Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT

Manila

FIRST DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Plaintiff-Appellee,

-  versus  -

JIMMY ALVERIO,

Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 194259

Present:

CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,

VELASCO, JR.,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

DEL CASTILLO, and

PEREZ, JJ.

Promulgated:

March 16, 2011

x----------------------------------------x

D E C I S I O N

 

 

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This is an appeal from the March 25, 2010 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00020, which affirmed the August 26, 2004 Decision in Criminal Case No. CB-02-195 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 37 in Caibiran, Naval, Biliran.[2] The RTC convicted accused Jimmy Alverio (Alverio) of rape.

The Facts

The charge against Alverio stemmed from the following Information:

That on or about the 3rd day of June, 2002, at about 2:00 o’clock early dawn, more or less, at [PPP],[3] Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, while [AAA] was on her way to her grandmother’s house from the benefit dance, herein accused, a cousin of herein complainant, with lewd designs, and by means of force and intimidation, get hold of her arm and did then and there drag her to the back of the barangay hall, by holding her hair and forcibly laid her to the ground, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously poked her a short bladed weapon known as ‘pisao’ forcibly took off her pants and panty and succeeded in having carnal knowledge with her against her will to her damage and prejudice.

Contrary to law.[4]

On July 3, 2003, Alverio, with the assistance of his counsel de oficio, was arraigned, and he pleaded “not guilty” to the charge against him. After the pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued.

During the trial, the prosecution offered the sole testimony of the private complainant. On the other hand, the defense presented accused Alverio, Henry Toledo (Toledo), and Lily Toledo as its witnesses.

 

The Prosecution’s Version of Facts

In the afternoon of June 2, 2002, AAA, along with her friends Belen Sabanag (Sabanag) and Aileen Sinangote (Sinangote), went to the house of her grandmother to attend a dance event.[5] At around 8:30 in the evening, they proceeded to the dance hall because the dance would start at around 9 o’clock.[6][7] At 2 o’clock in the morning of June 3, 2002, AAA noticed that her friends were no longer at the dance so she decided to go home to her grandmother’s house.[8] During the dance, Sabanag and Sinangote danced with Alverio but AAA did not.

As she was nearing the barangay hall, Alverio suddenly appeared and took hold of AAA. She tried to resist him but he was too strong and he managed to pull her away. AAA started to cry while she was being dragged towards the back of the barangay hall.[9] There, Alverio held her hair, undressed her, and started to kiss her.[10] AAA kept on resisting and even punched Alverio after he kissed her, at which point, Alverio told her that it was painful and that he might retaliate if she continued.[11] This caused AAA to stop resisting and Alverio then proceeded to insert his penis in her vagina repeatedly.[12]

After having carnal knowledge with her, Alverio stood up and put on his clothes. He warned AAA that if she told anyone about what happened, he will kill her.[13] After threatening her, he left.

During this entire incident, Alverio was armed with a knife which he used to poke AAA’s side.

Dazed, AAA could not muster enough strength to go home. She just sat on the road beside the barangay[14] hall until 5 o’clock in the morning when her Uncle Intoy passed by. He brought her home to her parents but she did not tell him anything. Upon reaching home, AAA told her parents about what happened.


Version of the Defense

Alverio’s defense, on the other hand, was confined to his denial of the accusation and an alibi, to wit:

Sometime around 7:30 in the evening of June 2, 2002, Alverio recalled that he was in the barangay chapel with his friend, Toledo, waiting for the dance to begin.[15] The dance hall was just adjacent to the barangay chapel. At 8:30 in the evening, the dance started. He danced with some persons whose names he could no longer recall.[16] But he categorically remembered that he did not see AAA in the dance area.[17]

At 12:00 midnight, Alverio and Toledo walked home to Toledo’s house, where Alverio was staying.[18] On their way home, they passed by the barangay hall.[19] Upon reaching home, they slept and woke up at 5:30 in the morning of June 3, 2002.[20]

In his testimony, Alverio admitted that he and AAA are cousins, their mothers being sisters.[21]

His testimony was corroborated by Toledo[22] and Toledo’s mother, Lily Toledo.[23]

Ruling of the Trial Court

 

After trial, the RTC convicted Alverio. The dispositive portion of its August 26, 2004 Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused JIMMY ALVERIO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape. With no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, he is sentenced to the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua; to indemnify [AAA] Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos; and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.[24]

On appeal to the CA, Alverio disputed the trial court’s finding of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. He argued that the presumption of innocence should prevail especially considering that the prosecution only had a single testimony to support the charge of rape.

Ruling of the Appellate Court

On March 25, 2010, the CA affirmed the judgment of the RTC. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 37, Caibiran, Naval, Biliran in Criminal Case No. CB-02-195 convicting the accused-appellant is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that he is also hereby adjudged liable to pay the victim the amount of Php50,000.00 as moral damages.

His penalty of reclusion perpetua and the award of civil indemnity of Php50,000.00 stands.

Costs against the accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.[25]

The Issue

Alverio now comes before this Court with the lone assignment of error contending that “[t]he trial court gravely erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape.”[26]

The Court’s Ruling

We sustain Alverio’s conviction.

In his Brief, Alverio argues that the trial court should have taken the lone testimony of the complainant with caution and that the testimony should have been weighed carefully, taking into consideration the constitutional precept that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused must be presumed innocent unless the contrary is proved.

Alverio raises three (3) grounds in support of his argument. First, he assails the trial court for giving credence to the sole testimony of the victim. He claims that the prosecution should have presented other witnesses to corroborate the testimony of the victim. Second, he contends that the medical certificate presented as evidence was not testified to by the signatory himself and should therefore not be considered as corroborative evidence. Lastly, he claims that the trial court gravely erred in convicting him of the crime of rape for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

After a careful perusal of the records of this case, however, the Court is satisfied that the prosecution’s evidence sufficiently established Alverio’s guilt with moral certainty.

In People v. Malate,[27] We reiterated the principles with which courts are guided in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in rape cases, viz:

x x x (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility and while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove the charge; (2) considering that, in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and (3) the evidence of the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.

Moreover, in that same case, this Court held that “in cases involving the prosecution for forcible rape x x x corroboration of the victim’s testimony is not a necessary condition to a conviction for rape where the victim’s testimony is credible, or clear and convincing or sufficient to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”[28] As such, appellate courts generally do not disturb the findings of the trial court with regard to the assessment of the credibility of witnesses,[29] the reason being that the trial court has the “unique opportunity to observe the witnesses first hand and note their demeanor, conduct and attitude under grilling examination.”[30] More importantly, courts generally give full credence to the testimony of a complainant for rape, especially one who is only a minor.[31]

The exceptions to this rule are when the trial court’s findings of facts and conclusions are not supported by the evidence on record, or when certain facts of substance and value likely to change the outcome of the case have been overlooked by the lower court, or when the assailed decision is based on a misapprehension of facts.[32] However, this Court finds none of these exceptions present in the instant case.

The victim testified in a steadfast and straightforward manner, to wit:

PROS. JOCOBO:

Q         Now can you tell now [since] there are no more persons around except you and the accused can tell to the Court, or were you able to reach in the house of your lola?

A         When I was walking I was suddenly held by Jimmy Alverio.

Q         Where were you already walking did Jimmy Alverio suddenly held you?

A         Near Brgy. Hall of Brgy. Maurang.

Q         What happened next after you were held by Jimmy Alverio near the brgy. hall of Maurang?

A         He tried to pull me but then I resisted, and Jimmy insisted by pulling me until I cried.

Q         Then even if you were already crying what next happened?

A         He drag me towards the back of the Brgy hall.

Q         Did you in fact drag to the brgy. hall?

A         Yes sir.

Q       While you were at the back of the brgy. hall can you tell this Honorable Court what happened?

A         [He] held my hair and he tried to undressed me but I resisted.

Q         Since he tried to undressed [sic] you and you were resisted [sic] was he able or was he successful in undressing you?

A         Yes sir.

Q         Despite of your resistance?

A         Yes sir.

Q         When you were already undressed what happened, can you tell this to the Honorable Court?

A         He tried kissed [sic] me several times and I resisted and I boxed him.

Q         After you have boxed him after kissing you what next happened?

A         He said that is painful I might retaliate with you.

Q         After hearing on that what did Jimmy had done to you?

A         I just cried I did not mind him anymore.

Q         How about Jimmy what was he doing?

A         He continued kissing me.

Q         After kissing you what next follow?

ATTY. SABANDAL:

I would like to request Your Honor that the prosecution would discontinue and encouraging very much because its up to the witness to answer Your Honor the question. Since previously it would [seem] that the witness could be able to answer only after so much question…

PROS. JOBOCO:

Your Honor please according to the circular on examining minors we will to give full support and we to understand the minors especially if victims of minor cases.

ATTY. SABANDAL:

It was not established that she is a minor, Your Honor.

COURT:

She is 14 years old.

FROM THE COURT:

Q         Now you said that you were undressed by Jimmy Alverio, do you mean to say that you were already naked when you said undressed?

A         Yes sir.

Q         And when Jimmy Alverio kissing you several times were you already naked?

A         Yes sir.

x x x x

Q         What did Jimmy do more while he was kissing several times and you were naked?

COURT INTERPRETER:

At this juncture Your Honor the witness is crying.

COURT:

Q         And when you were naked was Jimmy also naked?

A         Yes sir.

x x x x

Q         You were naked and Jimmy Alverio was also naked and Jimmy Alverio was kissing you so many times, what more did Jimmy Alverio do to you?

A         He inserted his penis.

Q         What were your position, were you standing, or you were lying down?

A         Lying position.

Q         Or something was placed on the ground?

A         On the ground.

COURT:

Alright Pros. Joboco you can proceed the continuation of your direct examination.

PROS. JOBOCO:

Q         When you said when Jimmy Alverio was inserted his penis where was inserted?

A         to my vagina.

Q         And when Jimmy inserted his penis to your vagina what did you feel?

A         I felt pain.

Q         And when you felt pain what did you do?

A         I kept on crying.

PROS. JOBOCO:

I think that would be all Your Honor I think the witness already crying.

COURT:

How many times did Jimmy insert his penis to your vagina?

A         three (3) times.

Q         After the three (3) times intercourse with you what did Jimmy do to you?

A         He stood up and he dressed himself and he left me.

Q         Did he not leave words to you?

A         He told me that if you will told anybody in your family, your mother and your father I will kill you.

Q         Was she have arm [sic] at that time of the incident?

A         Yes sir.

Q         What arm or firearm or what?

A         a knife.

Q         Did he use that in forcing you to do the sexual acts?

A         Yes sir.

Q         By what means did he threatened you?

A         He poke it at my side.

Q         Now what would you mean, he poke it at my side, what did you do?

A         I remain there crying.[33]

It is strikingly clear from the above transcript that AAA’s testimony was very coherent and candid. Thus, We find no reason to overturn the findings of the trial court.

In addition, Alverio submits that although the medical certificate was presented as evidence, its contents were never testified to by the signatory himself and, as such, cannot be considered as corroborative of the claim of the victim that she was raped.

Such argument, however, cannot prosper. Medical evidence is dispensable and merely corroborative in proving the crime of rape. Besides, a medical certificate is not even necessary to prove the crime of rape.[34] The gravamen of rape is carnal knowledge of a woman through force and intimidation.[35]

The elements needed to prove the crime of rape under paragraph 1(a) of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code are: (1) the offender is a man; (2) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (3) the act is accomplished by using force or intimidation. All these elements were sufficiently proved by the prosecution. The testimony of AAA overwhelmingly proves that Alverio raped her with the use of force and intimidation.

Furthermore, Alverio’s defense of alibi cannot stand versus the positive identification of AAA. Nothing is more settled in criminal law jurisprudence than the rule that alibi and denial cannot prevail over the positive and categorical testimony and identification of the accused by the complainant.[36]

Accordingly, We find that the prosecution has discharged its burden of proving the guilt of Alverio beyond reasonable doubt.

As to the award of damages, the CA was correct in awarding PhP 50,000 as moral damages without need of proof. However, in line with current jurisprudence,[37] an additional award of PhP 30,000 as exemplary damages should likewise be given, as well as interest of six percent (6%) per annum on all damages awarded from the finality of judgment until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00020 finding accused-appellant Jimmy Alverio guilty of the crime charged is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. As modified, the ruling of the trial court should read as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused JIMMY ALVERIO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape. With no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, he is sentenced to the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua; to pay [AAA] Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as civil indemnity, Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) as moral damages and Thirty Thousand (P30,000.00) as exemplary damages with interest of six percent (6%) per annum on all awards of damages from the finality of judgment until fully paid; and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO        MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice                                             Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

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

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify 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



[1] Rollo, pp. 2-10. Penned by Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon and concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo L. Delos Santos and Socorro B. Inting.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 79-83. Penned by Judge Pepe P. Romael.

[3] Any information to establish or compromise the identity of the victim, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall be withheld, and fictitious initials are used, pursuant to Republic Act No. 7610, “An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes”; Republic Act No. 9262, “An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefor, and for Other Purposes”; Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the “Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children,” effective November 5, 2004; and People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419.

[4] Records, p. 1.

[5] TSN, September 9, 2003, p. 3.

[6] Id. at 5.

[7] Id. at 6.

[8] Id. at 7.

[9] Id. at 8.

[10] Id. at 8-9.

[11] Id. at 9.

[12] Id. at 9-12.

[13] Id. at 12.

[14] Id. at 13.

[15] TSN, February 24, 2004, pp. 7-10.

[16] Id. at 10.

[17] Id. at 11.

[18] Id. at 12.

[19] Id. at 15.

[20] Id. at 14.

[21] Id. at 20.

[22] TSN, March 8, 2004, pp. 1-12.

[23] TSN, May 4, 2004, pp. 1-9.

[24] CA rollo, p. 24.

[25] Rollo, p. 11.

[26] CA rollo, p. 69.

[27] G.R. No. 185724, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 817, 825.

[28] Id.

[29] People v. Malana, G.R. No. 185716, September 29, 2010.

[30] People v. Malate, G.R. No. 185724, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 817, 825.

[31] People v. Escoton, G.R. No. 183577, February 1, 2010, 611 SCRA 233, 243.

[32] People v. Burgos, G.R. No. 117451, September 29, 1997, 279 SCRA 697, 705.

[33] TSN, September 9, 2003, pp. 7-13.

[34] People v. Cabudbod, G.R No. 176348, April 16, 2009, 585 SCRA 499, 508.

[35] People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 177744, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 733, 737.

[36] People v. Gingos, G.R. No. 176632, September 11, 2007, 532 SCRA 670, 683.

[37] People v. Combate, G.R. No. 189301, December 15, 2010.