Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 184922               February 23, 2011

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,
vs.
PORFERIO MASAGCA, JR. y PADILLA, Appellant.

D E C I S I O N

BRION, J.:

On appeal is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming with modification the Judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac, Catanduanes finding Porferio Masagca, Jr. (appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three (3) counts of rape committed against his own daughter, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count.

THE FACTS

The appellant (a widower) and four of his children (including the private complainant [AAA]3) lived in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Virac, Catanduanes. At around seven o’clock on the evening of September 10, 2000, after his other children had left to watch a TV program, the appellant laid down beside his daughter AAA, removed her blanket, and held her right hand. He, thereafter, removed her short pants and underwear, laid on top of her, and inserted his penis into her vagina for about one minute. Throughout the incident, AAA did not say anything as the appellant threatened to hit her on the mouth if she would make any noise.4

On October 6, 2001, the appellant and his children this time resided at his parents’ home in Barangay J.M. Alberto (Poniton), Virac, Catanduanes. At around ten o’clock in the evening, AAA was awakened by her father’s arrival. He removed her shorts and underwear as he lowered his own shorts and underwear to his knees, and managed to insert at least an inch of his penis into her vagina for one minute. AAA’s struggle proved fruitless as he tightly held her right hand. Again, he threatened to hit her on the mouth if she reported the incident to anyone.5

AAA’s experience with her father was repeated on October 14, 2001, at around ten o’clock in the evening in the same house. AAA recalled that her father again inserted his penis into her vagina for one minute and moved his buttocks. She struggled, but her father was far stronger. This time, the appellant did not say anything to her. Seven days later, AAA revealed her ordeals to her aunt (the appellant’s sister). This disclosure led to charges against the appellant for three (3) counts of rape.6

THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT

At the trial, the prosecution presented AAA7 and the Virac Rural Health Physician who testified that AAA had healed hymenal lacerations.8 The appellant interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. He claimed that he could not have raped AAA on September 10, 2000 as she was then living in Tabaco City (Albay) and he was living in Barangay Sto. Domingo (Catanduanes). He claimed that he could not have raped her on October 6 and 14, 2001 as AAA slept then with his parents in their room. The appellant claimed that AAA made up the rape charges after he spanked her for having gone to the river with a male stranger. He also claimed that this was the first time he hurt any of his children.9

After the trial, the RTC found AAA’s testimony to be "steadfast and unequivocal," and convicted appellant for three (3) counts of rape. It sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count and to pay the amounts of P75,000 and P50,000 as civil liability and moral damages, respectively, for each of the three (3) cases.10

THE RULING OF THE APPELLATE COURT

The CA affirmed the RTC Judgment. It ruled that as AAA was a child victimized by her own father, her testimony should be given full weight and credit, more so since it was categorical, straightforward and corroborated by the findings of a medico-legal officer. It held that the lack of contusions on AAA’s body did not negate rape; the fact that the appellant is AAA’s father who exercised moral ascendancy over her substituted for actual violence. It observed that lust is no respecter of time and place; hence, rape could be committed even in the bedroom of the appellant’s parents. Finally, the CA, citing People v. Cresencia Tabugoca,11 agreed with the RTC that it was unbelievable that AAA would make up rape charges against her own father just because he had spanked her. The CA agreed with the RTC that the appellant’s claim (i.e., that he had never hurt any of his children until the spanking incident) was belied by his own son BBB, a defense witness, who testified that appellant was cruel and would hurt his children arbitrarily, especially when he was drunk. The CA affirmed the RTC’s Judgment and additionally required the appellant pay the private complainant P25,000 as exemplary damages for each count of rape.12

THE COURT’S RULING

We affirm the appellant’s guilt, but modify the awards of moral and exemplary damages.

We find no reason to disturb the findings of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA. As we have repeatedly ruled, the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses must be given great respect in the absence of any attendant grave abuse of discretion; the trial court had the advantage of actually examining both real and testimonial evidence, including the demeanor of the witnesses, and is in the best position to rule on their weight and credibility. The rule finds greater application when the CA sustains the findings of the trial court.13

We find that the prosecution successfully established the elements of rape. AAA positively identified the appellant as her rapist. In rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided it is credible, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things.14 Our examination of the records shows no indication that we should view AAA’s testimony in a suspicious light. The doctrine in People v. Efren Maglente y Cervantes15 finds particular application in this case:

When the offended party is a young and immature girl testifying against a parent, courts are inclined to lend credence to her version of what transpired. Youth and immaturity are given full weight and credit. Incestuous rape is not an ordinary crime that can be easily invented because of its heavy psychological toll. It is unlikely that a young woman of tender years would be willing to concoct a story which would subject her to a lifetime of gossip and scandal among neighbors and friends and even condemn her father to death.

The appellant’s defenses of denial (for the October 6 and 14, 2001 incidents) and alibi (for the September 10, 2000 incident) cannot prevail over AAA’s testimony that she had been raped and her positive identification of the appellant as her rapist. Denial and alibi are the weakest of all defenses because they are easy to concoct and fabricate.16 To be believed, denial must be supported by a strong evidence of innocence; otherwise, it is regarded as purely self-serving. Alibi, on the other hand, is rejected when the prosecution sufficiently establishes the identity of the accused.17 The facts in this case do not present any exceptional circumstance warranting a deviation from these established rules.

The Proper Penalty

The applicable provisions of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353 (effective October 22, 1997), covering the crime of Rape are Articles 266-A and 266-B, which provide:

Article 266-A. Rape. When and How Committed. - Rape is committed:

1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

x x x x

Article 266-B. Penalty. - Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

x x x x

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/qualifying 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[.]

The prosecution firmly established that AAA was under eighteen (18) years of age when the rape incidents occurred, having been born on September 15, 1987.18 The prosecution likewise proved – and the defense admitted19 – that the appellant is AAA’s father.20 The proper penalty for each of the three (3) counts of such qualified rape would be death were it not for Republic Act No. 934621 which reduced the death penalty to reclusion perpetua.1avvphi1

The Proper Indemnity

The Court affirms the award of civil indemnity made by the trial court for each count of rape.22 Civil indemnity is mandatory when rape is found to have been committed.23 Based on prevailing jurisprudence, we affirm the award of P75,000.00 to the rape victim as civil indemnity for each count.24

We, likewise, affirm the award of moral damages made by the trial court for each count of rape. Moral damages are awarded to rape victims without need of proof other than the fact of rape, on the assumption that the victim suffered moral injuries from the experience she underwent.25 We, however, increase the award of P50,000.00 to P75,000.00 based on the prevailing jurisprudence on the award of moral damages in cases of qualified rape.26

We also affirm the award of exemplary damages made by the CA for each count of rape.27 The award of exemplary damages is justified under Article 2229 of the Civil Code to set a public example and serve as deterrent against elders who abuse and corrupt the youth.28 Following jurisprudence on the award of exemplary damages in qualified rape cases,29 the award of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages should be increased to P30,000.00.

WHEREFORE, in view of these considerations, we AFFIRM the April 23, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02607, subject to the following MODIFICATIONS:

1. The award of P50,000.00 as moral damages is increased to P75,000.00; and

2. The award of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is increased to P30,000.00.


Associate Justice

Associate Justice

SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION**
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

(on wellness leave)
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES*
Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD***
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest 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 Court’s Division.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Acting Chairperson’s Attestation, it is hereby certified 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 Court’s Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* On wellness leave.

** Designated Acting Chairperson of the Third Division per Special Order No. 925 dated January 24, 2011.

*** Designated additional Member of the Third Division per Special Order No. 926 dated January 24, 2011.

1 In CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02607, dated April 23, 2008, and penned by CA Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, with the concurrence of CA Associate Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos and CA Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang.

2 In Criminal Case Nos. 3004, 3005 and 3006, dated December 5, 2006, and penned by Presiding Judge Lelu Contreras of Branch 43, RTC, Virac, Catanduanes.

3 The Court shall withhold the real name of the victim-survivor and shall use fictitious initials instead to represent her. Likewise, the personal circumstances of the victims-survivors or any other information tending to establish or compromise their identities, as well as those of their immediate family or household members, shall not be disclosed. (People v. Cabalguinto, GR No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419, 425-426, citing Section 40, Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children; Section 63, Rule XI, Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the "Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.")

4 CA rollo, p. 30; TSN dated November 14, 2002, pp. 6-18.

5 CA rollo, pp. 30-31; TSN dated December 3, 2002, pp. 3-9.

6 CA rollo, p. 31; TSN dated December 3, 2002, pp. 9-14.

7 TSNs dated November 14, 2002, December 3, 2002 and December 10, 2002.

8 TSN dated November 12, 2002.

9 TSN dated January 26, 2006.

10 CA rollo, pp. 36-38.

11 G.R. No. 125334, January 28, 1998, 285 SCRA 312. "Mere disciplinary chastisement is not strong enough to make daughters in a Filipino family invent a charge that would only bring shame and humiliation upon them and their own family and make them the object of gossip among their classmates and friends."

12 Rollo, pp. 2-10.

13 People v. Tablang, G.R. No. 174859, October 30, 2009, 604 SCRA 757; citing People v. Dela Paz, G.R. No. 177294, February 19, 2008, 546 SCRA 363.

14 People v. Glivano, G.R. No. 177565, January 28, 2008, 542 SCRA.


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