G.R. No. 139231 April 12, 2002
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
GERRY LIBETA Y TORRE, accused-appellant.
On appeal is the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 16, Davao City, in Criminal Case No. 35,133-95, convicting Gerry Libeta y Torre of rape and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua, and to pay the complainant, Jacqueline Labial, the amounts of Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos as civil indemnity and Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages.1âwphi1.nęt
On April 5, 1995, 11-year-old Jacqueline Labial personally filed a complaint for statutory rape against Gerry Libeta y Torre. Her complaint alleges as follows:
"I, JACQUELINE LABIAL, an eleven (11) year old minor, UNDER OATH, charges the Accused GERRY LIBETA y TORRE of Statutory Rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code (as amended): on 3 April 1995, in Davao City, Philippines, within this HONORABLE COURT’S jurisdiction, the Accused, through force and intimidation, willfully and feloniously sexually abused and had carnal knowledge with me against my will.
"CONTRARY TO LAW.
"(Sgd) JACQUELINE LABIAL
At the arraignment, accused Gerry Libeta y Torre pleaded not guilty. Trial thereafter ensued.
The facts, as culled from the records, are as follows:
On April 3, 1995, at around 11:00 a.m., Jacqueline Labial was cooking rice in her house at St. Michael, Daliao, Toril, Davao City. She remained alone in her house while her mother washed clothes to earn a living. Suddenly, accused Gerry Libeta appeared and seized Jacqueline’s hand. He dragged her outside and pulled her to a distance of twenty (20) meters from her house.3
A few minutes earlier, while Vilma Meriales was sweeping the ground floor of her house, approximately 15-20 meters from Jacqueline’s house, she saw a man holding the hand of Jacqueline. Suddenly, both disappeared. Fearing that something might have happened to the girl, Vilma called her husband Saturnino Meriales and asked him to check on their neighbor’s house,4 telling him that Jacqueline might be alone inside.5
Her husband was likewise apprehensive because from their balcony and while ago, he had observed a person on a bicycle near the house of Jacqueline. When he went there, he did not find her. He looked around and saw a bicycle parked at the bank of the river behind her house. He then walked further to a portion around 50 meters from the back of the house.6
Meanwhile, the accused dragged Jacqueline to a grassy area around the ipil-ipil trees and took off her panty. Afterwards, he removed his short pants and brief. Then, he forced her to lie on the ground. He rolled up her dress to her neck and placed himself on top of her. He spread her legs and inserted his penis inside her vagina and he did a push and pull movement. She felt great pain.7
At this moment, Saturnino arrived. He saw the accused on top of a girl making a push and pull movement. He was only wearing a T-shirt. His brief was pulled to his ankle and his penis exposed. The child was lying on the ground with her dress pulled up and her panty rolled down to her ankle.8
Thereupon, Saturnino pulled the hand of accused and ordered him to put on his clothes. He also told Jacqueline to get dressed. Thereafter, Saturnino brought the accused and Jacqueline to the police station at Toril, Davao City9 with the help of Alfredo Manderico. He rode with the accused in a trisikad, while Saturnino rode with Jacqueline on a bicycle. On the way, Alfredo asked the accused why he committed the offense. The latter asked for forgiveness, saying he will not do it again.10
At the police station, Saturnino reported the incident to the desk officer11 and Jacqueline narrated her experience. The accused admitted her accusation but countered that he merely attempted to rape her. He was already on top of her when a member of the Alsa Masa arrived, thus preventing him from consummating the sexual act.12
Aurelia Labial, mother of Jacqueline, arrived at the police station and at once confronted the accused whom she knew because his sister was her co-worker. The accused admitted having committed the offense and asked her to forgive him.13
Jacqueline was then referred to the Women’s Desk of the police precinct. The officer-in-charge interviewed Jacqueline, who repeated her account of the incident,14 and inspected her vagina. There was redness in her labia majora.15 This examination took place at around 2:00 in the afternoon of the same day the incident occurred.16
The next day, or on April 4, 1995, at around 10:30 a.m., Dr. Danilo Ledesma of the City Health Office examined Jacqueline. The doctor noted that there were no physical injuries on her body nor any laceration on her vagina. When tested, no spermatozoa was found. There was also no blood in the opening of the vagina. Nor was her labia colored red that would indicate a forced contact.17
Aurelia presented to the court the birth certificate of her daughter showing that at the time of the incident, she was only 11 years old, having been born on April 25, 1985.18
For his part, accused Gerry Libeta denied the charge against him and narrated his own version as follows:
On April 3, 1995, at around 11:30 a.m., he parked his bicycle beside the road near St. Michael, Daliao, Toril, Davao City. Then he gathered leaves to be used as feed for pigs. Moments ago, he saw Jacqueline at her house about 2 meters away. She borrowed and used his bicycle for about five minutes. Later, a person approached him and suddenly kicked him, causing him to fall. When he got up, the person hit his right cheek. Then, he was dragged and was accused of molesting a girl. At the police station, several persons mauled him. He was investigated on the basis of a complaint for rape, but he insisted he was innocent.19
Cenon Formentera, a neighbor of the accused, testified that on the same day at around 11:00 a.m., he saw the accused picking ipil-ipil leaves in a place near a house at St. Michael, Daliao, Toril, Davao City. Nearby, he saw Jacqueline Libial holding a bicycle. Later, he heard a commotion and saw the accused being mauled by several persons. Fearing for his own safety, he hurried home.20
On May 24, 1999, the trial court, after trial, rendered a decision,21 the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, finding the evidence of the prosecution more than sufficient to prove the guilt of accused beyond reasonable doubt, Gerry Libeta y Torre pursuant to Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Section 11 of RA 7659, sub-paragraph 3, without any aggravating circumstances in its commission, is sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, together with all accessory penalty as provided by law.
"Moreover, pursuant to Art. 100 in relation to Art. 104 of the Revised Penal Code governing civil indemnity, accused is furthermore ordered to indemnify complainant, Jacqueline Labial, the amount of Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos by way of civil indemnity and another amount of Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos by way of moral damages for committing this beastly act against the complainant which destroyed her honor and future. (People vs. Virgilio Villaluna, GR 127569, July 30, 1998)
"It appearing above-named accused, was charged of a capital offense, without recommendation for his provisional liberty, he shall be entitled to the full period he has served as detention prisoner, to be deducted from his above-sentence subject to the rules and regulations governing detention prisoners pursuant to Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code as further amended by RA 6127 by Executive Order 214 promulgated on July 10, 1987.1âwphi1.nęt
In this appeal,23 accused-appellant ascribes to the trial court the following errors:
"I. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE CATEGORICAL TESTIMONY OF PROSECUTION WITNESS DR. DANILO LEDESMA THAT THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF ANY SEXUAL ASSAULT ON THE PERSON OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.
"II. GRANTING ARGUENDO THAT ACCUSED IS GUILTY, THE COURT A QUO SHOULD HAVE CONVICTED HIM OF THE LESSER OFFENSE OF ATTEMPTED RAPE."24
In statutory rape cases, two elements must be established to convict the accused: 1) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman, and 2) that the woman is below 12 years of age.25
It is undisputed that complainant Jacqueline Labial was under 12 years of age at the time of the incident. The remaining sole issue is whether appellant had carnal knowledge of the victim on April 3, 1995.
The trial court gave credence to Jacqueline’s testimony. As a general rule, findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are accorded great respect unless the court a quo overlooked substantial facts and circumstances which, if considered, would materially affect the result of the case.26 This exception is not present here.
We find no cogent reason to reverse the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses in this case. Jacqueline testified in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner that she was ravished. She positively identified appellant as her rapist. She was consistent in her narration of how appellant raped her and she did not waiver in her account of her harrowing experience under intense and grueling cross-examination.
What is decisive in a rape charge is the complainant's positive identification of the accused as a malefactor.27 When the complainant in a rape case testifies credibly that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show rape has been committed. So long as her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on the sole basis thereof.28 It is highly inconceivable that a young girl of eleven years would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter pervert herself by being subject to a public trial, if she was not motivated solely by the desire to obtain justice for the wrong committed against her.29 Certainly the victim would not make public the offense, undergo the humiliation of a public trial if she had not in fact been raped.30
Corroborating the testimony of the victim is another witness, Saturnino Meriales. Although it is usual in rape cases that the only evidence against the accused is complainant's testimony, in this case, a third person witnessed the crime. He caught appellant in the act of having sexual intercourse with the girl. He immediately stopped appellant and reported the incident to the authorities. No reason was given why Saturnino Meriales would impute such a serious crime against a person he did not know. We believe his testimony for where there is no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why a prosecution witness would falsely implicate someone in a crime, the testimony is worthy of full faith and credit.31
On appellant’s assertion that the medical findings fail to support the charge, suffice it to state that proof of injury is not an element of rape.32 The victim emphasized that she felt great pain when appellant inserted his penis into her private part. When examined only a few hours after the incident, it was observed that there was redness in her genital area. While the doctor who examined the complainant found no indication of any sexual contact, it should be noted that such examination took place the day after the incident when any redness in the vagina area could have already subsided. In any case, a medical examination and a medical certificate are merely corroborative and are not indispensable to the prosecution of a rape case.33
The defense of denial cannot be given credence in the light of the victim’s positive identification of appellant as the person who raped her. Denial is an inherently weak defense which is unavailing in the face of positive identification by the victim of the appellant as the violator of her honor.34 Affirmative testimony is stronger than a negative one, especially when it comes from the mouth of a credible witness.35
In an effort to lessen the consequences of his offense, appellant claims that there was merely an attempt on his part to rape the girl. He insisted that he was unable to penetrate the female organ of the victim because of the timely arrival of Saturnino Meriales. Appellant cites People vs. Campuhan,36 where this Court modified the judgment of the trial court by holding the accused guilty of attempted rape instead of consummated rape for failure of the prosecution to prove the slightest intrusion into the labia majora of the victim.
However, we find that the factual milieu of the Campuhan case is not similar to the case at bar. In Campuhan, the complainant denied actual penetration, stating that she resisted appellant’s advances by putting her legs close together. Thus:
"…[T]he possibility of Primo's penis having breached Crysthel's vagina is belied by the child's own assertion that she resisted Primo's advances by putting her legs close together; consequently, she did not feel any intense pain but just felt "not happy" about what Primo did to her. Thus, she only shouted "Ayo'ko, ayo'ko!" not "Aray ko, aray ko!" In cases where penetration was not fully established, the Court had anchored its conclusion that rape nevertheless was consummated on the victim's testimony that she felt pain, or the medico-legal finding of discoloration in the inner lips of the vagina, or the labia minora was already gaping with redness, or the hymenal tags were no longer visible. None was shown in this case."37 (citations omitted)
Campuhan further clarified that the touching of the female organ to constitute consummated rape should be construed in relation to the entry by the penis into the labia majora. It is not mere touching in the ordinary sense, nor a grazing or clashing alone of the organs, but there must be entry of the vagina of the victim even in the slightest degree.
In this case, however, the complainant categorically stated that appellant was able to insert his penis into her vagina and that she felt great pain. Her legs were spread apart and she felt the actual penetration, not a mere grazing of the male organ into her genitalia. It bears emphasis that mere introduction of the male organ in the labia of the pudendum of the female's private parts is sufficient to consummate rape.38 The act of the appellant inserting his penis into the victim’s vagina was all that was necessary to commit consummated rape.
Thus, we find appellant Gerry Libeta guilty beyond reasonable doubt of consummated statutory rape. Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the penalty for rape committed against a woman under twelve years of age is reclusion perpetua.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 16, Davao City, in Criminal Case No. 35,133-95, convicting Gerry Libeta y Torre of rape and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua, and to pay the complainant, Jacqueline Labial, the sums of Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos as civil indemnity and Fifty Thousand (₱50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages, is AFFIRMED.
Melo, Vitug, Panganiban, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
1 Penned by Judge Renato A. Fuentes.
2 Rollo, p. 4.
3 Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), August 7, 1995, pp. 22-23.
4 Ibid., August 7, 1995, pp. 3-5.
5 Ibid., August 5, 1995, p. 3.
6 Ibid., pp. 3-4.
7 TSN, August 7, 1995, pp. 24-26.
8 Ibid., August 3, 1995, pp. 4-6.
9 Ibid., August 3, 1995, pp. 5-6; Ibid., August 7, 1995, pp. 26-27.
10 Ibid., August 7, 1995, pp. 16-18.
11 Ibid., July 24, 1995, p. 3.
12 TSN, July 24, 1995, p. 9.
13 Ibid., August 7, 1995, pp. 8-11.
14 Ibid., July 24, 1995, pp. 15-16.
15 Ibid., p. 20.
16 Ibid., July 24, 1995, p. 21.
17 Ibid., July 19, 1995, pp. 4-8.
18 TSN, August 7, 1995, p. 8.
19 Ibid., April 15, 1999, pp. 10-15.
20 TSN, April 15, 1999, pp. 3-7.
21 Records of the RTC, pp. 90-98.
22 Ibid., pp. 97-98.
23 Notice of Appeal filed on June 15, 1999, Records of the RTC, p. 100.
24 Rollo, pp. 40-41.
25 Article 335, Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.
26 People vs. Torejos, 326 SCRA 75, 85 (2000).
27 People vs. Quilatan, 341 SCRA 247, 255 (2000).
28 People vs. Blazo, G. R. No. 127111, February 19, 2001.
29 People vs. Cabigting, 344 SCRA 86, 93 (2000).
30 People vs. Pagdayawon, G. R. No. 130522, February 15, 2001.
31 People vs. Aguiluz, G. R. No. 133480, March 15, 2001.
32 People vs. Rafales, 323 SCRA 13, 26 (2000).
33 People vs. Sampior, 327 SCRA 31, 38 (2000); People v. Delos Reyes, 327 SCRA 56, 59 (2000).
34 People vs. Elpedes, G. R. Nos. 137106-07, January 31, 2001.
35 People vs. Brigildo, 323 SCRA 631, 648 (2000).
36 329 SCRA 270 (2000).
37 329 SCRA 270, 285 (2000).
38 People vs. Puzon, 339 SCRA 164, 176 (2000); People vs. Castillo, 335 SCRA 100, 110 (2000).
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