- People v. Alarcon y Tioxon
- G.R. No. 174199
- TINGA, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 174199. March 7, 2007.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. ROGELIO ALARCON y TIOXON, appellant.
D E C I S I O N
TINGA, J p:
Subject of this automatic review is the Decision promulgated by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01000. The appellate court had affirmed the Regional Trial Court's (RTC) judgment in Criminal Case No. 8620-2001-C finding appellant guilty of qualified rape but modified the RTC judgment in Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C by finding appellant guilty of acts of lasciviousness only instead of rape.
Based on the complaints filed by private complainant AAA, assisted by Sister Laura P. Chavez (Sister Laura), appellant was charged with two (2) counts of statutory rape. In Criminal Case No. 8620-2001-C, the accusatory portion in the Information reads, thus:
That sometime in the month of March 2001 at Brgy. Tuntungin-Putho, Municipality of Los Ba os, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused thru force, violence and intimidation and with lewd design, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal relation with one AAA, a ten (10) year old minor, his own daughter, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
In Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C, the Information's accusatory portion, except as to the exact date of the commission of the offense, similarly reads, thus:
That sometime in the month of March 2001 at Brgy. Tuntungin-Putho, Municipality of Los Ba os, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused thru force, violence and intimidation and with lewd design, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal relation with one AAA, a ten (10) year old minor, his own daughter, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty. Afterwards, trial on the merits ensued. TAaCED
The prosecution presented the victim, AAA, who recounted the details of her harrowing experience that began one evening in March 2001 at her home in Los Ba os, Laguna, which she shared with her father, the present appellant, and four (4) of her siblings. While they were all sleeping side by side in one room, AAA was awakened by appellant, who removed her panty and told her to remain quiet. He then forced his penis into her vagina. After finishing the act, appellant hit AAA.
Later that month, just a few days before 24 March 2001, another similar incident occurred. That afternoon, at their home, appellant ordered AAA to lie down. She refused to obey him but appellant started molesting her by removing her panty and letting his penis touch her vagina. This incident occurred while AAA's two elder (2) siblings were sleeping at home. On 24 March 2001, AAA and her two (2) younger siblings sought refuge at the Tahanan ng Ama Retreat House in Los Ba os, Laguna under the management of Sister Laura.
AAA's half-sister, BBB, testified that she lived with her four (4) siblings in Barangay Buot, Los Ba os, Laguna. At around 12:00 p.m. on 24 March 2001, she left the house because she could no longer endure the beating of her father. Prior to leaving, however, she was informed by AAA that the latter was molested by appellant. BBB advised AAA to proceed to Tahanan ng Ama Retreat House.
On 26 March 2001, Dr. Teresita Samadi-Denani examined AAA and thereafter issued a Rape Case Report, stating that the vagina admits one finger with ease and a (+) 3, 7 o'clock old vaginal tear.
In his defense, appellant denied the charges hurled against him. He claimed that on the dates of the alleged rape incidents, he was working overtime as a welder in Cabuyao, Laguna. He insinuated that Sister Laura may have had an influence in the filing of cases because his children told him that she convinced them to stay at the Tahanan ng Ama. Asencion Alarcon (Asencion) corroborated his brother's alibi. He allegedly served as the time keeper in the place where appellant worked. He declared that appellant worked from 8:00 am to 9:00 p.m. on March 2, 3, 5, 7, 23 and 24, the dates when he allegedly committed rape and acts of lasciviousness against AAA. The daily time record however was not presented in evidence. CIHTac
On 18 April 2005, the trial court rendered a Decision in Criminal Case Nos. 8620-01-C and 8621-01-C finding him guilty of rape, attended by the special qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship. The trial court dismissed appellant's alibi as self-serving. It held that Asencion failed to submit the time records which would have corroborated appellant's alibi that he was working at a shop in Cabuyao, Laguna on those dates.
The trial court gave full credence to the categorical and positive testimony of the victim, AAA, which was corroborated by the Rape Case Report. It ruled that the act of AAA in immediately reporting the crime further strengthened her credibility.
Pursuant to , appellant filed a Notice of Appeal before the Court of Appeals.
On 31 May 2006, the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed Decision affirming the judgment in Criminal Case No. 8620-2001-C while modifying the conviction in Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C to acts of lasciviousness, viz:
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated April 18, 2005 is affirmed as regards Criminal Case No. 8620-2001-C for qualified rape, subject to the modification that accused-appellant is awarded exemplary damages of P25,000.00 in addition to the civil indemnity of P75,000.00, and the amount of moral damages is increased to P75,000.00.
With respect to Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C, accused-appellant's conviction is modified to acts of lasciviousness and he is accordingly sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to six (6) years of prision correccional, as maximum. Accused-appellant is ordered to pay private complainant P30,000.00 as civil indemnity, P40,000.00 as moral damages, and P20,000.00 as exemplary damages.
In downgrading the crime to acts of lasciviousness, the appellate court observed that in Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C, there was no showing of penetration of the vagina in the recounting of the second incident. The appellate court observed that when AAA testified as to that incident, she merely said, "Dinidikit po niya," when asked how she was molested by appellant.
In a Resolution dated 3 October 2006, this Court resolved to accept this case. Both parties opted not to file their Supplemental Briefs and instead adopted the arguments in their Appellant's Briefs.
As earlier noted, concerning Criminal Case No. 8621-2001-C, the Court of Appeals modified the trial court's guilty verdict of appellant from rape to acts of lasciviousness. We can no longer review this aspect of the Decision without violating the right against double jeopardy, which proscribes an appeal from a judgment of acquittal or for the purpose of increasing the penalty imposed upon the accused, as in this case. The instant case was brought to this Court by way of automatic review which is mandatory only where the penalty imposed is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. The present appeal should therefore be treated as an appeal only from that aspect of the appellate court's decision finding appellant guilty of qualified rape. ETISAc
Appellant challenges the credibility of AAA on three (3) grounds: first, considering that the house is small and has only one room, and the fact that they slept side by side, it would be impossible for the other children not to be awakened when the alleged incidents of rape allegedly took place; second, AAA nurtured ill-feelings towards appellant because the latter maltreated and beat her and her siblings; and third, AAA admitted that the information she relayed before the police came from Sister Laura.
The issue of a witness's credibility is best addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court, which had the unique opportunity to observe the witness firsthand and note her demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grueling examination. Hence, on this issue, findings of the trial court will not be disturbed on appeal unless the lower court overlooked, ignored, misapprehended, or misinterpreted certain facts or circumstances so material such as to affect the outcome of the case. No compelling reason was shown why this Court should depart from the findings of the trial court, which found the testimony of AAA as believable, positive, clear and convincing.
Recounting her ordeal in the first incident, AAA testified:
Q Miss Witness, do you know a person by the name of Roger Alarcon?
A He is my father, sir.
Q Kindly identify him if he is inside the court room?
A (Witness pointing to a man wearing a striped t-shirt and who upon inquiry gave the name of Rogelio Alarcon).
xxx xxx xxx
Q What were you doing just before you were raped by your father for the first time?
A I was already asleep, sir.
Q What arose sic you when you were raped at that time?
A My father was waking me up, sir.
Q How did you wake up?
A My other siblings were already asleep when he was shaking my shoulders, sir.
Q Was he saying anything?
A Nothing, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
Q What else did he do when he shake sic your shoulder?
A He removed my panty, sir.
Q What else did he do when he removed your panty?
A He told me to keep quiet, sir.
Q What were you. . . After that time after he removed your panty and keep quiet, what did you feel?
A " Masakit po", sir.
Q What do you mean?
A " Yung mag-asawa po, yung titi po", sir.
Q What did he do with his penis?
A " Pinasok po sa akin," sir. cHaCAS
Q You said you felt pain. In what part of your body did you feel that pain?
A " Pepe ko po," sir.
Q What did he do after he penetrated you?
A Nothing else, sir (shaking her head).
AAA's testimony categorically established the fact of her defloration at the hands of her father at that. Indeed, she positively identified appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. She was only ten (10) years old when the rape was committed. It is inconceivable for a child to concoct a sordid tale of so serious a crime as rape at the hands of a close kin, her father in this case, and subject herself to the stigma and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive were other than an earnest desire to seek justice. Thus, it becomes implausible for AAA to make up the rape story over her resentment caused by her father's beatings.
The defense failed to dent even slightly the clear and categorical evidence of the prosecution. We do find untenable appellant's contention that AAA's testimony before the police was prodded by Sister Laura. There is no evidence on record for Sister Laura to fabricate charges against appellant. Appellant failed to substantiate his allegations during the cross-examination that Sister Laura had wanted his children to stay with her at the Tahanan ng Ama Retreat House. Even assuming the same to be true, this fact does not indicate any ulterior motive on the part of Sister Laura. If at all, it only proves that Sister Laura was genuinely concerned for the lot of the children.
Appellant characterizes the testimony of his brother Asencio corroborating his alibi as being clear, straightforward and credible. Alibi is inherently a weak defense. Where it is established only by himself and by his relative, his denial of culpability does not deserve consideration in the face of the affirmative testimony of a credible prosecution witness. The daily time record, which would have supported the alibi of appellant, was not presented in court. This fact further created doubts on the veracity of Asencio's testimony.
Appellant's argument that rape could not have been committed due to the presence of AAA's siblings by her side is also bereft of merit. Rape is not a respecter of place or time. It is not necessary that the place where the rape is committed be isolated. There have been too many instances when rape was committed under circumstances as indiscreet and audacious as a room full of family members sleeping side by side. Rape is not rendered impossible simply because the siblings of the victim who were with her in that small room were not awakened during its commission.
It can be gathered from the decision of the RTC, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, that AAA came out with a credible testimony. Moreover, the persuasive impact of her testimony remained unshaken despite the defense put up by appellant. Still, there are other pieces of evidence that bolster the case of the prosecution. The Rape Case Report prepared by Dr. Teresita Samadi-Denani of the Laguna Provincial Hospital sufficiently corroborates her testimony that she was raped. Furthermore, the early reporting of the incident bespeaks veracity and spontaneity. A few days after the incident, AAA reported the incident to her sister, BBB, who acknowledged this fact in her testimony before the trial court, viz:
Q When did you have a conversation with your siblings regarding what you said?
A In the morning of March 24, sir.
Q What other things did you talk about on that day/occasion particularly AAA?
A I told AAA that morning that I will be leaving because I can no longer injure sic the beating of my father and she told me that she would like to come with me, sir.
Q Why did she like to go with you?
A AAA wanted to go with me because our father molested her, sir.
Q And were you able to know when your sister was molested by your father?
A Yes, sir.
Q And when was that?
A She told me that she was molested by our father the previous night of the morning, sir.
Her act of immediately reporting the crimes once the threat against her life had been lifted certainly adds to the credibility of the account.
The guilt of the accused having been duly proven beyond reasonable doubt, the trial court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, correctly found appellant guilty of raping his daughter. Under Article 266-B of the DaACIH
As a special qualifying circumstance raising the penalty for rape to death, the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender must be alleged in the criminal complaint or information and proved conclusively and indubitably as the crime itself. Appellant maintains that the trial court erred in appreciating the special qualifying circumstance of minority and relationship for failure of the prosecution to present the birth certificate of the victim. The Court of Appeals relied on the admission made by appellant with respect to his relationship with AAA and the latter's age during pre-trial in affirming the trial court's conclusion. In the Pre-trial Order dated 20 August 2001, the prosecution proposed and the defense admitted the following facts:
1. . . .
2. that the private offended party AAA is the daughter of the accused;
3. that the victim AAA is 10 years old as of today;
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During the direct examination, AAA stated that she is 10 years old and alleged that her father raped her. In his direct examination, appellant also affirmed the testimony of AAA on these points:
Q Do you have any children, daughters or sons, Mr. Witness?
A Yes, sir. I have.
Q How many daughters and sons?
A Ten (10), sir.
Q How many girls and how many boys?
A Six (6) girls and four (4) boys.
Q How many of your children were staying with you, Mr. Witness?
A Four, sir.
Q Who were they, Mr. Witness?
A AAA around 11 years old, CCC around 8, DDD around 7 and EEE, around 15.
The latest jurisprudence on the matter was laid down in , where the Court explicitly ruled that the imposition of the supreme penalty of death is proper if the special qualifying circumstances of the victim's minority and her relationship to appellant were properly alleged in the Information and their existence duly admitted by the defense on stipulation of facts during pre-trial.
The death penalty cannot however be imposed in view of the enactment of reclusion perpetua without possibility of parole is hereby meted on appellant.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 31 May 2006 of the Court of Appeals finding ROGELIO ALARCON guilty beyond reasonable of the crime of qualified rape and ordering him to indemnify AAA the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, is AFFIRMED.
Puno, C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco, Jr. and Nachura, JJ., concur.
Callejo, Sr., J., is on leave.
Azcuna, J., is on official leave.
1. Promulgated on 31 May 2006. Penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, and concurred in by Associate Justices Mario L. Guari a III and Sesinando E. Villon.
2. The real name of the victim is withheld per , G.R. No. 167693, 19 September 2006.
3. Records, pp. 10-11.
4. Id. at 125.
5. TSN, 21 August 2001, p. 20.
6. Id. pp. 10-12.
7. TSN, 27 August 2001, pp. 3-4.
8. Name of sister withheld. Supra note 1.
9. Records, p. 8.
10. TSN, 4 July 2002, pp. 9-10.
11. TSN, 29 July 2002, p. 5.
12. Records, pp. 125-140.
13. Id. at 134.
14. Id. at 133.
15. G.R. No. 147678-87, 7 July 2004, 464 SCRA 640.
16. CA rollo, p. 38.
17. Rollo, pp. 20-21.
18. Id. at 22.
19. , 430 Phil. 420, 430 (2002) citing 157 SCRA 518, 29 January 1998.
20. CA rollo, p. 64.
21. , 433 SCRA 440 citing , G.R. Nos. 133919-20, February 19, 2001, 352 SCRA 188, 204.
22. CA rollo, p. 25.
23. TSN, 21 August 2001, p. 3.
24. Id. at 10-11.
25. , G.R. No. 128363, 27 May 2004, 429 SCRA 301, 323-324.
26 TSN, 4 July 2002, pp. 9-10.
27. , 450 Phil. 493, 517 (2003) citing , 331 SCRA 95, 114 (2000).
28. , 455 Phil. 658 (2003); , G.R. Nos. 151186-95, 13 February 2004, 422 SCRA 677.
29. , 459 Phil. 1023, 1038 (2003).
30. Supra note 9.
31. TSN, 18 September 2001, p. 6.
32. , 412 Phil. 273, 293 (2001).
33. Records, pp. 27-28.
34. TSN, 24 October 2001, p. 4. Names of siblings withheld, see supra note 2.
35. G.R. No. 170236, 31 August 2006.