The Philippine Star
This is the case of a 12- yearold child “snatched from the cradle of innocence by the bestiality of another person whom she is even fond of.” The issues here are the credibility of the child’s categorical testimony against the defense of mere denial. Also raised as issues in this case are the victim’s conduct following her defilement and her inability to immediately report what happened to her. Will they affect her credibility? The child involved here shall be called Nina, which is not her true name in order to hide her identity as well as the identities of all the other persons involved and the places where it happened as required by the applicable law.
Nina was born of parents who separated when her mother Berta lived in with the accused Cardo and the latter’s legitimate children. Nina even fondly called her stepfather as “Papa Cardo.” One day when she was about 12 years old, her mother went out to sell rice cakes and left Nina and her half siblings with Cardo in their house. Cardo then took Nina inside a room, removed her short pants and went on top of her to satisfy his lustful desires by having sexual intercourse with Nina. The following day Cardo again molested Nina by forcing her to fondle his sexual organ. Nina did not tell her mother about her ordeal as Cardo threatened to kill her.
When Nina was already 13 years old, Cardo sexually molested her anew. She went to his room to ask help regarding her exam. Cardo suddenly forced Nina to lie on her stomach and lifted her skirt then undressed himself and had sexual intercourse with her. In yet another incident at the pigpen, Cardo called Nina and held her organ after he undressed himself and Nina.
Another day, when Nina arrived home after doing an errand, Cardo scolded and punched her and hit her with a coconut grater. The next morning, Nina jumped out of the window and ran away from home. She went to the barangay captain who brought her to the police station, where she executed an affidavit before Police Officer Rina Paterno narrating her ordeals in the hands of Cardo. She was also examined by Dr. Mendoza who found that Nina’s sexual organ had old and healed lacerations. A psychologist, Dr. Valdez, likewise found Nina suffering from an anxiety disorder and had symptoms of a sexually abused person.
So Cardo was charged with the crime of Qualified Rape under 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, and for Child Abuse under Section 5(b) of R.A. 7610. The prosecution presented Nina, Dr. Mendoza, PO Rina Paterno and Dr. Valdez to prove the incident above narrated.
For his defense, Cardo denied Nina’s accusations and alleged that prior to the filing of the charges against him, he beat Nina because she stole a wall clock, a battery operated radio and a sum of money from their neighbors, although the neighbor did not file a complaint because she was still a minor but they advised him to discipline her. Nina’s mother, Berta, corroborated him and testified that her daughter hated Cardo because he would scold and hit her whenever she steals things. She also clarified that there was no time when Nina was left alone in the house because Cardo’s mother, Cita, was always there to watch her grandchildren, including Nina. This was affirmed by Cita herself who also testified.
But the Regional Trial Court (RTC) still convicted Cardo of the two charges. It relied more on the positive and credible declaration of Nina which was confirmed by the medical and psychological reports of the doctors, as against the mere denial of Cardo. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA). Were the RTC and the CA correct?
The Supreme Court (SC) said yes. With respect to Qualified Rape, it is admitted that Nina was a 12-yearold minor and Cardo was the live-in partner or the common law spouse of her mother, but the elements of this crime have been proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution, particularly: (1) sexual intercourse (2) with a woman under 18 years of age (3) by the stepparent, or the common law spouse of the parent of the victim. The actual force, threat or intimidation that is the element of rape under 266-A par. 1(a) of the RPC is no longer required because the moral and physical dominion of the stepfather is sufficient to cow the victim into submission to his beastly desires.
In this case the prosecution has even established that Cardo had carnal knowledge of Nina, employing force and intimidation by means of abuse of authority as testified by Nina. In resolving rape cases, the primary consideration is almost always given to the credibility of the victim’s testimony like Nina’s. It may be the sole basis for the conviction of the accused since the only evidence that can be given regarding the matter is the testimony of the victim, owing to the nature of the offense which is usually committed without any eyewitness.
In fact in this case, the rape victim’s testimony is given greater weight because she accuses a close relative. Cardo’s defense of denial cannot overcome the categorical testimony of Nina. It is intrinsically a weak defense and must be buttressed with strong evidence of nonculpability to merit credibility. The victim’s conduct after the sexual molestation and her inability to report the incident are not enough to discredit her. It is unfair and unreasonable to demand a standard of rational reaction to an irrational experience, especially from a 12-year-old. Besides, Nina’s testimony is consistent with the medical and psychological findings of the doctors who examined her.
In the same manner, there is no reason to reverse the factual findings of the RTC and the CA for the crime of child abuse. The elements of child abuse under Section 3 Article III of RA 7610 are: (1) the accused commits sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (2) with a child exploited in prostitution or sexual abuse; (3) who is below 18 years old. Lascivious conduct is the intentional touching directly or indirectly of, or the introduction of any object into, most intimate parts of the body of any person with intent to humiliate, harass, degrade, arouse or gratify the sexual desire of another. In this case, Nina was able to recall, in a clear and straightforward manner, how Cardo abused her.
So Cardo is really guilty of Qualified Rape and should be sentenced to Reclusion Perpetua. As well as of Lascivious Conduct under section 5 (b) of RA 7610 with the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua plus damages and cost in both cases (People vs. XXX, G.R. 230981, July 15, 2020).