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[PEOPLE v. ARMANDO QUILATAN](https://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/c8d19?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09)
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EN BANC

[ GR No. 132725, Sep 28, 2000 ]

PEOPLE v. ARMANDO QUILATAN +

DECISION

395 Phil. 444

EN BANC

[ G.R. No. 132725, September 28, 2000 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ARMANDO QUILATAN, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

ARMANDO QUILATAN was charged with incestuous rape and found guilty by the trial court. He was sentenced to death. He is now before us on automatic review.

The Information alleged that on 19 July 1995 the accused by means of force and intimidation willfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge of his own 13-year old daughter, Oliva Quilatan.[1]  On 23 February 1997 the trial court found him guilty of rape as defined in Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Sec. 11 of RA 7659, and sentenced him to death. He was also ordered to pay Oliva Quilatan P200,000.00 for moral and exemplary damages.[2]

The evidence shows that in the early morning of 19 July 1995, Oliva Quilatan, then 13 years old, was sleeping with her younger brothers and sisters in their house at Block 37, Welfareville, Mandaluyong City, when she was awakened by her father, the accused Armando Quilatan. Oliva's mother, Elenita, had left the house earlier to go to the market. With his wife gone the accused then told Oliva to undress. Although she wanted to shout for help she was prevented from doing so by her father who threatened to kill her and all her younger siblings if she did. Oliva had no choice; she had to remove her clothes. The accused touched the different parts of her body. He made her lie down and then went on top of her. He inserted his penis into her vagina; she felt pain.

The incident was not Armando's first sexual assault on his daughter. The first was on the occasion of Oliva's 11th birthday on 13 May 1993. Her mother at that time had left her father and settled in Caloocan City because he was beating her. Oliva was raped by her father for the second time on 14 July 1995. Every time the accused would abuse Oliva he would threaten to "kill them all" if she would reveal to anyone what he was doing to her.[3]

Elenita Quilatan narrated that there was another incident when in the morning of 18 July 1995 she found the accused no longer beside her. To her surprise she saw him lying beside their daughter Oliva. When she asked Armando the reason for his action he just kept silent. Offended by what she saw she dashed out of the house. The accused followed her and promised not to abuse Oliva again. Elenita then asked her daughter about her father's abuses and Oliva revealed her painful and harrowing experiences, with her father. On 20 July 1995 Elenita and Oliva went to the police station and filed their sworn statements charging Armando Quilatan with rape.[4]

Dr. Jesusa N. Vergara of the PNP Crime Laboratory at Camp Crame conducted a medical examination of Oliva and found her hymen with shallow healed lacerations at 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions, as well as a deep healed laceration at 9 o'clock position.[5]

The accused interposed denial for his defense. He alleged that when he was still working abroad he learned from a neighbor, whose name he could not recall, that his wife Elenita had a paramour. He confronted her sometime in March 1993 about the P9,000.00 he was sending her every month. When she could not answer him he slapped her. Immediately after, his wife together with all their children left him. But two (2) months later they all returned to their house.

The prosecution presented as its rebuttal witness Brenda Quilatan, 8-year old sister of Oliva. Brenda claimed that she saw her father sexually abuse her sister Oliva twice. She said that one afternoon "a long time ago," she saw her father "play" with the breasts of Oliva who was crying and saying "tama na, po." The accused brought Oliva upstairs and then laid on top of her. Brenda, in another incident, saw her father pumping on top of Oliva who was already naked.[6]

Convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the accused Armando Quilatan did rape his 13-year old daughter Oliva on 19 July 1995 the trial court convicted him as charged and sentenced him to death.

The accused now contends in his Brief that the trial court gravely erred in convicting him of rape as the testimonies of the victim and other prosecution witnesses were riddled with inconsistencies on material matters which render them unworthy of belief. He cited the following: (a) Oliva testified that she was raped at 3 o'clock in the morning of 19 July 1995, but when she said that her mother was not around as she left for the market at 5 o'clock, she changed her testimony and explained that the rape occurred after 5 o'clock; (b) In her sworn statement before the police, she alleged that the accused was unable to insert his penis into her vagina, which is contradictory to her testimony in court that the accused was able to penetrate her as she felt pain; (c) The testimony of Dr. Vergara disclosed that no rape could have taken place on 19 July 1995 because the laceration was already healed; and, (d) according to Elenita Quilatan, she saw the accused lying beside Oliva on 18 July 1995, which is inconsistent with Oliva's testimony that she was raped on 13 March 1993, 14 July 1995 and 19 July 1995.

We find the arguments of the accused bereft of merit. Courts usually give credence to the testimony of a girl who is a victim of sexual assault, particularly if it constitutes incestuous rape because, normally, no person would be willing to undergo the humiliation of a public trial and testify on the details of her ordeal, especially in the hands of her own father, were it not to condemn a grievous injustice.[7]  The bare denial of the accused cannot overcome the categorical testimony of the victim. Denial, when unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, as in this case, is a negative and self-serving evidence which deserves no greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.[8]

The record shows no material inconsistencies in the testimonies of the victim and her mother and younger sister to justify a reversal of her father's conviction. As long as the inaccuracies concern only minor matters, the same do not affect the credibility of witnesses. Truth-telling witnesses are not always expected to give error-free testimonies considering the lapse of time and the treachery of human memory. Inaccuracies may in fact suggest that the witnesses are telling the truth and have not been rehearsed.[9]

Oliva's testimony given in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and candid manner, as observed by the trial court, is worthy of faith and belief. The crying of the victim during her testimony is evidence of the credibility of the rape charge which is a matter of judicial cognizance.[10]  Oliva's narration of the sexual assault upon her by her father was direct, clear and convincing -
Q:
Oliva, do you know accused in this case; Mr. Armando Quilatan
A:
Yes, sir.
 
Q:
Why do you know him?
A:
He is my father, sir.
 
Q:
Do you still remember the incident or what happened on July 19, 1995, particularly at dawn?
A:
Yes, sir x x x x On that day, my mother was not in the house, she went to the market and all my brothers and sisters are (sic) sleeping and he woke me up because one of my sister(s) was crying.
 
Q:
Who was that who woke you up while you were sleeping?
A:
My father, sir.
 
Q:
And as soon as you were awaken(ed), what did your father do if he did anything?
A:
He told me to undress, sir.
 
Q:
What did you do?
A:
I wanted to speak out but he told me that if I will (sic) shout or if I will (sic) report to my mother or to the police he will (sic) kill us all.
 
Q:
And after that what happened?
A:
That was when he started touching me and even if I wanted to shout I cannot (sic) because I was afraid of him and he was threatening me.
 
Q:
When he started touching you as you said and you could not shout, what did you do?
A:
I did not talk anymore.
 
Q:
And what did he do to you?
A:
He asked me to undress, sir.
 
Q:
Did you undress? x x x x
A:
Yes, sir.
 
Q:
And when you were already undressed, what did your father do?
A:
He (laid) me down, sir.
 
Q:
After your father laid you down, what did he do next?
A:
He went on top of me, sir.
 
Q:
When he was already on top of you, what did he do if he did anything?
A:
He inserted his penis in my vagina.
 
Q:
What did you do when you felt that he inserted his penis in your vagina?
A:
I was hurt, sir.
 
Q:
And what did you tell your father when he was doing that to you.
A:
I was not able to speak, sir.
 
COURT:
Make it on record that the witness is shedding tears.[11]
Initially Oliva stated on the witness stand that she was raped at 3 o'clock in the morning of 19 July 1995; however, she corrected herself and declared categorically that the rape happened after 5 o'clock in the morning because at that time her mother had already gone to the market.[12]  A witness is not expected to remember an occurrence with perfect recollection of minor and minute details. A mis-estimation of time is too immaterial to discredit the testimony of a witness especially where the time is not an essential element nor has any substantial bearing on the fact of the commission of the offense.[13]  What is decisive in a rape charge is the complainant's positive identification of the accused as the malefactor.[14]

The testimony of the victim's mother that she saw the accused lying beside Oliva on 18 July 1995 did not in anyway negate the commission of the rape on 19 July 1995 for these may be separate incidents; after all, the accused is not charged for raping his daughter on 18 July 1995. It could have been mentioned to show the propensity of the accused to molest Oliva. Besides, slight variations in the testimonies of witnesses as to minor and inconsequential details or collateral matters do not affect their credibility as variations in fact may be indicative of truth. As long as the testimonies of the witnesses corroborate each other on material points pertaining to the commission of rape, minor discrepancies cannot destroy their credibility. Settled is the rule that the date of the occurrence of the rape is not an essential element of the commission of rape.[15]  The argument of the accused that no rape could have been committed against Oliva on 19 July 1995 because the laceration was already healed when she was medically examined on 20 July 1995 cannot be sustained. Hymenal laceration is not an element of rape. It is sufficient that there was sexual congress, and that this was consummated by the slightest introduction of the male organ into the labia of the pudemdum.[16]

This Court perceives no merit in the story of the accused that the charge levelled against him was but a retaliatory move on the part of his wife who suffered maltreatment from him. In a long line of cases, this Court has consistently ruled that such a defense is simply unbelievable and too unnatural to deserve faith and credit. It is hard to fathom that a parent would use her offspring as engine of malice especially if the same would subject the latter to humiliation, nay, stigma. No mother in her right mind would expose her daughter to the disgrace and trauma resulting from a prosecution for rape if she was not genuinely motivated by a desire to incarcerate the person responsible for her daughter's defilement. Consequently, as the defense utterly failed to prove that the principal witnesses for the People were improperly motivated, the presumption is that they were not so moved, and therefore, their testimony is entitled to full faith and credence.

The Court finds that the accused was correctly meted the supreme penalty of death, pursuant, to Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659 and RA 8353, providing that the death penalty shall be imposed upon the perpetrator if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following aggravating/ qualifying circumstances: x x x x when the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.

This Court observes that the trial court did not award any indemnity to Oliva for the physical abuse she suffered although it granted her P200,000.00 by way of moral and exemplary damages. In People v. Prades[17]  we reiterated that civil indemnity is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape; it is distinct from and should not be denominated as moral damages which is based on different jural foundations and assessed by the court in the exercise of sound discretion. If the crime of rape is committed or effectively qualified by any of the circumstances under which the death penalty is authorized by law, the indemnity for the victim shall be P75,000.00. Moral damages may additionally be awarded to the victim in the criminal proceeding, in such amount as the court may deem just, without the need for pleading or proof of the basis thereof as has heretofore been the practice.[18]  With regard to exemplary damages, the same may be awarded in criminal cases committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.[19]  We find that the award by the trial court of moral and exemplary damages in the amount of P200,000.00 should be split into P150,000.00 for moral damages and P50,000.00 for exemplary damages, the total amount of P200,000.00 for moral and exemplary damages not being disputed by the accused-appellant and is a factual matter binding on this Court.

Four (4) Members of this Court maintain their position that RA 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty. Nonetheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional and the death penalty should be imposed in this case.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City finding the accused ARMANDO QUILATAN guilty of Incestuous Rape and imposing on him the DEATH penalty is AFFIRMED, with the modification that the accused is ordered to pay his victim Oliva Quilatan the amounts of P75,000.00 for civil indemnity and P200,000.00 for moral and exemplary damages.

Let the records of this case, upon finality of this Decision, be forwarded to His Excellency, the President, for the possible exercise of his pardoning power. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.



[1]  Records, p. 1.

[2]  Decision penned by Judge Pablito M. Rojas, RTC-Br. 70, Pasig City.

[3]  TSN, 29 October 1996, pp. 3-17.

[4]  TSN, 10 February 1997, pp. 3-8.

[5]  Records, p. 9.

[6]  TSN, 21 July 1997, pp. 4-12.

[7]  People v. Lusa, G.R. No. 122246, 27 March 1998, 288 SCRA 296.

[8]  People v. Lustre, G.R. 134562, 6 April 2000.

[9]  People v. Ebrada, G.R. No. 122774, 25 September 1998, 296 SCRA 353.

[10]  People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 129439, 25 September 1998, 296 SCRA 559.

[11]  TSN, 29 October 1996, pp. 3-4.

[12]  Id., p. 5.

[13]  People v. Alfeche, G.R. No. 124213, 17 August 1998, 294 SCRA 352.

[14]  People v. Bernaldez, G.R. No. 109780, 17 August 1998, 294 SCRA 317.

[15]  People v. Malapo, G.R. No. 123115, 25 August 1998, 294 SCRA 579.

[16]  People v. Garcia, G.R. Nos. 120387-88, 31 March 1998, 288 SCRA 382.

[17]  G.R. No. 127569, 30 July 1998, 293 SCRA 411.

[18]  Ibid.

[19]  People v. Estares, G.R. No. 121878, 5 December 1997, 282 SCRA 524.
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