CASE BrieF NO. 2013-0227

CASE: Mike Alvin Pielago y Ros vs.People of the Philippines [G.R. No. 202020  March 13, 2013]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes

SUBJECT:

  1. Criminal Law:
    i. Rape by sexual assault [Article 266-A(2)]; elements
  2. Criminal Procedure:
    i. Nature and cause of accusations;
    ii. Information – Designation of the offense vs. allegations in the Information
  3. Torts and damages:
    i. Exemplary Damages

The factual allegations contained in the Information determine the crime charged against the accused and not the designation of the offense as given by the prosecutor which is merely an opinion not binding to the courts.”


FACTS:
Mike Alvin Pielago y Ros (Pielago)  was charged in an Information for the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness.

The prosecution alleged that sometime in July 2006 AAA and her two (2)-year old brother, CCC, were playing with Mike Alvin Pielago y Ros (Pielago)  whom they call as Kuya Alvin. After playing, the three (3) went inside Boyet’s house to watch television. After a while, Pielago turned off the television and brought AAA and CCC to a bedroom. While CCC played with a toy carabao at a corner, Pielago made AAA lie down on bed. Pielago then took off AAA’s short pants and inserted his right hand’s forefinger inside her vagina and exclaimed “masiram” (which means “delicious”) as he brutely licked it and spewed saliva in it. AAA felt pain and blood came out of her vagina which frightened her. Unsatisfied, Pielago made AAA lie on her chest on the same bed then fingered her anus. After a few minutes, AAA and CCC were called for lunch by their mother, BBB. Pielago immediately replaced AAA’s shorts then sent her and CCC out of the bedroom. BBB noticed the bloodstains at the back portion of AAA’s shorts. When BBB asked AAA what happened, AAA did not answer immediately until she said “Kuya Alvin tugsok buyay saka lubot ko buda dila pa.” (which means “Kuya Alvin inserted something in my vagina and my anus and he licked me).

On its face, the Information charged Pielago for the crime of acts of lasciviousness, however, the RTC found Pielago guilty for the crime of rape by sexual assault and sentenced him to an indeterminate penalty of prision mayor, as minimum, to reclusion temporal, as maximum, after considering Pielago’s voluntary surrender as a mitigating circumstance, and to pay AAA the amounts of ₱30,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱30,000.00 as moral damages, ₱25,000.00 as exemplary damages and ₱10,000.00 as temperate damages.

The CA affirmed in toto the decision of the RTC.

ISSUE:

A.        Whether the lower court is correct in convicting Pielago for the crime of rape by sexual assault.
B.        Whether the right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated.
C.        What is/are the essential element/s that must be proved for the prosecution to obtain a conviction for rape by sexual assault?
D.        Is the award of exemplary damages in the amount of P25, 000.00 proper?

RULING:

A.       Pielago’s guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court finds no cogent reason to disturb the factual findings of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA. It is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court, especially on the credibility of the rape victim, are accorded great weight and respect and will not be disturbed on appeal. After a careful review, the SC is convinced that the testimony of AAA positively identifying Pielago as the one who molested her is worthy of belief.

The clear, consistent and spontaneous testimony of AAA unrelentingly established that Pielago inserted his right hand’s forefinger into her vagina and anus while she and her younger brother, CCC, were in his custody. Being a child of tender years, her failure to resist or struggle while Pielago molested her would all the more prove how she felt intimidated by her “Kuya”. Furthermore, Pielago’s bare denial cannot exculpate him from the criminal charge. It is well-settled that denial, just like alibi, cannot prevail over the positive and categorical testimony and identification of an accused by the complainant. Mere denial, without any strong evidence to support it, can scarcely overcome the positive declaration by the victim of the identity and involvement of Pielago in the crime attributed to him.

The RTC correctly convicted Pielago for the crime rape by sexual assault.

B.       It is well-settled that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused is entitled to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. In this respect, the designation in the Information of the specific statute violated is imperative to avoid surprise on the accused and to afford him the opportunity to prepare his defense accordingly. In the instant case, the designation of the offense in the Information against Pielago was changed from the crime of acts of lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 to the crime of rape by sexual assault penalized under Article 266-A(2) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 8353. It cannot be said, however, that his right to be properly informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated. This Court is not unaware that the Information was worded, as follows: “x x x commit an act of lasciviousness upon the person of AAA, a minor being four (4) years old, by kissing the vagina and inserting one of his fingers to the vagina of AAA, x x x.” The factual allegations contained in the Information determine the crime charged against the accused and not the designation of the offense as given by the prosecutor which is merely an opinion not binding to the courts.

As held in [Malto v. People (2007)]: What controls is not the title of the information or the designation of the offense but the actual facts recited in the information. In other words, it is the recital of facts of the commission of the offense, not the nomenclature of the offense, that determines the crime being charged in the information.

Also, in the more recent case of People v. Rayon, Sr.(2013) the SC reiterated that the character of the crime is not determined by the caption or preamble of the information nor from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, but by the recital of the ultimate facts and circumstances in the complaint or information.

C.       In order to obtain a conviction for rape by sexual assault, it is essential for the prosecution to establish the elements that constitute such crime. Article 266-A(2) of the Revised Penal Code explicitly provides that the gravamen of the crime of rape by sexual assault which is the insertion of the penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into another person’s genital or anal orifice. In the instant case, this element is clearly present when AAA straightforwardly testified in court that Pielago inserted his forefinger in her vagina and anus. Jurisprudence has it that testimonies of child-victims are given full weight and credit, since when a woman or a girl-child says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was indeed committed. Thus, AAA’s unrelenting narration of what transpired, accompanied by her categorical identification of Pielago as the malefactor, established the case for the prosecution.

D.      In line with the existing jurisprudence on the matter, the award of exemplary damages should be increased from ₱25,000.00 to ₱30,000.00 [People v. Asprec (2013)].

The Fallo

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated February 1, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 33475 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, that: (1) the amount of exemplary damages is increased from P25,000.00 to P30,000.00; and (2) petitioner Mike Alvin Pielago y Ros is ordered to pay the private offended party interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of 6% per annum from the date of finality of this decision.

Related Case BrieFs:

  1. Malto v. People (2007)
  2. People v. Rayon, Sr.(2013) 
  3. People v. Asprec (2013)

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THINGS DECIDED:

A.       It is well-settled that denial, just like alibi, cannot prevail over the positive and categorical testimony and identification of an accused by the complainant.

B.       The factual allegations contained in the Information determine the crime charged against the accused and not the designation of the offense as given by the prosecutor which is merely an opinion not binding to the courts.

C.       What controls is not the title of the information or the designation of the offense but the actual facts recited in the information.

D.      The gravamen of the crime of rape by sexual assault which is the insertion of the penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into another person’s genital or anal orifice.

E.       In line with the existing jurisprudence, the award of exemplary damages should be increased from ₱25,000.00 to ₱30,000.00 [People v. Asprec (2013)].

 ‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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