G.R. No. 188365            April 16, 2002

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


The Court must here again make a painstaking effort to assess the inflicting testimony of a rape victim and that of her alleged tormentor to satisfy the judicial conscience that the horrendous crime has indeed been committed and that the State can thereby lawfully forfeit the offender's right to live or to be free.

Samson Bartolome was indicted for rape before the Regional Trial Court ("RTC"), Branch 43, of Virac, Catanduanes, in an In- formation that read.

"That on .or about 1:00 o'clock in the early morning of November 26, 1994 at sitio Nagpuroc, San Isidro, Pandan, Catanduanes, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-accused being the stepfather by means of force and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have a sexual intercourse with one Lina Trinidad y Bagay, a minor, 12 years old and daughter of accused's common-law wife, against the latter's consent."1

At his arraignment, the accused pled "not guilty" to the charge; thence, trial proceeded.

The Case for the Prosecution -

On 24 November 1994, close to midnight, 12-year old Lina Trinidad was ready to call it a night and to join her younger siblings who by then were nestled comfortably at their house in Nag- puroc, San Isidro, Pandan, Catanduanes, when the accused, Samson Bartolome, the common-law husband of her mother, arrived drunk. Rosalinda Trinidad had been married to but separated from Lina's father. Lina served dinner to Bartolome because her mother was at the time in Virac, Catanduanes. After cleaning up the dinner table, Lina finally joined her siblings to bed but, first, she gathered something to read to invite sleep. Just as she was drowsing off, Bartolome jolted her awake. When she opened her eyes, she was surprised to see him lying by her side. She stood up and tried to excuse herself. Bartolome grabbed her shirt and pulled her back to bed. He embraced and began caressing Lina, removed her shirt and sucked her nipples. Lina was astounded, she cried and begged him to stop but her pleas fell on deaf ears. He warned her that if she would not keep silent, he would cut off her tongue or insert his batangas knife into her vagina. Bartolome, now drowned in his lustful desires, removed Lina's panty and mounted her. He inserted his penis into her vagina. The batangas knife remained a mute but threatening fixture by her side. Lina, although raging with emotions, had to keep mum all throughout the ordeal.

The younger brother of Lina, Romeo Trinidad, was only an arm's length away and watched the whole scene just as it was unfolding before his eyes. Romeo corroborated the testimony of Lina. He said that in the morning that followed, he accompanied his sister to their uncle Jessie, and they later reported the incident to the police which forthwith conducted an investigation.

Lina was brought to Pandan District Hospital. Dr. Perlasita G. Buendia, who conducted the physical examination, made a report; it read:

"Physical Exam:

Vulva -Abrasion, between inferior aspect of labia majora and labia minora, (L) and (R), about 0.5 cm. in length.

-No bleeding, no hematoma.

Hymen -with laceration at 4, 5, and 9 o'clock.

"Internal Examination:

Admits index finger with difficulty.

"Vaginal Smear for Spermatozoa:

( + ) -Non-motile spermatozoa."2


The Defense-

The accused claimed that on the night of the supposed incident, he went to the house of his aunt and had a drinking spree with a cousin. He could not have, he said, molested Lina, whom he so kindly treated as his own child after living with her mother, Rosalinda Trinidad, for a good 10 years and with whom he had three children. He blamed the siblings of Rosalinda with her lawful husband for prompting Lina to fabricate the rape charge so that he and Rosalinda would sever their relationship.

The trial court found for the prosecution and convicted the accused of the crime with which he was charged; it held:

"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the prosecution having proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Republic Act No. 7659, accused Samson Bartolome is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH to be executed at a date to be set and in the manner provided for by law and to indemnify Lina Trinidad the amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos.3

In this automatic review of his case, the death penalty having been imposed, the accused claims that-





The Court, in fine, is confronted with the question of whom to believe-the word of the complainant or that of the accused. The process of ferreting the truth from the conflicting claims of witnesses becomes even more tedious than usual in crimes of rape for it is only the accused and the complainant who normally can give the decisive testimony on the case. Obviously, the task falls squarely on the trial court which must come face to face with the witnesses and observe their demeanor at the stand,5 It stands to reason that great reliance is placed by the appellate court on the assessment made by the trial court on the credibility of the witness. This case is no exception for, carefully going through the records, the Court finds no cogent reason to make it depart from the rule.

In a straightforward and candid manner, Lina vouched before the Court the sad saga, unbelievably she might i have herself thought, that had befallen her in the hands of appellant. She testified:

"Q         Specifically sometime on November 25, 1994, do you recall of an incident that happened to you in your house?

"A         Yes, sir.

"Q         Please tell the Court.

"A         On November 25, 1994, I was in Langob, San Isidro, Pandan, Catanduanes and he (witness pointing to somebody inside the courtroom) ...

"Q         Who was the person you are referring to? "

"A         Samson Bartolome.

"Q         What happened?

"A         In the evening, he arrived in our house and he was very very drunk.

"Q         Why was Samson Bartolome in your house?

"A         Because he goes home to our house?

"Q         Why is he staying in your house?

"A         He is the husband of my mother. He is my stepfather. "

xxx           xxx           xxx

"Q         When he arrived in your house, what happened next?

"A         He knocked at the door, and I opened it for him. I prepared some food for him and he ate.

"Q         After taking his supper, what happened next?

"A         He slept by the door while I took my supper and after that, I started reading something.

"Q         After reading, what happened next?

"A         When I got sleepy, I went to sleep and I noticed later on that he was lying down beside me.

"Q         What happened next when you noticed that he was already beside you?

"A         I was about to transfer to another place because we were only under one mosquito net but I was not allowed to leave.

"Q         In your estimate, what time was it?

"A         About 11:00 o'clock in the evening.

"Q         What happened when he prevented you from transferring to another place?

"A         Then he kept on embracing me and at the same time undressing me and sucking my nipples.

"Q         What did you do when he was at the act of sucking your nipples?

"A         I kept on crying and said I don't want it Papa.

"Q         When you uttered those words, what else did he do, if any?

"A         Then he said, 'where is the Batangas knife, I am going to cut off your tongue.'

"Q         After uttering those words, what happened next?

"A         And then he told me, Stop crying, you can do it.'

"Q         After uttering those words, what else did he do, if any?

"A         Then he asked me where my mother was and I told him she was in Virac.

"Q         After you told him that your mother was in Virac, what did you do?

"A         Then, I told him I don't want it because I might get pregnant. But he told me that just in case I might get pregnant, we will have it removed.

"Q         After that, what happened next?

"A         I kept on crying but he said, where is the Batangas knife, I am going to cut off your tongue.'


"Q         After telling you that, what else did he do?

"A         He removed my panty.

"Q         After removing your panty, what happened next?

"A         He raped me.

"Q         How did he rape you?


May I beg the kind indulgence of the Honorable Court. At this stage, the complainant is crying as she recalls what happened to her during that evening in their house.

"A         He inserted his penis into my vagina.

"Q         What did you feel when you noticed his male organ was inserted into your vagina?

"A         It is painful.

"Q         After that, what happened next?

"A         After that, I thought of leaving, but he would not allow me.

"Q         Then, what happened next when he was preventing you from leaving?

"A         I was not able to leave that evening, but in the morning I was able to do so."6

Indeed, between the categorical statements of Lina, on the one hand, and the bare alibi of appellant, on the other hand, there hardly is any contest. Alibi, a self-serving negative evidence, is inherently a weak defense, and it can be no match to the positive declaration of a witness who is not shown to have such a compelling ill-motive as to brazenly point an accusing finger at a blameless person. It would be difficult to imagine a young girl, without being porne with unchaste inklings, to fabricate, without reason, the charge of rape, set herself up to embarrassment and put to serious jeopardy the life or liberty of an innocent man.

In order that the defense of alibi might, in any case, possibly prosper, it would not suffice that an accused could prove his being away from, but should likewise show that it would have been physically impossible for him to be at, the locus criminis at the time of its occurrence.7 Here, the accused himself admitted that the house of his aunt and cousin, neither of whom was presented at the witness stand to corroborate the alibi, was only a kilometer away from where he and the complainant were staying..

Section 11(1) of Republic Act 7659,8 in relation to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, prescribes the penalty of death when the rape victim is under 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim. The concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship with the accused is essential in order to qualify the crime and to warrant the imposition of the death penalty.9 These twin circumstances are requirements that are to be duly and exactingly alleged and proved before the life of the accused may be taken away by the State.

In this case, the minority of the complainant was shown by her birth certificate,10 which the prosecution and the defense stipulated to be genuine.11 The good evidence of a person's age, indeed, would be the birth certificate, being an official record made in the performance of duty by a public officer.12 The statement in the information on the relationship of the appellant and the complainant, on the other hand, was not definitive and precise enough to be considered legally sufficient, for while the information mentioned appellant as a "stepfather," he was also alluded to in the same document as just being the common-law husband of complainant's mother. In order that the extreme penalty of death could be imposed, the qualifying circumstances should both be recited in the information and proved in evidence with such equal certainty and clarity as the crime itself. The imposition by the trial court of the penalty of death must thus be reduced to reclusion perpetua.

Pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, the victim is entitled to a civil indemnity of P50,000.0013 and to moral damages considered innate in the crime of rape, of P50,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the court a quo is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that appellant Samson Bartolome y Espiritu is only found guilty of simple, not qualified, rape and he is hereby meted the penalty of inclusion perpetua. In addition to the civil indemnity of P50,000.00 awarded below, the Court likewise awards in favor of complainant Lina Trinidad P50,000.00 moral damages. Costs de oficio.


Bellosillo (Actg. C.J.), Puno, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur .
Davide, Jr. (C.J.), Melo, Kapunan and Austria-Martinez, JJ., On official leave.
Corona, J., Took no part in the deliberations.


1 Records, p. 40

2 Records, p. 5.

3 Rollo, p. 24.

4 Rollo. P. 25.

5 People vs. Iglesia, G.R. No. 132354, 13 September 2001, 365 SCRA 156; People vs. Navarette, G.R. Nos. 136840-42, 13 September 2001, 365 SCRA 171; People vs. Rey, G.R. Nos. 134527-28, 25 September 2001, 365 SCRA 738; People vs. Alamazan, G.R. No. 138940-44, 17 September 2001, 365 SCRA 373; People vs., Peleras, et al., G.R. No. 140512, 13 September 2001, 365 SCRA 220; People vs., N. Zarte, G.R. No. 129926, 08 October 2001, 366 SCRA 721.

6 TSN, 12 January 1996, 00. 4-8.

7 People vs. Bragat, G.R. No.134490, 04 September 2001, 364 SCRA 425; People vs. Dacara, G;R. No. 135822, 25 October 2001, 368 SCRA 278; People vs. Quimson, G.R. No. 130499, 05 October 2001, 366 SCRA 581; People vs. Peleras, G.R. No. 140512, 13 September 2001, 365 SCRA 220.

8 An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on Certain Heinous Crimes, amending for that purpose the Revised Penal Code, as amended, other Special Laws, and for Other Purposes. '

9 People vs. Licanda, 331 SCRA 357 (2000); People vs. Mercado, G.R. No.139904, 12 October 2001, 367 SCRA 252; People vs. Galvez, G.R. Nos. 136867-08, 24 September 2001, 365 SCRA 681; People vs. Dacara, G.R. No. 135822, 25 October 2001, 368 SCRA 278.

10 Exhibit "B", Records, p. 129.

11 Exhibit "8-1", Ibid.

12 Section 44, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court; People vs. Apostol, 320 SCRA 327 (1999).

13 People vs. Pili, 289 SCRA 118 (1998).

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation