SC: Affidavit of Desistance Prior to Trial Cannot Prevail Over Actual Testimony

January 3, 2020

The Supreme Court (SC), through the ponencia of Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, reiterated that an affidavit of desistance cannot prevail over the testimony made on witness stand.

Thus the SC held as it affirmed with modification the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela City and convicted petitioner of the crime of Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 7610.

The victim, step-daughter of petitioner, was 14 years old at the time of the commission of the offense. She lived in the same house with the petitioner, her mother, and her other siblings. On April 28, 2012, the victim was in one of the rooms in their house when petitioner approached her from behind and, without any warning, placed his hands under her t-shirt and uttered the words, “pahawak nga.” She resisted and parried the hands of the petitioner who also attempted to pull down her shorts but she was able to prevent it by holding on to the sides of the garment.

The RTC of Valenzuela City found petitioner guilty of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of four years, minimum, to five years, maximum, imprisonment and to indemnify the victim in the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay P50,000.00 moral damages. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC decision with modification as to the proper imposable penalty and the amount of damages awarded. The case was subsequently elevated to the SC.

For his defense, petitioner merely denied the allegations against him and tried to discredit the victim by raising certain inconsistencies in her Sinumpaang Salaysay. The SC, however, noted that the alleged inconsistencies pertain to trivial matters that do not affect the material aspects of the crime. The petitioner also relied on the Affidavit of Desistance executed by the victim dated October 23, 2013 as a basis for his acquittal.

The SC, however, denied his appeal and ruled that the prosecution sufficiently established his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The Court also held that the petitioner cannot rely on the victim’s Affidavit of Desistance. The Court emphasized that the victim, notwithstanding the said recantation, still took the witness stand on July 26, 2016 and testified against petitioner. Citing Madali v. People [612 Phil. 582 (2009)], the SC held that, “The affidavit of recantation executed by a witness prior to the trial cannot prevail over the testimony made during the trial….The recantation would hardly suffice to overturn the trial court’s finding of guilt, which was based on a clear and convincing testimony given during a full-blown trial. As held by this Court, an affidavit of recantation, being usually taken ex parte, would be considered inferior to the testimony given in open court.”

In imposing the proper imposable penalty and award for damages as well as the accurate nomenclature for the crime committed, the ponencia turned to the Court’s decision in People v. Tulagan (G.R. No. 227363, March 12, 2019). As such, the SC found petitioner guilty of Lascivious Conduct under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 instead of Acts of Lascivousness defined and penalized under Art. 336 of the RPC and sentenced the same to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of fourteen (14) years, eight months, and one day of reclusion temporal, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years, four months, and one day of reclusion temporal, as maximum. He is also ordered to pay the victim the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages.

(G.R. No. 242101, XXX v. People of the Philippines, September 16, 2019)

Full text: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/9580/