Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 124736 January 22, 1998

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ROMEO GALLO y IGLOSO, accused-appellant.


PER CURIAM.:

It is disturbing enough to see that there has been a noticeable increase in the incidents of rape but one is left completely appalled that this still growing number includes cases of the bestial act being perpetrated on the young and innocent and, no longer too infrequently it seems, compounded by the close kinship of the offender and the victim.

In People vs. Malagar, 1 the Court has had occasion to state that a

. . . (F)ather is looked up to as the protector and as the guardian of his family, remaining ever wary of even the slightest harm that might befall it. It is difficult to thus imagine that any such man could instead stand as the predator of his own flesh and blood. Yet, we occasionally wound find ourselves so regrettably contending with it as a fact. 2

In the instant case, the accused, Romeo Gallo y Igloso, was charged, docketed Criminal Case No. 2282, before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 68, of Binangonan, Rizal, with the crime of rape in an information that read:

That on or sometime the period of May, 1994 in the Municipality of Cardona, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd designs and by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with a 13-year old girl, Marites Gallo y Segovia.

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

The accused pleaded not guilty; trial ensued in due time.

In a decision, dated 17 April 1986, Romeo Gallo y Igloso was ultimately convicted of rape committed against his own daughter, Marites Gallo y Segovia, only then thirteen years of age. The death penalty having been imposed by the trial court, the records of the case were transmitted to this Court by way of an automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 22 of Republic Act No. 7659.

The Solicitor General recommends an affirmance of the decision. He makes the following statement of facts:

For three years, since age ten, complainant Marites Gallo y Segovia suffered repeated sexual abuses from her father, herein appellant Romeo Gallo y Igloso, the last of which was in their house at Sitio Alacos, Lambac, Cardona, Rizal at around 7:00 in the evening (Exh. "A") in May 1994 (TSN, Feb. 8, 1995, pp. 4-5; March 13, 1995, p. 2).

That evening, appellant, taking advantage of the situation that Marites was only with her younger brother who was already asleep, again imposed his bestial desire on his own daughter. Subjecting his daughter to the usual threat that she would be killed if anybody would know his bestiality, appellant (with his pants off) undressed Marites, removed her underpants, kissed her and inserted his penis into her vagina (Annex "A," TSN, Feb. 8, 1995, pp. 25-27).

After appellant's last sexual onslaught, Marites, now thirteen, finally mustered enough courage and narrated her harrowing experience to her aunt Dolores del [Prado]. Accompanied by the latter, Marites reported the incident to the Barangay Captain of Lambac, Cardona, Rizal (TSN, Feb. 8, 1995, pp. 6-7). The incident led to the investigation by the Cardona Police. Marites executed her complainant-affidavit (Exh. "A," "A-1;" Id., pp. 8-10).

Marites was, thereafter, brought to Camp Crame, Quezon City and was examined by Dr. Cristina B. Freyra who found Marites to be in a non-virgin state. The result of the examination was reduced in writing and covered by Medico-Legal Report No. M-0963-94 (Exh. "B," "B-1;" Id., p. 12; TSN, Sept. 5, 1995, pp. 6-7).4

The defense pictured the accused as any other ordinary man in the family who had tried hard to provide and care for his wife and children. At certain times, the accused conceded, he would meet and drink with friends. The appellant's brief summed up the testimony of Gallo given before the court below; viz:

Accused Romeo Gallo testified that be is a native of Masbate and he got married to his wife Elvie Sigovia in 1975. They were married in the Island of Lambac, Cardona, Rizal. Marites, the complaining witness in this case is his eldest child who was born in 1977. Marites was born inn Bicol where Elvie, his wife, formerly resided. His daughter Marites stayed with his mother-in-law in Bicol for three (3) years. After three years, Marites already stayed with his family. In 1989, his family, together with Marites, stayed [in] Mindoro up to 1994. During their stay in Mindoro they engaged themselves [in] farming, planting palay, cassava and "kamoteng bagin." When asked about the incident that Marites related during her testimony, that she was first molested by the accused, he said that he [did] not know about their accusations. He has no knowledge of any charge against him, for what Marites has said are not true. He treated Marites as a family and he performs his obligation over his family. As far as he remember[s], he spanked his children whenever they commit mistakes as a part of discipline. He and his family alone were in Mindoro, his mother-in-law was not with them.

In 1994, they moved to Lambac, Cardona, Rizal and there, they engaged in charcoal making somewhere in the mountainous part of Lambac. With him was his whole family of six (6) children and his wife, and they occupy a nipa hut. When asked of the incident that happened in the mountainous part of Lambac where he was accused of molestng [his] child Marites, he answered that he knows nothing about it. The truth is that one time he beat Marites and may be she was hurt and related the matter to her mother-in-law. His mother-in-laws was making "sulsol" to his daughter to file this case against him so that he and his wife will be separated. His mother-in-law wanted them to be separated because of his poverty. He tried to convince his child Marites to discontinue filing this case but she did not listen. He [has] never molested her daughter Marites Gallo even once.

On cross examination, he testified that when he married his wife Elvie Gallo, he was then a charcoal maker and before their marriage he [did] not know her mother in law. It was only because of the prodding of his mother-in-law that this case was filed by her daughter. Even in 1975 when he got married to his wife Elvie he was still poor and this may be the reason why his mother-in-law wanted him to be separated from his family. At one time he inflicted punishment [on] Marites and this is probably the reason why Marites agreed to file this case against him. On that occasion, he spanked Marites on the buttocks. He admit[ted] to be drinking liquor for a long time during the intervals of weeks . . . with companions in Lambac, Cardona, Rizal. They have stayed in Mindoro from 1984 to 1993, then they moved to Lambac, Cardona, Rizal. After the testimony of this accused, the defense rested its case. (TSN, pp. 3-17, November 27, 1995)5

Contending that the prosecution has failed to overcome the Constitutional presumption of innocence by an exacting standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, appellant downgrades the testimony of the complainant as being nothing but incredulous.

The Court has taken meticulous care in reviewing the evidence submitted by both the prosecution and the defense. All possible angles have been considered in the process, for, as it has so recently been said in People vs. Galera, 6 "the Court exercises the greatest circumspection" in its review of death penalty cases since "there can be no stake higher and no penalty more severe . . . than the termination of a human life." Regrettably in this instance, the Court must agree with the trial court in the judgment of conviction.

Cognizant of the fact that the focal, as well as crucial, point in this review is the testimony of the young victim, and because, except for a bare denial, there hardly is any direct rebutting evidence, the Court finds it fitting to hear, here again, Marites, in her own words, on the unfortunate saga. Thus

Marites Gallo y Segovia, Testifying:

Q Now, you said that you are almost 14 years of age today?

A Yes, sir.

Q When is your birthday.?

A October 6, sir.

Q October 6, 1995?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, the accused in this case . . .

What relation, if any, do you have with the accused in this case?

A He is my father, sir.

Q And sometime on May, 1994 you were already 13 years old, is that correct?

A Yes, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ASST. PROS. SOYANGCO

Q You said that he is your father, if he is inside the Court room can you identify him?

A Yes, sir.

Q Please point to him.

INTERPRETER

Witness is pointing to a man wearing fuchsia t-shirt, who when his name was asked answered to the name of Romeo Gallo.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q You are the complainant in this case, Maritess?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, can you inform us why you are accusing your father of rape?

A "Pinagsamantalahan niya po ako," he raped me, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q When you said "pinagsamantalahan" what exactly do you mean?

A "PINAGSAMANTALAHAN PO NIYA AKO NUON."

x x x           x x x          x x x

ASST. PROS. SOYANGCO

And the answer was "Ako po ay pinagsamantalahan niya." Now to reform that I will adopt the suggestion of the Court that the question should be "What exactly did your father do to your?"

COURT

Witness may answer.

WITNESS

He removed my clothes and he took advantage of me while he was drank, sir.

ASST. PROS SOYANGCO

Q Now, exactly what do you mean by "he took advantage of you while he was drank," I mean the accused took advantage of you while he was drank?

A "INASAWA NIYA PO AKO."

ASST. PROS SOYANGCO

"Inasawa," Your Honor, means sexual intercourse.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q Are you a tagalog speaking person?

A Yes, sir.

Q In tagalog, what exactly do you mean by the word "Inasawa ako?"

A He is making me as if I am his wife, sir.

Q How did he make you as if you were this wife?

A He placed his body on top of my body, sir.

Q When he placed his body on top of you, were you naked?

A Yes, sir.

Q Completely naked?

A Only my panty, sir.

Q And your father, when he undressed you and placed himself on top of you, was he dressed-up or naked?

A He was dressed but his shortpants was off, sir.

Q So he was without shortpants.

Now, when he was on top of you what happened?

A He inserted his penis to my vagina, sir.

Q When he undressed you, did you do anything?

A I was not able to do anything because he told me that he will kill me, sir.

Q And when he inserted his penis into your genital or vagina, what did you do?

A I was crying, sir.

Q After having inserted his penis into your vagina, what happened next?

A "KINAYOG KAYOG NIYA PO AKO."

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q After that what happened?

A After that he dressed-up and he told me to dress-up also, sir.

Q What happened next?

A And he left the house, sir.

Q And what about you?

A And I also left the house, sir.

Q By the way when you said house, what house are you referring to?

A Our house, sir.

Q And where is this house situated?

A Our house in Mindoro where he did that things, sir.7

Q You are testifying in this case for rape against your father, the accused, Romeo Gallo y Igloso which per information happened on May 1994 in the Municipality of Cardona, Province of Rizal?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, in the last session when you were testifying in this case you made mention of the fact that when asked where is your house located, you said in Mindoro?

A The first time I was raped was in Mindoro and the last time he raped me was in our house in Cardona, sir.

Q So you were raped by your own father earlier than you were raped in Cardona in Mindoro?

A Yes, sir.

Q And can you remember when was that when you were raped by your father in Mindoro?

A Yes, sir.

Q When?

A 1993, sir.

Q And how old were you when you were raped in 1993 by your father?

A I was raped when I was ten (10) years old up to the age of thirteen (13), sir.

Q How many times were you raped by your father from the time you were ten (10) years old up to the time that you were 13 years old in Mindoro?

A Many times, sir.

Q And the last of which is that you were raped is the subject of the instant information that happened in Lambak, Cardona, Rizal, is that correct?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, when you were raped in Barrio Lambak, Cardona, Rizal by your father what did you do after that, if any?

A I did not do anything, sir.

Q You did not do anything? Did it not occur to you to report it to your mother?

A I was afraid, sir because he threatened me that he will kill us, sir.

Q And why was this case filed by you against your father?

A Because he raped me, sir.

Q Yes. Who told you to file this complaint of rape?

A No other person except me, sir.

Q When did you report this matter?

A To my auntie, sir.

Q What is the name of your auntie?

A Dolores del Prado, sir.

Q After having told your auntie Dolores del Prado about this incident, what did your auntie or you do?

A They also told the incident to their other sisters, sir.

Q And what is the name of that sister?

A Elvie Gallo, sir.

Q Who else?

A No more, sir.

Q Now, what did your auntie or you again [do] after that?

A She told us to go back to Lambak, sir.

Q For what purpose?

A We will talk together, sir.

Q Together with whom?

A We will talk with the Barangay Captain, sir.

Q Did you in fact go to the Barangay Captain in Lambak?

A Yes, sir.

Q What happened when you reached there?

A We talked together in the Barangay Hall and afterwards he was brought in Cardona, sir.

Q When you said he you are referring to your father?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where in particular in Cardona were he taken?

A In the Municipal Hall, sir.

Q And were you with him when he was taken in the Municipal Hall of Cardona?

A Yes, sir.

Q In what office in particular in the Municipal Hall of Cardona did you go?

A In the office near the jail, sir.

Q Could it be the Police of Cardona?

A Yes, sir.

Q What happened there, what did you do there?

A I told them what really happened to me, sir.

Q And what did the Police do as you narrated what happened to you?

A They were listening and writing what I was narrating, sir.

Q In other words what you narrated was reduced into writing by the Police?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, I am showing to you the "Sinumpaang Salaysay ni Marites Gallo," what relation if any has this document to that document which you said the Police was writing down as you narrated then?

A Yes this is the document, sir.

Q Was it read and explained to you by the Investigator?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you understood the contents thereof?

A Yes, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ASST. PROSECUTOR SOYANGCO:

Now, there appears a signature below the document marked already as Exhibit "A" a signature on top of the typewritten name Marites Gallo, whose signature is this?

A That is my signature, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ASST. PROSECUTOR SOYANGCO:

Q So, you went to the Police of Cardona and your father and who else are your companions?

A My mother and also my grandmother, sir.

Q What is the name of your mother?

A Elvie Gallo, sir.

Q And your grandmother?

A Conching, sir.

Q Conching what?

A Conching Segovia, sir.

Q Who else.

A No more, sir.

Q What about a certain Rogelio del Prado, was he not with you?

A Yes, sir.

Q What did this Rogelio del Prado do in the Police Station?

A We went to the Police and told them that he is one of the witnesses, sir.

Q And I supposed that he was made to sign a sworn statement?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, after that I mean after reporting the incident to the Police what legal step did you do next?

A None, sir.

Q Did you not report the matter to any other office?

A None, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q Were you treated or given medical assistance by anyone?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where?

A Camp Crame, sir.

Q In other words you were examined by someone in Camp Crame?

A Yes, sir.

Q And who were with you when you were examined in Camp Crame?

A My aunt, Dolores del Prado, sir.

Q What happened when you were examined?

A The result of the examination is that I was not a virgin, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ASST. PROSECUTOR SOYANGCO:

Back to your father . . . you mentioned in your testimony earlier that your father was drank when he committed rape against you?

A Yes, sir.

Q Is your father a habitual drunkard?

A Yes, sir.

Q When he is in the influence of liquor he is violent, is that correct?

A Yes, sir.

Q Were you a victim of acts of violence of your father other than the rape?

A Yes, sir.

Q What kind of cruelty did he inflict upon you?

A He pulled our hair, kicked us and mauled us, sir.

Q When you said "kami" you are not only referring to yourself but also to others?

A Yes, sir also my mother.

Q Who else?

A Only the two (2) of us, sir.

Q Can you describe to the Honorable Court the sort of cruelty that the accused inflicted towards your mother?

A He was also doing the same thing to my mother what he has done to me, sir.

Q And that you mean your mother was also mauled?

A Yes, sir because he was jealous.

Q Jealous of whom?

A To the men [s]he was talking, sir.

Q Of your own knowledge do you know of a fact that your father despite the fact that he is in jail is making threats to you and your mother?

A Yes, sir.

Q What sort of threat if you know?

A He told us that he will kill us, sir.

Q And when did he tell you that he will kill you?

A He said the moment I get out of jail I will kill all of you, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY ATTY. JUAN B. SUCO, JR. ON WITNESS MARITES GALLO:

Q You were first raped at Mindoro?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you were ten (10) years old, is that correct?

Q When was that?

A The year 1993, sir.

Q Do we understand that during that time you and your family were still residing in Mindoro?

A Yes, sir.

Q Including your mother?

A Yes, sir.

Q Your brothers and sisters?

A I am the only girl, sir.

Q Are you the only daughter of your parents?

A Yes, sir and I have five (5) brothers.

Q Are you the youngest o[r] the eldest?

A I am the eldest, sir.

Q In what particular place in Mindoro were your residing?

A Gutad, Mindoro, sir.

Q Is that a barrio?

A No, sir we lived in a mountainous part of Mindoro, sir.

Q What month when you were first raped in 1993?

A May, sir.

Q But you did not file any complaint against you father?

A No, sir because I was afraid.

Q Neither you report what your father did to you to your mother?

A Because if I will tell the matters to my mother we will be killed, sir.

Q You only presumed it to yourself when you report the matter to your mother?

A Yes, sir.

Q When you were raped for the first time did you offer resistance?

A Yes, sir.

Q In what manner?

A I pinched him and pushed him, sir.

Q You did not attempt to run away?

A He was able to hold me, sir.

Q By the way, what time was that when the incident happened?

A About 4:00 o'clock, sir.

COURT

Q 4:00 o'clock what?

A 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, sir.

ATTY. SUCO:

Q Did that happen inside your house?

A Yes, sir.

Q Your mother was also there?

A She was not there, sir.

Q What about your other brothers?

A They were not there, sir.

Q The four (4) of them were not in your house when that incident happened?

A There are five (5), sir.

Q Not even one (1) of them was inside your house?

A One (1) was there, sir the youngest.

Q How old is your youngest then?

A Two (2) years old, sir.

Q Can he talk already?

A He can talk only for few words, sir.

Q But he can understand?

A No, sir.

Q Where was your mother then?

A She went to the barrio to get out rice, sir.

Q How far?

A Near, sir.

Q How near?

A It will not took her one (1) hour by walk, sir.

Q But you have neighbors?

A We have neighbors, sir but we only have two (2) neighbors, sir.

Q In other words there are three (3) families residing in the area?

A Yes, sir. Our house was the third house.

Q And your two (2) neighbors were near to your house?

A A little bit far, sir.

Q How far?

A A little bit far, sir.

Q Alright. From the place where you are now sitting, can you demonstrate the distance in relation to your house and to the two (2) neighbors?

INTERPRETER:

Witness is pointing to the place where she is sitting up to the municipal hall of Binangonan, Rizal.

ATTY. SUCO:

Can we stipulate?

WITNESS:

A The same distance, sir.

ATTY. SUCO:

Q About a distance of thirty (30) meters?

A Yes, sir.

ASST. PROSECUTOR SOYANGCO:

We can stipulate on that.

ATTY. SUCO:

Q And you are referring that distance, you refer to the distance to one of your neighbors?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you know the name of that neighbor of yours?

A Yes, sir.

Q What is the name?

A Arias, sir.

Q How many were they living in the house?

A Three (3), sir, his wife and a child.

Q Only one (1) child?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, your other neighbor, can you also demonstrate the distance?

A The same distance, sir.

Q And again do you know the name?

A Yes, sir.

Q What is the name?

A Bernard, sir.

Q Is he a man or a woman?

A He is a man, sir.

Q Is he married?

A He is married, sir.

Q How many were they living inside the house?

A His wife and his four (4) children were residing there, sir.

Q So, all in all you have nine (9) neighbors in that two (2) houses?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, when the incident happened did you not attempt to shout for help?

A They were not there at that time, sir.

Q Why did you say that they were not there? Did you visit the two (2) houses before you were raped by your father in your house?

A They went to the barrio, sir.

Q The nine (9) of them went to the barrio?

A Yes, sir because they always go to that place and nobody was left, sir.

Q How do you know that?

A They went to the barrio and the house was closed, sir.

Q Did all of them inform you that they will go to the barrio?

A Yes, sir.

Q They informed you before they left for the barrio?

A They talked to me and told me to watch their house while they were away in the barrio, sir.

Q When that incident was in progress did you not shout or tell your youngest brother to report the matter to your mother who was in the barrio?

A He cannot talk yet at that time, sir.

Q But you did not tell him?

A Even if I told him he cannot understand, sir.

Q In other words you did not tell anything to your brother?

A No, sir because even if I told him he cannot understand, sir.

Q You just allowed your father to do what he wanted to do?

A I also reported what happened, sir, after we had transferred residence, sir.

Q While the incident was still in progress you did not tell any word to your younger brother or shout hoping that somebody will rescue you?

A That time my brother was sleeping, sir.

Q Now, will you explain what exactly did your father [do] to you at that particular incident?

A Yes, sir.

Q What did he [do] to you?

A He first undress me, sir and he raped me.

Q You did not offer resistance when he removed your dress?

A I tried to resist, sir but he is a man that is why I cannot resist him, sir.

Q Is that the only thing happened, did he just removed your dress?

A He removed my panty or underwear, sir.

Q Is that the only one?

A Yes, sir.

Q Other than that nothing happened?

A After he removed my panty he raped me, sir.

Q What do you mean by he raped me?

A He took advantage of me, sir.

Q By what means?

A He kissed me, sir and . . .

ATTY. SUCO:

We request that that statement in vernacular be recorded.

COURT:

The vernacular testimony of the witness put it down as requested by the counsel . . "INANO NIY AKO AT INANO."

ATTY. SUCO:

Q What did you mean by "INANO AKO."

A He inserted his penis to my vagina, sir, that is what I mean.

Q How?

A He held his penis and inserted it to my vagina, sir.

Q Was there an actual penetration of his penis to your vagina?

A Yes, sir.

Q He was able to penetrate his penis to your vagina?

A Yes, sir.

Q Are you telling this Court that after he held his penis he was able to insert it immediately to your vagina?

A Yes, sir.

Q So, if that is the case it could be that you assisted him or you positioned yourself in such a manner that he can insert his penis immediately inside your vagina?

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q What did you feel when the penis of your father was already inside your vagina?

A I felt pain, sir.

Q How long did the penis of your father was inside your vagina?

A For quite a long time, sir.

Q Up to the next morning his penis was inside your vagina?

A No, sir.

Q How long in terms of hours?

A For less half hour, sir.

Q So, for 59 minutes?

x x x           x x x          x x x

ATTY. SUCO:

Twenty nine (29) minutes I mean.

WITNESS:

A Yes, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ATTY. SUCO:

Q Was your vagina bleeding when your father finished?

A Yes, sir.

Q By the way, was that the first time that you were sexually abused by any person?

A Yes, sir.

Q After that did you try to consult a doctor for the purpose of treating your vagina when you said it was bleeding?

A There was no doctor around, sir and the doctor was far in our house and the doctor was in Tanyag, sir.

Q You did not consult to any albularyo?

A The place of the albularyo was also far, sir.

Q You did not apply any medicine to your vagina which was bleeding?

A I placed some medicine, sir.

Q What medicine?

A Oil, sir.

Q And did it heal when you applied oil?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, you also testified that you were abused many times starting in Mindoro. Now, please tell this Court how many times?

A For a month, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

WITNESS:

A About five (5) times, sir.

ATTY. SUCO:

Q In all that incidents your father was able to insert his penis to your vagina?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you have a menstruation already?

A Yes, sir.

Q When did you experience having for the first a menstruation?

A March, sir.

Q March of what year?

A 1994, sir.

Q So, only last year?

A Yes, sir only now, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

ATTY. SUCO:

Q Since March when you experienced menstruation you were not abused anymore by your father up to now?

A He was still abusing me, sir.

Q When?

x x x           x x x          x x x

WITNESS:

A Last year, sir.

x x x           x x x          x x x

Q Did you say earlier in reply to the question of the counsel for the accused that your menstruation was in March 1994?

A Yes, sir.

Q Atty. Suco asked next . . since that time were you abused by your father?

A Yes, sir.

Q The next question of Atty. Suco . . when were you abused?

A In the year 1994, sir he keep on abusing me.

ATTY. SUCO:

Q What do you mean by he keep on abusing you?

A That was the time he wanted to rape me, sir. 8

Marites spoke of not one but of several sexual transgressions committed, as if so casually, on her by her own father, the first of which occurred when she was only ten years of age and the last when she was thirteen. For some undisclosed reasons, appellant was not charged with the prior offenses.

Almost invariably, the Court uses three guiding principles in the review of rape cases, to wit: (1) An accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant is scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution stands or falls on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense. 9 It is within these parameters that this Court, not much unlike that of the trial court, has made its evaluation of the case.

Since the participants are usually the only witnesses in crimes of this nature, the conviction or acquittal of the accused would virtually depend on the credibility of the complainant's testimony. 10 If found credible, the lone declaration of facts given by the offended party would be sufficient to sustain a conviction. 11 A victim of sexual assault would not ordinarily be willing to undergo the humiliation of a public trial, let alone testify on the details of her ordeal, if her reasons were other than her natural passion to avenge her honor 12 and to condemn a grave injustice done to her. 13 Even more improbable than any other case perhaps, is for a young girl to accuse her own father for her defilement, 14 and so expose not only herself but the family as well to shame and scandal, if the charges were untrue and merely made up. 15

Understandably in the case at bar, appellant could only resort to, and content himself by, having a recourse to mere generalities, such as those hereinafter discussed, so normally employed as defense strategy when the evidence for the prosecution appears to be formidable.

In giving full credence to the testimony of the victim, the trial court has found no cogent reason to deny her credibility and to discard what it described to be her "coherent and straightforward" narration of the incident. That court has had all the opportunity to observe closely the demeanor of the young victim at the witness stand. Well settled is the rule that an assessment made by a trial court on the testimony of witnesses deserves great respect absent any valid justification that can warrant its outright rejection by an appellate court. 16 Nothing significant has been shown to convince the Court that the trial court has at any time acted with undue bias or that it has overlooked or ignored something of substance that could have, in any degree, warranted a turnabout by it of its findings and judgment. Occasional flaws or unguarded exaggerations in the testimony of witnesses, verily, could lend and add up to the credence of testimony. 17 A completely accurate description of the incident certainly cannot be expected from a witness in recounting the details of a harrowing experience. 18 An errorless declaration could, in fact, be suspect for a rehearsed testimony.

Appellant bewails the supposed failure of the offended party to promptly report the crime to the authorities. The delay and initial reluctance of a rape victim to make public the assault on her virtue is neither unknown nor uncommon. 19 It is not an unexpected reaction of a woman to keep secret, at least momentarily, the dishonor brought to bear on her and to suffer alone in her misfortune rather than to be the subject of embarrassment, public scrutiny, pity or ridicule. Fear, brought about by threat or when, such as in the case at bar, the rapist is living under the same roof with his victim, 20 is a circumstance that can easily muffle the latter into silence stated while that fear lasts. Age is another. 21 Thus we have stated.

Vacillation in the filing of complaints by rape victims is not an uncommon phenomenon. This crime is normally accompanied by the rapist's threat on the victim's life, and the fear can last for quite a while. There is also the natural reluctance of a woman to admit her sullied chastity, accepting thereby all the stigma it leaves, and to then expose herself to the morbid curiosity of the public whom she may likely perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be more interested in the prurient details of the ravishment than in her vindication and the punishment of the rapist. In People vs. Coloma [222 SCRA 255] we have even considered an 8-year delay in reporting the long history of rape by the victim's father as understandable and so not enough to render incredible the complaint of a 13-year old daughter.22

Marites, to stress once again, was only between ten and thirteen years old when she was subjected to repeated bestial abuse. The unbelievable depravity was committed by her own father, described by the victim's younger brother Christopher Gallo to be a cruel and violent man particularly when drunk. It was to her credit that she ultimately found the right composure and determination, belated such as it might have been, to finally have her father brought to justice.

Everything considered, the Court is convinced that accused-appellant did commit the crime of rape on his own 13-year old daughter. This offense is defined and made punishable by Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code. The law, as amended by Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7659 23 reads:

Art. 335. When and how rape is committed. Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances.

1. By using force or intimidation;

2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and

3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented.

The crime of rape shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

Whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.

When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death.

When the rape is attempted or frustrated and a homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion thereof, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death.

When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death.

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.

2. When the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities.

3. When the rape is committed in full view of the husband, parent, any of the children or other relatives within the third degree of consanguinity.

4. When the victim is a religious or a child below seven (7) years old.

5. When the offender knows that he is afflicted with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) disease.

6. When committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency.

7. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has suffered permanent physical mutilation.

The crime of rape, having been committed by appellant on his own daughter of thirteen years of age, is consequently covered by the above mandatory death penalty provision. Thus, following its deliberations, the Court by a majority vote, with two members voting to only impose the penalty of reclusion perpetua on constitutional grounds, sustains the trial court in the imposition of the death penalty on appellant Romeo Gallo y Igloso.

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby AFFIRMED except for the award of civil indemnity which is INCREASED to P50,000.00 Costs against accused-appellant.

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

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Panganiban and Martinez, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 238 SCRA 512.

2 At p. 513.

3 Rollo, p. 7.

4 Ibid., pp. 86-87.

5 Rollo, pp. 54-56.

6 G.R. No. 115938, 10 October 1997.

7 TSN, 30 January 1995, pp. 4-12.

8 TSN, 08 February 1995, pp. 3-37.

9 People vs. Tacipit, 242 SCRA 241; People vs. Sanchez, 250 SCRA 14.

10 People vs. Rivera, 242 SCRA 26.

11 People vs. Gapasan, 243 SCRA 53; People vs. Bulaybulay, 248 SCRA 601.

12 People vs. Delovino, 247 SCRA 637.

13 People vs. Abendaño, 242 SCRA 531.

14 People vs. Lao, 249 SCRA 137.

15 People vs. Bantisil, 249 SCRA 367.

16 People vs. Sta. Agata, 244 SCRA 677.

17 People vs. Ching, 240 SCRA 267.

18 People vs. Cura, 240 SCRA 234.

19 People vs. Montefalcon, 243 SCRA 617.

20 People vs. Vitor, 245 SCRA 392.

21 See People vs. Soan, 243 SCRA 627.

22 People vs. Malagar, supra., p. 521.

23 The more recent enactment, Republic Act No. 8353, entitled "AN ACT EXPANDING THE DEFINITION OF THE CRIME OF RAPE, RECLASSIFYING THE SAME AS A CRIME AGAINST PERSONS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE ACT NO. 3815, AS AMENDED, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE REVISED PENAL CODE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," being neither favorable nor unfavorable to the accused, is inconsequential in this instance.


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