drugs. The decretal portion of the judgment of conviction ordering the accused to be confined at the Bicutan Rehabilitation Center irked the grandmother of Rodessa because it was her wish that accused should be meted the death penalty.
Accused remain steadfast in his testimony perorating the strong motive of Rodessa's grandmother in implicating him in this heinous crime because of her greed to become the sole owner of that piece of property at the National Housing Authority-Madrigal Project, situated at San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City, notwithstanding rigid cross-examination. He asserted that the imputed offense is far from his mind considering that he treated Rodessa as his own daughter. He categorically testified that he was in his painting job site on the date and time of the alleged commission of the crime.
Mrs. Punzalan was presented as third defense witness. She said that she is the laundry woman and part time baby sitter of the family of accused. That at one time, she saw Rodessa reading sex books and the Bulgar newspaper. That while hanging washed clothes on the vacant lot, she saw Rodessa masturbating by tinkering her private parts. The masturbation took sometime.
This sexual fling of Rodessa were corroborated by Silvestra Echegaray, the fourth and last witness for the defense. She stated that she tried hard to correct the flirting tendency of Rodessa and that she scolded her when she saw Rodessa viewing an X-rated tape. Rodessa according to her was fond of going with friends of ill-repute. That (sic) she corroborated the testimony of Mrs. Punzalan by stating that she herself saw Rodessa masturbating inside the room of her house.5
In finding the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, the lower court dismissed the defense of alibi and lent credence to the straightforward testimony of the ten-year old victim to whom no ill motive to testify falsely against accused-appellant can be attributed. The lower court likewise regarded as inconsequential the defense of the accused-appellant that the extraordinary size of his penis could not have insinuated itself into the victim's vagina and that the accused is not the real father of the said victim.
The accused-appellant now reiterates his position in his attempt to seek a reversal of the lower court's verdict through the following assignment of errors:
1. THE LOWER COURT FAILED TO APPRECIATE THE SINISTER MOTIVE OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT'S GRANDMOTHER? THAT PRECIPITATED THE FILING OF THE CHARGE OF RAPE, HENCE IT ERRED IN HOLDING ACCUSED GUILTY AS CHARGED.
2. THE COURT BELOW OVERLOOKED THE FACT THAT THE HEALED LACERATIONS AT 3 AND 7 O'CLOCK COULD NOT HAVE BEEN DUE TO THE PUMPING OF THE PENIS OF ACCUSED TO THE VAGINA OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT, HENCE IT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT ACCUSED COMMITTED THE CRIME CHARGED, NOTWITHSTANDING VEHEMENT DENIAL.
3. THE COURT A QUO WHIMSICALLY IGNORED THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI THAT ACCUSED WAS IN PARAÑAQUE ON THE DATE AND TIME OF THE IMPUTED CRIME HENCE, IT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT ALIBI IS NOT SUSTAINABLE IN THE CASE AT BAR.6
Considering that a rape charge, in the light of the reimposition of the death penalty, requires a thorough and judicious examination of the circumstances relating thereto, this Court remains guided by the following principles in evaluating evidence in cases of this nature: (a) An accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the accused though innocent to disprove; (b) In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (c) The evidence for the prosecution must stand and fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. 7
Anent the first assigned error, no amount of persuasion can convince this Court to tilt the scales of justice in favor of the accused-appellant notwithstanding that he cries foul insisting that the rape charge was merely concocted and strongly motivated by greed over a certain lot situated at the NHA-Madrigal Estate Housing Project, Barangay San Antonio, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City. The accused-appellant theorizes that prosecution witness Asuncion Rivera, the maternal grandmother of the victim Rodessa, concocted the charge of rape so that, in the event that the accused-appellant shall be meted out a death sentence, title to the lot will be consolidated in her favor. Indeed, the lot in question is co-owned by the accused-appellant and Conrado Alfonso, the live-in partner of Asuncion Rivera, according to the records of the National Housing Authority (Exh. "3"). The accused-appellant would want us to believe that the rape charge was fabricated by Asuncion Rivera in order to eliminate the accused-appellant from being a co-owner. So, the live-in partners would have the property for their own.8
We believe, as did the Solicitor-General, that no grandmother would be so callous as to instigate her 10-year old granddaughter to file a rape case against her own father simply on account of her alleged interest over the disputed lot.9
It is a well-entrenched jurisprudential rule that the testimony of a rape victim is credible where she has no motive to testify against the accused. 10
We find no flaws material enough to discredit the testimony of the ten-year old Rodessa which the trial court found convincing enough and unrebutted by the defense. The trial court not surprisingly noted that Rodessa's narration in detail of her father's monstrous acts had made her cry.11 Once again, we rule that:
. . . The testimony of the victim who was only 12 years old at the time of the rape as to the circumstances of the rape must be given weight, for testimony of young and immature rape victims are credible (People v. Guibao, 217 SCRA 64 ). No woman especially one of tender age, practically only a girl, would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts and thereafter expose herself to a public trial, if she were not motivated solely by the desire to have the culprit apprehended and punished (People v. Guibao, supra). 12
The accused-appellant points out certain inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses in his attempt to bolster his claim that the rape accusation against him is malicious and baseless. Firstly, Rodessa's testimony that the accused-appellant was already naked when he dragged her inside the room is inconsistent with her subsequent testimony that the said accused-appellant was still wearing short pants when she was dragged inside the room. Secondly, Rodessa's sworn statement before the police investigator which indicated that, while the accused was executing pumping acts, he uttered the words "Masarap ba?", differ from her testimony in court wherein she related that, when the accused took out his penis from her vagina, the accused said "Masarap, tapos na." Thirdly, the victim's grandmother, Asuncion Rivera, recounted in her sworn statement that it was the accused who went to see her to apprise her of the rape committed on her granddaughter. However, in her testimony in court , Asuncion Rivera claimed that she was the one who invited the accused-appellant to see her in her house so as to tell her a secret.13 These alleged discrepancies merely pertain to minor details which in no way pose serious doubt as to the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. Whether or not the accused was naked when he dragged Rodessa inside the room where he sexually assaulted her bears no significant effect on Rodessa's testimony that she was actually raped by the accused-appellant. Moreover, a conflicting account of whatever words were uttered by the accused-appellant after he forcefully inserted his penis into Rodessa's private organ against her will cannot impair the prosecution's evidence as a whole. A determination of which version earmarks the truth as to how the victim's grandmother learned about the rape is inconsequential to the judgment of conviction.
As we have pronounced in the case of People v. Jaymalin: 14
This Court has stated time and again that minor inconsistencies in the narration of the witness do not detract from its essential credibility as long as it is on the whole coherent and intrinsically believable. Inaccuracies may in fact suggest that the witness is telling the truth and has not been rehearsed as it is not to he expected that he will be able to remember every single detail of an incident with perfect or total recall.
After due deliberation, this Court finds that the trial judge's assessment of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses deserves our utmost respect in the absence of arbitrariness.
With respect to the second assigned error, the records of the instant case are bereft of clear and concrete proof of the accused-appellant's claim as to the size of his penis and that if that be the fact, it could not have merely caused shallow healed lacerations at 3:00 and 7:00 o'clock. 15 In his testimony, the accused-appellant stated that he could not have raped Rodessa because of
the size of his penis which could have ruptured her vagina had he actually done so. 16 This Court gives no probative value on the accused-appellant's self-serving statement in the light of our ruling in the case of People v. Melivo, supra,17 that:
The vaginal wall and the hymenal membrane are elastic organs capable of varying degrees of distensibility. The degree of distensibility of the female reproductive organ is normally limited only by the character and size of the pelvic inlet, other factors being minor. The female reprodructive canal being capable of allowing passage of a regular fetus, there ought to be no difficulty allowing the entry of objects of much lesser size, including the male reproductive organ, which even in its largest dimensions, would still be considerably smaller than the full-term fetus.
xxx xxx xxx
In the case at bench, the presence of healed lacerations in various parts of he vaginal wall, though not as extensive as appellant might have expected them to be, indicate traumatic injury to the area within the period when the incidents were supposed to have occurred. (At pp. 13-14, emphasis supplied)
In rape cases, a broken hymen is not an essential element thereof. 18 A mere knocking at the doors of the pudenda, so to speak, by the accused's penis suffices to constitute the crime of rape as full entry into the victim's vagina is not required to sustain a conviction. 19 In the case, Dr. Freyra, the medico-legal examiner, categorically testified that the healed lacerations of Rodessa on her vagina were consistent with the date of the commission of the rape as narrated by the victim to have taken place in April, 1994. 20
Lastly, the third assigned error deserves scant consideration. The accused-appellant erroneously argues that the Contract of Services (Exhibit 4) offered as evidence in support of the accused-appellant's defense of alibi need not be corroborated because there is no law expressly requiring so. 21 In view of our finding that the prosecution witnesses have no motive to falsely testify against the accused-appellant, the defense of alibi, in this case, uncorroborated by other witnesses, should be completely disregarded. 22 More importantly, the defense of alibi which is inherently weak becomes even weaker in the face of positive identification of the accused-appellant as perpetrator of the crime of rape by his victim, Rodessa. 23
The Contract of Services whereby the accused-appellant obligated himself to do some painting job at the house of one Divina Ang in Parañaque, Metro Manila, within 25 days from April 4, 1994, is not proof of the whereabouts of the accused-appellant at the time of the commission of the offense.
The accused-appellant in this case is charged with Statutory Rape on the basis of the complaint, dated July 14, 1994. The gravamen of the said offense, as stated in paragraph 3, Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, is the carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve years old. 24 Rodessa positively identified his father accused-appellant, as the culprit of Statutory Rape. Her account of how the accused-appellant succeeded in consummating his grievous and odious sexual assault on her is free from any substantial self-contradiction. It is highly inconceivable that it is rehearsed and fabricated upon instructions from Rodessa's maternal grandmother Asuncion Rivera as asserted by the accused-appellant. The words of Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando, speaking for the Court, more than two decades ago, are relevant and worth reiterating, thus:
. . . it is manifest in the decisions of this Court that where the offended parties are young and immature girls like the victim in this case, (Cited cases omitted) there is marked receptivity on its, part to tend credence to their version of what transpired. It is not to be wondered at. The state, as parens patria, is under the obligation to minimize the risk of harm to those, who, because of their minority, are as yet unable to take care of themselves fully. Those of tender years deserve its utmost protection. Moreover, the injury in cases of rape is not inflicted on the unfortunate victim alone. The consternation it causes her family must also be taken into account It may reflect a failure to abide by the announced concern in the fundamental law for such institution There is all the more reason then for the rigorous application of the penal law with its severe penalty for this offense, whenever warranted. It has been aptly remarked that with the advance in civilization, the disruption in public peace and order it represents defies explanation, much more so in view of what currently appears to be a tendency for sexual permissiveness. Where the prospects of relationship based on consent are hardly minimal, self-restraint should even be more marked. 25
Under Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7659 often referred to as the Death Penalty Law, Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code was amended, to wit:
The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
1. When the victim is under eigthteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.
xxx xxx xxx
Apparently, as a last glimpse of hope, the accused-appellant questions the penalty imposed by the trial court by declaring that he is neither a father, stepfather or grandfather of Rodessa although he was a confirmed lover of Rodessa's mother. 26 On direct examination, he admitted that before the charge of rape was riled against him, he had treated Rodessa as his real daughter and had provided for her food, clothing, shelter and education. 27 The Court notes that Rodessa uses the surname of the accused-appellant, not Rivera (her mother's maiden name) nor Alfonso (her grandmother's live-in partner). Moreover, Rodessa's mother stated during the cross-examination that she, the accused-appellant, and her five children, including Rodessa, had been residing in one house only. 28 At any rate, even if he were not the father, stepfather or grandfather of Rodessa, this disclaimer cannot save him from the abyss where perpetrators of heinous crimes ought to be, as mandated by law. Considering that the accused-appellant is a confirmed lover of Rodessa's mother, 29 he falls squarely within the aforequoted portion of the Death Penalty Law under the term "common-law spouse of the parent of the victim."
The fact that the ten-year old Rodessa referred to the accused-appellant as "Papa" is reason enough to conclude that accused-appellant is either the father or stepfather of Rodessa. Thus, the act of sexual assault perpetrated by the accused on his young victim has become all the more repulsive and perverse. The victim's tender age and the accused-appellant's moral ascendancy and influence over her are factors which forced Rodessa to succumb to the accused's selfish and bestial craving. The law has made it inevitable under the circumstances of this case that the accused-appellant face the supreme penalty of death. WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 104.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.
1 Records, p. 53.
2 Records, p. 1.
3 The name of the medico-legal officer as per Medico-Legal Report No. M-0980-94 (Exhibit "6") reads Ma. Cristina B. Freyra.
4 Rollo, pp. 87-90.
5 Rollo, pp. 45-48.
6 Rollo, p. 49.
7 People v. Apolonio Melivo y Valete, G.R. No. 113029, promulgated on Feb. 8, 1996, citing People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613 ; People v. Aldana 175 SCRA 635 ; People v. Capilitan, 313 SCRA 313 .
8 TSN, August 30, 1994, p. 13.
9 Rollo, p. 93.
10 People v. Matamorosa, 231 SCRA 509, 515 , citing People v. Palicte, 229 SCRA 543 , and People v. Cabilao, 210 SCRA 326 .
11 RTC, Decision, p. 6; Records, p. 50.
12 People v. Espinoza, 247 SCRA 66, 72-73 .
13 Rollo, pp. 53-54.
14 214 SCRA 685-690-691 , citing People v. Ansing (196 SCRA 374 ).
15 Rollo, p. 58.
16 TSN, August 30, 1994. p. 19.
17 See note No. 7.
18 People v. Salinas, 232 SCRA 274, 278-279 ; People v. Madrilano, 227 SCRA 363, .
19 People v. Abella, 228 SCRA 662, 666 ; People v. Tesimo, 204 SCRA 535, 555-556 ; People v. Castillo, 197 SCRA 657, 662 .
20 TSN, August 22, 1994, pp. 8-9.
21 Rollo, p. 65.
22 People v. Gapasan, 243 SCRA 53, 62 .
23 People v. Torres, 247 SCRA 212, 217 ; People v. Tayco, 235 SCRA 610, 521 ; People v. Molina, 213 SCRA 52, 65 .
24 People v. Samillano, 207 SCRA 50, 53-54  citing People v. Alegado, 201 SCRA 37 ; People v. Puedan, 196 SCRA 388 ; People v. Mangalinao, 182 SCRA 329 .
25 People v. Baylon, 57 SCRA 114, 120-121  see also People v. Cabadas, 208 SCRA 787, 794 ; People v. Sulte, 232 SCRA 421, 425 .
26 Rollo, p. 38.
27 TSN, August 30, 1994, p. 13, 15-16.
28 TSN, August 29, 1994, pp. 28-29.
29 Rollo, p. 50.
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