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G.R. No. 137270. June 29, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. ARNOLD RATUNIL y OTICO, Accused-Appellant.



In a rape case, the testimony of the complainant is scrutinized with great caution, for the crime is usually known only to her and the rapist. The dubious behavior of the alleged victim after the rape detracts from her credibility and creates reasonable doubt that may lead to the acquittal of the accused. Conviction always rests on the strength of the prosecutions evidence, never on the weakness of that of the defense.

The Case

Arnold Ratunil y Otico appeals the November 13, 1998 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Malaybalay, Bukidnon convicting him of rape and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua. On April 22, 1998, an Information was filed charging him with the rape of Jenelyn Garcenilla, allegedly committed as follows:

"That on or about the early dawn of the 18th day of February 1998, at Barangay Bangahan, Municipality of Pangantucan, Province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused prompted [by] lewd design, and armed with a sharp bladed weapon, by means of violence and intimidation, brought JENELYN GARCENILA to a grassy place and at knife point commanded her to remove her panty and city shorts, made her lie down on the ground, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally have sexual intercourse with JENELYN GARCENILLA against her will, to the damage and prejudice of JENELYN GARCENILA in such amount as may be allowed by law."1cräläwvirtualibräry

On May 7, 1998, appellant, assisted by Counsel Loreto G. Tumampos, pleaded not guilty to the charge.2 After due trial on the merits, Judge Vivencio P. Estrada rendered his assailed 6-page Decision,3 the dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, the court finds accused Arnold Ratunil GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape with the use of force as defined and penalized under Article 335 paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659, and he is therefore sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Accused is ordered to indemnify his victim Jenelyn Garcenilla [in] the sum of P50,000.00."4cräläwvirtualibräry

On November 27, 1998, appellant filed his Notice of Appeal. This Court received his Brief on November 29, 1999.5 On April 17, 2000, the case was deemed submitted for decision when the Office of the Solicitor General filed, in lieu of the appellees brief, a Manifestation and Motion,6 praying for the reversal of the trial courts Decision and the appellants acquittal.

The Facts

Version of the Prosecution

The trial court summarized the evidence for the prosecution as follows:

"Jenelyn was 19 years old during the alleged incident, single and a high school graduate. [O]n the evening of February 17, 1998, Jenelyn went to attend a disco dance in barangay Bangahan, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, which is about three kilometers from her residence in Malipayon. She was with her elder sister Jackelyn and younger brother Raymund. They went on a motorcycle owned by one Larry Otico, arriving there at 10:30.

"Upon their arrival they discovered that the disco dance ha[d] been cancelled. As it was the eve of the "Araw ng Bangahan", they decided to just enjoy themselves by roaming around. A friend, Delia Periodico, whom they saw when they arrived and who is also from Malipayon joined them.

"At 1:00 past midnight, Jackelyn and Raymund went home. Jenelyn stayed behind together with Delia Periodico.

"After an hour and a half, at 2:30, Jenelyn asked Delia if she wanted to go home to Malipayon with her. Delia responded that she will just stay behind. So Jenelyn looked for a motorcycle for hire (locally called "habal-habal") for a ride home. Ratunil, who owned a "habal-habal", saw her and offered to bring her back.

"Arnold Ratunil is also from bario Malipayon. He and Jenelyn were in fact classmates since their elementary grades until high school. They were not, however, close, Jenelyn told the court. She has her own circle of friends.

"On their way to Malipayon, accused stopped his motorcycle a few meter[s] away from the road. He ordered Jenelyn to get off. Pointing a knife at her, accused pushed her and ordered her to remove her city-short[s]. She cried and beg[ged] accused not to harm her but accused instead threatened to kill her if she will refuse. Out of fear, she removed her shorts and panty. Then accused told her to lie down on the ground. He mounted her and kissed her lips. After a while, he forcibly inserted his erected penis into her vagina.

"After he consummated his dastardly desire, accused ordered her to stand up and to put on her panty and shorts. Thereafter, he commanded her to ride again on his motorcycle.

"Accused did not bring Jenelyn to her house. He stopped about a kilometer away where [he] told her to get off. Jenelyn walked the rest of the way arriving at her parents house at about 3:30. Her mother and sister saw her crying but she did not reveal to them what had happened even when they asked why.

"The whole day of the 18th, Jenelyn stayed home depressed. She had no appetite for food. She decided to send a brief letter to Ratunil to ask for money so that she will be able to leave home. Seeing Delia Periodico passing by her house, she requested her to deliver the letter (placed inside an envelope) to Ratunil. Jenelyn did not receive any respon[se] from the accused regarding her letter.

"The next day, February 19, in the morning, Jenelyn finally told her mother that Arnold Ratunil had raped her. (Her father was not at home, being in the farm). Furious and shocked, Jenelyns mother, Emageline Garcenil[l]a, took her to her uncle, Reynaldo Garcenil[l]a, to seek his advice on what action to take. Reynaldo suggested that they should report to the Barangay Captain.

"On the 22nd of February, mother and daughter reported the rape to Barangay Captain George Nobleza.

"Barangay Captain Nobleza testified that Jenelyn and her mother arrived at his house before noon of February 22 and reported to him the alleged rape committed by Ratunil. Nobleza set a meeting for the parties at 3:30 oclock in the afternoon. During the confrontation, he pointedly asked Ratunil if it [wa]s true he raped Jenelyn. Ratunil denied it, saying that their sexual intercourse was by mutual agreement. But Jenelyn insisted she was raped. There being nothing else he could do, Nobleza just insinuated to Ratunil to uphold the honor of Jenelyn.

"On February 24, after having her vagina examined by a doctor, Jenelyn filed the instant case of rape with the police authorities of Pangantucan.

"During the trial, Jenelyn declared firmly on cross-examination that accused was not [her] boyfriend. She told the court that she was still a virgin when Ratunil raped her."7

Version of the Defense

In his 19-page Brief, appellant presented the following version of the facts:

"The defense presented the testimonies of Delia Periodico, Jefferson Marapao and appellant Arnold Ratunil.

"Accused-appellant Arnold Ratunil denied the criminal accusation filed against him by Jenelyn, claiming that the sexual intercourse between the two of them was consensual. He further averred that they ha[d] been lovers since their high school days. Arnold further added that there was a dance disco [o]n the evening of February 18, 1998 at Brgy. Mangahan, Pangantucan, Bukidnon and he danced with Jenelyn twice. At around 2:00 oclock early dawn he left the disco dance on his motorcycle together with Jenelyn who was riding at his back. Jenelyn was hugging him tightly, her nipple nibbling against his back thus arousing him to have an erection. Sexually awakened, Arnold stopped the motorcycle, engaged Jenelyn in kissing, took off her T-shirt, let her lie on the ground and undressed her. He likewise took off all his clothing and engaged Jenelyn in sexual intercourse and afterwards, he took her back home. On February 20, 1998 at around 6:00 oclock in the evening while he was having drinks with some friends at the waiting shed of Brgy. Malipayon, Jenelyn arrived accompanied by her two (2) elder sisters. They later went to the house of Arnolds brother, Allan Ratunil wherein they discussed the incident. When Arnold was asked by Jenelyn whether he would marry her, he responded that he was willing but he was not prepared yet so Jenelyn decided that she will just leave her family and go away hence she asked for some money from him. Arnold told Jenelyn to just write him a letter when she [was] ready to go. Thereafter, he received a letter (Exhibit 1) from Jenelyn on February 22, 1998 at about 5:00 oclock in the afternoon which was handed x x x to him by Delia Periodico. Immediately, he secured five hundred (P500.00) pesos to be given to Jenelyn but there was no one who could deliver the same to Jenelyn. On February 23, 1998 at around 7:00 oclock in the evening, he was called [to] the house of Jenelyns grandmother and while in the presence of Jenelyns brother and sister, Jenelyns mother confront[ed] him about his affair with her daughter (Jenelyn). Arnold was asked if he was ready to uphold the honor of Jenelyn by marrying her. Arnold answered that while he was willing to marry Jenelyn, he was still not ready because of financial difficulties. (TSN, August 4, 1998, pp. 4-13; 15-16)"8

Trial Courts Ruling

The trial court gave credence to the testimony of the complainant, thereby rejecting the "sweethearts defense" propounded by the appellant.

"From the evidence presented, the court believes that accused had indeed raped Jenelyn. The court cannot believe that Jenelyn consented to the sexual intercourse [o]n the evening of February 18 as claimed by the accused.

"There appears to be no valid reason why she would accuse Ratunil of raping her which she knew for sure will expose her to shame and ridicule if found to be false. The explanation of the accused that they [were] sweethearts and she was compelled to file the case because her mother discovered their sexual intercourse cannot be believed. Surely, if they were sweethearts, and their intercourse was voluntary, the mother would be the last person to know because nobody saw them. And even granting Jenelyn was his girlfriend, this is hardly a defense. The crime of rape can be committed against a sweetheart.

x x x

"There is nothing i[n] the letter that would indicate that it was written by a young woman to a beloved. There is not a single word of affection, or even a farewell. It is even hardly friendly. It does not also show that Jenelyn was leaving because her mother had discovered her [dis]graceful conduct. Note that Jenelyns principal reason for going away was her fear of the humiliation she will be experiencing once the talk will spread that Ratunil was able to rape her and so she begged accused not to tell his friends.

"In consonance with the exhortation of the Supreme Court to proceed with utmost caution in scrutinizing the testimony of a complainant in the prosecution of rape given the fact that there are usually only two persons involved (like [in] this case), this court closely observed the demeanor of private complainant [o]n the witness stand for any telltale sign which may reveal that she and the accused were sweethearts and which [would] perhaps prove that their sexual intercourse was voluntary. The court did not notice any. Jenelyn is a simple barrio lass. Certainly not the scheming woman who would send her boyfriend to jail for jilting her.

"To be sure, private complainant was simply motivated to obtain justice so that the man who ravished her [would] be punished. When confronted [with] Exhibit "1" she cried profusely, telling the court she was not herself when she wrote the letter. Her only thought then was to depart from her place as soon as possible and be free from hearing ugly [talk] about her lost maidenhood."9

The Assigned Errors

Appellant imputes the following errors to the trial court:


The trial court gravely erred in giving due weight and credence to the testimony of private complainant which is punctuated with material inconsistency, uncertainty and unreliability, thereby casting grave doubt on the criminal culpability of the accused-appellant.


The trial court gravely erred in finding that accused-appellant used force against private complainant in the perpetration of the incident in question.


The trial court gravely erred in totally ignoring the corroborated evidence of the defense which put in doubt the guilt of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt."10cräläwvirtualibräry

In the main, the present appeal questions the credibility of the complainant.

The Courts Ruling

The appeal is meritorious.

Main Issue: Credibility of Complainant

In the review of rape cases, jurisprudence has laid down the following guiding principles:

"(a) 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;

(b) considering that, in the nature of things, only two (2) persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant should be scrutinized with great caution; and

(c) the evidence for 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."11cräläwvirtualibräry

After carefully examining with "great caution" the testimony of Complainant Jenelyn Garcenilla, the Court holds that the court a quo erred in according it credence. True, a trial court as a rule is deemed to be in a better position than a reviewing tribunal to decide the issue of credibility, because it is in a position to hear the witnesses and observe their behavior and manner of testifying.12 Thus, its factual findings are ordinarily not disturbed on appeal.13 In this case, however, there is a clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would have materially affected the outcome of the case.

Complainants Conduct During the Alleged Rape

Complainant alleged that appellant consummated the crime on the early morning of February 18, 1998, by threatening and intimidating her. She narrated the incident in this wise:

"Q Now, from Bangahan, Pangantucan, Bukidnon going to Malipayon, Pangantucan, Bukidnon on the way while you were riding on that motorcycle driven by Arnold Ratunil, what transpired, if any?

A He drove his motorcycle to a secluded area.

x x x

Q And when you arrived in that secluded place, what transpired thereat?

A He then ordered me to remove my cityshorts because if [I did] not do the same, he [was] going to kill me.

Q And what did he do when he ordered you [to do] that?

A I asked pity from him that he should not rape me.

Q And what did he do?

A He forced me by pointing his knife at me and threatening me that he was going to kill me.

Q Where did he point his knife?

A On my side.

Q And x x x [when he] point[ed] a knife and ordered you to remove your panties, what did you do?

A I cried.

Q And when you cried, what happened next?

A He [used] force to rape me.

Q How did he force you?

A He pointed his knife [at] me.

Q What happened next?

A He forced me to lie down and he forced to insert his penis inside my vagina.

Q Now, at this instance that he forced you to insert his penis to your vagina, what did you do?

A I pushed him.

Q And was he removed [by] your [push]?

A I was not able to really push him because he was big.

Q And because you were not able to remove him because he was big, what happened next?

A And so his penis ha[d] entrance to my vagina.

Q And when his penis entered your vagina, what did he do?

A He romanced x x x me.

Q What do you mean by romance x x x me?

A He kissed me.

Q Where?

A Here. (Witness is touching her face).

Q And what did you do after he romanced you?

A I pushed him.

x x x

Q Now, who undressed you, you yourself or Ratunil?

A I was forced to undress myself because he threatened me that if I [did] not do it he [was] going to kill me and because of fear I did it.

Q Now, at that very time where you were already [o]n the ground and as you said he inserted his penis into your vagina, where did he place this hunting knife as you said he used in threatening you?

A At our side.

Q Now, at the very time he inserted his penis to your vagina were your hands free?

A He held them.

Q How did he hold them?

A He did it this way. (witness is demonstrating by holding the two arms of the Interpreter).

Q Now, after he inserted his penis into your vagina, what happened next?

A He ordered me to stand up.

Q And when you stood up, what happened next?

A He ordered me to ride back on his motorcycle.

Q And when you rode back [on] his motorcycle, where did you go?

A Towards home.

Q Now, at that time you already stood up, were you the one who return[ed] your clothing or you were ordered to return your clothing?

A He ordered me.

Q This actual insertion of his penis into your vagina, where did this happen[,] [o]n the motorcycle itself or on the ground?

A On the ground."14cräläwvirtualibräry

Absent from the foregoing narration was any clear intention of complainant to resist the sexual advances of appellant. She did try to push him, but she did so only after he had accomplished penile penetration. She cried, but did not actively defend herself. Indeed, according to her, he was even able to "romance" her.

In fact, her testimony on cross-examination shows her lack of resolve to offer any resistance:

"Q Now, when he was in the act of having sexual intercourse with you, where did he place the hunting knife?

A On the side.

Q Now, how far was the knife [from] your hand at the time the knife was placed?

A. Just here, sir. (witness pointing on the right thigh)

Q About the distance of 6 inches from your left hand?

A Yes, sir."

Although the knife was very near her hand, she did not try to reach for it. In fact, when appellant was no longer holding it, she did not make any effort to fight back, let alone resist him. She did not struggle at all. Clearly, her conduct militated against her assertion that the sexual act was against her will.

The Court recognizes that rape victims have no uniform reaction to the sexual assault; while some may offer strong resistance, others may be too intimidated to offer any at all.15 We stress, though, that complainants failure to resist significantly the alleged attack, viewed together with her conduct thereafter, indubitably casts doubt on her credibility and the veracity of her assertions.

Complainants Conduct After the Alleged Rape

In People v. Galera,16 the Court underscored the significance of the behavior of the complainant after the alleged rape in the assessment of her credibility. Thus, it held:

"[T]o be sure, an accused may be convicted even on the basis of the testimony of one witness; the rule, however, is subject to the conditio precedens that such testimony is credible, natural and convincing, and otherwise consistent with human nature and the course of things. In order to suffice for conviction, her testimony must be free of serious contradiction, and ring true throughout. In the assessment of the testimonial credit of the wronged woman, evidence of her conduct immediately after the alleged assault is of critical value." (emphasis supplied.)

Complainant testified that on the morning of February 18, 1998, a few hours after the alleged rape, she sent appellant a letter. The prosecutor read it in court as follows:

"Q Now, the contents of this letter which I would like to read for the record, says, undated in the opening reading, "Ang kwarta nga siling mo sa akon kay malakat na ko sa Martes siguroha ang imo nga gisiling sa akon nga kwarta indi ka manogid nga malakat ko bisan kay Mama mp kag sa barakada mo kay kon mabel-an ko kalolooy akon palihog siguroha and kwarta ihatag kay Paging nga Periodico sakta lang hambali ihatag ra sa manghod ko. Pls. rush, siguroha, slamat DG." Which in [E]nglish means, "Arnold, the money that you told me as I will be leaving on Tuesday be sure about x x x what you told me about the money[. D]o not divulge that I will be leaving even to your Mama and to your friends because if this will be known I will be pitiful[. P]lease be sure about the money[. G]ive it to Paging Periodico[.] [J]ust that tell her to give it to my younger sister Cane as you know her to be my sister. Please rush. Be sure. Thank you, okay. D.G. x x x"17cräläwvirtualibräry

Complainants letter manifestly belies her claim that appellant raped her. There is no reason for a rape victim to write her tormentor. That she did so defies explanation. Just as inexplicable is her asking him for money. More tellingly, she entrusted him with her closely guarded secret -- that she was leaving her home.

What she did not write in that letter were just as significant. She did not write about the fact that she had been raped. She did not indicate any anger or indignation; much less outrage or demand for any form of reparation. Verily, she did not ask appellant to keep her defloration secret. On the contrary, she showed greater concern for the secrecy of her plan to leave her home.

Complainant did not merely write appellant. Two days after the incident, she also exerted effort to find him in order to talk to him. This is clear from the unrebutted testimony of Jefferson Marapao:

Q When you were on the road, what happened?

A While I was standing there Jenelyn Garcenilla together with Jackelyn and Mrs. Jeneve Prinsipe approached me.

x x x

Q. What was your conversation about?

A. Jenelyn Garcenilla asked me as to where was Arnold Ra[tun]il.

Q What was your answer, if any?

A I told her that I did not see him.

Q Thereafter, can you recall where did you go?

A Yes.

Q Where did you go next?

A I went to the waiting shed which was located in front of the house of Barangay Captain Nobleza.

Q Where there other people [at] the waiting shed when you reached [it]?

A I saw thereat Arnold Ratunil, Jingle Olampong and William Prias.

Q What were they doing [at] the waiting shed?

A They were drinking [T]anduay.

Q Did you take part in the drinking of Tanduay?

A yes.

Q While you were drinking with the persons you mentioned, what happened next?

A It did not take long and Jenelyn Garcenil[l]a, Jackelyn Garcenil[l]a and Mrs. Jeneve Prinsipe arrived.

Q When they arrived, what happened?

A Arnold Ratunil approached Jenelyn Garcenil[l]a.

Q Did they have conversation?

A Yes.

Q Thereafter, can you recall where did they go?

A After they converse[d] at the waiting shed they proceeded to the house of Allan Ratunil, the brother of Arnold."[18] (Emphasis supplied.)

Indeed, there was no reason for the victim to seek appellant after the alleged rape. It should be emphasized further that she did this two days before reporting the incident to the authorities. Thus, it was more likely that she sought appellant to speak with him, not to have him arrested.

The Court finds it strange that a rape victim could still repose so much trust in her rapist, who had just violated her womanhood. In the present case, complainant, after the alleged rape, trusted appellant enough to ask him for money, to keep her plan to leave her home a secret, and to seek him and talk with him in public. Her conduct showed that appellant was still worthy of her trust, not of her fear, revulsion or hatred.

Sweethearts Theory

The aforecited circumstances are in fact consistent with the theory of appellant that complainant was his sweetheart and that the sexual act was consensual. His theory was corroborated by two witnesses, including Delia Periodico who was complainants friend.

In any event, the Court emphasizes that one of the principles in reviewing rape cases is that the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit, not draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. In this light, courts are mandated to "put prosecution evidence under severe testing." Furthermore, the constitutional presumption of innocence requires them to take "a more than casual consideration" of every circumstance or doubt favoring the innocence of the accused.19cräläwvirtualibräry

In this case, the Court placed the prosecution evidence "under severe testing," and found that it did not constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. Too many circumstances cast doubt on the case of the prosecution. Indeed, even the Office of the Solicitor General recommends the acquittal of appellant. The test of moral certainty has not been fulfilled.

WHEREFORE , the appealed Decision is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. On reasonable doubt, Appellant Arnold Ratunil y Otico is hereby ACQUITTED. The director of the Bureau of Corrections is directed to cause the immediate release of appellant, unless he is being lawfully held for another cause; and to inform the Court of the date of his release, or the reasons for his continued confinement, within ten days from notice. No costs.


Melo, (Chairman) Vitug, Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.


1 Rollo, p. 4. The Information was signed by Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Mario A. Dalapo.

2 Records, p. 51.

3 Rollo, pp. 15-20.

4 Rollo, p. 20.

5 Rollo, pp. 51-71. The Appellants Brief was signed by Attys. Bartolome P. Reus and Rogel F. Quijano of the Public Attorneys Office.

6 This was signed by Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez, Assistant Solicitor General Maria Aurora P. Cortes and Solicitor Ronald B. de Luna.

7 Rollo, pp. 17-18.

8 Rollo, pp. 56-59.

9 Rollo, pp. 18-20.

10 Rollo, p. 53. (Uppercase was used in the original)

11 As quoted in People v. Sta. Ana, 291 SCRA 188, June 26, 1998, per Panganiban, J.; People v. Ramirez, 266 SCRA 335, January 20, 1997; People v. Teves, 246 SCRA 236, July 14, 1995; People v. Guamos, 241 SCRA 528, February 21, 1995; People v. Casinillo, 213 SCRA 777, September 11, 1992.

12 People v. Nardo, 270 SCRA 672, April 4, 1997; People v. Lakibul, 217 SCRA 575, January 27, 1993; People v. Pajares, 210 SCRA 237, June 23, 1992.

13 People v. Atuel, 261 SCRA 339, September 3, 1996; People v. Cura, 240 SCRA 234, January 18, 1995; People v. Malunes, 247 SCRA 317, August 14, 1995.

14 TSN, June 29, 1998, pp. 7-12.

15 People v. Rabosa, 273 SCRA 142, 150-151, June 9, 1997.

16 280 SCRA 492, October 10, 1997, per Vitug, J.

17 TSN, July 6, 1998, pp. 3-4.

18 TSN, August 17, 1998, pp. 11-13.

19 People v. Cartuano, 255 SCRA 403, 423, March 29, 1996, per Kapunan, J.

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