Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions


Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions > Year 2008 > April 2008 Resolutions > [G.R. No. 175237 : April 23, 2008] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES V. BONIFACIO PAJARES :




SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 175237 : April 23, 2008]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES V. BONIFACIO PAJARES

Sirs/Mesdames:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated 23 April 2008:

G.R. No. 175237 (People of the Philippines v. Bonifacio Pajares)

This is an appeal from the Decision dated July 20, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00201, finding accused-appellant Bonifacio Pajares guilty of rape.

On February 28, 1997, accused-appellant was simultaneously charged with nine (9) counts of rape in separate Informations docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 12206-14.  Upon arraignment, accused-appellant, assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  Since accused-appellant opted to waive the pre-trial, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 35 in General Santos City set the cases for trial without any express order consolidating them.

Accused-appellant later changed his mind and on September 25, 1997, with the assistance of counsel, pleaded guilty to all the offenses charged.

Earlier, or on August 4, 1997, the prosecution presented AAA,[1] the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 12211, who testified that accused-appellant, her father, started raping her when she was 12 years old, the crime scene being either their house or a pogon (masonry oven) near their house.  Per AAA's account, she could not recall the exact dates when the rape incidents happened, except for the last one which occurred on October 25, 1991, a month before she got married.  On the date in question, according to AAA, her father threatened to kill her with a knife, after which he removed her short pants and underwear, covered her mouth to prevent her from shouting for help, and then inserted his penis into her vagina.

She managed afterwards to tell her older brother who, after revealing that her other sisters had also been victimized by their father, urged her to file a complaint.

On October 17, 1997, prosecution witness BBB, the sister of AAA and the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 12212, testified having been abused by her father as early as when she was only eight years old.  Recalling the last incident which happened at night sometime in October 1996, BBB testified being awakened and forcibly undressed at knifepoint by her father who then inserted his penis into her vagina.  According to BBB, she told her older sister about her experience, despite their father's warning and threat.

On November 18, 1997, the prosecution presented CCC, the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. 12206, 12207, and 12208.  The RTC, however, dispensed with her testimony as being unnecessary, her father, accused-appellant, having already pleaded guilty to the incidents happening prior to the effectivity of Republic Act No. 7659 or the Death Penalty Law.

Proceeding with the trial of the cases, the prosecution next presented DDD, the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. 12209 and 12210.  She too testified that her father first raped her in the pogon next to their house on November 14, 1994.  She added that she was unable to put up any resistance due to the threat employed by her father.  This horrible experience, according to DDD, was to be repeated several times until September 30, 1996.

And like her sisters, DDD also disclosed to her brother what she underwent in the hands of her father, who also threatened her with death should she tell anyone of the incidents.  Her brother, according to DDD, assisted her in reporting the matter to the authorities.

On April 1, 1998, the prosecution presented EEE, the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. 12213 and 12214.  Per her testimony, her father started forcing himself on her when she was 14 years old.  She related what happened in February 1996 when, while sleeping on a stove used for drying copra, her father stripped her of her pants and underwear after which he inserted his private organ into hers.  EEE continued that when she awoke, her father was already in the process of violating her and, with a knife, threatened to kill her and the rest of the family should she scream or tell anyone about what he had done.  EEE added that all she could do at the time was to cry and reluctantly submit.

Her father, according to EEE, succeeded in satisfying his lust at her expense several more times, the last incident occurring some time in August 1996.  After that date, she, with her older brother, reported the matter to the authorities.

All the witnesses aforementioned were exhaustively cross-examined by the defense.  After the prosecution rested, the RTC set dates for the reception of the evidence for the defense.  However, on August 13, 1998, accused-appellant waived his right to present evidence.

On August 24, 1998, the RTC rendered its judgment, finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime separately charged under Criminal Case Nos.  12206-14.  The fallo of the Decision[2] of the RTC reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds the accused Bonifacio Pajares GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659 and is hereby sentenced as follows:

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12206

Since the death penalty was not yet in effect on January 7, 1993, he is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay CCC the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12207

Since the death penalty was not yet in effect on December 24, 1992, he is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay CCC the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12208

Since the death penalty is not yet in effect on December 25, 1992, he is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay CCC the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12209

Since the death penalty is already effective on November 1994, he is hereby sentenced to the maximum penalty of DEATH and to pay DDD the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12210

Since the death penalty is already effective on September 30, 1996, he is hereby sentenced to the maximum penalty of DEATH and to pay DDD the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12211

Since the death penalty is not yet effective as of October 25, 1991, he is hereby sentenced to RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay the sum of P 50,000.00 to AAA as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12212

Since the death penalty is already effective in October 1996, he is hereby sentenced to the maximum penalty of DEATH and to pay the sum of P 50,000.00 to BBB as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12213

Since the death penalty is already effective as of February 1996, he is hereby sentenced to the extreme penalty of DEATH and to pay EEE the sum of P 50,000.00 as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 12214

Since the death penalty is already effective as of August 1996, he is hereby sentenced to the maximum penalty of DEATH and to pay the sum of P 50,000.00 to EEE, as damages and to pay the cost of the suit.
From the RTC's Decision, the said cases were elevated to this Court and originally docketed as G.R. Nos. 135564-72.  However, per this Court's Resolution dated September 21, 2004, these cases were transferred to the CA in accordance with the ruling in People v. Mateo.[3]

On July 20, 2006, the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered a Decision,[4] the fallo of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of General Santos City, Branch 35 is MODIFIED.  The conviction of Appellant Bonifacio Pajares in Criminal Cases No. 12206, 12207 and 12208 is hereby set aside and their records remanded to the trial court for re-arraignment and further proceedings, considering the prosecution's failure to present evidence therein is in violation of Section 3 of Rule 116 of the Rules of Court.

Anent Criminal Cases No. 12209, 12210, 12211, 12212, 12213 and 12214, Appellant's conviction on the six counts of rape is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the penalty in all these cases is reduced to reclusion perpetua.  However, the award of damages in each case is modified, in line with prevailing jurisprudence, as follows: (1) In Criminal Cases No. 12209, 12210, 12212, 12213 and 12214 where the supreme penalty of death was originally imposed on appellant, an award of P75,000.00 is deemed proper, to be treated as indemnity ex delicto; (2) In Criminal Case No. 12211 where the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed, the award of P50,000.00 is maintained but treated as indemnity ex delicto; and (3) In each of the aforesaid criminal cases, an additional amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is awarded.
On appeal before this Court, the recourse docketed as G.R. No. 175237, the parties separately manifested that they are adopting their respective briefs filed with the CA.  Hence, this case is deemed submitted for the resolution of this Court.

The multiple issues raised by accused-appellant in this appeal are essentially reduced to two, as follows: (1) whether or not the trial court erred when it convicted him in Criminal Case Nos. 12206-08 despite the fact that the testimony of the private complainant therein (CCC) was not presented; and (2) whether or not the trial court erred when it convicted him in Criminal Case Nos. 12209-14.

Regarding the first issue, the CA did not err in annulling the decision of the RTC in Criminal Case Nos. 12206-08 and in remanding them to the RTC for re-arraignment and further proceedings.  Accused-appellant maintains that the RTC should have required the prosecution to present its evidence as provided under Section 3, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Court.[5]  On this score, accused-appellant was correctly sustained by the CA, considering that the crime charged in the said criminal cases are capital offenses to which Sec. 3, Rule 116 applies.

In a nutshell, when accused-appellant pleaded guilty in Criminal Case Nos. 12206-08, the RTC should have conducted a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of accused-appellant's plea and should have required the prosecution to prove accused-appellant's guilt and the precise degree of culpability.  Furthermore, the RTC should have afforded accused-appellant the opportunity to present evidence on his behalf.

Anent the second issue, the RTC did not convict accused-appellant based solely on his plea of guilt in Criminal Case Nos. 12209-14, unlike in Criminal Case Nos. 12206-08.  In Criminal Case Nos. 12209-14, accused-appellant's conviction was substantiated by the evidence for the prosecution.  Accused-appellant's conviction for rape was based primarily on the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution.

As correctly stated by the CA, it is settled that once a woman cries rape, she is saying all that is necessary to show that rape was, indeed, committed.  If her testimony meets the test of credibility, such is  sufficient to convict the accused.  The credibility of the victim is almost always the single most important issue to hurdle.  In this regard, the trial judge is in the best position to assess the credibility of the complainant.  Absent any showing that the trial judge overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances which will affect the result of the case, or that the judge acted arbitrarily, the trial judge's assessment of credibility deserves the appellate court's highest respect.[6]

In this case, the testimonies of these prosecution witnesses were simple, straightforward, and credible.  Accused-appellant was present during the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the possibility of the imposition of the death penalty was brought up several times.  Furthermore, accused-appellant was afforded the opportunity to present evidence on his behalf but he refused to do so.

In incestuous rape, we have held that a rape victim's testimony against her father is entitled to greater weight because it is deeply ingrained in our culture to revere and respect our elders; thus, unless true, a child would not thoughtlessly accuse a parent of rape.[7]  This was reiterated and expounded upon in People v. Pandapatan, where it was held:
Time and again, we have consistently held that no young girl would concoct a sordid tale of so serious a crime at the hands of her own father, undergo medical examination, then subject herself to the stigma and embarrassment of a public trial, if her motive were other than a fervent desire to seek justice.  A rape victim's testimony against her parent is entitled to great weight since Filipino children have a natural reverence and respect for their elders.  These values are so deeply ingrained in Filipino families and it is unthinkable for a daughter to brazenly concoct a story of rape against her, if such were not true.[8]
The CA did not err in giving more weight to the testimony of the victim.  When a woman, more so if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to constitute the commission of the crime that has been inflicted on her.  This doctrine applies with more vigor when the culprit is a close relative of the victim, and her father at that.[9]

Accused-appellant failed to show any convincing motive for his daughter to falsely accuse him of such a crime.  It is extremely unlikely that she would concoct such a sordid tale against her own father and relate the same in court unless such a crime did happen.  The motive proposed by accused-appellant that hatred was the motivation for the accusation is too simple to justify the ordeal that the victim had to go through in bringing this to trial.

The trial court found the testimony of the victim sufficient for a conviction.  Accused-appellant failed to refute the same.  The rule is that when a rape victim's testimony is straightforward and candid, unshaken by rigid cross-examination and unflawed by inconsistencies or contradictions in its vital points, the same must be given full faith and credit.[10]

In all, the Court, after a scrutiny of the issues and arguments raised in this appeal, finds no reason to disturb the conclusions reached by the CA in its assailed decision.  Accused-appellant failed to convince the Court that the CA committed reversible error in upholding the RTC Decision in Criminal Case Nos. 12206-14 with some modifications.

It must be noted that in Criminal Case No. 12211, the trial court sentenced the accused to reclusion perpetua; and in its Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00201, the CA made the statement that the penalty in Criminal Case No. 12211 is reduced to reclusion perpetua.  The same must be corrected.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED and the Decision dated July 20, 2006 of the CA in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00201 is MODIFIED to read as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of General Santos City, Branch 35 is MODIFIED.  The conviction of Appellant Bonifacio Pajares in Criminal Cases No. 12206, 12207 and 12208 is hereby set aside and their records remanded to the trial court for re-arraignment and further proceedings, considering the prosecution's failure to present evidence therein is in violation of Section 3 of Rule 116 of the Rules of Court.

Anent Criminal Case No. 12211, appellant's conviction on the count of rape, with the penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED.  Anent Criminal Cases No. 12209, 12210, 12212, 12213 and 12214, appellant's conviction on the five counts of rape is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the penalty in all these cases is reduced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.  However, the award of damages in each case is modified, in line with prevailing jurisprudence, as follows: (1) In Criminal Cases No. 12209, 12210, 12212, 12213 and 12214 where the supreme penalty of death was originally imposed on appellant, an award of P75,000.00 is deemed proper, to be treated as indemnity ex delicto; (2) In Criminal Case No. 12211 where the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed, the award of P50,000.00 is maintained but treated as indemnity ex delicto; and (3) In each of the aforesaid criminal cases, an additional amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is awarded.
No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) LUDICHI YASAY-NUNAG
Clerk of Court

Endnotes:


[1] In accordance with Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, and its implementing rules, the real names of the victims are withheld; instead, fictitious initials are used to represent them to protect their privacy.  See People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 419.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 31-45.  Penned by Judge Antonio S. Alano.

[3] G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640.

[4] Rollo, pp. 4-35.  Penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario and concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo A. Camello (Chairperson) and Mario V. Lopez of the 23rd Division, Cagayan de Oro City.

[5] SEC. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence.-When the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and shall require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability.  The accused may present evidence on his behalf.

[6] People v. Malones, G.R. Nos. 124388-90, March 11, 2004, 425 SCRA 318,330

[7] People vs. Reyes, G.R. No. 168174, April 23, 2007, 521 SCRA 146, 152-153.

[8] G.R. No. 173050, April 13, 2007, 521 SCRA 304,324.

[9] People vs. Iba´┐Żez, G.R. No. 174656, May 11, 2007, 523 SCRA 136, 144.

[10] People vs. Suyat, G.R. No. 173484, March 20, 2007, 518 SCRA 598.



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