CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0021

CASE: People of the Philippines vs. Ramon Bay-od [G.R. No. 238176, January 14, 2019]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta

SUBJECT:

  1. Revised Penal Code:
    i. Rape
  2. Evidence:
    i. Credibility of witness

Claim of rape is not negated by medical finding that her hymen is intact.

FACTS:

In an Information, Ramon Bay-od was charged for the crime of Rape.

The victim, AAA, alleges:

Sometime in the year 2011, AAA, who was then 6 years old, was looking for playmates along their neighborhood when Bay-od called her to go inside the latter’s house. Once inside, Bay-od forcibly had sex with AAA by removing the latter’s clothes and by inserting his penis into AAA’s vagina. AAA felt pain and cried and so Bay-od stopped. Afterwards, AAA put on her clothes and went home but decided not to tell her parents about the incident because she was afraid of Bay-od who warned her not to tell the incident to anybody. However, she told her brother about what Bay-od did to her.

Sometime in 2013, while AAA and her brother were having an argument, BBB, the victim’s mother, heard her son teasing AAA saying “op-opya ah te iniyut da-ah eh Lamon,” which means “shut up because you were sexually abused by Lamon (Ramon).” Upon hearing such words, BBB immediately confronted AAA about the veracity of her brother’s statement to which AAA confessed that she was indeed raped by the Bay-od.

Bay-od, on the other hand, flat out denied having raped AAA. He claims that the charge against him was merely fabricated by the family of AAA – his distant relatives – out of envy.

The RTC issued a Decisionfinding Bay-od guilty of qualified statutory rape.

Aggrieved, Bay-od filed an appeal with the CA.

TheCourt of Appeals rendered a Decision affirming in toto the decision of the RTC.

Undeterred, Bay-od appealed to the Supreme Court.

Bay-od claims that the RTC and the CA erred in according full weight and credence to the version of the prosecution, particularly to the accusation of rape by AAA. He argues that such accusation was actually disproved by the results of the medical examination conducted by Dr. Florilyn Joyce Bentrez on AAA.

Bay-od points out that AAA’s hymen was medically found to be still intact. On this end, he relies on and cites Dr. Bentrez’s testimony wherein the latter stated that she, in her medical examination of AAA, found no laceration or scar in the latter’s hymen. Such findings, Bay-od posits, are actually inconsistent with the conclusion that he had carnal knowledge of AAA and, hence, should be considered fatal to the charge of statutory rape.

ISSUES:

A.       Whether the medical finding of Dr. Bentrez that AAA has no injury in her hymen is fatal to the accusation of rape against Bay-od.
B.       Whether carnal knowledge is synonymous to “sexual intercourse.”
C.       Whether the testimonies of AAA are credible.
D.      Whether the defense of Bay-od that AAA was just influenced by her family who, in turn, was only envious of him be given credit.

RULING:
A.      AAA’s claim of rape is not negated by medical finding that her hymen is intact.

The medical finding of Dr. Bentrez that AAA has no injury in her hymen is not fatal to the accusation of rape against Bay-od. AAA’s narration that Bay-od had intercourse with her is not, in and of itself, inconsistent with such finding. In not a few cases already, the Court has affirmed convictions for rape despite the absence of injury on the victim’s hymen in view of the medical possibility for a hymen to remain intact despite history of sexual intercourse.

In People v. Opong [577 Phil. 571 (2008)], the Court had ran down some of these cases:

In People v. Gabayron, we sustained the conviction of accused for rape even though the victim’s hymen remained intact after the incidents because medical researches show that negative findings of lacerations are of no significance, as the hymen may not be torn despite repeated coitus. It was noted that many cases of pregnancy had been reported about women with unruptured hymens, and that there could still be a finding of rape even if, despite repeated intercourse over a period of years, the victim still retained an intact hymen without signs of injury.

In People v. Capt. Llanto, citing People v. Aguinaldo, we likewise affirmed the conviction of the accused for rape despite the absence of laceration on the victim’s hymen since medical findings suggest that it is possible for the victim’s hymen to remain intact despite repeated sexual intercourse. We elucidated that the strength and dilatability of the hymen varies from one woman to another, such that it may be so elastic as to stretch without laceration during intercourse; on the other hand, it may be so resistant that its surgical removal is necessary before intercourse can ensue.

In People v. Palicte and in People v. Castro, the rape victims involved were minors. The medical examination showed that their hymen remained intact even after the rape. Even then, we held that such fact is not proof that rape was not committed.

Moreover, in People v. Pamintuan, We recognized that the absence of injuries in a rape victim’s hymen could also be attributed to a variety of factors that do not at all discount the fact that rape has been committed. As Pamintuan observed:

The presence or absence of injuries would depend on different factors, such as the forcefulness of the insertion, the size of the object inserted, the method by which the injury was caused, the changes occurring in a female child’s body, and the length of healing time, if indeed injuries were caused. 

Thus, the fact that AAA did not sustain any injury in her sex organ does not ipso facto mean that she was not raped.

Accordingly, the Court find the medical finding of Dr. Bentrez regarding the absence of laceration in AAA’s hymen to be, by itself, insufficient to disprove AAA’s claim of rape against the appellant. The absence of laceration or injury to AAA’s hymen during the time she was examined may have been caused by a number of reasons – none of which, however, would have any definitive bearing on whether appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA or not.


B.      It should be emphasized at this point that carnal knowledge, as an element of rape under Article 266-A(1) of the RPC, is not synonymous to sexual intercourse in its ordinary sense; it implies neither the complete penetration of the vagina nor the rupture of the hymen. Indeed, jurisprudence has held that even the slightest penetration of the victim’s genitals – i.e., the “touching” by the penis of the vagina’s labia – is enough to satisfy the element.

Carnal knowledge has been defined as the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman; sexual intercourse. An essential ingredient thereof is the penetration of the female sexual organ by the sexual organ of the male. In cases of rape, however, mere proof of the entrance of the male organ into the labia of the pudendum or lips of the female organ is sufficient to constitute a basis for conviction.

The crime of rape is deemed consummated even when the man’s penis merely enters the labia or lips of the female organ or, as once so said in a case, by the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act.

Here, the fact that Bay-od had carnal knowledge of AAA had been clearly established by the latter’s testimony. Such testimony stands independently of the medical findings of Dr. Bentrez.

C.      AAA’s testimony is credible and AAA is a credible witness.

It must also be considered that AAA was only six (6) years old when she was raped and only nine (9) years old when she took the witness stand.

In People v Piosang (2008) the Court held that testimonies of child victims, such as AAA, are in general ought to be accorded full weight and credit:

Testimonies of child-victims are normally given full weight and credit, since when a girl, particularly if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has in fact been committed. When the offended party is of tender age and immature, courts are inclined to give credit to her account of what transpired, considering not only her relative vulnerability but also the shame to which she would be exposed if the matter to which she testified is not true. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity.

D.      Though Bay-od tried to cast aspersions on the motives of AAA in testifying so – the former claiming that AAA was just influenced by her family who, in turn, was only envious of him – the same falls flat for being utterly unsubstantiated. In this regard, the Court agree with the CA in dismissing such aspersions in light of the failure of the Bay-od to adduce any evidence supporting the same.

Bay-od did not adduce any evidence on record showing any ill-motive on the part of AAA and her family as to why she would testify adversely against him. In a litany of cases, it has been ruled that – “when there is no showing of any improper motive on the part of the victim to testify falsely against the accused or to falsely implicate the latter in the commission of the crime, the logical conclusion is that no such improper motive exists, and that the testimony is worthy of full faith and credence.” Stated otherwise, where no compelling and cogent reasons are established that would explain why the complainant was so driven as to blindly implicate an accused, the testimony of a young girl of having been the victim of a sexual assault cannot be discarded.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A) The Court has affirmed convictions for rape despite the absence of injury on the victim’s hymen in view of the medical possibility for a hymen to remain intact despite history of sexual intercourse.

B) The strength and dilatability of the hymen varies from one woman to another, such that it may be so elastic as to stretch without laceration during intercourse; on the other hand, it may be so resistant that its surgical removal is necessary before intercourse can ensue.

C) When the offended party is of tender age and immature, courts are inclined to give credit to her account of what transpired, considering not only her relative vulnerability but also the shame to which she would be exposed if the matter to which she testified is not true. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth and sincerity.

D) Where no compelling and cogent reasons are established that would explain why the complainant was so driven as to blindly implicate an accused, the testimony of a young girl of having been the victim of a sexual assault cannot be discarded.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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