CASE BRIEF 2019-0046

CASE: People of the Philippines vs. Benjamin A. Elimancil (G.R. No. 234951 January 28, 2019)

PONENTE: Peralta, J.:

SUBJECT: Rape

FACTS:        An Information was filed against Elimancil for the crime of Rape which reads as follows:

“That on or about 14 August 2000, in Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, by means of force, threat, and intimidation, armed with a bladed weapon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously lie and succeed in having sexual intercourse with AAA, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.”

Elimancil denied raping AAA. In his defense, he argued that it was impossible for him to sexually assault AAA, considering that the occupant of the adjacent room, Joel Malate, could have easily heard any commotion.

The RTC found Elimancil guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape.

Thus, Elimancil elevated the case to the CA, and the latter, on July 14, 2017, promulgated its Decision affirming the decision of the RTC

Hence, the present appeal.

ISSUE:       

(A) Whether Elimancil is guilty of the crime of rape.

(B) Whether the defense of the accused is tenable.

HELD: 

(A)     In reviewing rape cases, this Court has constantly been guided by three principles, to wit: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant .must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. And as a result of these guiding principles, credibility of the complainant becomes the single most important issue. If the testimony of the victim is credible, convincing and consistent with human nature, and the normal course of things, the accused may be convicted solely on the basis thereof.

The determination of the credibility of the offended party’s testimony is a most basic consideration in every prosecution for rape, for the lone testimony of the victim, if credible, is sufficient to sustain the verdict of conviction.  As in most rape cases, the ultimate issue in this case is credibility. In this regard, when the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, appellate courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court, considering that the latter is in a better position to decide the question as it heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during trial. The exceptions to the rule are when such evaluation was reached arbitrarily, or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstance of weight and substance which could affect the result of the case (People v. Panganiban, 412 Phil. 98, 107 (2001).  In the present case, the said circumstances are not present, thus, it does not warrant an exception to the coverage of the rule.

Based on the testimony of AAA, she was able to narrate convincingly to the trial court the crime that was committed, hence, the trial court’s assessment of AAA’s credibility must not be disturbed.

(B)  The reasoning of Elimancil is unacceptable. The Supreme Court has ruled that a small living quarter has not been considered to be a safe refuge from a sexual assault.  Rape can be committed in the same room with the rapist’s spouse or where other members of the family are also sleeping, (People v. Domingo, 579 Phil. 254, 267-268 (2008); People v. Orande, 461 Phil. 403, 415 (2003)) in a house where there are other occupants or even in places which to many might appear unlikely and high-risk venues for its commission.  Lust, it has been said before, is apparently no respecter of time and place.  Neither is it necessary for the rape to be committed in an isolated place, for rapists bear no respect for locale and time in carrying out their evil deed.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      In reviewing rape cases, this Court has constantly been guided by three principles, to wit: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant .must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.

B) Lust, it has been said before, is apparently no respecter of time and place.  Neither is it necessary for the rape to be committed in an isolated place, for rapists bear no respect for locale and time in carrying out their evil deed.

C) When the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, appellate courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court, considering that the latter is in a better position to decide the question as it heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during trial. The exceptions to the rule are when such evaluation was reached arbitrarily, or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstance of weight and substance which could affect the result of the case (People v. Panganiban, 412 Phil. 98, 107 (2001).

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