Aggrieved, Dela Cruz appealed before the CA.
The CA Ruling
In its assailed decision, the CA affirmed the decision of the RTC. The appellate court agreed that AAA's testimony as corroborated by the findings of the medical examination gave sufficient evidence of carnal knowledge. It explained that in rape cases, the force and violence required is relative in that it need not be overpowering. The CA expounded that force should be viewed from the perception and judgment of the victim. The appellate court noted that AAA pushed Dela Cruz away when he tried to kiss her and told him to stop, yet he continued to do so. It highlighted that AAA's intoxication rendered her too weak to run away or to exert sufficient resistance against Dela Cruz.
The CA disregarded Dela Cruz's argument that AAA's testimony was contrary to human experience elaborating that there is no standard on how rape victims should react. The appellate court sustained the trial court's assessment of AAA's credibility considering that it was in the best position to ascertain and measure the spontaneity and sincerity of the witnesses taking into account their demeanor while testifying on the witness stand. It ruled:
Hence, this appeal raising:
WHETHER THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE.
THE COURT'S RULING
The appeal has no merit.
Under Article 266-A(1) of the RPC, rape is committed when a man has carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: (a) through force, threat or intimidation; (b) when the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious; ( c) by means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; or ( d) when the offended party is under 12 years old or demented, even if none of the above circumstances are present. In short, the following are the elements of rape: (1) accused had carnal knowledge of the victim; and (2) it was accomplished (a) through force, threat or intimidation; (b) when the victim is deprived of reason; or (c) against a victim below 12 years of age or is demented. 15
In the case at bar, there is no dispute that Dela Cruz had carnal knowledge of AAA. In her testimony, she vividly recalled how he had sex with her while they were alone in his house. In addition, AAA's testimony was corroborated by the findings of Dr. Ebdane, who found fresh lacerations in her hymen indicating that it was penetrated by a blunt object such an erect penis. Further, it is noteworthy that Dela Cruz never categorically denied having intercourse with AAA. He merely testified that he could not exactly remember what happened that night and, if indeed he had carnal knowledge with her, it was consensual.
Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding the sexual act are contested. AAA assails that Dela Cruz forced her to have sex with him even after she pushed him away and told him to stop. On the other hand, Dela Cruz claims that he has no recollection of what transpired that night but assured that if he had sex with AAA it was done without coercion.
Degree of force in rape is relative.
Rape is essentially sexual intercourse sans consent. 16 In her testimony, AAA narrated how Dela Cruz defiled her, notwithstanding her refusal to have sex with him, to wit:
Q: When you entered the room, what happened then?
A: When I entered the room, Barok followed me immediately and started kissing me.
Q: And what was your reaction since you were there only to sleep?
A: I told him to stop and I pushed him away from me but he did not stop, ma'am.
Q: What happened after that?
A: He took off my clothes, ma'am.
Q: After he took off your clothes, what did he do?
A: He went on top of me, ma'am.
Q: When you said, he went on top of you, what happened?
A: I just felt something painful.
Q: Why? What did he do to you when you say painful?
A: He inserted his private part into mine, ma'am.
Q: When you say private part, are you referring to the penis of the accused?
A: Yes, ma'am.
Q: And what did you feel at that time while he was inserting his penis into your private part?
A: I was crying at that time because I really don't want what he was doing to me, so I pushed him away from me but he did not stop. 17
Q: So, where at the (sic) both of you?
A: Just on the floor, ma'am.
Q: So, you were lying down?
A: He pushed me to lie down.
Q: Not hard enough?
A: Yes, ma'am
AAA clearly and steadfastly recalled how she was forced to have sexual intercourse with Dela Cruz. She told him to stop and twice tried to push him away but it was all for naught as he continued with his desire to ravish her. In addition, the fact that AAA admitted that she did not resist "hard enough" cannot be taken against her. In rape, the victim need not prove resistance because it is not an element of rape and the lack thereof does not render the victim's act voluntary. 18
Dela Cruz argues that AAA's testimony was insufficient to establish that he exerted force to have sex with her. He explains that his act of following her into the room and kissing her hardly constitutes force. In People v. Jason, 19 the Court expounded that the force required in rape varies depending on the circumstances, to wit:
Sexual congress with a person who expresses resistance through words or deeds constitutes force. 21 Here, AAA verbally and physically manifested her resistance towards Dela Cruz's advances - at one point she even cried. Nonetheless, he persisted and ultimately consummated his desire to have carnal knowledge of her. The degree of force he employed becomes immaterial in view of AAA's minority and the fact that her intoxication impaired her physical strength.
Trial court's assessment
Dela Cruz seeks to malign AAA's credibility by highlighting her demeanor while she was testifying. In addition, he claims that her actions during and after the time of the incident were contrary to human experience. He notes that AAA could have easily cried out for help because she was not gagged and that she remained placid during her alleged ordeal.
It is axiomatic that, as a rule, findings of the trial court as to the credibility of witnesses are not to be disturbed.22 This is true considering that trial courts are at a more advantageous position to fully scrutinize witnesses. Thus, in People v. Sapigao, Jr., 23 the Court explained:
AAA's testimony was straightforward and categorical as she never flinched in describing what happened to her and in identifying Dela Cruz as the one who did it. While she was testifying, the trial court was able to observe her demeanor and conduct and assess it in its entirety. As such, the fact that AAA was smiling at one point during her testimony does not necessarily destroy her credibility and the isolated incident cannot discount the trauma she endured at Dela Cruz's hand.
Further, AAA's failure to shout for help or 'to offer spirited physical resistance cannot be used as basis to damage her credibility.1‚wphi1 In rape cases, there is no expected uniform reaction from the victim considering that the workings of the human mind placed under emotional stress are unpredictable. 25 It must be remembered that AAA had already tried to resist Dela C1uz but failed; thus, coupled with her intoxication, it would be understandable why she no longer offered further resistance or tried to shout for help after her previous futile attempts.
Moreover, contrary to Dela Cruz's belief, AAA's actions after the incident were in line with human experience. She remained inside the room because he was still there and she feared that Dela Cruz might abuse her again. Also, she was in an unfamiliar place and the streets were unlit; there were no people around, so she waited for sunlight before she left to be more secure. She had to ask for directions to reach Noknok's house.
Her urgency in reporting the incident to the authorities strengthens her credibility. AAA immediately told her aunt about the rape once she got home, who in turn notified AAA's parents. Thus, together with her parents, she was able to promptly report the same to the authorities. AAA did not hesitate to seek and obtain justice for the wrong done against her by Dela Cruz.
While the Court agrees with the conviction handed out by the courts a quo, the appealed decision must be modified to conform to recent jurisprudence.1awp++i1
In its decision, the RTC ordered Dela Cruz to pay AAA ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages. The CA modified the trial court's decision to clarify that he was not eligible for parole but affirmed the amount of damages awarded.
People v. Jugueta ( Jugueta) 26 set the standard for damages to be awarded in certain heinous crimes, and settled that victims in simple rape are entitled to the following damages: (a) ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity; (b) ₱75,000.00 as moral damages; and ( c) ₱75,000.00 as exemplary damages. 27 In conformity with Jugueta, all damages awarded to AAA should be increased accordingly.
WHEREFORE, the 22 December 2014 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06397 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant Ronnie dela Cruz a.k.a. "Barok" is ordered to pay AAA ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱75,000.00 as exemplary damages with interest at six percent (6%) per annum computed from the finality of this judgment until fully paid.
SAMUEL R. MARTIRES
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decisionhad been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to the Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersonís Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
1 Rollo, pp. 2-16; penned by Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo, and concurred in by Associate Justices Franchito N. Diamante and Melchor Q. Sadang.
2 CA rollo, pp. 37-47; penned by Presiding Judge Monique A. Quisumbing-Ignacio.
3 Records (Book I), pp. 1-2.
4 The true name of the victim had been replaced with fictitious initials in conformity with Administrative Circular No. 83-2015 (Subject: Protocols And Procedures In the Promulgation, Publication, And Posting On The Websites Of Decisions, Final Resolutions, And Final Orders Using Fictitious Names). The confidentiality of the identity of the victim is mandated by R.A. No. 7610 ("Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act''); R.A. No. 8505 ("Rape Victim Assistance And Protection Act of 1998''); R.A. No. 9208 ("Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act Of 2003''); R.A. No. 9262 ("Anti-Violence Against Women And Their Children Act Of 2004''); and R.A. No. 9344 ("Juvenile Justice And Welfare Act Of 2006").
5 Id. at 28.
6 TSN dated 10 September 2009, pp. 6-8; TSN dated 20 May 2010, pp. 3-6.
7 TSN dated I 0 September 2009, pp. 9-11; TSN dated 20 May 2010, pp. 7-8.
9 TSN dated 10 September 2009, pp. 12-15.
10 Id. at 16-18.
11 TSN dated 9 December 2010, pp. 11-12.
12 TSN dated 2 May 2013, pp. 5-11.
13 CA rollo, pp. 46-47.
14 Rollo, pp. 14-15.
15 People v. Perez, 673 Phil. 373, 379 (2011).
16 People v. Nogopo, 603 Phil. 722, 743 (2009).
17 TSN dated 10 September 2009, pp. 13-14.
18 People v. Palanay, G.R. No. 224583, I February 2017.
19 751 Phil. 450 (2015).
20 Id. at 459.
21 People v. Quintas, 746 Phil. 809, 828 (2014).
22 People v. Mangune, 689 Phil. 759, 769 (2012).
23 G.R. No. 178485, 614 Phil. 589 (2009).
24 Id. at 599.
25 People v. Lucena, 728 Phil. 147, 162-163 (2014).
26 783 Phil. 806 (2016).
27 Id. at 806-856.
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