[ G.R. No. 229762, November 28, 2018 ]
AAA, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.
This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by AAA1 (petitioner), praying for the reversal of the July 22, 2016 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 01170-MIN and its January 12, 2017 Resolution,3 which affirmed the January 22, 2013 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court of Iligan City, Branch 2 (RTC), in Criminal Case No. II-14837, finding petitioner guilty of violating Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.
The information filed against petitioner reads:
That on or about February 17, 2010 in the City of [XXX],5 Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit acts of violence against his wife [BBB],6 as follows: by taking their conjugal properties and bring[ing] them to the house of his mother without regard to her feelings and against her will which caused mental, emotional anguish to his legal wife [BBB].
Contrary to and in violation of Section 5(i) of Republic Act No. 9262 otherwise known as the Anti-Violence against women and their Children Act of 2004.7
When arraigned, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Evidence for the Prosecution
The prosecution presented two (2) witnesses, BBB (private complainant) and CCC, private complainant's daughter.
Private complainant testified that she and petitioner are husband and wife, then being married for 19 years. They have two children, one of whom was witness CCC. Petitioner worked abroad while private complainant was a full-time housewife. Petitioner sent money to private complainant and the children. From this money, private complainant was able to buy household items: television set, refrigerator, karaoke, washing machine, dining table, and "sleeprite" bed. The family lived in a house owned by petitioner's mother, while petitioner's parents lived in a separate house in the same city.
On February 17, 2010, petitioner and private complainant had a heated argument regarding private complainant's supposed indebtedness, to which the family's television set and refrigerator were used as collateral. Private complainant said she incurred the debt to pay her siblings the money she borrowed in relation to petitioner's applications for work. Petitioner hauled the family's television set, refrigerator, divider, " sleeprite" bed, and dining table to his parents' house. Private complainant tried to stop him but petitioner " mauled" her.
The couple's daughter, witness CCC, testified that she saw her parents arguing, but she did not know what the argument was about. She later saw petitioner removing several appliances and furniture from their house.
Evidence for the Defense
The defense presented petitioner as its sole witness. Petitioner claimed that private complainant incurred debts from a lending institution and from their neighbors without his knowledge or approval. The collateral for the loans were their television set and refrigerator. Petitioner admitted that he brought the appliances and some furniture to his parents' house for safety because the debt collector had told him that the sheriff would confiscate these the following day. While petitioner was bringing out the items, private complainant blocked the door. Petitioner was enraged and he pushed private complainant aside. He asserted that the household items were acquired through his hard work. Further, he said that he did not know why private complainant incurred debts when he regularly sent her support.
Ruling of the RTC
In its decision, the RTC found that all the elements of the crime of violence against women under Sec. 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 were satisfied. There was no question that petitioner and private complainant were married, as required by the first element. The RTC viewed as constituting violence the petitioner's act of taking away all their properties over the objection of his wife to the extent of physically harming and verbally abusing her. Petitioner's allegation that he only wanted to protect their properties was not given credit for being uncorroborated and unjustified. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the court finds accused [AAA] guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, and the said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.
Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the CA.
Ruling of the CA
The CA denied petitioner's appeal. The appellate court echoed the RTC's factual findings and conclusions. The CA found that the prosecution sufficiently established the elements of the crime as defined in Section 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262 and as alleged in the information filed against petitioner. The CA highlighted that the element of mental or emotional anguish was proved through the victim's testimony. The CA, however, found it proper to apply the mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation. Petitioner's outburst was triggered by the indebtedness incurred by private complainant without his knowledge and consent. The CA remarked that petitioner's emotional response was a natural reaction of a person who found that the fruits of his hard work had been squandered. Thus, the CA reduced the penalty imposed by the RTC. The fallo reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated January 22, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, [XXX], in Criminal Case No. 11-14837, finding accused-appellant [AAA] guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 5(i), of Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the "Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004" is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-Appellant [AAA] is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the CA in its January 12, 2017 resolution.
Hence, this petition.
WHETHER THE PROSECUTION HAS OVERTHROWN THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONER TO BE PRESUMED INNOCENT; and
WHETHER THE ACT OF THE PETITIONER CONSTITUTES EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE.
Petitioner argues that: his act of moving their personal properties to his parents' house was not intended to inflict any emotional pain on private complainant. He only did so to protect their properties from being taken away by the creditors. He did not deprive his wife of the use of their properties and did not inflict any emotional violence upon her. He reasoned that the act of protecting the family's properties against seizure cannot be considered as abuse or violence under R.A. No. 9262. Private complainant's testimony is insufficient to prove psychological violence being bereft of details as to her hurt feelings that can be directly attributed to petitioner. Lastly, the evidence proffered by the prosecution failed to overcome petitioner's right to be presumed innocent.
In its August 11, 2017 Comment,10 the Office of the Solicitor General maintained that: private complainant testified candidly that petitioner's acts had caused her mental or emotional anguish and humiliation. Private complainant averred that she was hurt, confused, and shamed when petitioner verbally abused her in the presence of their children. In fine, good faith and absence of criminal intent are not valid defenses in offenses punished under R.A. No. 9262, the latter being a special law.
The petition lacks merit.
The information charges petitioner of violating Sec. 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262, which states:
SECTION 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children. – The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:
x x x x
(i) Causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children or denial of access to the woman's child/children.
In Dinamling v. People of the Philippines,11 the Court enumerated the elements that must be present for the conviction of an accused, viz:
(1) The offended party is a woman and/or her child or children;
(2) The woman is either the wife or former wife of the offender, or is a woman with whom the offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or is a woman with whom such offender has a common child. As for the woman's child or children, they may be legitimate or illegitimate, or living within or without the family abode;
(3) The offender causes on the woman and/or child mental or emotional anguish; and
(4) The anguish is caused through acts of public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, denial of financial support or custody of minor children or access to the children or similar such acts or omissions.12 (Citations omitted)
The Court will address the final two elements as the first two are undoubtedly present in this case.
The cited section has been ruled to penalize certain forms of psychological violence. As defined in law, psychological violence refers to acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering to the victim.13 Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while mental or emotional anguish is the effect caused upon or the damage sustained by the offended party. To establish this as an element, it is necessary to show proof of commission of any of the acts enumerated in Section 5(i). To establish mental or emotional anguish, the testimony of the victim must be presented, as these experiences are personal to the party.14
The courts a quo found this element present as supported by private complainant's testimony:
Q: On February 17, 2010 at around 7:00 in the evening, could you still remember where were you?
A: Yes, sir. I was at home.
Q: Was there anything unusual incident happened at that time?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What was that?
A: He mauled me.
Q: Do you know the reason why [the] accused mauled you?
A: Because I had incurred debts.
x x x x
Q: Before you were mauled by the accused, what happened prior to that incident?
A: He verbally abused me.
Q: What else, if any?
A: He put me into shamed.[sic]
x x x x
Q: What were those things that were taken away from the house?
A: Our conjugal things.
Q: What are those things taken from the house?
A: TV, Refrigerator, Divider, Sleep Rite, Dining Table.
x x x x
Q: What did you do, if any when the accused took these properties?
A: I tried to stop [him] and I was so hurt.
x x x x
Q: Who were with you at the time of the incident?
A: My children.
x x x x
Q: When your husband, the accused in this case, took those properties, what did you feel?
A: I was so hurt.
Q: What else?
A: I was confused what I want supposed to do.15
The trial court observed that private complainant was " so hurt and humiliated." Augmenting the pain brought about by the situation was that petitioner "abandoned her and their children."16 The CA, for its part, remarked that petitioner admitted to pushing private complainant. CCC also testified that the incident was not isolated, as similar arguments and even physical abuse had already happened between them.17 Evidently, the above portions of private complainant's testimony, as well as the other statements made by private complainant mentioned in the CA and RTC decisions, all prove petitioner had caused mental and emotional anguish upon private complainant.
Finally, private complainant's anguish was clearly caused by acts of petitioner parallel to those provided by the law. Private complainant's suffering was due to petitioner's denying the use of the appliances and furniture commonly owned by the family. Anguish causes distress to someone, or makes someone suffer intense pain or sorrow.18 It is doubtless that private complainant, by her own recount of the situation, was thoroughly distressed by petitioner's acts, contrary to petitioner's averments.
In defense, petitioner insists that he was only preventing the appliances and furniture from being taken away and that he did not intend to inflict emotional abuse on private complainant. His assertions deserve scant consideration. The Court highlights that he not only gathered the appliances that were used as collateral for the loan, i.e., the television set and refrigerator, but also took away the divider and even the "sleeprite" bed the family slept on. His very act of depriving the entire family of such sleeping fixture does not justify his reasons. Moreover, his defense of lack of intent to commit the crime is contradicted by what transpired. Private complainant tried to prevent petitioner from removing the appliances and furniture from their house, but petitioner did it against her will and even hurt her. He could not deny causing her harm, mental and emotional anguish, and humiliation when he also "mauled" her in front of their children.
Petitioner claims that he has the right to be presumed innocent. Surely, Art. III, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution guarantees that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. To overcome this presumption, proof beyond reasonable doubt is needed. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such degree of proof as to exclude the possibility of error and produce absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is required or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.19 All the elements of the crime are deemed present; thus, the presumption of innocence is overcome.ℒαwρhi৷
The Court agrees with the RTC and the CA in finding the petitioner guilty of violating Sec. 5(i) of R.A. No. 9262. However, the Court disagrees with the penalty imposed by the CA, most especially the application of the mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation. It must be stressed that in criminal cases, an appeal throws the entire case wide open for review and allows the reviewing tribunal to correct errors, though unassigned, in the appealed judgment. The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law.20 This principle has been applied by the Court even in petitions for review on certiorari.21
A number of cases state that an offense is defined and is ostensibly punished under a special law, when the penalty therefor is actually taken from the Revised Penal Code in its technical nomenclature; necessarily, its duration, correlation, and legal effects under the system of penalties native to said Code also apply. Modifying circumstances may be appreciated to determine the periods of the corresponding penalties, or even to reduce the penalty by degrees.22 However, in this case, the circumstance of passion and obfuscation should not mitigate the penalty imposed on petitioner.
In order to be entitled to the mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation, the following elements should occur: (1) there should be an act both unlawful and sufficient to produce such condition of mind; and (2) said act which produced the obfuscation was not far removed from the commission of the crime by a considerable length of time, during which the perpetrator might recover his moral equanimity.23 This circumstance is considered mitigating because by reason of causes naturally producing powerful excitement in a person, he loses his reason and self-control, thereby diminishing the exercise of his will power.24
The elements for the consideration of the mitigating circumstance are missing. Private complainant did not commit any unlawful act against petitioner that would cause such a reaction from him. Private complainant's acts also cannot be considered as providing a legitimate stimulus justifying petitioner's reaction – where he lost reason and self-control.
Further, the Court notes that both the RTC and the CA failed to include the imposition of a fine on petitioner and to require him to undergo psychological counseling or treatment. These are additional penalties that are set by Sec. 6 of R.A. No. 9262 in addition to imprisonment, thus:
SECTION 6. Penalties. – The crime of violence against women and their children, under Section 5 hereof shall be punished according to the following rules:
x x x x
(f) Acts falling under Section 5(h) and Section 5(i) shall be punished by prision mayor.
x x x x
In addition to imprisonment, the perpetrator shall (a) pay a fine in the amount of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) but not more than Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00); (b) undergo mandatory psychological counseling or psychiatric treatment and shall report compliance to the court. (Underscoring supplied)
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The July 22, 2016 Decision and the January 12, 2017 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 01170-MIN are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner AAA is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum. He is also ordered to (a) pay a fine in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00); (b) to undergo mandatory psychological counseling or psychiatric treatment; and (c) to report to the court his compliance with counseling or treatment.
Leonen, (Acting Chairperson),** J. Reyes, Jr., and Hernando, JJ., concur.
Peralta, (Chairperson) J., on official business.
NOTICE OF JUDGMENT
Sirs / Mesdames:
Please take notice that on November 28, 2018 a Resolution, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on February 8, 2019 at 9:00 a.m.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court
** Per Special Order No. 2617 dated November 23, 2018.
1 The complete names and personal circumstances of the victim's family members or relatives, who may be mentioned in the court's decision or resolution have 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/Personal Circumstances).
2 Rollo, pp. 30-38; penned by Associate Justice Oscar V. Badelles, with Associate Justice Romulo V. Borja and Associate Justice Ronaldo B. Martin, concurring.
3 Id. at 44-45.
4 Id. at 49-55; penned by Presiding Judge Anisah B. Amanodin-Umpa.
5 The city where the crime was committed is blotted to protect the identity of the victim pursuant to Administrative Circular No. 83-2015 issued on 27 July 2015.
6 The true name of the victim has 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/Personal Circumstances). The confidentiality of the identity of the victim is mandated by Republic Act (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).
7 Rollo, p. 49.
8 Id. at 55.
9 Id. at 37.
10 Id. at 84-93.
11 761 Phil. 356 (2015).
12 Id. at 373.
13 R.A. No. 9262, Sec. 3(C).
14 Dinamling v. People, supra note 11, at 376.
15 Rollo, pp. 68-70 (Appellee's Brief, TSN, dated October 5, 2011, pp. 5-7).
16 Id. at 54-55.
17 Id. at 34.
18 Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
19 People v. Manson, G.R. No. 215341, November 28, 2016, 810 SCRA 551, 560.
20 Manansala v. People, 775 Phil. 514, 520 (2015).
21 Id., see also Curammeng v. People, 799 Phil. 575, 583 (2016); Guelos v. People, G.R. No. 177000, June 19, 2017, 827 SCRA 224, 239.
22 People v. Mantalaba, 669 Phil. 461, 484 (2011), citing People v. Simon, 304 Phil. 725, 761 (1994).
23 People v. Javier, 370 Phil. 596, 605 (1999).
24 People v. Caber, Sr., 399 Phil. 743, 753 (2000).
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