Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

 

G.R. No. 114849 August 24, 1998

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ALVIN IGNACIO y JOCON, accused-appellant.

 

ROMERO, J.:

How much suffering can a seven-year old child, sexually victimized by a much older man, endure? No one can really answer this with certainty for it requires entering the mind, perhaps even the soul, of the tortured child. The offense rarely leaves any tangible trace or injury, but what it does to the victim's mental and emotional well-being goes beyond any imaginable horror which will scar her indelibly for the rest of her lifetime.

The Ignacios and Diños were living peacefully under one roof until March 30, 1993, when seven-year old April Diño was sexually abused by accused-appellant Alvin Ignacio. April testified that on that fateful day, she was asked by her grandmother Myrna to call her Aunt Marilu. As the latter was taking an afternoon nap, April knocked on the door, but Alvin suddenly pulled her into his adjacent room. He pulled down her shorts and panty, unzipped his pants, laid her on the bed, lay on top of her, then mercilessly forced his manhood into her callow vulva. After ravishing her for some time, he casually pulled up her lower garments and warned her not to tell anybody about what had just occurred.

As fate would have it, however, she had to relate her ordeal to a grownup the following day, when Marilu confronted her about the bloody underwear discovered in the washroom. Marilu shared the information with April's "father" Ferdinand, and they listened to April's unwavering story, how she was raped by Alvin, then told to keep it a secret. They examined April and saw that she was still bleeding. April was then brought to the police while Ferdinand stayed in the house to ensure that Alvin would not leave the house. The responding officers questioned April and also inspected her private parts; they were likewise convinced that the young girl was raped. The same day, Alvin was arrested and detained at the police station pending investigation.

In the meantime, upon the request of the police, the National Bureau of Investigation subjected April to a medical and physical examination. Medico-Legal Officer Ruperto J. Sombilon, Jr. prepared a certification dated March 31, 1993, stating that he found April "to have fresh bleeding hymenal lacerations . . . compatible to (sic) being sexually abused." 1

The only evidence adduced by accused-appellant for his defense was the testimony of his brother Rufino Ignacio, Marilu's common-law spouse. Rufino claimed he was the true father of April and, as such, he was withdrawing the complaint against Alvin. April's birth certificate does state that her mother is Marilu Diño, but it fails to divulge the identity of her father, which is stated as "unknown." Furthermore, Marilu, testifying as rebuttal witness, disputed Rufino's allegation. She said that her brother Ferdinand agreed to raise April as his own child.

After weighing the evidence thus presented, Judge Bienvenido L. Reyes of the Regional Trial Court of Malabon, Branch 74, convinced of April Diño's sincerity and candor, accordingly rendered a judgment of conviction, to wit:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, and finding the accused ALVIN IGNACIO Y JOCON GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE FELONY OF RAPE, he is sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of RECLUSION PERPETUA. He is likewise (ordered) to indemnify the victim and her heirs the amount of THIRTY THOUSAND (P30,000.00) PESOS, as and by way of moral damages.

SO ORDERED.

On appeal, accused-appellant maintains his innocence and claims that at her tender age, "it is unbelievable that April could classify the incident as 'rape' without some previous preliminaries and instructions from some legally disposed minds." He then goes on to conclude that "April was well rehearsed on what to say and testify in (sic) the witness stand." 2

This is shallow reasoning which fails to convince this Court that accused-appellant was wrongly convicted. The evidence pointing to his culpability, far from being insignificant as he insinuates, is so overwhelming, and even assaults on the procedure for his prosecution cannot defeat this conclusion.

There is no question that April Diño was seven years old at the time she was sexually abused by accused-appellant on March 30, 1993. For all intents and purposes, this type of rape being statutory, no proof of involuntariness on the part of the victim is necessary as she is considered by law to be incapable of consenting to the sexual act. To convict the accused, the only circumstance that need be proved is the fact of intercourse. 3 This was amply demonstrated by the prosecution in the case at bar. As we reiterated in People v. Edualino, 4 "(a) person accused of rape can be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim provided the testimony is credible, natural, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature and the course of things." 5

April Diño testified thus:

Q On 30 March 1993, in the afternoon at or about 3:00 p.m., do you know where you were?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where were you?

A I was at my tita, sir.

Q You said that you are at your tita. Who is this Tita you are referring to?

A Marilu A. Diño, sir.

Q And where is this house of your Tita Marilu?

A At the house of Alvin, sir.

Q In what municipality is the house of your tita Marilu where Alvin is also residing located?

A Navotas, sir.

Q Why were you there in the house of Tita Marilu?

A I was fetching her, sir, because my mommy asked me to call her.

Q Who was this Mommy whom you said was asking you to call your tita?

A Myrna Diño, sir.

Q Were you able to call your tita Marilu?

A No sir.

Q Why?

A She was sleeping, sir.

Q When you were not able to call your Tita Marilu, because she was sleeping, do you know what happened next?

A I knocked, sir.

Q Where did you knock?

A At the door of my tita, sir.

Q While you were knocking at the door of your tita, do you recall what happened next?

A Yes, sir.

Q What was that?

A I was pulled by Alvin, sir, "hinatak."

Q To what place did Alvin pull you?

A Inside his room, sir.

Q Where is this room located? In what house is this room located?

A Next to the room of my tita, sir.

Q You are referring to Tita Marilu's room?

A Yes, sir.

Q And this room of Alvin and the room of your tita are situated inside the house in Navotas?

A Yes, sir.

Q After pulling you to his room, what did Alvin do, if any?

A He removed my shorts and panty, sir.

Q After removing your shorts and panty, what did Alvin do, if any?

A He inserted his penis inside my vagina, sir.

Q What was your position when Alvin inserted his penis into your vagina? Were you in a lying position?

A Yes, sir.

Q When Alvin inserted his penis into your vagina, what did you feel, if any?

A I felt pain, sir.

Q After Alvin inserted his penis into your vagina, what did Alvin do, if any?

A He put on my shorts and panty, sir.

Q How long did Alvin's penis stay in your vagina?

A For a long time, sir.

Q After inserting his penis into your vagina which you said was quite long, what did he do next?

A He put on my panty and shorts back, sir.

Q How about him, did he disrobe before he inserted anything into your vagina?

A No, sir.

Q Did he say anything?

A Yes, sir.

Q What did he say?

A He told me that I should not tell to anybody what happened, sir.

Q This Alvin who inserted his penis into your vagina, is he inside the courtroom?

A Yes, sir.

Q Please point him to us.

(At this point in time witness pointed to a man who responded to the name Alvin Ignacio upon query)

After putting back your panty and shorts, what did Alvin do next, if any?

A He sent me outside the room and told me not to tell it to anybody, sir. 6

Even on cross-examination, the seven-year old lass did not waver in fingering accused-appellant as her ravisher:

Q Do you know what a penis is?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you know its shape?

A No, sir.

Q So you are not sure whether Alvin had inserted his pennis (sic) into your vagina?

A I am sure, sir, "sigurado po"

xxx xxx xxx

Q Why, are you so sure?

A I saw it, You Honor.

xxx xxx xxx

Q How big was the pennis (sic) of Alvin?

A Big, sir.

Q Is the pennis (sic) of Alvin as big as this microphone?

A Yes, sir.

Q How did Alvin insert his pennis (sic), as big as that microphone into your vagina, when you are only 7 years old?

A He layed (sic) over me, sir.

Q Did you feel pain?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you feel that it was Alvin's fingers being inserted into your vagina?

xxx xxx xxx

Q Did he pump on you, meaning did he pumped (sic) his pennis (sic) into your vagina, you said that it was inserted into your vagina?

A He just inserted his pennis (sic), sir.

Q For how long that Alvin inserted his pennis (sic) into your vagina?

A Quite long, sir.

Q Did you cry?

A No, sir.

Q Despite the pain you felt?

A Yes, sir.

Q And after that, you were still able to play?

A No, sir. 7

Furthermore, there is no doubt that April could be mistaken about the identity of the man who abused her, because, as correctly observed by the trial court, they were living in the same house prior to that fateful day of the incident.

As regards the sole defense advanced by accused-appellant, that his brother Rufino was the real father of April and that the latter was withdrawing the complaint, suffice it to say that contrary evidence was submitted by the prosecution so that Rufino could not validly withdraw the complaint.

Assuming arguendo that Rufino was indeed the father of April, he still cannot motu proprio withdraw the complaint because it was filed by April herself, with the assistance of her putative father Ferdinand. 8 That act was adequate to confer jurisdiction on the trial court to try and hear the case. It must be noted that, under Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code, a minor has the right to institute a criminal action for rape by herself or, successively, through her parents, grandparents or guardian. Furthermore, under the Rules on Criminal Procedure, "(t)he offended party, even if she were a minor, has the right to initiate the prosecution for (rape), independently of her parents, grandparents or guardian, unless she is incompetent or incapable of doing so upon grounds other than her minority." 9

Finally, the Court observes that the trial court did not award any indemnity to April for the physical pain she suffered, although it did grant her P30,000.00 by way of moral damages, without more. At this juncture, this Court deems it proper to lay down some basic precepts which are more realistic and in keeping with current trends in the matter of awarding damages to rape victims.

Under the Civil Code, "(e)very person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same," 10 and "(a)ny person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damages." 11 A man who commits a crime is someone who is acting "contrary to law." If he should cause damage to another, as criminals always do, the law requires him, not only to suffer the penalties imposed by the State, but also to indemnify his victim. On top of this, he may be required to pay damages, for intentionally causing "loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals." Hence, moral damages are often awarded to victims of crimes for their loss or injury.

Courts have hitherto awarded moral damages in rape cases only when it has been proven during the trial that the victim or her heirs suffered "physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, metal shock, social humiliation, and similar injury." These are sacramental words and phrases which courts routinely look for when awarding moral damages. If none of these is alleged and proven, moral damages would normally be withheld.

One look at the records of a rape case would, however, readily reveal that these factors are evident in each tearful narration of a victim's harrowing tale. Never mind if the exact words do not appear therein. The fact remains that any victim of rape, regardless of age, status, social or professional position, religious orientation, or sexual preference, would suffer physical pain, emotional outrage, mental anxiety and fright. Her feelings, not to speak of her reputation, would definitely be permanently scarred. More often than not, the victim's family would be constrained to transfer to a different locality to erase the social stigma of a woman defiled. Although, admittedly, the picayune damages awarded in these instances could not even allay the true misery of a rape victim, the knowledge that the man responsible for it would have to literally pay for his misdeed, on top of having to spend time in prison, could assuage somewhat the pain inflicted.

April Diño was mercilessly plucked from childhood and rudely thrust into a world that, like her, has lost its innocence. She will no longer be thrilled by the ancient rituals of courtship, marriage and procreation. It is very probable that she will be unable to sustain lasting and meaningful relationship with the opposite sex. After the assault upon her virtue, her family has relocated to a place where her history is unknown, where she can possibly make new friends who know nothing of her past. In time, her physical wounds will heal, but the scars left by the accused-appellant on her pubescent mind and heart will forever throb and hurt. For his transgressions, he must be made to pay.

In any event, the Court proclaimed in the recent case of People v.
Prades
, 12 that:

We reiterate here that . . . civil indemnity is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape: it is distinct from and should not be denominated as moral damages which are based on different jural foundations and assessed by the court in the exercise of sound discretion. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

. . . The Court has also resolved that in crimes of rape, such as that under consideration, moral damages may additionally be awarded to the victim in the criminal proceeding, in such amount as the Court deems just, without the need for pleading or proof of the basis thereof as has heretofore been the practice. Indeed, the conventional requirement of allegata et probata in civil procedure and for essentially civil cases should be dispensed with in criminal prosecutions for rape with the civil aspect included therein, since no appropriate pleadings are filed wherein such allegations can be made.

Corollarily; the fact that complainant has suffered the trauma of mental, physical and psychological sufferings which constitute the bases for moral damages are too obvious to still require the recital thereof at the trial by the victim, since the Court itself even assumes and acknowledges such agony on her part as a gauge of her credibility. What exists by necessary implication as being ineludibly present in the case need not go through the superfluity of still being proved through a testimonial charade. (Citations omitted)

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant Alvin Ignacio is ordered to indemnify April Diño in the amount of P75,000.00, consistent with prevailing
jurisprudence 13 and, additionally, to pay her moral damages in the amount of P80,000.00. Costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Kapunan and Purisima, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Records, p. 5.

2 Rollo, p. 83.

3 People v. Henson, 270 SCRA 635 (1997), citing People v. Montefalcon, 243 SCRA 617 (1995).

4 271 SCRA 189 (1997).

5 Citing People v. Pasayan, 261 SCRA 558 (1996).

6 TSN, September 13, 1993, pp. 5-7.

7 TSN, September 15, 1993, pp. 8-9.

8 Records, p. 3.

9 Sec. 5, Rule 110.

10 Art. 20.

11 Art. 21.

12 G.R. No. 127569, July 30, 1998.

13 People v. Victor, G.R. No. 127903, July 9, 1998.


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