EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 124895             March 1, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
RUBEN DE LOS REYES y DIOLA, accused-appellant.

PER CURIAM:

For automatic review is the Decision 1 of Branch 87 of the Regional Trial Court of Batangas, finding accused-appellant Ruben de los Reyes y Diola guilty of two (2) counts of rape in Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017 and R95-018, for raping his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bernadette de los Reyes, and five (5) counts of rape in Criminal Cases Nos. R95-022 to R95-026, inclusive, for raping his fourteen-year-old daughter, Melanie de los Reyes; and sentencing him as follows:

WHEREFORE, after a painstaking evaluation of these cases, the laws applicable to the cases at bar, the Court finds the accused RUBEN DE LOS REYES Y DIOLA GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of seven (7) counts of rape and hereby sentences him as follows:

1. In Criminal Case No. R95-017 to suffer the penalty of death, and to pay the offended party Bernadette de los Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

2. In Criminal Case No. R95-018, to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, and to pay the offended party Bernadette de los Reyes, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

3. In Criminal Case No. R95-022, to suffer the penalty of death, and to pay the offended party Melanie de los Reyes, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

4. In Criminal Case No. R95-023, to suffer the penalty of death and to pay the offended party Melanie de los Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

5. In Criminal Case No. R95-024, to suffer the penalty of death, and to pay the offended party Melanie de los Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00;

6. In Criminal Case No. R95-025, to suffer the penalty of death, and to pay the offended party Melanie de los Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00; and,

7. In Criminal Case No. R95-026, to suffer the penalty of death and to pay the offended party Melaine de los Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00.

Pursuant to Republic Act 7659, the death sentence shall be executed with preference, to any other offense and shall consist in putting the person under sentence to death by electrocution.

The death sentence shall be carried out not later than one (1) year after the judgment has become final.

SO ORDERED. 2

On the basis of the complaints lodged on March 30, 1995 by the complainants, Bernadette de los Reyes and Melanie de los Reyes, with the assistance of their mother, Yolanda R. de los Reyes, the Informations presented by Fourth Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Bella Salva-Gayeta and Juanita G. Areta, indicting the accused-appellant for seven (7) counts of rape, allege:

In Criminal Case No. R-95-017:

That on or about the 28th day of August, 1994, at about 10:00 o'clock in the evening, at Brgy. Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with his daughter Bernadette Delos Reyes y Rodriguez, a sixteen (16) year old girl, against her will and consent.

Contrary to Law. 3

In Criminal Case No. R-95-018:

That on or about the 26th day of January, 1992, at about 1:00 o'clock in the morning, at Brgy. Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with his daughter Bernadette De los Reyes y Rodriguez, a sixteen year old girl, against her will and consent.

Contrary to Law. 4

In Criminal Case No. R-95-022:

That on or about the 3rd day of November, 1994, at about 11:00 o'clock in the evening, at Brgy. Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with the said Malanie de los Reyes y Rodriguez, accused's daughter, who is a fourteen (14) year-old minor, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law. 5

In Criminal Case No. R-95-023:

That on or about the 2nd day of November, 1994, at about 10:45 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with the said Malanie de los Reyes y Rodriguez, accused's daughter, who is a fourteen (14) year-old minor, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

In Criminal Case No. R-95-024:

That on or about the 29th day of September, 1994, at about 10:00 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with the said Malanie de los Reyes y Rodriguez, accused's daughter, who is a fourteen (14) year-old minor, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

In Criminal Case No. R-95-025:

That on or about the 4th day of November, 1994, at about 10:30 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with the said Malanie de los Reyes y Rodriguez, accused's daughter, who is a fourteen (14) year-old minor, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

In Criminal Case No. R-95-026:

That on or about the 8th day of November, 1994, at about 11:00 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Mabalanoy, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with the said Melanie de los Reyes y Rodriguez, accused's daughter, who is a fourteen (14) year-old minor, against her will and consent.

Contrary to law.

In Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017 and R95-018, upon arraignment on May 30, 1995, assisted by Counsel Octavio Macatangay, 6 accused-appellant entered pleas of Not Guilty to the crimes charged. In Criminal Case Nos. R95-022 to R95-026, inclusive, upon arraignment on June 13, 1995, with the assistance his counsel, Dante Resurrection, accused-appellant also entered negative pleas. 7

Testified on by prosecution witnesses Bernadette de los Reyes, Melanie de los Reyes, Yolanda de los Reyes and Dr. Lea J. Aseron, the version of the People is synthesized by the Solicitor General in the Appellee's Brief, as follows:

Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017 & R95-018

On January 26, 1992, at 1:00 A.M., sixteen (16) year old Bernadette de los Reyes, was sleeping inside their house in Brgy. Mabalanoy, San Juan, Batangas, when she was awakened by her father, appellant Ruben de los Reyes, and told not to shout, otherwise, appellant would kill her. Bernadette tried to struggle but appellant held her right arm and kissed her. Appellant then removed Bernadette's t-shirt and bra and kissed her nipples. Afterwards, appellant removed Bernadette's shorts and panty and went on top of her. While on top of Bernadette, appellant removed his briefs and placed his two legs against Bernadette's two legs, forcing her to spread her thighs. After appellant succeeded in spreading Bernadette's thighs, he forcibly inserted his penis into her vagina.

As a result, Bernadette felt pain in her vagina and lost consciousness. All the time that appellant was sexually assaulting her, Bernadette kept on struggling, but because of appellant's superior strength, Bernadette could not do anything to stop the bestial act of the appellant. When Bernadette regained consciousness, appellant was already gone and Bernadette noticed that there was blood in her vagina.

It was only before 8:00 A.M. of the same day that Bernadette saw her father at the balcony of their house, where she was warned by appellant not to tell anybody about what happened, or else, appellant would kill her. The assault on Bernadette took place while she was alone at their house since her mother was then in Manila and her brother and sisters were at their aunt's house.

After the first incident, appellant continued abusing Bernadette for more than fifteen (15) times. The last occasion was on August 24, 1994, at about 10:00 A.M., when Bernadette was alone in their house with a fever. The rape was committed just like the prior incidents wherein appellant forced Bernadette to have sexual intercourse with him, and thereafter threatened to kill her should she tell anybody about what happened.

After the last incident, Bernadette slept at her classmates' and friends' houses which were located at different places in San Juan, Batangas to avert the possible occurrence of another rape by appellant.

Bernadette did not tell anybody that she was raped by appellant because she was afraid that appellant would make true his threats to kill her if she would tell anybody about the incident. Later, on March 26, 1995, during her graduation day, Bernadette finally revealed to their mother Yolanda reported that she was abused by appellant. Thereafter, Bernadette and Yolanda reported the incident to the Municipal Mayor of San Juan, Batangas who accompanied them to the PNP Station Command where Bernadette executed a sworn statement attesting to the fact of rape by appellant. After that, Bernadette and Yolanda went to San Juan District Hospital where Bernadette was examined by a physician (TSN, June 27, 1995, pp. 14-26, B. de los Reyes).

Criminal Cases Nos. R95-022 to R95-026

On September 29, 1994, at 10:00 A.M., while fourteen (14)-year (sic) old Melanie de los Reyes was sleeping alone in one of the rooms in their house in Brgy. Mabalanoy, San Juan, Batangas, she felt that someone was on top of her. When Melanie woke up, she saw her father, appellant Ruben de los Reyes, on top of her, kissing her. Thereafter, appellant removed Melanie's t-shirt and bra and sucked Melanie's nipples. Melanie tried to push appellant, but since the latter was stronger, he was able to remove Melanie's shorts and panty with the use of his hands. Thereupon, appellant mashed Melanie's vagina and even inserted into it (sic). Not satisfied, appellant pulled apart Melanie's thighs with the use of his feet and inserted his penis into her vagina. During the coitus, appellant continued sucking Melanie's nipple while pumping his buttocks up and down. Melanie felt pain and she noticed blood on her thighs and on the mat. After appellant transferred to the room, Melanie cried hard and changed her clothes. The rape occurred while Melanie's mother was in Manila and her brother and sister were sleeping at their aunt's house.1wphi1.nt

In October 1994, Melanie's mother arrived from Manila but she did not mention to her mother that she was abused by appellant because the latter threatened her that he would kill them all if she would tell anybody about the incident. Melanie was afraid of her father's threat because she usually saw him carry a gun.

After the first incident, since Melanie's mother was in Manila and her siblings were always out of the house, appellant continued to sexually abuse Melanie on several occasions whenever Melanie was alone, to wit; (1) on November 2, 1994; (2) on November 3, 1994; (3) on November 4, 1994, and (4) on November 8, 1994. During the numerous incidents that Melanie was sexually abused by appellant, the latter was drunk. Melanie would plead to appellant not to abuse her telling him, "why are you doing this to me, I am your daughter." But her pleas always fell on deaf ears. Likewise, after each incident, appellant warned Melanie that he would kill all the members of their family if she would tell anybody about the rape.

When Melanie learned that her elder sister Bernadette was also raped by appellant, Melanie revealed to her mother that she was abused by appellant. Thereafter, Melanie filed criminal complaints for rape against appellant. She later submitted herself for a medical examination wherein it was found that she was raped (TSN, June 27, 1995, pp. 5-53, M. de los Reyes). 8

The medico-legal examination conducted by Dr. Lea J. Aseron on Bernadette de los Reyes, disclosed:

HYMEN Old Lacerated scar at 3

O'clock, 6 and 12 O'clock.

Admits up to 3 fingers easily. 9

The medico-legal examination on Melanie de los Reyes showed:

HYMEN Old lacerated scar at 5, 7 and 3 O'clock.

Admits two fingers easily. 10

For the defense, accused-appellant Ruben de los Reyes, and his sister, Imelda Castillo, testified. He interposed the defense of denial, theorizing on "his estranged wife's desire to conveniently escape their stifling but still binding relationship, coupled with his brand of discipline, prompted a retaliatory act manifested with the filing of the two (2) sets of complaints for rape." 11

After trial, the lower court found the People's version credible and on the basis thereof handed down on February 27, 1996, the judgment of conviction under review.

Pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and Sections 3(e) and 10 of Rule 122, Rules of Court, the aforesaid verdict imposing, the supreme penalty of death is before this Court for automatic review.

Accused-appellant contends that:

1.01. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE INCONSISTENCIES IN PRIVATE COMPLAINANTS' TESTIMONY.

1.02. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADAPTING EN TOTO THE QUESTIONABLE MEDICAL FINDINGS.

1.03. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT CITING THE MOTIVE HOVERING OVER THE FILING OF THE COMPLAINT.

1.04. THE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING APPELLANT LIABLE TO PAY HIS ACCUSERS THE SUM OF FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) AS CIVIL INDEMNITY. 12

In an appeal from a judgment of conviction in rape cases, the issue boils down, almost invariably, to the tale and credibility of the victim, and just as often, this Court places reliance on the observations by the trial court, which had the singular opportunity, not enjoyed by the appellate court to observe and rate the credibility of the evidence on record. It has thus become doctrinal that the evaluation of testimonial evidence by the trial court is accorded great respect precisely because of its chance to observe first hand the demeanor on the stand of the witnesses, a matter which is important in determining whether what has been testified on should be taken to be the truth or falsehood. 13

In the case at bar, the trial court found complainants' account of their harrowing experience to be positive, convincing and free from serious contradictions, ratiocinating thus:

The Court gives credit to the fact that despite the complainants' tender ages, they both testified in a straightforward manner and hurdled the grueling examination conducted on them and remained consistent all throughout the cross-examination. In this sense, the Court gives full faith and credit to their testimonies. 14

After a careful scrutiny and evaluation of the victims' narration of the events complained of, the Court is of the considered opinion, and so holds, that the complainants have narrated the truth with all candor and honesty. Their testimonies are straightforward, without the alleged inconsistencies, which accused-appellant dismally failed to indicate in the appellant's brief. *

The Court perceives no tenability in the theory of accused-appellant that the charges levelled against him are but retaliatory moves on the part of his wife, who wanted to end their marriage, and on the part of his daughters, who suffered maltreatment in his hands. 15 In a long line of cases, this Court has consistently ruled that such a defense is simply unbelievable and too unnatural to merit faith and credit. It is hard to fathom that a parent would use her offsprings as engines of malice especially if the same would subject them to humiliation, nay stigma. No mother in her right mind would expose her daughters to the disgrace and trauma resulting inevitably from a prosecution for rape, if she was not motivated truly by a desire to incarcerate the person responsible for her daughters' defilement. In the same vein, a mother would not subject her daughter to such an ignominy merely to end her relationship with her husband or to retaliate against him for his transgressions as a family man. And it is unbelievable for a daughter to charge her own father with rape at the expense of being ridiculed. Consequently, as the defense utterly failed to prove that the principal witnesses for the People were improperly motivated, the presumption is that they were not so moved and therefore, their testimony is entitled to full faith and credence. 16

Private complainants testified that the accused-appellant threatened to kill them if they divulged to anybody what he had been doing to them. Scared, frightened, and confused, they kept their horrible ordeal to themselves until they mustered enough courage to reveal the unfortunate happening to their mother. In such a scenario, the victims' reluctance to disclose what accused-appellant did to them did not render their testimonies unworthy of belief. It bears stressing that delay in reporting a rape incident due to death threats are not to be taken against the victim. 17 This doctrine applies with greater force to the present case, where the hesitation of the victims to reveal what happened is due not only to a genuine fear which their father instilled in their mind but also to their young age and the moral ascendancy of accused-appellant.

So also, accused-appellant claims that Melanie's continued stay in their house despite the alleged assaults on her virtue, was contrary to the natural reaction of a girl who has been violated. 18 As aptly pointed out by the Solicitor General, the best explanation why Melanie did not leave their house was that, confronted with such a dreadful experience at a tender age, and in the absence of a trusted person like mother, she (Melanie) undoubtedly was at a loss on what to do. 19 Indeed, one should not expect a fourteen-year-old girl to act like an adult or a mature and experienced woman who would know what to do under difficult circumstances, and would have the courage and intelligence to disregard a threat on her life and complain immediately that she had been forcibly deflowered. 20

The issues posed by accused-appellant on the results of the medical examination of the private complainants as well as on the qualification of the doctor who prepared the same, deserve scant consideration because a medical examination is not indispensable in a prosecution for rape. 21 In fact, there could be a finding of rape even if the medical examination showed no vaginal laceration. 22 Besides, it is settled that 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 constitute the commission of the crime, and this rule applies with more vigor when the culprit is a close relative of the victim. 23

All things studiedly considered and viewed in proper perspective, the mind of the Court can rest easy on a finding of guilt of accused-appellant. Judgment of affirmance is indicated.

Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, provides:

x x x           x x x          x x x

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 eighteen (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.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Conformably, in the case under consideration, with the concurrence of the special qualifying circumstances of relationship of accused-appellant with the victims and the latter's minority, capital punishment has to be imposed on accused-appellant in Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017, R95-022, R95-023, R95-024, R94-025, and R95-026.

In Criminal Case No. R95-018, the lower court correctly imposed the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, the rape charged having been committed on January 26, 1992, before the effectivity of R.A. No. 7659.

Consistent with prevailing jurisprudence, an indemnity of P75,000.00 is awardable to the victim, the rape sued upon being qualified by circumstances calling for the imposition of the death penalty. 24 Thus, in Criminal Case Nos. R95-017, R95-022, R95-023, R95-024, R95-025 and R95-026, where the imposition of death penalty is warranted, accused-appellant has to pay the victim in each case, P75,000.00 as civil indemnity. In Criminal Case No. R95-018, where the penalty meted is reclusion perpetua, civil indemnity of P50,000.00 is proper. 25 The award of P50,000.00 as moral damages for each count of rape is upheld, the said award being imposable in rape cases without need of proof. 26

Four members of the Court are steadfast in their adherence to the separate opinion expressed in People vs. Echegaray 27 that Republic Act No. 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty. However, they bow to the majority opinion that the said law is constitutional and thereunder, the imposition of the death penalty is proper.

WHEREFORE, the Decision under automatic review, finding the accused-appellant, Ruben de los Reyes, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of seven (7) counts of rape and imposing him the penalty of Death for each rape in Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017, R95-022, R95-023, R95-024, R94-025, and R95-026, and Reclusion Perpetua in Criminal Case No. R95-018, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that apart from the award of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages in each case, the accused-appellant is sentenced to pay civil indemnity of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos in Criminal Case No. R95-018, and Seventy-five Thousand (P75,000.00) Pesos in each case in Criminal Cases Nos. R95-017, R95-022, R95-023, R95-024, R95-025 and R95-026. Costs against the accused-appellant.1wphi1

In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, upon the finality of this decision, let the records of the case be forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.1wphi1.nt

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.


Footnotes

1 Penned by Judge Angelito C. Teh.

2 Decision, Rollo, pp. 100-101.

3 Rollo, p.18.

4 Ibid., p. 20.

5 Ibid., p. 22.

6 Original Records (O.R.), p. 22.

7 O.R., p. 26.

8 Appellee's Brief, Rollo, pp. 230-234.

9 Exhibit D-6, O.R. p. 10.

10 Exhibit G-7, O.R. p. 14.

11 Appellant's Brief, Rollo, p. 136.

12 Appellant's Brief, Rollo, pp. 130-131.

13 People vs. Lopez, G.R. No. 129397, February 8, 1999, citing: People vs. Atuel, 261 SCRA 339.

14 Decision, Rollo, p. 98.

* See Appellant's Brief, Rollo, p. 137.

15 Appellant's Brief, Rollo, p. 145.

16 People vs. Lasola, G.R. No. 123152, November 16, 1999, citing: People vs. Silvano, G.R. No. 127356, June 29, 1999; People vs. Escober, 281 SCRA 498; People vs. Romua, 272 SCRA 818; People vs. San Juan, 270 SCRA 693; People vs. Zaballero, 274 SCRA 627; People vs. Bugarin, 273 SCRA 384; People vs. Burce, 269 SCRA 293; People vs. Gabayron, 78 SCRA 78; People vs. Arellano, 282 SCRA 500; Ugaddan vs. CA, 275 SCRA 35; People vs. Sancholes, 271 SCRA 527; People vs. Salvame, 270 SCRA 766; and People vs. Tabaco, 270 SCRA 32.

17 People vs. Montefalcon, G.R. No. 116741-43, March 25, 1999, citing: People vs. Sarellana, 233 SCRA 31.

18 Appellant's Brief, Rollo, pp. 138-139.

19 Appellee's Brief, Rollo, p. 241.

20 People vs. Manuel, 236 SCRA 545, p. 552; citing: People vs. Ignacio, G.R. Nos. 106644-45, June 7, 1994; People vs. Oydoc, 125 SCRA 250; Cf. People vs. Sonico, 156 SCRA 419; People vs. Ibay, G.R. No. 101631, June 8, 1994; and People vs. Olivar, 215 SCRA 759 [1992].

21 People vs. Catoltol, Sr., 265 SCRA 109, p. 117, citing: People vs. Sadang, 233 SCRA 412.

22 People vs. Sapurco, 245 SCRA 519, 528.

23 People vs. Burce, 269 SCRA 293, 311, citing: People vs. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613, 632.

24 People vs. Lasola, supra.

25 People vs. Lasola, supra.

26 People vs. Lim, G.R. No. 131861-63, August 17, 1999, citing: People vs. Prades 292 SCRA 188 [1998].

27 G.R. No. 117472, 267 SCRA 682, February 7, 1997.


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