EN BANC

[G.R. No. 133189.  May 5, 2003]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. SOLOMON PURAZO, accused-appellant.

D E C I S I O N

BELLOSILLO, J.:

This is another sickening case of incestuous rape.

SOLOMON PURAZO was found guilty by the trial court of rape perpetrated against his own twelve (12)-year old daughter ROWENA.  He was sentenced to death and ordered to indemnify his victim P100,000.00 for moral damages.[1] Pursuant to law, this case is now before us on automatic review.

To prove the guilt of the accused, the prosecution presented six (6) witnesses: private complainant Rowena Purazo, SPO4 Norma Corbo, DSWD Social Worker May Silva, and three (3) medical doctors:  Dr. Aster Khosravibabadi, Dr. Vlademir Semilla and Dr. Bessie Acebes.

The combined testimonies of the prosecution witnesses show that the ordeal of ROWENA started when she was seven (7).  She endured her tribulation until she was nearly twelve (12).  Born on 7 May 1985[2] she lived with her father and the latter’s common-law wife, Amalia Montejas, along Spolarium Street, Cebu City, together with the latter’s daughter by another man, two (2) younger half-brothers, a younger half-sister, and her aunt Rebecca Purazo, the sister of her father.  From the time she turned seven (7) until she was eleven (11), her father would insert his finger into her sex organ, until he finally inserted his penis into her vagina.  He would remove her panty and force himself on her while holding her two (2) hands.[3] So many times he did this to her, but the exact number of times she could no longer remember.[4] On several occasions she cried in pain and pleaded for mercy, but this only elicited spanking of her lips with his fingers.  Rowena recounted that she was sexually molested by her father twice or thrice a week whenever he was drunk or under the influence of drugs.[5]

When Rowena was already ten (10), she disclosed these harrowing experiences to her stepmother Amalia.  But her stepmother simply ignored her.   When Rowena was eleven (11), she told her aunt Rebecca, sister of her father, who confronted him but Solomon merely denied the accusation.  Rowena also informed her Lola Dorie, a neighbor, but the latter just kept the matter to herself as she did not want to get involved.[6]

The sexual assault on Rowena continued in the months of January, February and March 1997.  The last one was when she was molested on a Sunday, sometime in April, 1997.[7] Rowena was then staying with her grandmother in “Wireless, Mandaue” when she was fetched by the accused who told her that she had to attend to her younger sisters at home.  On their way home, the accused told her that they had to drop by the house of her uncle.  The accused however brought her instead to a grassy dark portion of the seashore in Inawayan, Pardo, Cebu.[8] He forced her to lie down and then removed her trousers and panty.  The accused then and there inserted his penis into her vagina.  She cried in pain but nobody could hear her since the place was uninhabited.  After satisfying his lust, the accused told her to put on her clothes and together they went home.[9]

On 8 May 1997 at around eight o’clock in the evening while Rowena was watching television in the house of her Lola Dorie, the accused arrived.  Finding Rowena there he angrily told her to go home.  When she refused, he hit her on her left chin, on the back portion of her head, and on her left and right shoulders, causing her to get dizzy and to fall to the floor.  The accused then held her hand and dragged her home.  Her Lola Dorie, the latter’s niece Cheche and her aunt Rebecca witnessed the whole incident but were too scared to help her.[10]

When they got home, the accused told Rowena that he would kill her because she had defamed him.  Upon hearing this, Rowena immediately jumped over the stairs, ran outside the house and went to the Barangay Hall to report the matter to the Barangay Tanods.

When Rowena reached the Barangay Hall that evening she was met by Barangay Tanod Victorino Betinol who was on duty.  Rowena was crying.  She had bruises on her chin and shoulders.  Her aunt Rebecca kept Rowena company as she reported to Betinol that she was mauled by her father.  Thereafter, Betinol, together with six (6) other Tanods, accompanied Rowena back to their house where Betinol asked accused Solomon Purazo if he mauled his daughter Rowena.  After admitting that he did so, upon invitation of the Barangay Tanods, the accused went with them to the Barangay Hall.[11]

Rowena disclosed at the Barangay Hall that her father did not only maul her but also sexually abused her and repeatedly raped her.  She narrated to the Tanods the agonizing details of her sexual assault by the accused, her own father.  In fact she was mauled at that time because her father found out that she had reported him to her grandmother.

After narrating her ordeal, Rowena and her aunt were referred by the Tanods to the police for investigation.[12] Meanwhile, her father was arrested and detained.  That evening, Rowena was brought to the Cebu Medical Center where she was physically examined by Dr. Aster Khosravibabadi, the resident physician on duty.  The doctor noticed that Rowena’s “hymenal ring (was) intact and the introitus, meaning the opening of the vaginal canal, admits one finger with difficulty.”[13] While Dr. Khosravibabadi did not find any “hyperemia or swelling that signifies any irritation,”[14] she noted that the hymen was “elastic” and opined that it was still “possible that there was penetration.”[15] Rowena also tested negative for the presence of spermatozoa which however can only last for three (3) days inside the uterus.[16] Dr. Vladimir Semilla also examined Rowena for the injuries she suffered in her body and found that she sustained a contusion on the left shoulder area which could have been caused by a fist blow or a bump on the wall.[17]

The following day, 9 May 1997, at around one o’clock in the afternoon, back in the police station, Rowena narrated to SPO4 Norma Corbo, a Child and Youth Relation Investigator, the sexual abuses she suffered in the hands of her own father.[18] SPO4 Corbo also took down the sworn statement of Rowena.[19] Afterwards, that same day, Rowena was brought to the Center for Women of the DSWD in Cebu City.  On 12 May 1997, she recounted her story to DSWD Social Worker Mae Silva.[20]

On 19 May 1997 a complaint for rape was filed against SOLOMON PURAZO alleging that “sometime in March 1997, and for sometime subsequent thereto,” the accused who is the father of complainant Rowena Purazo, a minor of twelve (12) years of age, did then and there willfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with her.

On 5 August 1997 Rowena was brought to the Don Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital for physical examination because she missed her menstrual period for the month of July 1997.  While she was negative for pregnancy,[21] she was found to have old healed lacerations on her hymen at the three and nine o’clock positions.[22]

For the defense, only two (2) testified, namely, accused Solomon Purazo himself and his sister Rebecca Purazo.

For his part, SOLOMON PURAZO professed innocence, gave an alibi, and said that only a fool would ravish his own kin.[23] He claimed that the rape tales were concocted by his rebellious daughter to get back at him after he had been imposing corporal punishment on her for staying out late at night, and at times, for not going home at all for several days - at her very young age of eleven (11).  At one time Rowena apparently disappeared from 12 to 20 March 1997 only to be found out later that she was in the company of a man in his early 20’s, presumably her boyfriend.[24] Rowena would also occasionally leave and return home very late, without asking permission.  The accused also testified that he could not have raped his daughter because he was always at work, from four o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock in the evening, seven (7) days a week.[25]

The 8 May 1997 incident again stemmed from the failure of Rowena to return home, this time, for two (2) days.  She left 6 May 1997, the day before her twelfth birthday, and returned only on 8 May 1997, without any permission.  Thus, upon finding out on 8 May 1997 that Rowena was in the house of a neighbor, the accused, together with his sister and live-in partner, went there to confront his daughter.  Upon being asked where she went, her aunt answered that she went with her sweetheart.  Rowena then answered that she loved her sweetheart.  That was the time accused slapped his daughter at least three (3) times on the face and kicked her, despite being prevented by his sister Rebecca and Lola Dorie who was trying to shield Rowena.[26]

Rebecca Purazo for her part testified that she accompanied Rowena to the Barangay Hall only to report the punishment Rowena had received from her father and for some probable conciliation and mediation proceedings.   Contrary to Rowena’s pronouncements, Rebecca disclaimed being made aware, either by Rowena or by anyone else, prior to 8 May 1997, that she was being sexually abused by her father.[27]

On 24 November 1997 the trial court found the accused Solomon Purazo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of raping his minor daughter Rowena and sentenced him to death, with the accessory penalties provided by law, and ordered him to indemnify his victim P100,000.00 for moral damages.  Hence, this automatic appeal in view of the death penalty imposed by the court a quo.

The accused now seeking his exoneration laments his conviction and draws our attention to the criminal complaint filed arguing that “(it) charged no specific instance when the offense was committed.”[28] He likewise claims that the trial court erred in giving full faith and credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.[29]

The accused avers, in his first assigned error, that “the complaint miserably failed to describe with particularity the specific time when the alleged rape was committed.”[30] The allegation that the rape was committed in ‘March 1997’ is so vague that it did not give him the chance to make an intelligent defense.

We disagree.  Section 11, Rule 110, of the Rules of Court, provides -

Sec. 11. Time of Commission of the Offense. - It is not necessary to state in the complaint or information the precise time at which the offense was committed except when time is a material ingredient of the offense, but the act may be alleged to have been committed at anytime as near to the actual date at which the offense was committed as the information or complaint will permit.

In explaining the provision, we said that the time averred in the complaint or information would only need, unless the precise time of commission of the offense is an essential element thereof, to meet two (2) criteria: (a) it is as near to the actual date of commission of the offense as the complaint or information of the prosecuting officer will permit; and, (b) the time ultimately proved should be as so alleged in the complaint or information.[31]

We have ruled, time and again, that the date is not an essential element of the crime of rape, for the gravamen of the offense is carnal knowledge of a woman.  As such, the time or place of commission in rape cases need not be accurately stated.[32] As early as 1908, we already held that where the time or place or any other fact alleged is not an essential element of the crime charged, conviction may be had on proof of the commission of the crime, even if it appears that the crime was not committed at the precise time or place alleged, or if the proof fails to sustain the existence of some immaterial fact set out in the complaint, provided it appears that the specific crime charged was in fact committed prior to the date of the filing of the complaint or information within the period of the statute of limitations and at a place within the jurisdiction of the court.[33]

Thus, in prosecutions for rape, we have sustained complaints and informations which merely alleged:  “sometime before and until October 15, 1994,” for a rape committed in 1993;[34] “on or about May 1998,” for a rape committed sometime in the first week of May 1998;[35] “on or about May 1994,” for a rape committed on 11 May 1994;[36] “sometime in 1992 and subsequent thereto in 1994,” for two counts of rape committed in August and September 1994;[37] “sometime in the month of April 1993,” for a rape committed sometime in 1993;[38] “sometime in the month of September 1998,” for a rape committed one night in September 1998;[39] “sometime (in) January 1992, and many times thereafter,” for a rape committed during the first week of January 1992;[40] and “on or about the year 1990,” for a rape committed in 1990.[41]

We find no reason to deviate from these precedents.  Accordingly, we hold that the allegation in the instant complaint, i.e., “sometime in the month of March 1997, and for sometime subsequent thereto,” is sufficient to uphold the conviction of the accused for a rape he had committed one Sunday of April 1997.  Simply, that “one Sunday of April 1997” is not so remote from “sometime in the month of March 1997, and for sometime subsequent thereto,” as to surprise and prejudice the accused.

In his second assigned error, the accused claims that the trial court erred in giving full faith and credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.[42] We do not perceive any error committed by the court a quo.

As in almost all rape cases, the crux of this issue is the credibility of the witnesses.  This is resolved primarily by the trial court since it is in a better position to decide the same after having heard the witnesses and observed their conduct, deportment and manner of testifying.  Accordingly, its findings are entitled to the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight or substance which would otherwise affect the result of the case.[43] There is nothing of this sort in the instant case.

Thus, when the trial court says that “(i)n the case at bar, the complainant described in detail how she was raped by the accused, her own father,”[44] we can only affirm and go back to the cold records of the case.   For, it is settled that if the lone testimony of the victim is credible, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things, it is competent to establish the guilt of the accused.[45] In the instant case, the testimony of Rowena was direct, unequivocal, categorical, unwavering and spontaneous -

PROSECUTOR:

Q:   When was it that he was able to insert his penis into your vagina?

A:    Last April 1997

COURT:

Q:   What was your age at that time

A:    11 years old.

PROSECUTOR:

Q:   Now, you said that you were last raped in April 1997, where did it happen?

A:    At Inayawan, Pardo.

Q:   Can you tell this Honorable Court how come that you and your father were at Inayawan, Pardo, Cebu City?

A:    At first, he told me we would go to the house of my uncle.

Q:   Where did he tell that he would bring you to your uncle’s house?

A:    At that time when he told me I was in Mandaue.  He even slapped me because I didn’t want to go with him to my uncle’s house  x x x x

Q:   You said at that time then your father told you that he would bring you to your uncle’s house.  In effect, did he bring you to your uncle’s house?

A:    No, ma’am.

Q:   Where did he bring you?

A:    At the seashore.

Q:   Do you know where that seashore was located?

A:    Yes, ma’am.

Q:   Where, in what seashore? In what place?

A:    In that seashore, there are stores.  There is a grassy portion before the seashore.

Q:   When he brought you there, what did he do to you?

A:    He pulled me.

Q:   And after pulling you?

A:    He forced me to lie down.

Q:   After he forced you to lie down, what did he do to you?

A:    He lied (sic) on my stomach.

Q:   What was he wearing at that time?

A:    Trousers.  And afterwards, he removed my trousers.

Q:   x x x x  Was that all he removed?

A:    Yes, ma’am.

Q:   What about the panty, What did he do?

A:    The trousers and the panty. But the t-shirt, he did not remove.

Q:   You mean to tell us, you were completely naked?

A:    Only the trousers and panty.

Q:   Now, when your father forcibly removed your trousers and your panty, what did you do?

A:    At that time, when he forcibly removed my trousers and panty, I cried but nobody could hear me because it was an uninhabited place and we were the only two persons there, and then he inserted his penis into my vagina.  I cried because of the pain.

Q:   You said when he inserted his penis into your vagina, you cried because of the pain.  Now, can you tell this Honorable Court how long did he insert his penis into your vagina?

A:    I could not recall because I was crying at that time. [46]

Too, a daughter of tender age, like Rowena who was barely eleven (11) to twelve (12) then, would not accuse her own father had she not been truly subjected to the pain and harrowing experience of sexual abuse she testified to under oath.[47] For, it would take the most senseless mind or a certain amount of moral and psychological depravity for a young daughter to concoct a story which could put her own father to jail for the rest of his remaining life, if not death, and drag the rest of the family including herself to a lifetime of shame.[48]

The accused claims that his daughter was merely impelled by revenge in filing the rape case because of the corporal punishment she had been receiving from him.  The contrived defense is nothing new.  This supposed motive has never swayed this Court against lending credence to the testimony of a young victim who has remained firm and steadfast in her account of how she was ravished by her own father.  We have held in previous cases that parental punishment or disciplinary chastisement is not enough reason for a daughter in a Filipino family to falsely accuse her father of rape.  She would not subject herself to an examination of her private parts, undergo the trauma and humiliation of a public trial and embarrass herself with the need to narrate in detail how she was raped if she was not in fact raped.[49]

Likewise, the alibi of the accused that he was at work from dawn till late at night, including Saturdays and Sundays, deserves scant consideration and has to be rejected as it is inherently weak, unreliable, highly improbable and easily fabricated.  For an alibi to serve as basis of an acquittal, it must be established with clear and convincing evidence, with the requisites of time and place being strictly met.  Where the accused fails to convincingly demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission, as in the instant case, alibi must altogether be rejected.[50]

Under Art. 335 of The Revised Penal Code, as amended by Rep. Act No. 7659, the death penalty may be imposed if the crime of rape is committed and 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.  The rape committed by the accused on his own 11-year old daughter is indisputably qualified by minority and relationship.  Accordingly, the penalty of death could thus be decreed in the instant case.  However, Sec. 2, Rep. Act No. 7659, amending Art. 47 of The Revised Penal Code, recognizes that in death penalty cases, the High Tribunal puts to a vote not only the issue of the guilt of the accused, but also the question on the imposition of the death sentence itself.  The law provides –

Sec. 22.  Article 47 of the same Code is hereby amended to read as follows –

Art. 47.  In what cases the death penalty shall not be imposed; Automatic Review of Death Penalty Cases. – The death penalty shall be imposed in all cases in which it must be imposed under existing laws, except when the guilty person is below eighteen (18) years of age at the time of the commission of the crime or is more than seventy (70) years of age or when upon appeal or automatic review of the case by the Supreme Court, the required majority vote is not obtained for the imposition of the death penalty shall be reclusion perpetua

Hence, there may be circumstances to warrant such forbearance.  Thus, in People v. Roque,[51] where this Court upheld the conviction  of  the accused for two (2) counts of rape committed, first in the month of August 1994, and second, in the month of September 1994, under two (2) similarly worded complaints alleging that the two (2) counts of rape were committed “sometime in 1992 and subsequent thereto in 1994,” the death penalty imposed by the trial court was reduced to reclusion perpetua.  We opined then that -

The necessity that the allegation in the Information be specific enough should be understandable particularly when the accused would be minded to raise the defense of alibi.  The instant Information, which placed the time of the commission of the offense sometime in 1992, and subsequent thereto in 1994, concededly was widely inclusive spanning, as it so did, a period of two (2) years.  Understandably, it unduly put the accused, who raised the defense of alibi, the difficult task of accounting in detail his actions for every single day of the two-year period to prove that he could not have committed the particular offense charged.

The Court is convinced of the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the appellant for the crime with which he has been charged but, given the circumstances hereinabove stated, there is, in the mind of the Court, sufficient justification in imposing on him the reduced penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Considering that the instant case is on all fours with People v. Roque, where the complaining sisters were raped several times over a period of two (2) years by their father who was charged only with two (2) counts, we have no option but to follow case law.   Likewise, we therefore vote to reduce the death penalty imposed by the trial court to reclusion perpetua.

In conformity with prevailing jurisprudence, the amount of moral damages should be reduced from P100,000.00 to P50,000.00 which is given without need of proof other than the commission of rape.  Another sum of P50,000.00 is however awarded to the victim as indemnity ex delicto.[52]   Considering the tender age of the victim, the aggravating circumstance of father-daughter relationship and to deter fathers with perverse and aberrant sexual behavior from sexually abusing their daughters, the victim is likewise entitled to exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.00.[53]

WHEREFORE, the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City finding accused SOLOMON PURAZO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of incestuous rape is AFFIRMED with the modification that accused is sentenced instead to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay Rowena Purazo the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Puno, J., join J. Vitug.

Vitug, J., please see separate (concurring) opinion.

Panganiban, and Carpio, JJ., see separate opinion.

Callejo, J., please see my concurring and dissenting opinion



[1] Decision penned by Judge Galicano C. Arriesgado, RTC Br. – 18, Cebu City, dated 24 November 1997.

[2] TSN, 2 September 1997, pp. 3-4; Exh. “G,” Records, p. 64.

[3] TSN, 4 September 1997, p. 5.

[4] TSN, 2 September 1997, 10-11.

[5] TSN, 4 September 1997, pp. 3-5.

[6] Id., pp. 6-7.

[7] Id., p. 3.

[8] TSN, 11 July 1997, pp. 7-8.

[9] TSN, 9 September 1997, pp. 12-14.

[10] TSN, 2 September 1997, pp. 7-9.

[11] TSN, 7 August 1997, pp. 4-6.

[12] Id., pp. 6-7.

[13] TSN, 16 June 1997, pp. 4-5.

[14] Id., p. 5.

[15] Ibid.

[16] TSN, 4 July 1997, pp. 3-4. 

[17] TSN, 21 July 1997, pp. 5-6. 

[18] TSN, 31 July 1997, pp. 6-8.

[19] Exh. “E,” Records, p. 4.

[20] TSN, 11 July 1997, pp.  6-8.

[21] TSN, 4 September 1997, pp. 7-9; Exh. “F-1,” Records, p. 60.

[22] Exh. “F-2,” Records, p. 62.

[23] TSN, 29 September 1997, p. 11.

[24] Id., pp. 6-7.

[25] TSN, 1 October 1997, p. 4

[26] Id., p. 5.

[27] TSN, 21 October 1997, p. 18.

[28] Accused-Appellant’s Brief, p. 6.

[29] Id., p. 8.

[30] Id., p. 6.

[31] People v. Roque, G.R. Nos. 130659 and 144002, 14 August 2002, citing U.S. v. Dichao, 27 Phil. 421 (1914).

[32] People v. Villegas, G.R. No. 60386, 30 January 1984, 127 SCRA 195; People v. Hortillano, G.R. No. 71116, 19 September 1989, 177 SCRA 729; People v. Puedan, G.R. No. 95286, 26 April 1991, 196 SCRA 388; People v. Bugayong, G.R. No. 126518, 2 December 1998, 299 SCRA 528; People v. Roque, G.R. Nos. 130659 and 144002, 14 August 2002.

[33] U.S. v. Arcos, 11 Phil. 555 (1908).

[34] People v. Bugayong, G.R. No. 126518, 2 December 1998, 299 SCRA 528.

[35] People v. Morfi, G.R. Nos. 145449-50, 1 August 2002.

[36] People v. Dumanlang, G.R. Nos. 132393-94, 7 August 2002.

[37] People v. Roque, G.R. Nos. 130659 and 144002, 14 August 2002.

[38] People v. Aspuria, G.R. Nos. 139240-43, 12 November 2002.

[39] People v. Abellano, G.R. No. 146468, 13 November 2002.

[40] People v. Nebria, G.R. Nos. 140004-05, 18 November 2002.

[41] People v. Cantomayor, G.R. No. 145522, 5 December 2002.

[42] Accused-Appellant’s Brief, p. 8.

[43] People v. Villanueva, G.R. Nos. 146464-67, 15 November 2002.

[44] Decision of the trial court, p. 5.

[45] People v. Yonto, G.R. Nos. 148917-18, 21 November 2002.

[46] TSN, 2 September 1997, pp. 12-14.

[47] People v. Rebose, G.R. No. 131104, 17 June 1999, 308 SCRA 499; People v. Nuńez, G.R. No. 128875, 8 July 1999, 310 SCRA 168; People v. Javier, G.R. No. 126096, 26 July 1999, 311 SCRA 122; People v. Pineda, G.R. Nos. 118312-13, 28 July 1999, 311 SCRA 368.

[48] People v. Sangil, Sr., G.R. No. 113689, 31 July 1997, 276 SCRA 532; People v. Fuensalida, G.R. No. 119963, 6 November 1997, 281 SCRA 452; People v. Javier, G.R. No. 126096, 26 July 1999, 311 SCRA 122; People v. Rivera, G.R. No. 130607, 17 November 1999, 318 SCRA 317.

[49] People v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 133859, 24 August 2000, 338 SCRA 678; People v. Bertulfo, G.R. No. 143790, 7 May 2002; People v. Villanueva, G.R. Nos. 146464-67, 15 November 2002.

[50] People v. Cańada, G.R. No. 112176, 6 February 1996, 253 SCRA 277; People v. Javier, G.R. No. 126096, 26 July 1999, 311 SCRA 122; People v. Terrible, G.R. No. 140635, 18 November 2002.

[51] People v. Roque, G.R. Nos. 130659 and 144002, 14 August 2002.

[52] People v. Romero, G.R. Nos. 137037-38, 5 August 2002; People v. Mendoza, G.R. Nos. 143844-46, 19 November 2002.

[53] People v. Villanueva, Jr., G.R. No. 146106, 16 December 2002; People v. Guardian, G.R. No. 142900, 7 August 2002.