AAA and her two brothers were washing up in deep well on May 9, 2007 at around 5PM. When her brothers were done washing up, AAA told them to go ahead. Jimmy, aka Bebe, who was then gathering scraps, offered to fetch water for AAA. He then instructed her to go to a nearby nipa hut and ordered her to take off her clothes and panty. AAA refused to follow at first, but when Jimmy covered her mouth and threatened to kill her and her family. AAA complied, and Jimmy successfully took advantage of her by raping her three times. She was able to escape only when AAA told Jimmy to stop so she can urinate. She then informed her father, who came with her to the nipa hut. Jimmy was not there anymore. Since she did not know the name of the person, AAA can only describe the clothes he wore. They reported the incident to the police. The police officers who investigated the case was able to talk to Joel Sevillano, who told them that he saw a man near AAA while the latter was washing in the well, and he only knew his name as “Bebe”. Joel accompanied the police officers and AAA to the house of “Bebe”. When AAA saw Bebe, she became upset and cried. She identified Bebe, whose real name is Jimmy Pitalla, as the same person who molested her.
Jimmy interposed the defense of alibi.
Jimmy was eventually charged with, and convicted of the crime of of Rape punished under Article 266-A(1)(d) in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
Whether or not the accused is guilty as charged.
We affirm the conviction of Pitalla for rape under Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the RPC, which respectively provide:
Art. 266-A. Rape; When And How Committed. — Rape is Committed
- By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
a) Through force, threat or intimidation;
b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or is otherwise unconscious;
c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority;
d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present. x x x (emphasis supplied)
x x x x
ART. 266-B. Penalties. Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua. x x x
When the offended party is under 12 years of age, the crime committed is termed “statutory rape” as it departs ‘from the usual modes of committing rape. What the law punishes is carnal knowledge of a woman below 12 years of age. Thus, the only subject of inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place. The law presumes that the victim does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years. 13 To convict an accused of the crime of statutory rape, the prosecution carries the burden of proving: (a) the age of the complainant; (b) the identity of the accused; and (c) the sexual intercourse between the accused and the complainant.
In this case, the prosecution satisfactorily established all the elements of statutory rape.
AAA testified that on May 9, 2007, Pitalla forcibly carried her to a nipa hut where he proceeded to have carnal knowledge of her. The finding of Dr. Cong that several lacerations and wounds were found in the vagina of AAA, which could have been caused by a blunt instrument, including a finger or a penis, supports this allegation. At the time of the rape, AAA was only eight years old, as evidenced by her Certificate of Baptism and School Report Card.
Moreover, both the trial and appellate courts found that AAA positively and unequivocally identified Pitalla as her molester on two occasions. First, SPO1 Guanco testified that AAA identified Pitalla as the one who molested her in the afternoon of May 9, 2007, thus:
Q: What happened after you reached Villa Felicidad?
A: We were able to locate the house of Bebe Pitalla and my companion, PO1 Villacastin, approached the mother of Bebe Pitalla and informed him of that incident and afterwards when Bebe Pitalla was there the child, AAA, identified Bebe Pitalla as the one responsible in molesting her.
Second, AAA positively identified Pitalla as her rapist in court.
The testimony of a single witness may be sufficient to produce a conviction, if the same appears to be trustworthy and reliable. If credible and convincing, that alone would be sufficient to convict the accused.
It bears stressing that when a woman says she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that she has been raped and her testimony alone is sufficient if it satisfies the exacting standard of credibility needed to convict the accused. By the distinctive nature of rape cases, conviction usually rests solely on the basis of the testimony of the victim, provided that such testimony is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Thus, the victim’s credibility becomes the primordial consideration: in the resolution of rape cases.
In this regard, People v. Abat teaches that the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court given its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grilling examination. In the case at bar, the trial court found the victim and her testimony to be credible, which findings are affirmed by the CA. It is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses, and its conclusions anchored on its findings are accorded by the appellate court high respect, if not conclusive effect, more so when affirmed by the CA.
Applied in the present case, the ruling of the trial court on this matter, as affirmed by the court a quo, must be given weight by this Court. The Court does not see any reason to disturb the RTC and the CA’s appreciation of AAA’s testimony.
Suffice to state that Pitalla’s allegation of incredulity of AAA’s testimony rests on thin ground and is so trivial in nature which does not affect the merits of the case. AAA’s inconsistency in her narration on whether she took her dress and her panty off, or only her panty, prior to the rape, does not in any way weaken her credibility. Such inconsistency is so inconsequential and does not diminish the fact that Pitalla’s guilt had been established beyond reasonable doubt, as shown by the totality of the prosecution’s evidence.
Anent Pitalla’s defenses of denial and alibi, the same fail to impress. Alibi is an inherently weak defense because it is easy to fabricate and highly unreliable. For the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove that he was somewhere else when the offense was committed and that he was so far away that it was not possible for him to have been physically present at the place of the crime or at its immediate vicinity at the time of its commission. While Pitalla alleged that he was at home when the rape took place, he failed to show that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime at that time.
All told, Pitalla’s conviction for the rape of AAA under Article 266-A stands. In accordance with Article 266-B, the penalty for the offense of rape of a minor below twelve (12) years of age is reclusion perpetua. However, to conform to Our pronouncement in People v. Jugueta, the exemplary damages awarded must be increased from Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000) to Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000).
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated October 16, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01852 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. As modified, the judgment shall read, as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present Appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated 13 March 2014 of the Regional Trial Court Branch 43, Bacolod City finding the Accused-Appellant Jimmy Pitalla, Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the commission of the crime of Rape punished under Article 266-A-1(d) in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and all its accessory penalties provided for by law is hereby AFFIRMED but with the following modifications.
This Court orders him to pay:
(v) Seventy Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) as civil indemnity;
(vi) Seventy Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) as Moral Damages; and
(vii) Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) as Exemplary Damages.
(viii) In addition, interest is imposed on all damages awarded at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of judgment until fully paid.
VELASCO JR., J.:
Peralta, Perez, Reyes, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.