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G.R. No.

163866 July 29, 2005

ISIDRO OLIVAREZ vs COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

For review is the Court of Appeals decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 22860[1] which affirmed the judgment[2]
rendered by the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 93,[3] in Crim. Case No. 0505-SPL
finding petitioner Isidro Olivarez guilty of violating Section 5, Republic Act No. 7610;[4] and its resolution
denying reconsideration thereof.[5]

The case originated from a complaint filed by the offended party with the Municipal Trial Court of San
Pedro, Laguna which was the basis upon which an information for violation of R.A. 7610 was filed
against Isidro Olivarez, to wit:

The undersigned 4th Assistant Provincial Prosecution (sic) of Laguna upon a sworn complaint filed by the
private complainant, CRISTINA B. ELITIONG, hereby accuses ISIDRO OLIVAREZ of the crime of VIOLATION
OF RA 7610, committed as follows:
That on or about July 20, 1997, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused actuated by lewd design did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously by means of force and intimidation commit acts of lasciviousness on the
person of one CRISTINA B. ELITIONG, by touching her breasts and kissing her lips, against her will, to her
damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[6]

The established facts of this case are as follows:

... The offended party Cristina Elitiong was a 16-year old high school student who with her brothers were
employed by the accused, 64-year old Isidro Olivarez, in the making of sampaguita garlands. For one
year she had been reporting for work during weekends at the residence of the accused. Within the
compound and at about three armslength from the main door of the house was her workplace.

At about 11:30 oclock in the morning of July 20, 1997, Cristina, her two brothers Macoy and Dodong,
and one named Liezel were at their work when the accused who was near the main door called for her.
She dutifully approached him. The accused asked her if she had told her mother that he gave her
money, and when she said that she did not, he embraced her and held her breast. The workers were
facing the street so that the two were not seen. He pulled her to the kitchen and, closing the kitchen
door, kissed her on the lips. She pushed him away and went back to her station. Her brother Macoy saw
her crying when she came out of the house. She did not say a word, but went to the faucet and washed
her face.

The offended party continued to finish the garlands she was working on, and waited until the afternoon
for her wages. When she arrived at her home, she first told her mother that she no longer wished to go
back. When pressed for a reason, she said basta po mama ayaw ko ng magtuhog. Finally, she told her
mother what happened.

Aurora Elitiong, the mother, accompanied the offended party to the San Vicente Barangay Hall on July
26 to report the incident and give a statement. Days later, Cristina gave another statement to the local
police.

In the defense version, the offended party and her brothers had slept overnight in the house of the
accused. When Isidro woke up in the early morning to relieve himself, he saw the girl sleeping on the
sofa. He admonished her to join her brothers in the basement. He went back to his room and slept until
8 A.M. Two hours later, at 10 A.M., he left for the Caltex Service Station which was only a five minute
ride from his home by tricycle. His daughter Analee Olivarez was staying in another house in the
compound and attended a morning mass. When she returned at 10:30 A.M., she no longer saw her
father. Maritess Buen, the laundrywoman, who was washing clothes outside the kitchen, saw the
accused earlier. By 10 A.M., when she entered the house, he already left. He returned by noontime.
The accused testified that he was at the Caltex station for two and a half hours waiting for the shipment
of flowers from Pampanga. The goods arrived at 12:15 P.M. He left shortly thereafter and passed by the
market before going home. He arrived at 12:30 P.M. The next several days were uneventful for him until
his laundrywoman Maritess told him that there was a complaint against him at the barangay office. A
meeting took place between him and the girls family in the presence of the barangay authorities. The
girls mother was demanding P30,000 for the settlement of the case, but he refused to cave in and told a
barangay official Jaime Ramos that he would rather see his accusers in court than give a centavo
because he did not commit the crime.[7]

The trial court found Olivarez guilty of violating Section 5 of R.A. 7610 and sentenced him to suffer an
indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as
minimum to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum,
to indemnify the minor Cristina Elitiong in the amount of P15,000.00 as moral damages and to pay the
costs.

On appeal, the decision of the trial court[8] was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The motion for
reconsideration[9] filed by the accused was denied.[10] Hence, this petition for review[11] on the
following grounds:

I. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion in not holding that the essential
elements in Violation of Section 5, Article III of Republic Act 7610, which are age of the offended party
and that she is an abused or exploited child as defined in the law, not having been alleged in the
Information, petitioner/accused cannot be found guilty of said offense and must be acquitted.
II. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred and committed grave abuse of discretion in holding that the
Information charging petitioner/accused of Violation of Section 5, Republic Act 7610, but failing to allege
the essential elements of said offense, had substantially complied with the requirements of due process
for the accused.

III. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred and gravely abused its discretion in not reversing the judgment
of the trial court convicting the accused/petitioner and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment for alleged Violation of Section 5, Republic Act 7610, which was not alleged in the
Information.[12]

Petitioner alleges that his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him
was violated for failure to allege in the information the essential elements of the offense for which he is
being charged.

Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610 states:

SEC. 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. Children, whether male or female, who for money,
profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group,
indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution
and other sexual abuse.
The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the
following:

...

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in
prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse: Provided, That when the victim is under twelve (12)
years of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article
336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case
may be: Provided, That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of
age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period; ... (Italics supplied)

The elements of sexual abuse under Section 5, Article III of R.A. 7610 are as follows:

1. The accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct.

2. The said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse.

3. The child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.[13]


Section 32, Article XIII, of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 7610 defines lascivious
conduct as follows:

[T]he intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner
thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person,
whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or
gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or
pubic area of a person.[14] (Emphasis supplied)

The first element obtains in this case. It was established beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner kissed
Cristina and touched her breasts with lewd designs as inferred from the nature of the acts themselves
and the environmental circumstances.[15]

The second element, i.e., that the act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to
other sexual abuse, is likewise present. As succinctly explained in People v. Larin:[16]

A child is deemed exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse, when the child indulges
in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct (a) for money, profit, or any other consideration; or (b) under
the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group. ...
It must be noted that the law covers not only a situation in which a child is abused for profit, but also
one in which a child, through coercion or intimidation, engages in lascivious conduct. (Emphasis
supplied)

We reiterated this ruling in Amployo v. People:[17]

... As we observed in People v. Larin, Section 5 of Rep. Act No. 7610 does not merely cover a situation of
a child being abused for profit, but also one in which a child engages in any lascivious conduct through
coercion or intimidation...

Thus, a child is deemed subjected to other sexual abuse when the child indulges in lascivious conduct
under the coercion or influence of any adult. In this case, Cristina was sexually abused because she was
coerced or intimidated by petitioner to indulge in a lascivious conduct. Furthermore, it is
inconsequential that the sexual abuse occurred only once. As expressly provided in Section 3 (b) of R.A.
7610, the abuse may be habitual or not. It must be observed that Article III of R.A. 7610 is captioned as
Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse because Congress really intended to cover a situation where
the minor may have been coerced or intimidated into lascivious conduct, not necessarily for money or
profit. The law covers not only child prostitution but also other forms of sexual abuse. This is clear from
the deliberations of the Senate:
Senator Angara. I refer to line 9, who for money or profit. I would like to amend this, Mr. President, to
cover a situation where the minor may have been coerced or intimidated into this lascivious conduct,
not necessarily for money or profit, so that we can cover those situations and not leave loophole in this
section.

The proposal I have is something like this: WHO FOR MONEY, PROFIT, OR ANY OTHER CONSIDERATION
OR DUE TO THE COERCION OR INFLUENCE OF ANY ADULT, SYNDICATE OR GROUP INDULGE, et cetera.

The President Pro Tempore. I see. That would mean also changing the subtitle of Section 4. Will it no
longer be child prostitution?

Senator Angara. No, no. Not necessarily, Mr. President, because we are still talking of the child who is
being misused for sexual purposes either for money or for consideration. What I am trying to cover is
the other consideration. Because, here, it is limited only to the child being abused or misused for sexual
purposes, only for money or profit.

I am contending, Mr. President, that there may be situations where the child may not have been used
for profit or ...
The President Pro Tempore. So, it is no longer prostitution. Because the essence of prostitution is profit.

Senator Angara. Well, the Gentleman is right. Maybe the heading ought to be expanded. But, still, the
President will agree that that is a form or manner of child abuse.

The President Pro Tempore. What does the Sponsor say? Will the Gentleman kindly restate the
amendment?

ANGARA AMENDMENT

Senator Angara. The new section will read something like this, Mr. President: MINORS, WHETHER MALE
OR FEMALE, WHO FOR MONEY, PROFIT, OR ANY OTHER CONSIDERATION OR INFLUENCE OF ANY ADULT,
SYNDICATE OR GROUP INDULGE IN SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, et cetera.
Senator Lina. It is accepted, Mr. President.

The President Pro Tempore. Is there any objection? [Silence] Hearing none, the amendment is approved.

How about the title, Child Prostitution, shall we change that too?

Senator Angara. Yes, Mr. President, to cover the expanded scope.

The President Pro Tempore. Is that not what we would call probable child abuse?

Senator Angara. Yes, Mr. President.

The President Pro Tempore. Subject to rewording. Is there any objection? [Silence] Hearing none, the
amendment is approved. x x x. (Italicization supplied)[18]
Petitioner makes much of the failure to allege in the information that Cristina was a child below 18 years
of age at the time the offense was committed. He insists that the Court of Appeals mistakenly relied on
the case of People v. Rosare[19] because unlike in Rosare, he had no personal knowledge of Cristinas
age, which he claims was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused is entitled to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him.[20] A complaint is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation
of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the
name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place
where the offense was committed.[21]

The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given by the statute, aver the
acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances. If
there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the
statute punishing it.[22] The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the
qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not
necessarily in the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common
understanding to know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating
circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment.[23]

In the present case, the Court of Appeals found the information to be sufficient. Relying on the principle
laid down in People v. Rosare, it held:
Before us is an information for violation of RA 7610 that, as in Rosare, fails to mention an indispensable
element of the offense, the age of the offended party, but makes allusion to another document, the
sworn complaint of the offended party, and declares it to be the basis upon which the information was
filed. This instrument is the complaint filed by the offended party with the Municipal Trial Court of San
Pedro, Laguna in which she stated that she was 16 years old at the time of the offense. It forms part of
the initial records of the case and comes before the posting of bail and entry of the plea of not guilty
before the RTC. It appears that after the charge was filed with the MTC, and as the preliminary
investigation went underway, the accused filed a manifestation stating that he had filed a counter-
affidavit to the charge and reserved the right to file a motion to quash the information if it was filed. The
MTC found probable cause against him and elevated the records to the provincial prosecutor for filing of
the information.

A complaint is under the Rules one of the two charging instruments for the offense of which the accused
was tried and convicted here. While the criminal action was instituted by the complaint of the offended
party, the information signed only by the fiscal ushered in the formal trial process. But both are
accusations in writing against the accused and serve the purpose of enabling him to take the necessary
legal steps for his defense. What is important is that the information states that the accused is being
charged of an offense under RA 7610 based on the complaint of the offended party, to which the
accused had adequately responded. Under these conditions, the accused was fully apprised of the
accusation against him. The purpose and objective of the constitutional mandate are discharged and
satisfied. The accused may not be said to be taken by surprise by the failure of the information to state
the age of the offended party, when he had received the initiatory complaint where he was told how old
the offended party was.[24]
We agree with the ruling of the Court of Appeals. In People v. Rosare, the information did not allege that
the victim was a mental retardate which is an essential element of the crime of statutory rape. This
Court however sustained the trial courts judgment of conviction holding that the resolution of the
investigating prosecutor which formed the basis of the information, a copy of which is attached thereto,
stated that the offended party is suffering from mental retardation. It ruled that there was substantial
compliance with the mandate that an accused be informed of the nature of the charge against him.
Thus:

Appellant contends that he cannot be convicted of statutory rape because the fact that the victim was a
mental retardate was never alleged in the information and, absent this element, the acts charged
negate the commission of the offense for which he was convicted by the lower court.

Pursuant to Section 8, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, we have decided to motu proprio take cognizance
of the resolution issued by the investigating prosecutor in I.S. No. 92-0197 dated June 2, 1992, which
formed the basis of and a copy of which was attached to the information for rape filed against herein
appellant. Therein, it is clearly stated that the offended party is suffering from mental retardation. We
hold, therefore, that this should be deemed a substantial compliance with the constitutional mandate
that an accused be informed of the nature of the charge against him. ...[25]

In People v. Villamor,[26] the information failed to allege the age of the offended party but since a copy
of the order issued by the investigating judge was attached in the record of the preliminary investigation
clearly stating that the complainant was nine years old, it was held that there was substantial
compliance with the mandate to inform the accused of the nature of the accusation. It was also declared
that the defense cannot invoke the element of surprise as to deprive it of the opportunity to suitably
prepare for the accuseds defense, thus:
... Furthermore, even if the information filed did not allege that the complainant was nine years old,
there was substantial compliance with the constitutional mandate that an accused be informed of the
nature of the charge against him when the Order issued by the investigating judge, a copy of which was
attached in the record of the preliminary investigation, clearly stated that the complainant was nine
years old. Consequently, the defense cannot invoke the element of surprise as to deprive it of the
opportunity to suitably prepare for the accuseds defense.[27]

In People v. Galido,[28] the information for rape failed to allege the element of force or intimidation.
The Court ruled that this omission is not fatal since the complaint specifically charged the accused with
three counts of rape committed by means of force and intimidation. Thus:

Appellant avers that because the Informations on which he was arraigned and convicted did not allege
the element of force or intimidation, he was deprived of his constitutional right to be informed of the
nature and cause of the accusation against him. He insists that such failure was a fatal defect that
rendered the Informations void.

As a rule, the accused cannot be convicted of an offense, unless it is clearly charged in the complaint or
information. Otherwise, their constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against them would be violated.

In the present case, appellant correctly pointed out that the element of force or intimidation should
have been expressly alleged in the Informations. This omission is not fatal, however, because the
Complaint specifically accused him of three counts of rape committed by means of force and
intimidation...[29]

The same ground was adopted in People v. Mendez[30] which involved an information for rape that
failed to allege force or intimidation. We ruled therein that it was not a fatal omission because it was
stated in the complaint that accused Rosendo raped Virginita by means of force.

In People v. Torellos,[31] the Court treated the information for rape which failed to allege force and
intimidation as merely defective and that the deficiency was cured by the failure of the accused to assail
the insufficiency of the allegations in the Information and by competent evidence presented during trial.

Thus, while it is necessary to allege the essential elements of the crime in the information, the failure to
do so is not an irremediable vice. When the complaint or the resolution by the public prosecutor which
contain the missing averments is attached to the information and form part of the records, the defect in
the latter is effectively cured, and the accused cannot successfully invoke the defense that his right to be
informed is violated.

In the instant case, the missing averment in the information is supplied by the Complaint which reads in
full:
COMPLAINT

The undersigned complainant, accuses ISIDRO OLIVAREZ, of the crime of VIOLATION OF RA 7610,
committed as follows:

That on or about 11:30 A.M. of July 20, 1997 at Brgy. San Vicente, San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court the said accused with lewd design did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit an act of lasciviousness against one CRISTINA ELITIONG Y
BALDONO, 16 years old, by kissing and touching her private parts and embracing her against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[32]

Petitioner was furnished a copy of the Complaint which was mentioned in the information, hence he
was adequately informed of the age of the complainant. The prosecution has also established the
minority of the offended party through competent evidence. Cristina testified that she was 16 years old
and a certification from the Office of the Local Registrar of San Pedro, Laguna was presented showing
that she was born on October 17, 1980.[33] The third element of sexual abuse is therefore present.
The information merely states that petitioner was being charged for the crime of violation of R.A. 7610
without citing the specific sections alleged to have been violated by petitioner. Nonetheless, we do not
find this omission sufficient to invalidate the information. 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, they may be conclusions of law, but by the recital of the ultimate facts and
circumstances in the complaint or information.[34] The sufficiency of an information is not negated by
an incomplete or defective designation of the crime in the caption or other parts of the information but
by the narration of facts and circumstances which adequately depicts a crime and sufficiently apprise
the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

True, the information herein may not refer to specific section/s of R.A. 7610 alleged to have been
violated by the petitioner, but it is all to evident that the body of the information contains an averment
of the acts alleged to have been performed by petitioner which unmistakably refers to acts punishable
under Section 5 of R.A. 7610. As to which section of R.A. 7610 is being violated by petitioner is
inconsequential. What is determinative of the offense is the recital of the ultimate facts and
circumstances in the complaint or information.

The prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner committed acts of sexual abuse
against Cristina. The trial court found Cristinas testimony to be clear, candid, and straightforward.[35]
Her testimony, given in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and candid manner, is worthy of
faith and belief.[36] In the face of the accusations against him, petitioner could only interpose
uncorroborated alibi and denial. Denial, like alibi, is an inherently weak defense and cannot prevail over
the positive and categorical identification provided by eyewitnesses.[37] Not only did Cristina identify
the petitioner as her assailant but no ill-motive was adduced why she would impute against him so
grave a charge. This Court will not interfere with the trial courts assessment of the credibility of
witnesses, absent any indication that some material fact was overlooked or a grave abuse of discretion
committed. None of the exceptions obtain in the instant case.[38]
In addition to moral damages, a fine in the amount of P15,000.00 should likewise be imposed pursuant
to our ruling in Amployo v. People:[39]

It does not end there. In People v. Abadies, and with respect specifically to lascivious conduct
amounting to child abuse under Section 5(b) of Rep. Act No. 7610, we imposed a fine of P30,000 for
each count of lascivious conduct in addition to the award of moral damages on the justification that

It will be noted that Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 7610 provides for the penalty of
imprisonment. Nevertheless, Section 31(f), Article XII (Common Penal Provisions) thereof allows the
imposition of a fine subject to the discretion of the court, provided that the same is to be administered
as a cash fund by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and disbursed for the
rehabilitation of each child victim, or any immediate member of his family if the latter is the perpetrator
of the offense. This provision is in accord with Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to
which the Philippines became a party on August 21, 1990, which stresses the duty of states parties to
ensure the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of abused and exploited children
in an environment which fosters their self-respect and human dignity.

With the case of Abadies as guidepost, we impose a fine of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P15,000.00) on
petitioner.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 9, 2004 in CA-
G.R. CR No. 22860 and its resolution dated June 4, 2004, are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. In addition
to the award of P15,000.00 as moral damages,petitioner Isidro Olivarez is also ordered to pay a fine in
the amount of P15,000.00.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 164733 September 21, 2007

MICHAEL JOHN Z. MALTO vs PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

Whereas, mankind owes to the child the best it has to give. (Final preambular clause of the Declaration
of the Rights of the Child)

This is a petition for review[1] of the decision[2] dated July 30, 2004 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
G.R. CR No. 25925 affirming with modification the decision[3] of Branch 109 of the Regional Trial Court
of Pasay City in Criminal Case No. 00-0691 which found petitioner Michael John Z. Malto guilty for
violation of paragraph 3, Section 5(a), Article III of RA 7610,[4] as amended.
Petitioner was originally charged in an information which read:

The undersigned Assistant City Prosecutor accuses MICHAEL JOHN Z. MALTO of VIOLATION OF SECTION
5(b), ARTICLE III, REPUBLIC ACT 7610, AS AMENDED, committed as follows:

That on or about and sometime during the month of November 1997 up to 1998, in Pasay City, Metro
Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
Michael John. Z. Malto, a professor, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously induce
and/or seduce his student at Assumption College, complainant, AAA, a minor of 17 years old, to indulge
in sexual intercourse for several times with him as in fact said accused had carnal knowledge.

Contrary to law.[5]

This was subsequently amended as follows:

The undersigned Assistant City Prosecutor accuses MICHAEL JOHN Z. MALTO of VIOLATION OF SECTION
5(a), ARTICLE III, REPUBLIC ACT 7610, AS AMENDED, committed as follows:
That on or about and sometime during the month of November 1997 up to 1998, in Pasay City, Metro
Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
Michael John. Z. Malto, a professor, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take
advantage and exert influence, relationship and moral ascendancy and induce and/or seduce his student
at Assumption College, complainant, AAA, a minor of 17 years old, to indulge in sexual intercourse and
lascivious conduct for several times with him as in fact said accused has carnal knowledge.

Contrary to law.[6]

Petitioner did not make a plea when arraigned; hence, the trial court entered for him a plea of not
guilty. After the mandatory pre-trial, trial on the merits proceeded.

The prosecution established the following:

At the time of the incident, private complainant AAA was 17 years old.[7] She was a college student at
the Assumption College in San Lorenzo Village, Makati City. Petitioner, then 28, was her professor in her
Philosophy II class in the first semester of the school year 1997 to 1998.
On July 18, 1997, AAA was having lunch with her friends when petitioner joined their group. He told
them to address him simply as Mike. He handed them his organizer and asked them to list down their
names and contact numbers.

On October 3, 1997, while AAA and her friends were discussing the movie Kama Sutra, petitioner butted
in and bragged that it was nothing compared to his collection of xxx-rated films. To the shock of AAAs
group, he lectured on and demonstrated sexual acts he had already experienced. He then invited the
group to view his collection.

On October 10, 1997, petitioner reiterated his invitation to AAA and her friends to watch his collection
of pornographic films. Afraid of offending petitioner, AAA and two of her friends went with him. They
rode in his car and he brought them to the Anito Lodge on Harrison St. in Pasay City. They checked in at
a calesa room. Petitioner was disappointed when he found out there was neither a video cassette player
(on which he could play his video tapes) nor an x-rated show on the closed-circuit television. He
suggested that they just cuddle up together. AAA and her friends ignored him but he pulled each of
them towards him to lie with him in bed. They resisted until he relented.

AAA and her friends regretted having accepted petitioners invitation. For fear of embarrassment in case
their classmates got wind of what happened, they agreed to keep things a secret. Meanwhile, petitioner
apologized for his actuations.

Thereafter, petitioner started to show AAA amorous attention. He called her on the phone and paged[8]
her romantic messages at least thrice a day. When semestral break came, his calls and messages
became more frequent. Their conversation always started innocently but he had a way of veering the
subject to sex. Young, naive and coming from a broken family, AAA was soon overwhelmed by
petitioners persistence and slowly got attracted to him. He was the first person to court her. Soon, they
had a mutual understanding and became sweethearts.
When AAA secured her class card in Philosophy II at the start of the second semester, petitioner told her
that he gave her a final grade of 3. She protested, stating that her mid-term grade was 1.2. He gave her a
grade of 1.5 when she promised not to disclose his intimate messages to her to anyone. He also
cautioned her not to tell anyone about their affair as it could jeopardize his job.

On November 19, 1997, at around 11:00 a.m., AAA agreed to have lunch with petitioner outside the
premises of the college. Since she was not feeling well at that time, he asked her to lie down in the
backseat of his car. She was surprised when he brought her to Queensland Lodge[9] on Harrison St. in
Pasay City. Once inside the motel room, he kissed her at the back and neck, touched her breasts and
placed his hand inside her blouse. She resisted his advances but he was too strong for her. He stopped
only when she got angry at him.

On November 26, 1997, petitioner asked AAA to come with him so that they could talk in private. He
again brought her to Queensland Lodge. As soon as they were inside the room, he took off his shirt, lay
down in bed and told her, halika na, dito na tayo mag-usap. She refused but he dragged her towards the
bed, kissed her lips, neck and breasts and unsnapped her brassiere. She struggled to stop him but he
overpowered her. He went on top of her, lowered her pants and touched her private part. He tried to
penetrate her but she pushed him away forcefully and she sat up in bed. He hugged her tightly saying,
Sige na, AAA, pumayag ka na, I wont hurt you. She refused and said, Mike, ayoko. He angrily stood up
saying, Fine, hindi na tayo mag-uusap. Dont come to the faculty room anymore. You know I need this
and if you will not give in or give it to me, let us end this. She replied, Mike, hindi pa ako ready and it was
you who said it will be after my debut on December 3, 1997. He insisted that there was no difference
between having sex then and after her debut. He told her, kung hindi ko makukuha ngayon, tapusin na
natin ngayon. Pressured and afraid of his threat to end their relationship, she hesitantly replied Fine. On
hearing this, he quickly undressed while commenting ibibigay mo rin pala, pinahirapan mo pa ako and
laughed. They had sexual intercourse.
In July 1999, AAA ended her relationship with petitioner. She learned that he was either intimately
involved with or was sexually harassing his students in Assumption College and in other colleges where
he taught. In particular, he was dismissed from the De La Salle University-Aguinaldo for having sexual
relations with a student and sexually harassing three other students. His employment was also
terminated by Assumption College for sexually harassing two of his students. It was then that AAA
realized that she was actually abused by petitioner. Depressed and distressed, she confided all that
happened between her and petitioner to her mother, BBB.

On learning what her daughter underwent in the hands of petitioner, BBB filed an administrative
complaint in Assumption College against him. She also lodged a complaint in the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Pasay City which led to the filing of Criminal Case No. 00-0691.

In his defense, petitioner proffered denial and alibi. He claimed that the alleged incidents on October 3,
1997 and October 10, 1997 did not happen. He spent October 3, 1997 with his colleagues Joseph
Hipolito and AJ Lagaso while he was busy checking papers and computing grades on October 10, 1997.
The last time he saw AAA during the first semester was when she submitted her final paper on October
18, 1997.

On November 19, 1997, between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., he sorted out conflicts of class schedules for
the second semester at the Assumption College. On November 26, 1997, he was at St. Scholasticas
College (where he was also teaching) preparing a faculty concert slated on December 12, 1997. At lunch
time, he attended the birthday treat of a colleague, Evelyn Bancoro.

On November 29, 1997, he attended AAAs 18th birthday party. That was the last time he saw her.
According to petitioner, AAA became his sweetheart when she was already 19 years old and after he
was dismissed from Assumption College. On December 27 and 28, 1998, they spent time together,
shared their worries, problems and dreams and kissed each other. On January 3, 1999, he brought her
to Queensland Lodge where they had sexual intercourse for the first time. It was repeated for at least 20
times from January 1999 until they broke up in July 1999, some of which were done at either his or her
house when no one was around.

The trial court found the evidence for the prosecution sufficient to sustain petitioners conviction. On
March 7, 2001, it rendered a decision finding petitioner guilty.[10] The dispositive portion read:

In view of the foregoing, the Court finds the accused Michael John Malto y Zarsadias guilty beyond
reasonable doubt for violation of Article III, Section 5(a)[,] paragraph 3 of RA 7610[,] as amended and
hereby sentences him to reclusion temporal in its medium period or an imprisonment of seventeen (17)
years, four (4) months and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and to pay civil indemnity in the amount of
Php 75,000.00 and moral and exemplary damages of Php 50,000.00 to minor complainant with
subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.[11]

Petitioner questioned the trial courts decision in the CA. In a decision dated July 30, 2004,[12] the
appellate court affirmed his conviction even if it found that his acts were not covered by paragraph (a)
but by paragraph (b) of Section 5, Article III of RA 7610. It further observed that the trial court failed to
fix the minimum term of indeterminate sentence imposed on him. It also ruled that the trial court erred
in awarding P75,000 civil indemnity in favor of AAA as it was proper only in a conviction for rape
committed under the circumstances under which the death penalty was authorized by law.[13] Hence,
the CA modified the decision of the trial court as follows:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of conviction is AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that (1)
appellant MICHAEL JOHN MALTO y ZARSADIAS is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of Eight
(8) Years and One (1) Day of prision mayor as minimum, to Seventeen (17) Years, Four (4) Months and
One (1) Day of reclusion temporal as maximum; and (2) the sum of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity is
DELETED.[14]

Hence, this petition.

Petitioner contends that the CA erred in sustaining his conviction although it found that he did not rape
AAA. For him, he should have been acquitted since there was no rape. He also claims that he and AAA
were sweethearts and their sexual intercourse was consensual.

Petitioner is wrong.
THE OFFENSE STATED IN THE INFORMATION WAS WRONGLY DESIGNATED

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused is entitled to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him.[15] Pursuant thereto, the complaint or information against him should be
sufficient in form and substance. A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the
accused; the designation of the offense by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as
constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of
the offense and the place where the offense was committed.[16]

The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given by the statute, aver the
acts or omissions constituting the offense and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances.[17] If
there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the
statute punishing it.[18] The acts or omissions constituting the offense and the qualifying and
aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the
language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to
know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the
court to pronounce judgment.[19]

The designation of the offense in the information against petitioner was changed from violation of
Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 to violation of Section 5(a), Article III thereof. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of
Section 5, Article III of RA 7610 provide:
Section 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. - Children, whether male or female, who, for
money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or
group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in
prostitution and other sexual abuse.

The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the
following:

(a) Those who engage in or promote, facilitate or induce child prostitution which include, but are not
limited to, the following:

1. Acting as a procurer of a child prostitute;

2. Inducing a person to be a client of a child prostitute by means of written or oral


advertisements or other similar means;

3. Taking advantage of influence or relationship to procure a child as a prostitute;


4. Threatening or using violence towards a child to engage him as a prostitute; or

5. Giving monetary consideration, goods or other pecuniary benefit to a child with intent to
engage such child in prostitution.

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in
prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse: Provided, That when the victim is under twelve (12)
years of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article
336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case
may be: Provided, that the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of
age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period; and

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis supplied)

The elements of paragraph (a) are:

1. the accused engages in, promotes, facilitates or induces child prostitution;


2. the act is done through, but not limited to, the following means:

a. acting as a procurer of a child prostitute;

b. inducing a person to be a client of a child prostitute by means of written or oral advertisements


or other similar means;

c. taking advantage of influence or relationship to procure a child as a prostitute;

d. threatening or using violence towards a child to engage him as a prostitute or

e. giving monetary consideration, goods or other pecuniary benefit to a child with intent to
engage such child in prostitution;

3. the child is exploited or intended to be exploited in prostitution and


4. the child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.

On the other hand, the elements of paragraph (b) are:

1. the accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct;

2. the act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual
abuse and

3. the child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.

Paragraph (a) essentially punishes acts pertaining to or connected with child prostitution. It
contemplates sexual abuse of a child exploited in prostitution. In other words, under paragraph (a), the
child is abused primarily for profit.

On the other hand, paragraph (b) punishes sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct not only with a child
exploited in prostitution but also with a child subjected to other sexual abuse. It covers not only a
situation where a child is abused for profit but also one in which a child, through coercion, intimidation
or influence, engages in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct.[20]
The information against petitioner did not allege anything pertaining to or connected with child
prostitution. It did not aver that AAA was abused for profit. What it charged was that petitioner had
carnal knowledge or committed sexual intercourse and lascivious conduct with AAA; AAA was induced
and/or seduced by petitioner who was her professor to indulge in sexual intercourse and lascivious
conduct and AAA was a 17-year old minor. These allegations support a charge for violation of paragraph
(b), not paragraph (a), of Section 5, Article III, RA 7610.

THE REAL NATURE OF THE OFFENSE IS DETERMINED BY FACTS ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION, NOT BY
THE DESIGNATION

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. However, the failure to
designate the offense by statute,[21] or to mention the specific provision penalizing the act,[22] or an
erroneous specification of the law violated[23] does not vitiate the information if the facts alleged
clearly recite the facts constituting the crime charged.[24] What controls is not the title of the
information or the designation of the offense but the actual facts recited in the information.[25] 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.[26]

The facts stated in the amended information against petitioner correctly made out a charge for violation
of Section 5(b), Article III, RA 7610. Thus, even if the trial and appellate courts followed the wrong
designation of the offense, petitioner could be convicted of the offense on the basis of the facts recited
in the information and duly proven during trial.

PETITIONER VIOLATED SECTION 5(B), ARTICLE III OF RA 7610, AS AMENDED

The first element of Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 pertains to the act or acts committed by the
accused. The second element refers to the state or condition of the offended party. The third element
corresponds to the minority or age of the offended party.

The first element was present in this case. Petitioner committed lascivious conduct against and had
sexual intercourse with AAA in the following instances: (1) on November 19, 1997, when he kissed her at
the back and neck, touched her breasts and placed his hand inside her blouse to gratify his lust; (2) on
November 26, 1997, when, with lewd designs, he dragged her towards the bed of the motel room and
forcibly kissed her on the lips, neck and breasts and (3) when he exerted moral influence on her and
pressured her until she surrendered herself to him on November 26, 1997. His acts were covered by the
definitions of sexual abuse and lascivious conduct under Section 2(g) and (h) of the Rules and
Regulations on the Reporting and Investigation of Child Abuse Cases promulgated to implement the
provisions of RA 7610, particularly on child abuse:
(g) Sexual abuse includes the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of a
child to engage in, or assist another person to engage in, sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct or the
molestation, prostitution, or incest with children;

(h) Lascivious conduct means the intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the
genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the
genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an intent to abuse,
humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation,
lascivious exhibition of the genitals or public area of a person. (emphasis supplied)

The second element was likewise present here. The following pronouncement in People v. Larin[27] is
significant:

A child is deemed exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse, when the child indulges
in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct (a) for money, profit, or any other consideration; or (b) under
the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group. (emphasis supplied)
On November 19, 1997, due to the influence of petitioner, AAA indulged in lascivious acts with or
allowed him to commit lascivious acts on her. This was repeated on November 26, 1997 on which date
AAA also indulged in sexual intercourse with petitioner as a result of the latters influence and moral
ascendancy. Thus, she was deemed to be a child subjected to other sexual abuse as the concept is
defined in the opening paragraph of Section 5, Article III of RA 7610 and in Larin.

The third element of the offense was also satisfied. Section 3 (a), Article I of RA 7610 provides:

SECTION 3. Definition of Terms.

(a) Children refers [to] persons below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully
take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or
discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition; (emphasis supplied)

On November 19, 2007 and November 26, 2007, AAA was a child as she was below 18 years of age. She
was therefore within the protective mantle of the law.

Since all three elements of the crime were present, the conviction of petitioner was proper.

VIOLATION OF SECTION 5(B), ARTICLE III OF RA 7610 AND RAPE ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT CRIMES

Petitioner was charged and convicted for violation of Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610, not rape. The
offense for which he was convicted is punished by a special law while rape is a felony under the Revised
Penal Code.[28] They have different elements.[29] The two are separate and distinct crimes. Thus,
petitioner can be held liable for violation of Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610 despite a finding that he
did not commit rape.

CONSENT OF THE CHILD IS IMMATERIAL IN CRIMINAL CASES INVOLVING VIOLATION OF SECTION 5,


ARTICLE III OF RA 7610

Petitioner claims that AAA welcomed his kisses and touches and consented to have sexual intercourse
with him. They engaged in these acts out of mutual love and affection. But may the sweetheart theory
be invoked in cases of child prostitution and other sexual abuse prosecuted under Section 5, Article III of
RA 7610? No.

The sweetheart theory applies in acts of lasciviousness and rape, felonies committed against or without
the consent of the victim. It operates on the theory that the sexual act was consensual. It requires proof
that the accused and the victim were lovers and that she consented to the sexual relations.[30]

For purposes of sexual intercourse and lascivious conduct in child abuse cases under RA 7610, the
sweetheart defense is unacceptable. A child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse
cannot validly give consent to sexual intercourse with another person.

The language of the law is clear: it seeks to punish

[t]hose who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in
prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse.

Unlike rape, therefore, consent is immaterial in cases involving violation of Section 5, Article III of RA
7610. The mere act of having sexual intercourse or committing lascivious conduct with a child who is
exploited in prostitution or subjected to sexual abuse constitutes the offense. It is a malum prohibitum,
an evil that is proscribed.

A child cannot give consent to a contract under our civil laws.[31] This is on the rationale that she can
easily be the victim of fraud as she is not capable of fully understanding or knowing the nature or import
of her actions. The State, as parens patriae, is under the obligation to minimize the risk of harm to those
who, because of their minority, are as yet unable to take care of themselves fully.[32] Those of tender
years deserve its protection.[33]

The harm which results from a childs bad decision in a sexual encounter may be infinitely more
damaging to her than a bad business deal. Thus, the law should protect her from the harmful
consequences[34] of her attempts at adult sexual behavior.[35] For this reason, a child should not be
deemed to have validly consented to adult sexual activity and to surrender herself in the act of ultimate
physical intimacy under a law which seeks to afford her special protection against abuse, exploitation
and discrimination. (Otherwise, sexual predators like petitioner will be justified, or even unwittingly
tempted by the law, to view her as fair game and vulnerable prey.) In other words, a child is presumed
by law to be incapable of giving rational consent to any lascivious act or sexual intercourse.[36]
This must be so if we are to be true to the constitutionally enshrined State policy to promote the
physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being of the youth.[37] This is consistent with the
declared policy of the State

[T]o provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and
discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development; provide sanctions for their
commission and carry out a program for prevention and deterrence of and crisis intervention in
situations of child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.[38] (emphasis supplied) as well as to
intervene on behalf of the child when the parents, guardian, teacher or person having care or custody of
the child fails or is unable to protect the child against abuse, exploitation, and discrimination or when
such acts against the child are committed by the said parent, guardian, teacher or person having care
and custody of the same.[39] (emphasis supplied)

This is also in harmony with the foremost consideration of the childs best interests in all actions
concerning him or her.

The best interest of children shall be the paramount consideration in all actions concerning them,
whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative
authorities, and legislative bodies, consistent with the principles of First Call for Children as enunciated
in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort shall be exerted to promote the
welfare of children and enhance their opportunities for a useful and happy life.[40] (emphasis supplied)

PETITIONER MAY ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF THE INDETERMINATE SENTENCE LAW

The penalty prescribed for violation of the provisions of Section 5, Article III of RA 7610 is reclusion
temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating
circumstance, the proper imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its maximum period, the medium of
the penalty prescribed by the law.[41] Notwithstanding that RA 7610 is a special law, petitioner may
enjoy the benefits of the Indeterminate Sentence Law.[42] Since the penalty provided in RA 7610 is
taken from the range of penalties in the Revised Penal Code, it is covered by the first clause of Section 1
of the Indeterminate Sentence Law.[43] Thus, he is entitled to a maximum term which should be within
the range of the proper imposable penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period (ranging from
17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years) and a minimum term to be taken within the range of the
penalty next lower to that prescribed by the law: prision mayor in its medium period to reclusion
temporal in its minimum period (ranging from 8 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months).

THE AWARD OF DAMAGES SHOULD BE MODIFIED

The trial court awarded AAA P75,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as moral and exemplary damages. The
CA deleted the award for civil indemnity. It correctly reasoned that the award was proper only in a
conviction for rape committed under the circumstances under which the death penalty is authorized by
law. Consistent, however, with the objective of RA 7610 to afford children special protection against
abuse, exploitation and discrimination and with the principle that every person who contrary to law,
willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same,[44] civil
indemnity to the child is proper in a case involving violation of Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610. Every
person criminally liable is civilly liable.[45] The rule is that, in crimes and quasi-delicts, the defendant
shall be liable for all damages which are the natural and probable consequences of the act or omission
complained of.[46] Thus, P50,000 civil indemnity ex delicto shall be awarded in cases of violation of
Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610.[47]

Moreover, the CA erred in affirming the grant of P50,000 as moral and exemplary damages. The rule is
that, in every case, trial courts must specify the award of each item of damages and make a finding
thereon in the body of the decision.[48] Thus, moral damages and exemplary damages should be
separate items of award.

AAA testified that she was emotionally devastated and lost touch of her inner self as a result of what
petitioner did to her. Because of the mental anxiety and wounded feelings caused by petitioner to her,
she had several sessions with the dean for student affairs[49] and the guidance counselor of Assumption
College as well as with a psychiatrist. This was corroborated by her mother and the dean of student
affairs of Assumption College. Thus, she is entitled to moral damages of P50,000. However, in the
absence of an aggravating circumstance, the grant of exemplary damages is unwarranted.[50]

Accordingly, the petition is hereby DENIED. Petitioner Michael John Z. Malto is hereby found guilty of
violating Section 5(b), Article III of RA 7610, as amended, for which he is sentenced to 14 years and 8
months of reclusion temporal as minimum to 20 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. He is further
ordered to pay AAA P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 for moral damages.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 182835 April 20, 2010

RUSTAN ANG y PASCUA vs THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and IRISH SAGUD

DECISION

ABAD, J.:
This case concerns a claim of commission of the crime of violence against women when a former
boyfriend sent to the girl the picture of a naked woman, not her, but with her face on it.

The Indictment

The public prosecutor charged petitioner-accused Rustan Ang (Rustan) before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Baler, Aurora, of violation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act or
Republic Act (R.A.) 9262 in an information that reads:

That on or about June 5, 2005, in the Municipality of Maria Aurora, Province of Aurora, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, in a
purposeful and reckless conduct, sent through the Short Messaging Service (SMS) using his mobile
phone, a pornographic picture to one Irish Sagud, who was his former girlfriend, whereby the face of the
latter was attached to a completely naked body of another woman making it to appear that it was said
Irish Sagud who is depicted in the said obscene and pornographic picture thereby causing substantial
emotional anguish, psychological distress and humiliation to the said Irish Sagud.[1]

The Facts and the Case


The evidence for the prosecution shows that complainant Irish Sagud (Irish) and accused Rustan were
classmates at Wesleyan University in Aurora Province. Rustan courted Irish and they became on-and-off
sweethearts towards the end of 2004. When Irish learned afterwards that Rustan had taken a live-in
partner (now his wife), whom he had gotten pregnant, Irish broke up with him.

Before Rustan got married, however, he got in touch with Irish and tried to convince her to elope with
him, saying that he did not love the woman he was about to marry. Irish rejected the proposal and told
Rustan to take on his responsibility to the other woman and their child. Irish changed her cellphone
number but Rustan somehow managed to get hold of it and sent her text messages. Rustan used two
cellphone numbers for sending his messages, namely, 0920-4769301 and 0921-8084768. Irish replied to
his text messages but it was to ask him to leave her alone.

In the early morning of June 5, 2005, Irish received through multimedia message service (MMS) a
picture of a naked woman with spread legs and with Irishs face superimposed on the figure (Exhibit
A).[2] The senders cellphone number, stated in the message, was 0921-8084768, one of the numbers
that Rustan used. Irish surmised that he copied the picture of her face from a shot he took when they
were in Baguio in 2003 (Exhibit B).[3]

After she got the obscene picture, Irish got other text messages from Rustan. He boasted that it would
be easy for him to create similarly scandalous pictures of her. And he threatened to spread the picture
he sent through the internet. One of the messages he sent to Irish, written in text messaging shorthand,
read: Madali lang ikalat yun, my chatrum ang tarlac rayt pwede ring send sa lahat ng chatter.[4]
Irish sought the help of the vice mayor of Maria Aurora who referred her to the police. Under police
supervision, Irish contacted Rustan through the cellphone numbers he used in sending the picture and
his text messages. Irish asked Rustan to meet her at the Lorentess Resort in Brgy. Ramada, Maria
Aurora, and he did. He came in a motorcycle. After parking it, he walked towards Irish but the waiting
police officers intercepted and arrested him. They searched him and seized his Sony Ericsson P900
cellphone and several SIM cards. While Rustan was being questioned at the police station, he shouted at
Irish: Malandi ka kasi!

Joseph Gonzales, an instructor at the Aurora State College of Technology, testified as an expert in
information technology and computer graphics. He said that it was very much possible for one to lift the
face of a woman from a picture and superimpose it on the body of another woman in another picture.
Pictures can be manipulated and enhanced by computer to make it appear that the face and the body
belonged to just one person.

Gonzales testified that the picture in question (Exhibit A) had two distinct irregularities: the face was not
proportionate to the body and the face had a lighter color. In his opinion, the picture was fake and the
face on it had been copied from the picture of Irish in Exhibit B. Finally, Gonzales explained how this
could be done, transferring a picture from a computer to a cellphone like the Sony Ericsson P900 seized
from Rustan.

For his part, Rustan admitted having courted Irish. He began visiting her in Tarlac in October 2003 and
their relation lasted until December of that year. He claimed that after their relation ended, Irish wanted
reconciliation. They met in December 2004 but, after he told her that his girlfriend at that time (later his
wife) was already pregnant, Irish walked out on him.

Sometime later, Rustan got a text message from Irish, asking him to meet her at Lorentess Resort as she
needed his help in selling her cellphone. When he arrived at the place, two police officers approached
him, seized his cellphone and the contents of his pockets, and brought him to the police station.

Rustan further claims that he also went to Lorentess because Irish asked him to help her identify a
prankster who was sending her malicious text messages. Rustan got the senders number and,
pretending to be Irish, contacted the person. Rustan claims that he got back obscene messages from the
prankster, which he forwarded to Irish from his cellphone. This explained, he said, why the obscene
messages appeared to have originated from his cellphone number. Rustan claims that it was Irish herself
who sent the obscene picture (Exhibit A) to him. He presented six pictures of a woman whom he
identified as Irish (Exhibits 2 to 7).[5]

Michelle Ang (Michelle), Rustans wife, testified that she was sure Irish sent the six pictures. Michelle
claims that she received the pictures and hid the memory card (Exhibit 8) that contained them because
she was jealous and angry. She did not want to see anything of Irish. But, while the woman in the
pictures posed in sexy clothing, in none did she appear naked as in Exhibit A. Further, the face of the
woman in Exhibits 2, 4, 5 and 6 could not be seen. Irish denied that she was the woman in those four
pictures. As for Exhibits 3 and 7, the woman in the picture was fully dressed.

After trial, the RTC found Irishs testimony completely credible, given in an honest and spontaneous
manner. The RTC observed that she wept while recounting her experience, prompting the court to
comment: Her tears were tangible expression of pain and anguish for the acts of violence she suffered in
the hands of her former sweetheart. The crying of the victim during her testimony is evidence of the
credibility of her charges with the verity borne out of human nature and experience.[6] Thus, in its
Decision dated August 1, 2001, the RTC found Rustan guilty of the violation of Section 5(h) of R.A. 9262.

On Rustans appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA),[7] the latter rendered a decision dated January 31,
2008,[8] affirming the RTC decision. The CA denied Rustans motion for reconsideration in a resolution
dated April 25, 2008. Thus, Rustan filed the present for review on certiorari.

The Issues Presented

The principal issue in this case is whether or not accused Rustan sent Irish by cellphone message the
picture with her face pasted on the body of a nude woman, inflicting anguish, psychological distress, and
humiliation on her in violation of Section 5(h) of R.A. 9262.

The subordinate issues are:

1. Whether or not a dating relationship existed between Rustan and Irish as this term is defined in R.A.
9262;
2. Whether or not a single act of harassment, like the sending of the nude picture in this case, already
constitutes a violation of Section 5(h) of R.A. 9262;

3. Whether or not the evidence used to convict Rustan was obtained from him in violation of his
constitutional rights; and

4. Whether or not the RTC properly admitted in evidence the obscene picture presented in the case.

The Courts Rulings

Section 3(a) of R.A. 9262 provides that violence against women includes an act or acts of a person
against a woman with whom he has or had a sexual or dating relationship. Thus:

SEC. 3. Definition of Terms. As used in this Act,


(a) Violence against women and their children refers to any act or a series of acts committed by any
person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or
had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether
legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in
physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts,
battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

xxxx

Section 5 identifies the act or acts that constitute violence against women and these include any form of
harassment that causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to a woman. Thus:

SEC. 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children. The crime of violence against women and
their children is committed through any of the following acts:

xxxx
h. Engaging in purposeful, knowing, or reckless conduct, personally or through another, that alarms or
causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to the woman or her child. This shall include, but
not be limited to, the following acts:

xxxx

5. Engaging in any form of harassment or violence;

The above provisions, taken together, indicate that the elements of the crime of violence against
women through harassment are:

1. The offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship with the offended woman;

2. The offender, by himself or through another, commits an act or series of acts of harassment against
the woman; and

3. The harassment alarms or causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to her.


One. The parties to this case agree that the prosecution needed to prove that accused Rustan had a
dating relationship with Irish. Section 3(e) provides that a dating relationship includes a situation where
the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuing basis during the course of the
relationship. Thus:

(e) Dating relationship refers to a situation wherein the parties live as husband and wife without the
benefit of marriage or are romantically involved over time and on a continuing basis during the course
of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary socialization between two individuals in a business
or social context is not a dating relationship. (Underscoring supplied.)

Here, Rustan claims that, being romantically involved, implies that the offender and the offended
woman have or had sexual relations. According to him, romance implies a sexual act. He cites Websters
Comprehensive Dictionary Encyclopedia Edition which provides a colloquial or informal meaning to the
word romance used as a verb, i.e., to make love; to make love to as in He romanced her.

But it seems clear that the law did not use in its provisions the colloquial verb romance that implies a
sexual act. It did not say that the offender must have romanced the offended woman. Rather, it used
the noun romance to describe a couples relationship, i.e., a love affair.[9]

R.A. 9262 provides in Section 3 that violence against women x x x refers to any act or a series of acts
committed by any person against a woman x x x with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating
relationship. Clearly, the law itself distinguishes a sexual relationship from a dating relationship. Indeed,
Section 3(e) above defines dating relationship while Section 3(f) defines sexual relations. The latter
refers to a single sexual act which may or may not result in the bearing of a common child. The dating
relationship that the law contemplates can, therefore, exist even without a sexual intercourse taking
place between those involved.

Rustan also claims that since the relationship between Irish and him was of the on-and-off variety
(away-bati), their romance cannot be regarded as having developed over time and on a continuing basis.
But the two of them were romantically involved, as Rustan himself admits, from October to December
of 2003. That would be time enough for nurturing a relationship of mutual trust and love.

An away-bati or a fight-and-kiss thing between two lovers is a common occurrence. Their taking place
does not mean that the romantic relation between the two should be deemed broken up during periods
of misunderstanding. Explaining what away-bati meant, Irish explained that at times, when she could
not reply to Rustans messages, he would get angry at her. That was all. Indeed, she characterized their
three-month romantic relation as continuous.[10]

Two. Rustan argues that the one act of sending an offensive picture should not be considered a form of
harassment. He claims that such would unduly ruin him personally and set a very dangerous precedent.
But Section 3(a) of R.A. 9262 punishes any act or series of acts that constitutes violence against women.
This means that a single act of harassment, which translates into violence, would be enough. The object
of the law is to protect women and children. Punishing only violence that is repeatedly committed
would license isolated ones.

Rustan alleges that todays women, like Irish, are so used to obscene communications that her getting
one could not possibly have produced alarm in her or caused her substantial emotional or psychological
distress. He claims having previously exchanged obscene pictures with Irish such that she was already
desensitized by them.

But, firstly, the RTC which saw and heard Rustan and his wife give their testimonies was not impressed
with their claim that it was Irish who sent the obscene pictures of herself (Exhibits 2-7). It is doubtful if
the woman in the picture was Irish since her face did not clearly show on them.

Michelle, Rustans wife, claimed that she deleted several other pictures that Irish sent, except Exhibits 2
to 7. But her testimony did not make sense. She said that she did not know that Exhibits 2 to 7 had
remained saved after she deleted the pictures. Later, however, she said that she did not have time to
delete them.[11] And, if she thought that she had deleted all the pictures from the memory card, then
she had no reason at all to keep and hide such memory card. There would have been nothing to hide.
Finally, if she knew that some pictures remained in the card, there was no reason for her to keep it for
several years, given that as she said she was too jealous to want to see anything connected to Irish.
Thus, the RTC was correct in not giving credence to her testimony.

Secondly, the Court cannot measure the trauma that Irish experienced based on Rustans low regard for
the alleged moral sensibilities of todays youth. What is obscene and injurious to an offended woman can
of course only be determined based on the circumstances of each case. Here, the naked woman on the
picture, her legs spread open and bearing Irishs head and face, was clearly an obscene picture and, to
Irish a revolting and offensive one. Surely, any woman like Irish, who is not in the pornography trade,
would be scandalized and pained if she sees herself in such a picture. What makes it further terrifying is
that, as Irish testified, Rustan sent the picture with a threat to post it in the internet for all to see. That
must have given her a nightmare.
Three. Rustan argues that, since he was arrested and certain items were seized from him without any
warrant, the evidence presented against him should be deemed inadmissible. But the fact is that the
prosecution did not present in evidence either the cellphone or the SIM cards that the police officers
seized from him at the time of his arrest. The prosecution did not need such items to prove its case.
Exhibit C for the prosecution was but a photograph depicting the Sony Ericsson P900 cellphone that was
used, which cellphone Rustan admitted owning during the pre-trial conference.

Actually, though, the bulk of the evidence against him consisted in Irishs testimony that she received the
obscene picture and malicious text messages that the senders cellphone numbers belonged to Rustan
with whom she had been previously in communication. Indeed, to prove that the cellphone numbers
belonged to Rustan, Irish and the police used such numbers to summon him to come to Lorentess
Resort and he did.[12] Consequently, the prosecution did not have to present the confiscated cellphone
and SIM cards to prove that Rustan sent those messages.

Moreover, Rustan admitted having sent the malicious text messages to Irish.[13] His defense was that
he himself received those messages from an unidentified person who was harassing Irish and he merely
forwarded the same to her, using his cellphone. But Rustan never presented the cellphone number of
the unidentified person who sent the messages to him to authenticate the same. The RTC did not give
credence to such version and neither will this Court. Besides, it was most unlikely for Irish to pin the
things on Rustan if he had merely tried to help her identify the sender.

Four. Rustan claims that the obscene picture sent to Irish through a text message constitutes an
electronic document. Thus, it should be authenticated by means of an electronic signature, as provided
under Section 1, Rule 5 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence (A.M. 01-7-01-SC).
But, firstly, Rustan is raising this objection to the admissibility of the obscene picture, Exhibit A, for the
first time before this Court. The objection is too late since he should have objected to the admission of
the picture on such ground at the time it was offered in evidence. He should be deemed to have already
waived such ground for objection.[14]

Besides, the rules he cites do not apply to the present criminal action. The Rules on Electronic Evidence
applies only to civil actions, quasi-judicial proceedings, and administrative proceedings.[15]

In conclusion, this Court finds that the prosecution has proved each and every element of the crime
charged beyond reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
CR 30567 dated January 31, 2008 and its resolution dated April 25, 2008.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 155831 February 18, 2008

MA. LOURDES T. DOMINGO vs ROGELIO I. RAYALA


DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

Sexual harassment is an imposition of misplaced superiority which is enough to dampen an employees


spirit and her capacity for advancement. It affects her sense of judgment; it changes her life.[1]

Before this Court are three Petitions for Review on Certiorari assailing the October 18, 2002 Resolution
of the CAs Former Ninth Division[2] in CA-G.R. SP No. 61026. The Resolution modified the December 14,
2001 Decision[3] of the Court of Appeals Eleventh Division, which had affirmed the Decision of the
Office of the President (OP) dismissing from the service then National Labor Relations Commission
(NLRC) Chairman Rogelio I. Rayala (Rayala) for disgraceful and immoral conduct.
All three petitions stem from the same factual antecedents.

On November 16, 1998, Ma. Lourdes T. Domingo (Domingo), then Stenographic Reporter III at the NLRC,
filed a Complaint for sexual harassment against Rayala before Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma of the
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

To support the Complaint, Domingo executed an Affidavit narrating the incidences of sexual harassment
complained of, thus:

xxxx

4. Sa simula ay pabulong na sinasabihan lang ako ni Chairman Rayala ng mga salitang Lot, gumaganda ka
yata?

5. Sa ibang mga pagkakataon nilalapitan na ako ni Chairman at hahawakan ang aking balikat sabay pisil
sa mga ito habang ako ay nagta-type at habang nagbibigay siya ng diktasyon. Sa mga pagkakataong ito,
kinakabahan ako. Natatakot na baka mangyari sa akin ang mga napapabalitang insidente na nangyari na
noon tungkol sa mga sekretarya niyang nagbitiw gawa ng mga mahahalay na panghihipo ni Chairman.

6. Noong ika-10 ng Setyembre, 1998, nang ako ay nasa 8th Floor, may nagsabi sa akin na kailangan
akong bumaba sa 7th Floor kung nasaan ang aming opisina dahil sa may koreksyon daw na gagawin sa
mga papel na tinayp ko. Bumaba naman ako para gawin ito. Habang ginagawa ko ito, lumabas si
Chairman Rayala sa silid ni Mr. Alex Lopez. Inutusan ako ni Chairman na sumunod sa kaniyang silid. Nang
nasa silid na kami, sinabi niya sa akin:

Chairman: Lot, I like you a lot. Naiiba ka sa lahat.

At pagkatapos ako ay kaniyang inusisa tungkol sa mga personal na bagay sa aking buhay. Ang ilan dito ay
tungkol sa aking mga magulang, kapatid, pag-aaral at kung may boyfriend na raw ba ako.

Chairman: May boyfriend ka na ba?

Lourdes: Dati nagkaroon po.

Chairman: Nasaan na siya?


Lourdes: Nag-asawa na ho.

Chairman: Bakit hindi kayo nagkatuluyan?

Lourdes: Nainip po.

Chairman: Pagkatapos mo ng kurso mo ay kumuha ka ng Law at ako ang bahala sa iyo, hanggang ako pa
ang Chairman dito.

Pagkatapos ay kumuha siya ng pera sa kaniyang amerikana at inaabot sa akin.

Chairman: Kuhanin mo ito.

Lourdes: Huwag na ho hindi ko kailangan.

Chairman: Hindi sige, kuhanin mo. Ayusin mo ang dapat ayusin.

Tinanggap ko po ang pera ng may pag-aalinlangan. Natatakot at kinakabahan na kapag hindi ko


tinanggap ang pera ay baka siya magagalit kasabay na rito ang pagtapon sa akin kung saan-saan opisina
o kaya ay tanggalin ako sa posisyon.
Chairman: Paglabas mo itago mo ang pera. Ayaw ko ng may makaka-alam nito. Just the two of us.

Lourdes: Bakit naman, Sir?

Chairman: Basta. Maraming tsismosa diyan sa labas. But I dont give them a damn. Hindi ako mamatay sa
kanila.

Tumayo na ako at lumabas. Pumanhik na ako ng 8th Floor at pumunta ako sa officemate ko na si Agnes
Magdaet. Ikinwento ko ang nangyari sa akin sa opisina ni Chairman. Habang kinikwento ko ito kay Agnes
ay binilang namin ang pera na nagkakahalaga ng tatlong libong piso (PHP 3,000). Sinabi ni Agnes na isauli
ko raw ang pera, pero ang sabi ko ay natatakot ako baka magalit si Sir. Nagsabi agad kami kay EC Perlita
Velasco at sinalaysay ko ang nangyari. Sinabi niya na isauli ko ang pera at noong araw ding iyon ay
nagpasiya akong isauli na nga ito ngunit hindi ako nagkaroon ng pagkakataon dahil marami siyang
naging bisita. Isinauli ko nga ang pera noong Lunes, Setyembre 14, 1998.

7. Noong huling linggo ng Setyembre, 1998, ay may tinanong din sa akin si Chairman Rayala na hindi ko
masikmura, at sa aking palagay at tahasang pambabastos sa akin.

Chairman: Lot, may ka live-in ka ba?

Lourdes: Sir, wala po.


Chairman: Bakit malaki ang balakang mo?

Lourdes: Kayo, Sir ha! Masama sa amin ang may ka live-in.

Chairman: Bakit, ano ba ang relihiyon ninyo?

Lourdes: Catholic, Sir. Kailangan ikasal muna.

Chairman: Bakit ako, hindi kasal.

Lourdes: Sir, di magpakasal kayo.

Chairman: Huh. Ibahin na nga natin ang usapan.

8. Noong Oktubre 29, 1998, ako ay pumasok sa kwarto ni Chairman Rayala. Ito ay sa kadahilanang ang
fax machine ay nasa loob ng kaniyang kwarto. Ang nag-aasikaso nito, si Riza Ocampo, ay naka-leave kaya
ako ang nag-asikaso nito noong araw na iyon. Nang mabigyan ko na ng fax tone yung kausap ko,
pagharap ko sa kanan ay nakaharang sa dadaanan ko si Chairman Rayala. Tinitingnan ako sa mata at ang
titig niya ay umuusad mula ulo hanggang dibdib tapos ay ngumiti na may mahalay na pakahulugan.

9. Noong hapon naman ng pareho pa ring petsa, may nag-aapply na sekretarya sa opisina, sinabi ko ito
kay Chairman Rayala:
Lourdes: Sir, si Pinky po yung applicant, mag-papainterview po yata sa inyo.

Chairman: Sabihin mo magpa-pap smear muna siya

Chairman: O sige, i-refer mo kay Alex. (Alex Lopez, Chief of Staff).

10. Noong Nobyembre 9, 1998, ako ay tinawag ni Chairman Rayala sa kaniyang opisina upang kuhanin
ko ang diktasyon niya para kay ELA Oscar Uy. Hindi pa kami nakakatapos ng unang talata, may pumasok
na bisita si Chairman, si Baby Pangilinan na sinamahan ni Riza Ocampo. Pinalabas muna ako ni Chairman.
Nang maka-alis na si Ms. Pangilinan, pinapasok na niya ako ulit. Umupo ako. Lumapit sa likuran ko si
Chairman, hinawakan ang kaliwang balikat ko na pinipisil ng kanang kamay niya at sinabi:

Chairman: Saan na ba tayo natapos?

Palakad-lakad siya sa aking likuran habang nag-didikta. Huminto siya pagkatapos, at nilagay niya ang
kanang kamay niya sa aking kanang balikat at pinisil-pisil ito pagkatapos ay pinagapang niya ito sa
kanang bahagi ng aking leeg, at pinagapang hanggang kanang tenga at saka kiniliti. Dito ko inalis ang
kaniyang kamay sa pamamagitan ng aking kaliwang kamay. At saka ko sinabi:
Lourdes: Sir, yung kamay ninyo alisin niyo!

Natapos ko rin ang liham na pinagagawa niya pero halos hindi ko na maintindihan ang na-isulat ko dahil
sa takot at inis na nararamdaman ko.[4]

After the last incident narrated, Domingo filed for leave of absence and asked to be immediately
transferred. Thereafter, she filed the Complaint for sexual harassment on the basis of Administrative
Order No. 250, the Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 7877 in the Department of Labor and
Employment.

Upon receipt of the Complaint, the DOLE Secretary referred the Complaint to the OP, Rayala being a
presidential appointee. The OP, through then Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, ordered Secretary
Laguesma to investigate the allegations in the Complaint and create a committee for such purpose. On
December 4, 1998, Secretary Laguesma issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 280, Series of 1998,[5]
constituting a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (Committee) in accordance with Republic Act
(RA) 7877, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.[6]
The Committee heard the parties and received their respective evidence. On March 2, 2000, the
Committee submitted its report and recommendation to Secretary Laguesma. It found Rayala guilty of
the offense charged and recommended the imposition of the minimum penalty provided under AO 250,
which it erroneously stated as suspension for six (6) months.

The following day, Secretary Laguesma submitted a copy of the Committee Report and
Recommendation to the OP, but with the recommendation that the penalty should be suspension for six
(6) months and one (1) day, in accordance with AO 250.

On May 8, 2000, the OP, through Executive Secretary Zamora, issued AO 119,[7] the pertinent portions
of which read:

Upon a careful scrutiny of the evidence on record, I concur with the findings of the Committee as to the
culpability of the respondent [Rayala], the same having been established by clear and convincing
evidence. However, I disagree with the recommendation that respondent be meted only the penalty of
suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day considering the circumstances of the case.

What aggravates respondents situation is the undeniable circumstance that he took advantage of his
position as the superior of the complainant. Respondent occupies the highest position in the NLRC,
being its Chairman. As head of said office, it was incumbent upon respondent to set an example to the
others as to how they should conduct themselves in public office, to see to it that his subordinates work
efficiently in accordance with Civil Service Rules and Regulations, and to provide them with healthy
working atmosphere wherein co-workers treat each other with respect, courtesy and cooperation, so
that in the end the public interest will be benefited (City Mayor of Zamboanga vs. Court of Appeals, 182
SCRA 785 [1990]).

What is more, public service requires the utmost integrity and strictest discipline (Gano vs. Leonen, 232
SCRA 99 [1994]). Thus, a public servant must exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and
integrity, and utmost devotion and dedication to duty (Sec. 4 (g), RA 6713), respect the rights of others
and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, and good morals (Sec. 4(c)). No less than the
Constitution sanctifies the principle that a public office is a public trust, and enjoins all public officers
and employees to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency
(Section 1, Article XI, 1987 Constitution).

Given these established standards, I see respondents acts not just [as] a failure to give due courtesy and
respect to his co-employees (subordinates) or to maintain good conduct and behavior but defiance of
the basic norms or virtues which a government official must at all times uphold, one that is contrary to
law and public sense of morality. Otherwise stated, respondent to whom stricter standards must apply
being the highest official [of] the NLRC had shown an attitude, a frame of mind, a disgraceful conduct,
which renders him unfit to remain in the service.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Rogelio I. Rayala, Chairman, National Labor Relations
Commission, is found guilty of the grave offense of disgraceful and immoral conduct and is hereby
DISMISSED from the service effective upon receipt of this Order.

SO ORDER[ED].
Rayala filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the OP denied in a Resolution[8] dated May 24, 2000.
He then filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order under
Rule 65 of the Revised Rules on Civil Procedure before this Court on June 14, 2000.[9] However, the
same was dismissed in a Resolution dated June 26, 2000 for disregarding the hierarchy of courts.[10]
Rayala filed a Motion for

Reconsideration[11] on August 15, 2000. In its Resolution[12] dated September 4, 2000, the Court
recalled its June 26 Resolution and referred the petition to the Court of Appeals (CA) for appropriate
action.

The CA rendered its Decision[13] on December 14, 2001. It held that there was sufficient evidence on
record to create moral certainty that Rayala committed the acts he was charged with. It said:

The complainant narrated her story complete with details. Her straightforward and uninhibited
testimony was not emasculated by the declarations of Commissioner Rayala or his witnesses. x x x

Moreover, Commissioner Rayala has not proven any vicious motive for Domingo and her witnesses to
invent their stories. It is very unlikely that they would perjure themselves only to accommodate the
alleged conspiracy to oust petitioner from office. Save for his empty conjectures and speculations,
Rayala failed to substantiate his contrived conspiracy. It is a hornbook doctrine that conspiracy must be
proved by positive and convincing evidence (People v. Noroa, 329 SCRA 502 [2000]). Besides, it is
improbable that the complainant would concoct a story of sexual harassment against the highest official
of the NLRC and thereby expose herself to the possibility of losing her job, or be the subject of reprisal
from her superiors and perhaps public ridicule if she was not telling the truth.

It also held that Rayalas dismissal was proper. The CA pointed out that Rayala was dismissed for
disgraceful and immoral conduct in violation of RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for
Public Officials and Employees. It held that the OP was correct in concluding that Rayalas acts violated
RA 6713:

Indeed, [Rayala] was a public official, holding the Chairmanship of the National Labor Relations
Commission, entrusted with the sacred duty of administering justice. Occupying as he does such an
exalted position, Commissioner Rayala must pay a high price for the honor bestowed upon him. He must
comport himself at all times in such a manner that the conduct of his everyday life should be beyond
reproach and free from any impropriety. That the acts complained of were committed within the
sanctuary of [his] office compounded the objectionable nature of his wrongdoing. By daring to violate
the complainant within the solitude of his chambers, Commissioner Rayala placed the integrity of his
office in disrepute. His disgraceful and immoral conduct warrants his removal from office.[14]
Thus, it dismissed the petition, to wit:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED and Administrative Order No.
119 as well [as] the Resolution of the Office of the President in O.P. Case No. 00-E-9118 dated May 24,
2000 are AFFIRMED IN TOTO. No cost.

SO ORDERED.[15]

Rayala timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Justices Vasquez and Tolentino voted to affirm the
December 14 Decision. However, Justice Reyes dissented mainly because AO 250 states that the penalty
imposable is suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day.[16] Pursuant to the internal rules of the CA,
a Special Division of Five was constituted.[17] In its October 18, 2002 Resolution, the CA modified its
earlier Decision:

ACCORDINGLY, the Decision dated December [14], 2001 is MODIFIED to the effect that the penalty of
dismissal is DELETED and instead the penalty of suspension from service for the maximum period of one
(1) year is HEREBY IMPOSED upon the petitioner. The rest of the challenged decision stands.
SO ORDERED.

Domingo filed a Petition for Review[18] before this Court, which we denied in our February 19, 2003
Resolution for having a defective verification. She filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the Court
granted; hence, the petition was reinstated.

Rayala likewise filed a Petition for Review[19] with this Court essentially arguing that he is not guilty of
any act of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, the Republic filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the CAs October 18, 2002 Resolution. The
CA denied the same in its June 3, 2003 Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads:

ACCORDINGLY, by a majority vote, public respondents Motion for Reconsideration, (sic) is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

The Republic then filed its own Petition for Review.[20]

On June 28, 2004, the Court directed the consolidation of the three (3) petitions.

G.R. No. 155831

Domingo assails the CAs resolution modifying the penalty imposed by the Office of the President. She
raises this issue:

The Court of Appeals erred in modifying the penalty for the respondent from dismissal to suspension
from service for the maximum period of one year. The President has the prerogative to determine the
proper penalty to be imposed on an erring Presidential appointee. The President was well within his
power when he fittingly used that prerogative in deciding to dismiss the respondent from the
service.[21]

She argues that the power to remove Rayala, a presidential appointee, is lodged with the President who
has control of the entire Executive Department, its bureaus and offices. The OPs decision was arrived at
after affording Rayala due process. Hence, his dismissal from the service is a prerogative that is entirely
with the President.[22]

As to the applicability of AO No. 250, she argues that the same was not intended to cover cases against
presidential appointees. AO No. 250 refers only to the instances wherein the DOLE Secretary is the
disciplining authority, and thus, the AO does not circumscribe the power of the President to dismiss an
erring presidential appointee.

G.R. No. 155840

In his petition, Rayala raises the following issues:


I. CONTRARY TO THE FINDINGS OF THE COURT OF APPEALS, THE ACTS OF HEREIN PETITIONER
DO NOT CONSTITUTE SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS LAID DOWN BY THE En Banc RULING IN THE CASE OF
AQUINO vs. ACOSTA, ibid., AS WELL AS IN THE APPLICATION OF EXISTING LAWS.

II. CONTRARY TO THE FINDINGS OF THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, INTENT IS AN


INDISPENSABLE ELEMENT IN A CASE FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT. THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN ITS
FINDING THAT IT IS AN OFFENSE THAT IS MALUM PROHIBITUM.

III. THE INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE, THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, AND NOW, THE
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, HAS MISAPPLIED AND EXPANDED THE DEFINITION OF SEXUAL
HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE UNDER R.A. No. 7877, BY APPLYING DOLE A.O. 250, WHICH RUNS
COUNTER TO THE RECENT PRONOUNCEMENTS OF THIS HONORABLE SUPREME COURT.[23]

Invoking Aquino v. Acosta,[24] Rayala argues that the case is the definitive ruling on what constitutes
sexual harassment. Thus, he posits that for sexual harassment to exist under RA 7877, there must be: (a)
demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor; (b) the same is made a pre-condition to hiring, re-
employment, or continued employment; or (c) the denial thereof results in discrimination against the
employee.
Rayala asserts that Domingo has failed to allege and establish any sexual favor, demand, or request from
petitioner in exchange for her continued employment or for her promotion. According to Rayala, the
acts imputed to him are without malice or ulterior motive. It was merely Domingos perception of malice
in his alleged acts a product of her own imagination[25] that led her to file the sexual harassment
complaint.

Likewise, Rayala assails the OPs interpretation, as upheld by the CA, that RA 7877 is malum prohibitum
such that the defense of absence of malice is unavailing. He argues that sexual harassment is considered
an offense against a particular person, not against society as a whole. Thus, he claims that intent is an
essential element of the offense because the law requires as a conditio sine qua non that a sexual favor
be first sought by the offender in order to achieve certain specific results. Sexual harassment is
committed with the perpetrators deliberate intent to commit the offense.[26]

Rayala next argues that AO 250 expands the acts proscribed in RA 7877. In particular, he assails the
definition of the forms of sexual harassment:

Rule IV

FORMS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT


Section 1. Forms of Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment may be committed in any of the following
forms:

a) Overt sexual advances;

b) Unwelcome or improper gestures of affection;

c) Request or demand for sexual favors including but not limited to going out on dates, outings or the
like for the same purpose;

d) Any other act or conduct of a sexual nature or for purposes of sexual gratification which is generally
annoying, disgusting or offensive to the victim.[27]
He posits that these acts alone without corresponding demand, request, or requirement do not
constitute sexual harassment as contemplated by the law.[28] He alleges that the rule-making power
granted to the employer in Section 4(a) of RA 7877 is limited only to procedural matters. The law did not
delegate to the employer the power to promulgate rules which would provide other or additional forms
of sexual harassment, or to come up with its own definition of sexual harassment.[29]

G.R. No. 158700

The Republic raises this issue:

Whether or not the President of the Philippines may validly dismiss respondent Rayala as Chairman of
the NLRC for committing acts of sexual harassment.[30]

The Republic argues that Rayalas acts constitute sexual harassment under AO 250. His acts constitute
unwelcome or improper gestures of affection and are acts or conduct of a sexual nature, which are
generally annoying or offensive to the victim.[31]
It also contends that there is no legal basis for the CAs reduction of the penalty imposed by the OP.
Rayalas dismissal is valid and warranted under the circumstances. The power to remove the NLRC
Chairman solely rests upon the President, limited only by the requirements under the law and the due
process clause.

The Republic further claims that, although AO 250 provides only a one (1) year suspension, it will not
prevent the OP from validly imposing the penalty of dismissal on Rayala. It argues that even though
Rayala is a presidential appointee, he is still subject to the Civil Service Law. Under the Civil Service Law,
disgraceful and immoral conduct, the acts imputed to Rayala, constitute grave misconduct punishable by
dismissal from the service.[32] The Republic adds that Rayalas position is invested with public trust and
his acts violated that trust; thus, he should be dismissed from the service.

This argument, according to the Republic, is also supported by Article 215 of the Labor Code, which
states that the Chairman of the NLRC holds office until he reaches the age of 65 only during good
behavior.[33] Since Rayalas security of tenure is conditioned upon his good behavior, he may be
removed from office if it is proven that he has failed to live up to this standard.

All the issues raised in these three cases can be summed up in two ultimate questions, namely:

(1) Did Rayala commit sexual harassment?


(2) If he did, what is the applicable penalty?

Initially, however, we must resolve a procedural issue raised by Rayala. He accuses the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG), as counsel for the Republic, of forum shopping because it filed a motion for
reconsideration of the decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 61026 and then filed a comment in G.R. No. 155840
before this Court.

We do not agree.

Forum shopping is an act of a party, against whom an adverse judgment or order has been rendered in
one forum, of seeking and possibly securing a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by appeal
or special civil action for certiorari.[34] It consists of filing multiple suits involving the same parties for
the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable
judgment.[35]

There is forum shopping when the following elements concur: (1) identity of the parties or, at least, of
the parties who represent the same interest in both actions; (2) identity of the rights asserted and relief
prayed for, as the latter is founded on the same set of facts; and (3) identity of the two preceding
particulars such that any judgment rendered in the other action will amount to res judicata in the action
under consideration or will constitute litis pendentia.[36]
Reviewing the antecedents of these consolidated cases, we note that the CA rendered the assailed
Resolution on October 18, 2002. The Republic filed its Motion for Reconsideration on November 22,
2002. On the other hand, Rayala filed his petition before this Court on November 21, 2002. While the
Republics Motion for Reconsideration was pending resolution before the CA, on December 2, 2002, it
was directed by this Court to file its Comment on Rayalas petition, which it submitted on June 16, 2003.

When the CA denied the Motion for Reconsideration, the Republic filed its own Petition for Review with
this Court on July 3, 2003. It cited in its Certification and Verification of a Non-Forum Shopping (sic), that
there was a case involving the same facts pending before this Court denominated as G.R. No. 155840.
With respect to Domingos petition, the same had already been dismissed on February 19, 2003.
Domingos petition was reinstated on June 16, 2003 but the resolution was received by the OSG only on
July 25, 2003, or after it had filed its own petition.[37]

Based on the foregoing, it cannot be said that the OSG is guilty of forum shopping. We must point out
that it was Rayala who filed the petition in the CA, with the Republic as the adverse party. Rayala himself
filed a motion for reconsideration of the CAs December 21, 2001 Decision, which led to a more
favorable ruling, i.e., the lowering of the penalty from dismissal to one-year suspension. The parties
adversely affected by this ruling (Domingo and the Republic) had the right to question the same on
motion for reconsideration. But Domingo directly filed a Petition for Review with this Court, as did
Rayala. When the Republic opted to file a motion for reconsideration, it was merely exercising a right.
That Rayala and Domingo had by then already filed cases before the SC did not take away this right.
Thus, when this Court directed the Republic to file its Comment on Rayalas petition, it had to comply,
even if it had an unresolved motion for reconsideration with the CA, lest it be cited for contempt.
Accordingly, it cannot be said that the OSG file[d] multiple suits involving the same parties for the same
cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable
judgment.

We now proceed to discuss the substantive issues.

It is noteworthy that the five CA Justices who deliberated on the case were unanimous in upholding the
findings of the Committee and the OP. They found the assessment made by the Committee and the OP
to be a meticulous and dispassionate analysis of the testimonies of the complainant (Domingo), the
respondent (Rayala), and their respective witnesses. [38] They differed only on the appropriate
imposable penalty.

That Rayala committed the acts complained of and was guilty of sexual harassment is, therefore, the
common factual finding of not just one, but three independent bodies: the Committee, the OP and the
CA. It should be remembered that when supported by substantial evidence, factual findings made by
quasi-judicial and administrative bodies are accorded great respect and even finality by the courts.[39]
The principle, therefore, dictates that such findings should bind us.[40]

Indeed, we find no reason to deviate from this rule. There appears no valid ground for this Court to
review the factual findings of the CA, the OP, and the Investigating Committee. These findings are now
conclusive on the Court. And quite significantly, Rayala himself admits to having committed some of the
acts imputed to him.
He insists, however, that these acts do not constitute sexual harassment, because Domingo did not
allege in her complaint that there was a demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor as a
condition for her continued employment or for her promotion to a higher position.[41] Rayala urges us
to apply to his case our ruling in Aquino v. Acosta.[42]

We find respondents insistence unconvincing.

Basic in the law of public officers is the three-fold liability rule, which states that the wrongful acts or
omissions of a public officer may give rise to civil, criminal and administrative liability. An action for each
can proceed independently of the others.[43] This rule applies with full force to sexual harassment.

The law penalizing sexual harassment in our jurisdiction is RA 7877. Section 3 thereof defines work-
related sexual harassment in this wise:

Sec. 3. Work, Education or Training-related Sexual Harassment Defined. Work, education or training-
related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer,
teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or
moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or
otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or
requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.
(a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when:

(1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or
continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms,
conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting,
segregating or classifying the employee which in a way would discriminate, deprive or diminish
employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;

(2) The above acts would impair the employees rights or privileges under existing labor laws; or

(3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.

This section, in relation to Section 7 on penalties, defines the criminal aspect of the unlawful act of
sexual harassment. The same section, in relation to Section 6, authorizes the institution of an
independent civil action for damages and other affirmative relief.
Section 4, also in relation to Section 3, governs the procedure for administrative cases, viz.:

Sec. 4. Duty of the Employer or Head of Office in a Work-related, Education or Training Environment. It
shall be the duty of the employer or the head of the work-related, educational or training environment
or institution, to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the
procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment. Towards this end,
the employer or head of office shall:

(a) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations in consultation with and jointly approved by
the employees or students or trainees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the
procedure for the investigation or sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions therefor.

Administrative sanctions shall not be a bar to prosecution in the proper courts for unlawful acts of
sexual harassment.

The said rules and regulations issued pursuant to this section (a) shall include, among others, guidelines
on proper decorum in the workplace and educational or training institutions.
(b) Create a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment. The
committee shall conduct meetings, as the case may be, with other officers and employees, teachers,
instructors, professors, coaches, trainors and students or trainees to increase understanding and
prevent incidents of sexual harassment. It shall also conduct the investigation of the alleged cases
constituting sexual harassment.

In the case of a work-related environment, the committee shall be composed of at least one (1)
representative each from the management, the union, if any, the employees from the supervisory rank,
and from the rank and file employees.

In the case of the educational or training institution, the committee shall be composed of at least one
(1) representative from the administration, the trainors, teachers, instructors, professors or coaches and
students or trainees, as the case maybe.

The employer or head of office, educational or training institution shall disseminate or post a copy of
this Act for the information of all concerned.
The CA, thus, correctly ruled that Rayalas culpability is not to be determined solely on the basis of
Section 3, RA 7877, because he is charged with the administrative offense, not the criminal infraction, of
sexual harassment.[44] It should be enough that the CA, along with the Investigating Committee and the
Office of the President, found substantial evidence to support the administrative charge.

Yet, even if we were to test Rayalas acts strictly by the standards set in Section 3, RA 7877, he would still
be administratively liable. It is true that this provision calls for a demand, request or requirement of a
sexual favor. But it is not necessary that the demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor be
articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. It may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the
acts of the offender. Holding and squeezing Domingos shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and
tickling her ear, having inappropriate conversations with her, giving her money allegedly for school
expenses with a promise of future privileges, and making statements with unmistakable sexual
overtones all these acts of Rayala resound with deafening clarity the unspoken request for a sexual
favor.

Likewise, contrary to Rayalas claim, it is not essential that the demand, request or requirement be made
as a condition for continued employment or for promotion to a higher position. It is enough that the
respondents acts result in creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the
employee.[45] That the acts of Rayala generated an intimidating and hostile environment for Domingo is
clearly shown by the common factual finding of the Investigating Committee, the OP and the CA that
Domingo reported the matter to an officemate and, after the last incident, filed for a leave of absence
and requested transfer to another unit.

Rayalas invocation of Aquino v. Acosta[46] is misplaced, because the factual setting in that case is
different from that in the case at bench. In Aquino, Atty. Susan Aquino, Chief of the Legal and Technical
Staff of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), charged then CTA Presiding Judge (now Presiding Justice)
Ernesto Acosta of sexual harassment. She complained of several incidents when Judge Acosta allegedly
kissed her, embraced her, and put his arm around her shoulder. The case was referred to CA Justice
Josefina G. Salonga for investigation. In her report, Justice Salonga found that the complainant failed to
show by convincing evidence that the acts of Judge Acosta in greeting her with a kiss on the cheek, in a
`beso-beso fashion, were carried out with lustful and lascivious desires or were motivated by malice or
ill motive. It is clear from the circumstances that most of the kissing incidents were done on festive and
special occasions, and they took place in the presence of other people and the same was by reason of
the exaltation or happiness of the moment. Thus, Justice Salonga concluded:

In all the incidents complained of, the respondent's pecks on the cheeks of the complainant should be
understood in the context of having been done on the occasion of some festivities, and not the assertion
of the latter that she was singled out by Judge Acosta in his kissing escapades. The busses on her cheeks
were simply friendly and innocent, bereft of malice and lewd design. The fact that respondent judge
kisses other people on the cheeks in the 'beso-beso' fashion, without malice, was corroborated by Atty.
Florecita P. Flores, Ms. Josephine Adalem and Ms. Ma. Fides Balili, who stated that they usually practice
'beso-beso' or kissing on the cheeks, as a form of greeting on occasions when they meet each other, like
birthdays, Christmas, New Year's Day and even Valentine's Day, and it does not matter whether it is
Judge Acosta's birthday or their birthdays. Theresa Cinco Bactat, a lawyer who belongs to complainant's
department, further attested that on occasions like birthdays, respondent judge would likewise greet
her with a peck on the cheek in a 'beso-beso' manner. Interestingly, in one of several festive occasions,
female employees of the CTA pecked respondent judge on the cheek where Atty. Aquino was one of
Judge Acosta's well wishers.

In sum, no sexual harassment had indeed transpired on those six occasions. Judge Acosta's acts of
bussing Atty. Aquino on her cheek were merely forms of greetings, casual and customary in nature. No
evidence of intent to sexually harass complainant was apparent, only that the innocent acts of 'beso-
beso' were given malicious connotations by the complainant. In fact, she did not even relate to anyone
what happened to her. Undeniably, there is no manifest sexual undertone in all those incidents.[47]
This Court agreed with Justice Salonga, and Judge Acosta was exonerated.

To repeat, this factual milieu in Aquino does not obtain in the case at bench. While in Aquino, the Court
interpreted the acts (of Judge Acosta) as casual gestures of friendship and camaraderie, done during
festive or special occasions and with other people present, in the instant case, Rayalas acts of holding
and squeezing Domingos shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and tickling her ear, and the
inappropriate comments, were all made in the confines of Rayalas office when no other members of his
staff were around. More importantly, and a circumstance absent in Aquino, Rayalas acts, as already
adverted to above, produced a hostile work environment for Domingo, as shown by her having reported
the matter to an officemate and, after the last incident, filing for a leave of absence and requesting
transfer to another unit.

Rayala also argues that AO 250 does not apply to him. First, he argues that AO 250 does not cover the
NLRC, which, at the time of the incident, was under the DOLE only for purposes of program and policy
coordination. Second, he posits that even assuming AO 250 is applicable to the NLRC, he is not within its
coverage because he is a presidential appointee.

We find, however, that the question of whether or not AO 250 covers Rayala is of no real consequence.
The events of this case unmistakably show that the administrative charges against Rayala were for
violation of RA 7877; that the OP properly assumed jurisdiction over the administrative case; that the
participation of the DOLE, through the Committee created by the Secretary, was limited to initiating the
investigation process, reception of evidence of the parties, preparation of the investigation report, and
recommending the appropriate action to be taken by the OP. AO 250 had never really been applied to
Rayala. If it was used at all, it was to serve merely as an auxiliary procedural guide to aid the Committee
in the orderly conduct of the investigation.
Next, Rayala alleges that the CA erred in holding that sexual harassment is an offense malum
prohibitum. He argues that intent is an essential element in sexual harassment, and since the acts
imputed to him were done allegedly without malice, he should be absolved of the charges against him.

We reiterate that what is before us is an administrative case for sexual harassment. Thus, whether the
crime of sexual harassment is malum in se or malum prohibitum is immaterial.

We also reject Rayalas allegations that the charges were filed because of a conspiracy to get him out of
office and thus constitute merely political harassment. A conspiracy must be proved by clear and
convincing evidence. His bare assertions cannot stand against the evidence presented by Domingo. As
we have already ruled, the acts imputed to Rayala have been proven as fact. Moreover, he has not
proven any ill motive on the part of Domingo and her witnesses which would be ample reason for her to
conjure stories about him. On the contrary, ill motive is belied by the fact that Domingo and her
witnesses all employees of the NLRC at that time stood to lose their jobs or suffer unpleasant
consequences for coming forward and charging their boss with sexual harassment.

Furthermore, Rayala decries the alleged violation of his right to due process. He accuses the Committee
on Decorum of railroading his trial for violation of RA 7877. He also scored the OPs decision finding him
guilty of disgraceful and immoral conduct under the Revised Administrative Code and not for violation of
RA 7877. Considering that he was not tried for disgraceful and immoral conduct, he argues that the
verdict is a sham and total nullity.
We hold that Rayala was properly accorded due process. In previous cases, this Court held that:

[i]n administrative proceedings, due process has been recognized to include the following: (1) the right
to actual or constructive notice of the institution of proceedings which may affect a respondents legal
rights; (2) a real opportunity to be heard personally or with the assistance of counsel, to present
witnesses and evidence in ones favor, and to defend ones rights; (3) a tribunal vested with competent
jurisdiction and so constituted as to afford a person charged administratively a reasonable guarantee of
honesty as well as impartiality; and (4) a finding by said tribunal which is supported by substantial
evidence submitted for consideration during the hearing or contained in the records or made known to
the parties affected.[48]

The records of the case indicate that Rayala was afforded all these procedural due process safeguards.
Although in the beginning he questioned the authority of the Committee to try him,[49] he appeared,
personally and with counsel, and participated in the proceedings.

On the other point raised, this Court has held that, even in criminal cases, the designation of the offense
is not controlling, thus:
What is controlling is not the title of the complaint, nor the designation of the offense charged or the
particular law or part thereof allegedly violated, these being mere conclusions of law made by the
prosecutor, but the description of the crime charged and the particular facts therein recited. The acts or
omissions complained of must be alleged in such form as is sufficient to enable a person of common
understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged, and enable the court to pronounce
proper judgment. No information for a crime will be sufficient if it does not accurately and clearly allege
the elements of the crime charged. Every element of the offense must be stated in the information.
What facts and circumstances are necessary to be included therein must be determined by reference to
the definitions and essentials of the specified crimes. The requirement of alleging the elements of a
crime in the information is to inform the accused of the nature of the accusation against him so as to
enable him to suitably prepare his defense.[50]

It is noteworthy that under AO 250, sexual harassment amounts to disgraceful and immoral
conduct.[51] Thus, any finding of liability for sexual harassment may also be the basis of culpability for
disgraceful and immoral conduct.

With the foregoing disquisitions affirming the finding that Rayala committed sexual harassment, we now
determine the proper penalty to be imposed.

Rayala attacks the penalty imposed by the OP. He alleges that under the pertinent Civil Service Rules,
disgraceful and immoral conduct is punishable by suspension for a period of six (6) months and one (1)
day to one (1) year. He also argues that since he is charged administratively, aggravating or mitigating
circumstances cannot be appreciated for purposes of imposing the penalty.
Under AO 250, the penalty for the first offense is suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day to one
(1) year, while the penalty for the second offense is dismissal.[52] On the other hand, Section 22(o), Rule
XVI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987[53] and Section 52
A(15) of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service[54] both provide that the
first offense of disgraceful and immoral conduct is punishable by suspension of six (6) months and one
(1) day to one (1) year. A second offense is punishable by dismissal.

Under the Labor Code, the Chairman of the NLRC shall hold office during good behavior until he or she
reaches the age of sixty-five, unless sooner removed for cause as provided by law or becomes
incapacitated to discharge the duties of the office.[55]

In this case, it is the President of the Philippines, as the proper disciplining authority, who would
determine whether there is a valid cause for the removal of Rayala as NLRC Chairman. This power,
however, is qualified by the phrase for cause as provided by law. Thus, when the President found that
Rayala was indeed guilty of disgraceful and immoral conduct, the Chief Executive did not have
unfettered discretion to impose a penalty other than the penalty provided by law for such offense. As
cited above, the imposable penalty for the first offense of either the administrative offense of sexual
harassment or for disgraceful and immoral conduct is suspension of six (6) months and one (1) day to
one (1) year. Accordingly, it was error for the Office of the President to impose upon Rayala the penalty
of dismissal from the service, a penalty which can only be imposed upon commission of a second
offense.

Even if the OP properly considered the fact that Rayala took advantage of his high government position,
it still could not validly dismiss him from the service. Under the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative
Cases in the Civil Service,[56] taking undue advantage of a subordinate may be considered as an
aggravating circumstance[57] and where only aggravating and no mitigating circumstances are present,
the maximum penalty shall be imposed.[58] Hence, the maximum penalty that can be imposed on
Rayala is suspension for one (1) year.

Rayala holds the exalted position of NLRC Chairman, with the rank equivalent to a CA Justice. Thus, it is
not unavailing that rigid standards of conduct may be demanded of him. In Talens-Dabon v. Judge
Arceo,[59] this Court, in upholding the liability of therein respondent Judge, said:

The actuations of respondent are aggravated by the fact that complainant is one of his subordinates
over whom he exercises control and supervision, he being the executive judge. He took advantage of his
position and power in order to carry out his lustful and lascivious desires. Instead of he being in loco
parentis over his subordinate employees, respondent was the one who preyed on them, taking
advantage of his superior position.

In yet another case, this Court declared:

As a managerial employee, petitioner is bound by more exacting work ethics. He failed to live up to his
higher standard of responsibility when he succumbed to his moral perversity. And when such moral
perversity is perpetrated against his subordinate, he provides a justifiable ground for his dismissal for
lack of trust and confidence. It is the right, nay, the duty of every employer to protect its employees
from oversexed superiors.[60]
It is incumbent upon the head of office to set an example on how his employees should conduct
themselves in public office, so that they may work efficiently in a healthy working atmosphere. Courtesy
demands that he should set a good example.[61]

Rayala has thrown every argument in the book in a vain effort to effect his exoneration. He even puts
Domingos character in question and casts doubt on the morality of the former President who ordered,
albeit erroneously, his dismissal from the service. Unfortunately for him, these are not significant factors
in the disposition of the case. It is his character that is in question here and sadly, the inquiry showed
that he has been found wanting.

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the October 18, 2002 Resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 61026 is AFFIRMED. Consequently, the petitions in G.R. Nos. 155831, 155840,
and 158700 are DENIED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs MELCHOR CABALQUINTO

TINGA, J.
This case presents an opportunity for the Court not only to once again dispense due requital for the
sufferings of a child who has been defiled by her own father, but also to effectuate the provisions of
Republic Act No. 7610 (RA 7610), otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child
Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and its implementing rules, RA 9262, otherwise known as
the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, and its implementing rules, and our
own Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children.[1]

The provisions on confidentiality of these enactments uniformly seek to respect the dignity and protect
the privacy of women and their children. Sec. 29 of RA 7610 provides:

Sec. 29. Confidentiality.at the instance of the offended party, his name may be withheld from the public
until the court acquires jurisdiction over the case.

It shall be unlawful for any editor, publisher, and reporter or columnist in case of printed materials,
announcer or producer in the case of television and radio broadcasting, producer and director in the
case of the movie industry, to cause undue and sensationalized publicity of any case of a violation of this
Act which results in the moral degradation and suffering of the offended party.

Sec. 44 of RA 9262 similarly provides:


Sec. 44. Confidentiality.All records pertaining to cases of violence against women and their children
including those in the barangay shall be confidential and all public officers and employees and public or
private clinics or hospitals shall respect the right to privacy of the victim. Whoever publishes or causes to
be published, in any format, the name, address, telephone number, school, business address, employer,
or other identifying information of a victim or an immediate family member, without the latters
consent, shall be liable to the contempt power of the court.

Any person who violates this provision shall suffer the penalty of one (1) year imprisonment and a fine
of not more than Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00).

Likewise, the Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children states:

Sec. 40. Privacy and confidentiality of proceedings.All hearings of cases of violence against women and
their children shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the dignity of women and their children
and respect for their privacy.

Records of the cases shall be treated with utmost confidentiality. Whoever publishes or causes to be
published, in any format, the name, address, telephone number, school, business address, employer or
other identifying information of the parties or an immediate family or household member, without their
consent or without authority of the court, shall be liable for contempt of court and shall suffer the
penalty of one year imprisonment and a fine of not more than Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00)
Pesos.
It is worth mentioning in this connection that the Court has resolved to refrain from posting in its
Internet Web Page the full text of decisions in cases involving child sexual abuse in response to a letter
from a mother of a child abuse victim addressed to the Chief Justice expressing anxiety over the posting
of full text decisions of the Supreme Court on its Internet Web Page. The mother submitted that
confidentiality and the best interest of the child must prevail over public access to information and
pleaded that her daughters case, as well as those of a similar nature, be excluded from the Web Page.[2]

The Court required the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP),
National Press Club (NPC), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas
(KBP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to comment on whether or not it
is proper to post the full text of decisions of similar cases on the Supreme Court Web Page.

The position of the OSG in its Comment[3] is noteworthy. The OSG submits that the posting of the full
text of decisions in cases involving child abuse on the Supreme Court Web Page violates the right to
privacy of the aggrieved parties. In order to determine whether the subject matter upon which the right
to privacy being invoked falls within the constitutionally-protected zone of privacy, it must be shown
that the persons expectation of privacy is reasonable. The reasonableness of such expectancy depends
on a twopart test: (1) whether by his conduct, the individual has exhibited an expectation of privacy; and
(2) whether this expectation is one that society recognizes as reasonable.
According to the OSG, the fact that the aggrieved child may have consented, through a parent or
guardian, to a public hearing of the case does not negate the expectation of privacy which the child may
later invoke because child victims cannot be presumed to have intended their initial agreement to
extend beyond the termination of their case to the posting of the decision reached by the Court on the
Web Page. Moreover, such an expectation of privacy is reasonable considering the various statutes and
rules which reveal the intention of the State to maintain the confidentiality of information pertaining to
child abuse cases.

The OSG invites the Courts attention to a New Jersey statute which provides that all court documents
which state the name, address and identity of a child victim in certain sexual assault, endangering the
welfare and abuse and neglect cases should remain confidential. The name of the victim shall not
appear in any public record; rather, initials or a fictitious name shall appear. The offenses covered by the
law include aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual
contact, endangering the welfare of children, and any action alleging an abused or neglected child. Thus,
in Application of V Pub. Corp., 120 N.J. 508 (1990), and Div. of Youth & Fam. Serv. V. J.B., 120 N.J. 112
(1990), the New Jersey Supreme Court provided guidelines in the implementation of this statute.

In conclusion, the OSG suggests the adoption of a system of coding which could include the use of
pseudonyms in cases of a similar nature. Short of withdrawing the full text of decisions in such cases
from the Web Page, the OSG proposes that the Court instead replace the material information, such as
the name of the child-victim, in its decisions.

The DSWD imparted the same sentiment. It submits that the court records of child abuse cases should
be treated with strict confidentiality not only throughout the court proceedings, but even after the
promulgation of the decision in order to protect the right to privacy of the child and her family and to
preclude instances where undue disclosure of information may impair the treatment and rehabilitation
of the child-victim.[4]
The Court likewise appreciates the separate comments of the KBP and NPC. The KBP informs the Court
that its members have agreed not to identify in their broadcasts the names of children who are victims
of abuse or are in conflict with the law.[5] The NPC, on the other hand, tells us that the prevailing media
practice is to inquire whether these individuals wish to have their names appear in the report. If they do
not, media would normally take off the names and merely provide a very general description of the
individual in recognition of the need to carefully balance the right to information with the welfare of the
parties involved.[6]

Taking all these opinions into account and in view of recent enactments which unequivocally express the
intention to maintain the confidentiality of information in cases involving violence against women and
their children, in this case and henceforth, the Court shall withhold the real name of the victim-
survivor[7] and shall use fictitious initials instead to represent her. Likewise, the personal circumstances
of the victims-survivors or any other information tending to establish or compromise their identities, as
well those of their immediate family or household members, shall not be disclosed.[8]

On February 18, 2002, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 87, convicted Melchor
Cabalquinto (Cabalquinto) on two (2) counts for the rape of his eight-year old daughter, AAA. The
dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, finding accused guilty in both Criminal Case No. Q-98-79683 and Criminal Case No. Q-98-
79684, for Rape, judgment is hereby rendered sentencing accused MELCHOR CABALQUINTO Y MINGO
to suffer the penalty of DEATH on both counts, pursuant to the penalty imposed under Article 335 of the
Revised Penal Code of the Philippines as amended by RA 7659.
Accused is further ordered to indemnify his daughter-victim the sum of Seventy Five Thousand Pesos
(P75,000.00) for damages, in each count.

SO ORDERED.[9]

This case was initiated by a sworn statement filed by AAA, assisted by her mother, ABC,[10] which
resulted in the filing of two (2) Informations for rape, the first alleging:

That on or about the 8th day of November 1998, in xxx City, Philippines, the said accused by means of
force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously undress [AAA], his own
daughter, 8 years old, a minor, put himself on top of her, inside the room of their residence located at
xxx,[11] this City, and thereafter have carnal knowledge with her against her will and without her
consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[12]
and the second stating:

That on or about the 13th day of November 1998, in xxx City, Philippines, the said accused by means of
force and intimidation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously undress [AAA], his own
daughter, 8 years of age, a minor, put himself on top of her, inside the room of their residence located
at xxx,[13] this City, and thereafter have carnal knowledge with her against her will and without her
consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[14]

Cabalquinto pleaded not guilty on arraignment. Trial on the merits ensued which resulted in his
conviction and the imposition of the penalty of death. The records of the case were thereafter
forwarded to this Court on automatic review.
On December 10, 2002, the Court issued a Resolution requiring the parties to submit their respective
briefs. The parties complied. Pursuant to the case of People v. Efren Mateo,[15] however, the Court
issued a Resolution on September 14, 2004, transferring the case to the Court of Appeals for
appropriate action.

The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court and added an award of P50,000.00 as moral
damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.[16] The case is again before us for our final disposition.

The prosecution presented as witnesses AAA herself, her mother ABC, and Dr. Stella Guerrero-Manalo
(Dr. Manalo) of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

ABC testified that she is the common-law wife of Cabalquinto and that they have four children, namely:
BBB, CCC, the child-victim AAA, and DDD. At around 8:45 p.m. of November 13, 1998, she was on her
way home to xxx, and saw her sons BBB and CCC outside the house, and her youngest daughter DDD
playing with a cousin. As she was approaching the house, she noticed that the door was closed although
the lights were on. Since there is a half-inch gap between the door and the wall, she peeped through the
gap and saw Cabalquinto lying face down making pumping motions on their daughter, AAA, who was
lying underneath him with her panties pulled down. When she heard Cabalquinto tell AAA to open her
legs (ibuka mo), she kicked and pounded the door. Cabalquinto immediately lay down. AAA then stood
up and opened the door. ABC entered the room and confronted Cabalquinto who only denied her
accusation. She then asked AAA what her father did to her. AAA did not say anything but looked pale.
[17]
After regaining her composure, she went to her sister-in-law EEE, who lived on the second floor of the
house, and confided to the latter. At around 10:00 oclock that night, she went to her sisters house in xxx
to seek advice. Her sister told her to report the matter to the barangay officials. The barangay officials,
in turn, told her to go to the police which she did the following day, November 14, 1998.[18]

AAAs Salaysay was taken by the police and they were referred to the CPU of PGH. Because there was no
doctor on duty, she and AAA returned to the CPU on November 16, 1998. AAA was examined by a
doctor and a medical certificate was issued. They returned to the police station where she executed her
Salaysay. They then proceeded to the fiscals office to lodge a complaint.[19]

ABC further testified that during the police investigation on November 14, 1998, AAA revealed to the
police that a similar incident happened to her on November 8, 1998, the day of her friends birthday
celebration.[20]

AAA testified that at around 8:45 p.m. on November 13, 1998, she was inside their house in xxx, with
her father, Cabalquinto, when the latter instructed her to close the door and windows and turn off the
light. She obeyed but did not turn off the light. Her father then told her to lie down and immediately
placed himself on top of her. He then undressed her, brought out his penis, asked her to masturbate him
and to suck his penis, inserted his penis in her private parts and licked her private parts. He told her not
to tell her ninang DDD or her mother; otherwise, he would kill them all. She felt pain in her stomach and
pelvis after the incident.[21]
Corroborating her mothers testimony, AAA stated that while they were at the police station, she
disclosed that she was also raped by her father on November 8, 1998. She remembered the incident
because it was the day her friend, FFF, celebrated her birthday. According to AAA, her father had been
drinking that night. When she went home to drink water, she was called by her father, told to close the
door and windows and to turn off the lights. She obeyed but did not turn off the lights. Her father then
placed himself on top of her and told her to masturbate him.[22]

AAA further testified that she was not enrolled in school because her mother had been abroad.[23]

It should be mentioned that in her Sinumpaang Salaysay dated November 14, 1998, AAA stated that her
father had raped her seven (7) times since her mother left for abroad. She said that she distinctly
remembered having been raped by her father on November 8, 1998, her friends birthday; August 16,
1998 during the fiesta; and on November 13, 1998, the day before her statement was taken. However,
she said no longer remembered the exact dates of the other incidents.[24]

Dr. Manalo, who conducted the physical examination of AAA, testified that AAA had no injury on her
genitalia; that her hymen is quite large and distensible possibly because of penile penetration; and that
she recovered a strand of pubic hair inside AAAs vaginal vault which could only have reached the area as
a consequence of penile penetration because AAA did not have pubic hair yet.[25]

On cross-examination, Dr. Manalo stated that she did not find any traces of bleeding in AAAs vagina but
that injury is uncommon in incestuous rape.[26]
The trial court admitted the following documentary evidence formally offered by the prosecution: (1)
Referral Letter to the Office of the Prosecutor; (2) Sinumpaang Salaysay of ABC; (3) Sinumpaang Salaysay
of AAA; (4) medical certificate; (5) birth certificate of AAA; and (6) Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Stella
Manalo.[27]

Testifying as lone witness for his defense, Cabalquinto denied that he raped AAA on November 8 and 13,
1998. He claimed that on November 13, 1998, he just slept in the sala of their house with AAA and DDD,
while his sons, BBB and CCC, slept in another room. On November 8, 1998, he claimed that after cooking
the food for FFFs birthday party, he went home and slept. He averred that the cases filed against him
were the offshoot of frequent quarrels between his common-law wife, ABC, and his brother, GGG.[28]

We have meticulously and painstakingly examined the records as well as the transcripts of stenographic
notes and find no cause to overturn the findings of fact and conclusions of the trial court and the Court
of Appeals. We affirm Cabalquintos conviction.

Cabalquintos claim that there are material inconsistencies between the testimonies of AAA and ABC
with regard to whether AAA cried out as she was being raped because while AAA testified that she
shouted twice, ABC stated that she did not see AAA struggle nor hear her call out, is unconvincing.

AAA was firm and unwavering in her narration of her traumatic experience. During cross examination,
she remained steadfast in her assertion that her father inserted his penis inside her genitals and raped
her, even demonstrating what she understood of the word rape by forming a circle with her fingers and
moving her middle finger inside and out indicating sexual intercourse.[29]
Thus, the trial court gave full credence to AAAs testimony and ruled:

From the testimony of the principal witness, [AAA] alone, viz, the testimony of the accused, there is no
reason to doubt that accused has [sic] molested his daughter, and had carnal knowledge of her, on two
occasions, nighttime on November 8 and 13, 1998, when [AAA] was then only 8 years old, inside their
dwelling.

The testimony of [AAA] was even more bolstered by the consistency of her declaration under cross by
the defense counsel, Atty. Torralba of the Public Attorneys Office, whose attempt to discredit [AAA]s
accusation by making it appear that she would not have known how to testify that she was raped by her
own father, had she not been coached by someone else to say so, miserably failed. In the following
portions of [AAA]s cross-examination by the Defense, instead of destroying [AAA]s credibility the more
that it was established that accused indeed raped her (sic) daughter.

xxxx

[AAA]s declaration that she was raped corroborates the testimony of the doctor who testified that a
strand of hair was found inside [AAA]s vaginal vault. The doctors testimony that the presence of a strand
of hair inside the vaginal vault would not be possible without sexual intercourse, bolsters the accusation
of [AAA] that she had been raped. Of course, there is no test to determine whose hair was it, but
considering [AAA]s testimony that accused had carnal knowledge of her twice prior to examination, a
conclusion that the hair is accuseds is plausible. The idea that that hair was purposely placed inside
[AAA]s vagina would be absurdity. Thus, when [AAA] pointed to her father as the person who molested
her, this Court can only believe because no daughter in [AAA]s age would accuse her own father of any
wrongdoing, if it is not for the fact that he had wronged her, and that hair (pubic or not) is accuseds.[30]

ABCs testimony of what she witnessed regarding the act of rape corroborates AAAs account. The
inconsistency between the testimony of AAA and her mother pertains merely to a circumstance that is
of little consequence to the question of whether rape was actually committed. Whether AAA cried out
or not does not discount rape.

It should be emphasized that AAA was but eight (8) years old when the rapes happened. A child of her
tender years cannot be expected to be able to recount the details of her torment with exactitude. In
People v. Villar,[31] the accused questioned the inconsistency between the victims declaration in her
sworn statement and her direct testimony in court as to the exact time when she was first raped by the
accused in 1993.[32] The Court held that it cannot impose the burden of exactness in the victims
recollection of her harrowing experience more so because the victim was an innocent and tender nine
(9)-year old lass when she was first raped.[33] Citing People v. Sagucio,[34] we also held that errorless
testimony cannot be expected especially when a witness is recounting the details of a harrowing
experience.

On the other hand, ABC must have also been so devastated by what she witnessed her husband doing to
their daughter that she might have perceived things differently from AAA.
Persons who witness an event may perceive it from different points of reference, hence they may have
different accounts of how the incident took place. What is important is that their testimonies reinforce
each other on the essential facts and that their versions corroborate and substantially coincide with
each other to make a consistent and coherent whole.[35] The fact therefore that the statements of AAA
and ABC differ on some minor details does not in any way affect their credibility or detract from the
integrity and truthfulness of their declarations. The variations in their testimonies present a believable
narration of what actually happened, made more so precisely because of their imperfections.[36]

Cabalquinto offers a flimsy excuse in answer to the serious accusation against him. He claims that ABCs
frequent spats with his brother motivated her to file the rape cases against him.

It is improbable that a victim of tender years, especially one unexposed to the ways of the world as AAA
must have been, would impute a crime as serious as rape to her own father if it were not true. There is
no doubt in our minds that AAA was impelled solely by a desire to let justice find its way.[37]

As regards ABC, we are convinced that she did not expose AAA to the ignominy that rape victims must
face only to get back at Cabalquintos brother. Had that been her motive, she would have accused
Cabalquintos brother and not Cabalquinto himself. No mother would possibly wish to stamp her child
falsely with the stigma that follows a rape only for the purpose of punishing someone against whom she
has no grudge whatsoever.[38] ABCs zeal in prosecuting this case demonstrates to us her yearning that
the law may do her daughter justice even as her own father had so depravedly wronged her.
Further, the contemporaneous and subsequent conduct of mother and child are revealing of the
veracity of the rape charge. It should be emphasized that upon witnessing the outrage done to her
daughter, ABC immediately confronted Cabalquinto. Shortly afterwards, she confided to her sister-in-
law and traveled all the way to xxx to seek her own sisters advice. The following day, mother and child
went to the police to report the incident and to execute their sworn statements. ABC also took her
daughter to the CPU of PGH for the latters medical examination.

These significant circumstances cannot be ignored. We are compelled to believe, especially in the face
of Cabalquintos plain denial, that AAA was indeed sexually abused and raped by her own father.

Carnal knowledge of a woman under 12 years of age is rape as defined under Art. 335 of the Revised
Penal Code, and is qualified when the offender is a parent of the victim, in which case, the death penalty
shall be imposed as provided under the Death Penalty Law.[39] In this case, the qualifying circumstances
of the victims minority and her relationship with the accused as the latters daughter were properly
alleged in the Informations, proven during trial and not refuted by Cabalquinto. However, in view of
Republic Act No. 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty of reclusion
perpetua without eligibility for parole should instead be imposed.

As regards the civil liability of Cabalquinto, we affirm the award of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity for each
count and additionally award AAA P75,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages
for each count consistent with current jurisprudence.[40] Moral damages, separate and distinct from
the civil indemnity, are automatically granted in rape cases. Exemplary damages, on the other hand, are
imposed to deter fathers with aberrant sexual behaviors from sexually abusing their daughters.[41]
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 87, in Criminal Cases Nos.
Q-98-79683 and Q-98-79684, as well as the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 00260,
are AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Appellant MELCHOR CABALQUINTO is sentenced, in each of the
criminal cases subject of this review, to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for
parole and to pay the victim, AAA (to be identified through the Informations filed with the trial court in
this case), the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages and the further
sum of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages plus costs.

SO ORDERED.

[A.M. No. CTA-01-1. April 2, 2002]

ATTY. SUSAN M. AQUINO, complainant, vs. HON. ERNESTO D. ACOSTA, Presiding Judge, Court of Tax
Appeals, respondent.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

The present administrative case filed with this Court originated from a sworn affidavit-complaint[1] of
Atty. Susan M. Aquino, Chief of the Legal and Technical Staff of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), charging
Judge Ernesto Acosta, Presiding Judge of the same court, with sexual harassment under R.A. 7877 and
violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and Code of Professional Responsibility.

In her affidavit-complaint, complainant alleged several instances when respondent judge sexually
harassed her.

On November 21, 2000, she reported for work after her vacation in the United States, bringing gifts for
the three judges of the CTA, including respondent. In the afternoon of the same day, he entered her
room and greeted her by shaking her hand. Suddenly, he pulled her towards him and kissed her on her
cheek.
On December 28, 2000, while respondent was on official leave, he called complainant by phone, saying
he will get something in her office. Shortly thereafter, he entered her room, shook her hand and greeted
her, "Merry Christmas." Thereupon, he embraced her and kissed her. She was able to free herself by
slightly pushing him away. Complainant submitted the Joint Affidavit[2] of Ma. Imelda C. Samonte and
Anne Benita M. Santos, CTA Tax Specialists, to prove that respondent went to her office that day.

On the first working day in January, 2001, respondent phoned complainant, asking if she could see him
in his chambers in order to discuss some matters. When complainant arrived there, respondent tried to
kiss her but she was able to evade his sexual attempt. She then resolved not to enter his chambers
alone.

Weeks later, after the Senate approved the proposed bill expanding the jurisdiction of the CTA, while
complainant and her companions were congratulating and kissing each other, respondent suddenly
placed his arms around her shoulders and kissed her.

In the morning of February 14, 2001, respondent called complainant, requesting her to go to his office.
She then asked Ruby Lanuza, a clerk in the Records Section, to accompany her. Fortunately, when they
reached his chambers, respondent had left.

The last incident happened the next day. At around 8:30 a.m., respondent called complainant and asked
her to see him in his office to discuss the Senate bill on the CTA. She again requested Ruby to
accompany her. The latter agreed but suggested that they should act as if they met by accident in
respondents office. Ruby then approached the secretarys table which was separated from respondents
office by a transparent glass. For her part, complainant sat in front of respondent's table and asked him
what he wanted to know about the Senate bill. Respondent seemed to be at a loss for words and kept
glancing at Ruby who was searching for something at the secretary's desk. Forthwith, respondent
approached Ruby, asked her what she was looking for and stepped out of the office. When he returned,
Ruby said she found what she was looking for and left. Respondent then approached complainant
saying, me gusto akong gawin sa iyo kahapon pa. Thereupon, he tried to grab her. Complainant
instinctively raised her hands to protect herself but respondent held her arms tightly, pulled her towards
him and kissed her. She pushed him away, then slumped on a chair trembling. Meantime, respondent
sat on his chair and covered his face with his hands. Thereafter, complainant left crying and locked
herself inside a comfort room. After that incident, respondent went to her office and tossed a note[3]
stating, sorry, it wont happen again.
In his comment, respondent judge denied complainants allegation that he sexually harassed her six
times. He claimed that he has always treated her with respect, being the head of the CTA Legal Staff. In
fact, there is no strain in their professional relationship.

On the first incident, he explained that it was quite unlikely that complainant would ask him to go to her
office on such date in order to give him a pasalubong.

With respect to the second incident on December 28, he claimed it could not have happened as he was
then on official leave.

Anent the third incident, respondent explained that he went to the various offices of the CTA to extend
New Years greetings to the personnel. He also greeted complainant with a casual buss on her cheek and
gave her a calendar. In turn, she also greeted him.

As to the fourth episode, he averred that he and complainant had been attending the deliberations of
the Bicameral Conference Committee at the Senate on the bill expanding the jurisdiction of the CTA.
Hence, when the bill was finally approved that particular day, respondent, in jubilation and in the
presence of other people, gave complainant a spontaneous peck on her cheek. He could not recall any
resentment on her part when he kissed her. She even congratulated him in return, saying Justice ka na
Judge. Then he treated her to a lunch to celebrate the event. Respondent recounted several times when
they would return to the CTA in the evening after attending the committee hearings in Congress to
retrieve complainants personal belongings from her office. Surely, if he had malice in his mind, those
instances would have been the perfect opportunities for him to sexually harass her.

As to the fifth incident, respondent alleged that he did not call complainant to harass her, but to discuss
with her and Elizabeth Lozano, HRMO III, and Elsie T. Forteza, Administrative Officer, the health plan for
the CTA officers and employees. The fact that such meeting took place was confirmed by a Certification
issued by Lozano.[4]

Regarding the sixth incident, respondent narrated his version as follows: Complainant arrived in his
office past 9 a.m. that day, followed by another court employee, Ruby Lanuza. He proceeded to discuss
the CTA Expansion Bill with complainant. Then he went for a while to the rest room. When he returned,
Ruby had already left but complainant was still there. Forthwith, he remarked that he forgot to greet her
on Valentines Day, the day before. He approached complainant to give her a casual buss on the cheek.
But she suddenly stood and raised her arms to cover her face, causing her to lose her balance. So he
held her arms to prevent her from falling. Her rejection came as a surprise to him and made him feel
quite embarrassed. Shortly, complainant excused herself and left the room. Stunned at the thought that
she might misinterpret his gesture, he sent her a short note of apology. Respondent further explained
that the structure of his office, being seen through a transparent glass divider, makes it impossible for
anyone to commit any improper conduct inside.

In a Resolution dated August 21, 2001, this Court referred the instant case to Justice Josefina G. Salonga
of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation.

Justice Salonga set the hearing of the case on November 6, 2001. However, the parties, through counsel,
manifested that they will not be adducing any further evidence. On November 7, 2001, Justice Salonga
issued an Order directing them to submit their memoranda simultaneously, after which, the case shall
be considered submitted for resolution.

On January 9, 2002, Justice Salonga forwarded to this Court her Report on Investigation and
Recommendation, thus:

We find for the respondent.

"The complainant failed to show by convincing evidence that the acts of Judge Acosta in greeting her
with a kiss on the cheek, in a 'beso-beso' fashion, were carried out with lustful and lascivious desires or
were motivated by malice or ill-motive. It is clear under the circumstances that most of the kissing
incidents were done on festive and special occasions. In fact, complainant's testimony that she was
sexually harassed on November 21, 2000, is hardly believable. Notably, complainant declared in her
affidavit-complaint that she brought some 'pasalubongs' for the respondent judge from her trip abroad.
Therefore, Atty. Aquino could not have been 'taken aback' by the respondent's act of greeting her in a
friendly manner and thanking her by way of a kiss on the cheek. Moreover, it was established that Judge
Acosta was on official leave of absence from December 26-29, 2000. This was corroborated by Ricardo
Hebia, the driver of respondent judge, in his Panunumpa (Affidavit) dated March 26, 2001, where he
stated among others, to wit:

xxx
"Corollarily, the joint affidavit of Ms. Santos and Ms. Samonte attesting to the fact that respondent
dropped by at the third floor of the CTA and greeted them Happy New Year, even if it true, can not be
given any evidentiary weight. Clearly, they did not make any categorical statement that they had
witnessed or seen Judge Acosta making sexual advances on the complainant. Nor did they even
attribute any malicious acts on respondent constituting sexual harassment.

"In addition, the respondent admitted that when he handed a calendar and greeted complainant with a
buss, complainant reciprocated by greeting him a Happy New Year. The allegation of Atty. Aquino that
the respondent merely used the calendars as 'props' to kiss her on the cheek and that she was singled
out by respondent is not supported by any convincing evidence. The affidavit of Ms. Aurora U. Aso and
Renelyn L. Larga that Ms. Carmen Acosta gave them calendars for the office of Attys. Margarette
Guzman and Felizardo O. Consing, is immaterial and irrelevant, as Judge Acosta had stated that he
handed to complainant Aquino, a 2001 calendar in the course of greeting her with a buss on the cheek.
Said affidavit could not account for the calendars distributed to the other offices in the CTA, more
specifically, the Legal and Technical Staff headed by Atty. Aquino.

"Moreover, the claim of the complainant that she was sexually harassed immediately after the final
reading of the bill anent the expansion of the CTA at the Senate, can not be accorded great evidentiary
value. The alleged kissing incident took place in the presence of other people and the same was by
reason of the exaltation or happiness of the moment, due to the approval of the subject bill. Quite
interesting to note, is that Atty. Aquino reciprocated by congratulating respondent and remarking
"justice ka na judge" after the latter had bussed her on the cheek. Complainant even failed to dispute
the fact that after the kissing incident, she joined Judge Acosta and his driver for lunch at a seafood
restaurant in Luneta. There was even a time that she allowed the respondent judge to accompany her to
the office alone and at nighttime at that, to retrieve her car keys and bag when they returned to the CTA
after the hearing at the Senate on the CTA expansion bill. These acts are not at square with the behavior
of one who has been sexually harassed, for the normal reaction of a victim of sexual harassment would
be to avoid the harasser or decline his invitations after being offended. In fact, this occasion could have
provided the respondent judge with the right opportunity to commit malicious acts or to sexually harass
complainant, but then Judge Acosta never even attempted to do so. Undoubtedly, it could be said that
no strained relations existed between Atty. Aquino and Judge Acosta at that moment.

"Neither can the alleged continuous call of Judge Acosta on complainant in the morning of February 14,
2001 to see him in his office, be considered as acts constituting sexual harassment. Atty. Aquino failed
to state categorically in her affidavit-complaint that respondent demanded sexual advances or favors
from her, or that the former had committed physical conduct of sexual nature against her. The
telephone calls were attributed malicious implications by the complainant. To all intents and purposes,
the allegation was merely a product of her imagination, hence, the same deserves no weight in law.
Indeed, Atty. Aquino's own version, indicates that she well knew that the purpose of the respondent in
calling her in the morning of February 14, 2001 was to discuss the CTA Health Plan which was
disapproved by the Supreme Court and not for the respondent to demand sexual favors from her. This
was corroborated by Atty. Margarette Guzman in her affidavit dated February 28, 2001, attached to the
complainant's affidavit, where she stated:

xxx

"Finally, while Judge Acosta admitted having pecked Atty. Aquino on her cheek, which was avoided by
the latter, the same was not meant to sexually harass her. Judge Acosta's act of extending his post
Valentine greeting to complainant was done in good faith and sans any malice. This is so because
immediately after the complainant had displayed annoyance to the kissing episode, Judge Acosta
immediately extended an apology by way of a handwritten note saying that the incident won't happen
again.

"Parenthetically, the undersigned is convinced that Ms. Lanuza's affidavit that she supposedly
accompanied complainant to respondent's office as she allegedly had a previous 'bad experience' with
the latter when he was still an Associate Judge, was merely concocted to add flavor to the baseless
imputations hurled against Judge Acosta. The accusation is implausible as Ms. Lanuza did not seem to
complain about the alleged bad experience she had with Judge Acosta or relate it to anyone until ten
(10) years later. It must be stressed that Ms. Lanuza is a biased-witness who harbored ill feelings against
the respondent, as she was reprimanded by Judge Acosta for habitual absenteeism and tardiness in
1996. More importantly, Ms. Lanuza did not even attest that she was a witness to the alleged sexual
advances of Judge Acosta.

"In all the incidents complained of, the respondent's pecks on the cheeks of the complainant should be
understood in the context of having been done on the occasion of some festivities, and not the assertion
of the latter hat she was singled out by Judge Acosta in his kissing escapades. The busses on her cheeks
were simply friendly and innocent, bereft of malice and lewd design. The fact that respondent judge
kisses other people on the cheeks in the 'beso-beso' fashion, without malice, was corroborated by Atty.
Florecita P. Flores, Ms. Josephine Adalem and Ms. Ma. Fides Balili, who stated that they usually practice
'beso-beso' or kissing on the cheeks, as a form of greeting on occasions when they meet each other, like
birthdays, Christmas, New Year's Day and even Valentine's Day, and it does not matter whether it is
Judge Acosta's birthday or their birthdays. Theresa Cinco Bactat, a lawyer who belongs to complainant's
department, further attested that on occasions like birthdays, respondent judge would likewise greet
her with a peck on the cheek in a 'beso-beso' manner. Interestingly, in one of several festive occasions,
female employees of the CTA pecked respondent judge on the cheek where Atty. Aquino was one of
Judge Acosta's well wishers. (Annex "8" to Comment, p. 65, Rollo)

"In sum, no sexual harassment had indeed transpired on those six occasions. Judge Acosta's acts of
bussing Atty. Aquino on her cheek were merely forms of greetings, casual and customary in nature. No
evidence of intent to sexually harass complainant was apparent, only that the innocent acts of 'beso-
beso' were given malicious connotations by the complainant. In fact, she did not even relate to anyone
what happened to her. Undeniably, there is no manifest sexual undertone in all those incidents.[5]

Justice Salonga then made the following recommendation:

Considering the above, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the administrative complaint for
sexual harassment and violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Professional
Responsibility be DISMISSED and accordingly, respondent Presiding Judge Ernesto D. Acosta be
exonerated therefrom; that in view of these charges which might have tainted the image of the Court,
though unsubstantiated they may be, Judge Acosta is WARNED to refrain from doing similar acts, or any
act for that matter on the complainant and other female employees of the Court of Tax Appeals, which
in any manner may be interpreted as lustful advances.[6]

We agree with the findings of Justice Salonga.

Administrative complaints against members of the judiciary are viewed by this Court with utmost care,
for proceedings of this nature affect not only the reputation of the respondents concerned, but the
integrity of the entire judiciary as well.

We have reviewed carefully the records of this case and found no convincing evidence to sustain
complainants charges. What we perceive to have been committed by respondent judge are casual
gestures of friendship and camaraderie, nothing more, nothing less. In kissing complainant, we find no
indication that respondent was motivated by malice or lewd design. Evidently, she misunderstood his
actuations and construed them as work-related sexual harassment under R.A. 7877.
As aptly stated by the Investigating Justice:

"A mere casual buss on the cheek is not a sexual conduct or favor and does not fall within the purview of
sexual harassment under R.A. No. 7877. Section 3 (a) thereof provides, to wit:

'Sec. 3. Work, Education or Training - related Sexual Harassment Defined. - Work, education or training-
related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the
employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority,
influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands,
requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand,
request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.

a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when:

1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or
continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms,
conditions, promotions or privileges; or the refusal to grant sexual favor results in limiting, segregating
or classifying the employee which in anyway would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment
opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employees;

2) The above acts would impair the employee's right or privileges under existing labor laws; or

3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.'

"Clearly, under the foregoing provisions, the elements of sexual harassment are as follows:

1) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor,
coach, trainor, or any other person has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another;

2) The authority, influence or moral ascendancy exists in a working environment;


3) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor,
coach, or any other person having authority, influence or moral ascendancy makes a demand, request or
requirement of a sexual favor.

"In her Complaint-affidavit, Reply and Sur-rejoinder, complainant did not even allege that Judge Acosta
demanded, requested or required her to give him a buss on the cheek which, she resented. Neither did
Atty. Aquino establish by convincing evidence that the busses on her cheek, which she considers as
sexual favors, discriminated against her continued employment, or resulted in an intimidating, hostile or
offensive environment. In fact, complainant continued to perform her work in the office with the usual
normalcy. Obviously, the alleged sexual favor, if there ever was, did not interfere with her working
condition (Annexes "9" - "9-FFF"). Moreover, Atty. Aquino also continued to avail of benefits and leaves
appurtenant to her office and was able to maintain a consistent outstanding performance. On top of
this, her working area which, is at the third floor of the CTA, is far removed from the office of Judge
Acosta located at the fourth floor of the same building. Resultantly, no hostile or intimidating working
environment is apparent.

"Based on the foregoing findings, there is no sufficient evidence to create a moral certainty that Judge
Acosta committed the acts complained of; that Atty. Aquino's determination to seek justice for herself
was not substantiated by convincing evidence; that the testimony of respondent judge and his witnesses
are credible and therefore, should be given weight and probative value; that the respondent's acts
undoubtedly do not bear the marks of misconduct, impropriety or immorality, either under R.A. No.
7877 or the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Professional Responsibility.[7]

Indeed, from the records on hand, there is no showing that respondent judge demanded, requested or
required any sexual favor from complainant in exchange for favorable compensation, terms, conditions,
promotion or privileges specified under Section 3 of R.A. 7877. Nor did he, by his actuations, violate the
Canons of Judicial Ethics or the Code of Professional Responsibility.

While we exonerate respondent from the charges herein, however, he is admonished not to commit
similar acts against complainant or other female employees of the Court of Tax Appeals, otherwise, his
conduct may be construed as tainted with impropriety.
We laud complainants effort to seek redress for what she honestly believed to be an affront to her
honor. Surely, it was difficult and agonizing on her part to come out in the open and accuse her superior
of sexual harassment. However, her assessment of the incidents is misplaced for the reasons mentioned
above.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Ernesto D. Acosta is hereby EXONERATED of the charges against him.
However, he is ADVISED to be more circumspect in his deportment.

SO ORDERED.

RONNIE ANDALES y ROMIROSA, accused-appellants.

QUIASON, J.:

This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 124, Kalookan City in Criminal
Case No. C-31521, finding accused Ernesto Abarri y Batting, Clemente Cawaling y Cirinio, Conrado
Estrada y Cawaling, Joselito Pajalago y Gonzales and Ronnie Andales y Romirosa guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of robbery with rape and sentencing each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua.

The information filed against the accused reads as follows:

That on or about the 14th day of October 1988, in Kalookan City, Metro Manila, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually
helping one another with intent to gain and by means of force, threats and intimidation upon the person
of GREGORIA GAN y LIM, that is by poking a knife at the latter, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously take, rob and carry away the following articles, to wit:
one (1) Chinese gold ring P5,000.00

one (1) lady's wristwatch 2,000.00

Cash money amount (sic) to 250.00

—————

TOTAL P7,250.00

belonging to said Gregoria Gan y Lim, to the damage and prejudice of the latter in the aforementioned
total amount of P7,250.00; and on the occasion thereof, said accused with the use of force, violence and
intimidation and with lewd designs, have sexual intercourse with one GREGORIA GAN y LIM, against the
latter's will and without her consent (Rollo, p. 7).

Upon arraignment, all the accused entered a plea of not guilty.

On May 22, 1989, the trial court. rendered its decision convicting all appellants of the crime of robbery
with rape, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court finds the accused ERNESTO ABARRI Y BATTING,
CLEMENTE CAWALING Y CIRINIO, CONRADO ESTRADA Y CAWALING, JOSELITO PAJALAGO Y GONZALES
and RONNIE ANDALES Y ROMIROSA guilty beyond reasonable doubt as co-principals in the special
complex offense of robbery with rape as described and penalized under paragraph 2 of Article 294 of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended. This Court appreciates the presence of the aggravating
circumstance of the nocturnity and there being no appreciable mitigating circumstance, this Court
sentences each of the accused to suffer imprisonment of reclusion perpetua. This Court likewise hereby
orders the five accused to indemnify the victim, jointly and severally, the amount of P20,000.00 as
consequential damages; to return the amount of P250.00, the Seiko watch and the Chinese gold
necklace, subject matter of the robbery, and if unable to do so, to pay the value thereof, jointly and
severally, in the amount of P7,250.00; and to pay the costs.

The accused shall be credited in the services of their sentences with full time the accused have
undergone preventive imprisonment, pursuant to the provisions of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code,
as amended (Rollo, p. 32).
Hence, this appeal.

II

On October 14, 1988, at around 7:30 P.M., while Gregoria Gan was walking along 4th Avenue, Kalookan
City on her way home, Ernesto Abarri and Ronnie Andales stopped her and each poked a knife at her
neck. Abarri then grabbed Gan's bag and warned: "Kung gusto mong mabuhay, huwag kang sisigaw."
Gan was dragged by the two and brought inside a fenced, vacant lot strewn with garbage and covered
with tall grass. Clemente Cawaling, Conrado Estrada and Joselito Pajalago were former employees of
Gan.

Once inside the vacant lot, Abarri, with the use of a "balisong, " tore the upper portion of Gan's blouse.
The other accused then started tearing the rest of the blouse and pulling down her pants. The torn
blouse was used to tie her mouth, hands and feet. When she was completely naked, the accused started
touching her private parts.

Abarri opened Gan's handbag and took a bunch of keys, which included the key for her store at Carmen
Planas Street in Binondo, Manila. He also got her watch valued P2,000.00, necklace valued at P5,000.00
and wallet containing P250.00.

After robbing Gan, appellants left except Andales. Before leaving, Cawaling told Andales: "Nognog,
(referring to Andales) bahala ka na, sampung taon na rin na hindi nakakatikim 'yan, makatas pa 'yan."

Andales then dragged Gan to a dark spot and after loosening the tie on her legs, raped her twice. After
satisfying his lust, Andales left.

Gan waited for about 20 minutes before she started to roll over to the middle of the lot. In the process,
the tie on her mouth loosened and she was able to shout for help. Responding to her cries, neighbors
came and untied her hands.
Meanwhile, at around 8:30 P.M. of the same day, Barangay Captain Anita Alejo was informed by a
resident that somebody was opening the store of Gan. Repairing at the place, Alejo saw Abarri and
Estrada. She noticed that the door of the store had been partly opened. When she asked the two what
they were doing there, Abarri answered that Gan instructed them to get the latter's pants. Alejo brought
them to the barangay hall for investigation. Upon further questioning, Abarri admitted to forcibly
bringing Gan to a vacant lot and binding her arms and legs. Alejo turned over the two to the custody of
the police detachment in Binondo.

The police brought Abarri and Andales to the crime scene. However, Gan was no longer there when they
arrived. The police proceeded to Gan's house where the latter positively identified the two as among
those persons who robbed her.

The findings of NBI Medico Legal Officer Roberto Garcia were as follows: (1) there were physical injuries
outside the victim's genitals, the age of which was consistent with the alleged time of commission of the
crime at about 7:30 P.M. of October 14, 1988; (2) the victim's hymen had old healed lacerations; (3) the
opening of the hymen was big enough to accommodate or to allow the penetration of an average-sized
adult male organ in erection without producing any new injury to the hymen.

III

The defense rests on denial and alibi. All of the accused claim that they were not at the scene of the
crime as each of them was somewhere else.

Abarri testified that at around 8:00 P.M. of October 14, 1988, he and Estrada were on their way home
from work. While walking in Pulgueras Street in Binondo, Manila, they were accosted by some barangay
tanod who accused them of breaking into a store. At first they denied their involvement. But after they
were mauled at the Binondo Police Station, they were forced to admit their involvement in the robbery.

Estrada corroborated the version of Abarri as to their whereabouts on the night of the robbery. He
further testified that he and Cawaling were former employees of Gan.
Cawaling, Pajalego and Andales all claimed that they were at their respected homes that night when the
crime was committed. Cawaling claimed that he was coerced by the police to admit his complicity.
Andales claimed that he came to know his co-accused only at the city jail.

We have consistently ruled that for alibi to prosper as a defense, two requirements must be satisfied —
that the accused was not at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed and that it was
physically impossible for him to be at that place and time (People v. Gaguban, G.R. No. 96287, April 25,
1994). The requisites of time and place must be strictly met (People v. Empleo, 226 SCRA 454 [1993]).

In the case at bench, appellants failed to show that it was physically impossible for them to be at the
scene of the crime when it was committed.

The defense posits that no direct evidence on the conspiracy was established by the prosecution.

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a
felony and decide to commit it. Proof of the agreement need not rest on direct evidence, as the
agreement itself may be inferred from the conduct of the parties disclosing a common understanding
among them with respect to the commission of the offense (People v. Uy, 206 SCRA 270 [1992]); People
v. Dela Cruz, 190 SCRA 328 [1990]).

The common intent of robbing the victim and committing the acts of lasciviousness can be inferred from
their behaviors.

Abarri and Andales each poked a knife at Gan's neck and forcibly brought her to the vacant lot. The
other appellants followed them and watched while Abarri divested the victim of her valuables. After
robbing the victim, Abarri with the use of a "balisong" tore the upper portion of the victim's blouse and
all the other appellants participated in removing her clothes, pawing her and biting her nipples.

The presence or absence of lewd designs is inferred from the nature of the acts themselves and the
environmental circumstances (People v. Balbas, 129 Phil. 358[1967]). We find that the acts of appellants
in striping naked and hogtying the victim and touching her private parts constitute lewd designs.
However, in the case of Andales, the acts of lasciviousness committed by him culminated in the raping
of the victim when he was left alone with her. Nothing in the records show that the other accused had
knowledge or were aware of the rape committed by Andales. Consequently, he alone is guilty of robbery
with rape (People v. Hamiana, 89 Phil. 225 [1951]).

Likewise, we do not regard the remarks made by Cawaling to Andales as sufficient to make him a
principal by inducement or a co-conspirator. Before a remark can produce such an effect, the same must
be of a nature and uttered in such a manner as to become the determining cause of the crime (People v.
Canial, 46 SCRA 634 [1972]). The inducer must have such an overpowering moral ascendency over the
actor (People v. Balderama, 226 SCRA 537 [1993]), as to make the utterance a command from a superior
to a subordinate. In the case at bench, it appears that the decision of Andales to rape the victim had
been made before Cawaling uttered the remarks. Cawaling was then leaving the place with Abarri,
Estrada and Pajalago while Andales purposely stayed behind with the victim. There is not even a
showing that Cawaling had any moral influence over Andales.

The trial court, therefore, erred in convicting all the appellants of the crime of robbery with rape. In view
of the fact that the charge of rape includes abusos deshonestos, the appellants, other than Andales, can
be found guilty of committing the crime of robbery with abusos deshonestos.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is MODIFIED. Ernesto Abarri, Clemente Cawaling, Conrado
Estrada and Joselito Pajalago are GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the separate crimes of robbery
and acts of lasciviousness. This Court sentences each of them to an indeterminate penalty of SIX (6)
MONTHS of arresto mayor as minimum to SIX (6) YEARS of prision correccional as maximum for the
crime of acts of lasciviousness, and to indemnify Gregoria Gan jointly and severally in the amount of
P10,000.00 as moral damages. For the crime of robbery, they are sentenced to suffer the in de-
terminate penalty of FOUR (4) YEARS and 2 MONTHS of prision correccional as minimum to TEN (10)
YEARS of prision mayor as maximum and to indemnify jointly and severally Gregoria Gan in the amount
of P7,250.00 as actual damages.

Ronnie Andales is FOUND GUILTY of the crime of robbery with rape. He is sentenced to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua, to indemnify Gregoria Gan in the amount of P30,000.00 as moral
damages, and jointly and severally with the other appellants, the amount of P7,250.00 as actual
damages.

SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 121039-45. January 25, 1999]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. MAYOR ANTONIO L. SANCHEZ, GEORGE
MEDIALDEA, ZIOLO AMA, BALDWIN BRION, LUIS CORCOLON, ROGELIO CORCOLON, and PEPITO KAWIT,
accused-appellants.

DECISION

MARTINEZ, J.:

. . . a plot seemingly hatched in hell . . .

This was how Judge Harriet O. Demetriou[1] of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, Branch 70, in her 132-
page Decision dated March 11, 1995 now before us on review, emphatically described the Allan Gomez-
Eileen Sarmenta rape-slay that drew strong condemnation from an outraged populace in the middle of
1993. After a protracted and grueling 16-month trial, she found all those charged therewith, namely:
Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez (hereafter the Mayor), George Medialdea, Luis and Rogelio Corcolon,
Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brion and Pepito Kawit (appellants herein), guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of rape with homicide on seven counts and sentenced each one of them:

. . . to suffer the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua for each of the seven offenses or a total of
seven reclusion perpetua for each accused. In addition, the Court hereby orders all the accused to jointly
and severally pay the victims respective families the following sums by way of civil indemnity:

1. the sum of P3,432,650.00 representing the actual damages sustained by the Sarmenta family;

2. the sum of P3,484,000.00 representing the actual damages sustained by the Gomez family;
3. the sum of P2,000,000.00 as moral damages sustained by the Sarmenta family;

4. the sum of P2,000,000.00 as moral damages sustained by the Gomez family;

5. the sum of P191,000.00 as attorneys fees and litigation expenses incurred by the Gomez family; and

6. the sum of P164,250.00 for litigation expenses incurred by the Sarmenta family.

As to the antecedents, appellants all appear to agree that the trial court, in the very words of counsel[2]
who prepared the consolidated brief for the Mayor and Medialdea, made a very detailed summary of
both the prosecution and defense evidence.[3] This Court can thus conveniently provide a briefer but
fairly accurate account of the respective versions of the State and the defense on the basis of the trial
courts summary, rather than combing the heap of evidence presented by both sides.

The prosecutions version of the events on that horrible night of June 28, 1993 was based mainly on the
recollections of its star witnesses Aurelio Centeno and Vicencio Malabanan (a member of appellant
Sanchez security team) co-conspirators turned state witnesses. Both admitted having taken part in the
abduction of Eileen and Allan, but denied any personal involvement in the rape of Eileen and the twin
killings that followed. Heres their story.

Medialdea (then the Deputy Chief of the PNP Calauan), together with Centeno who was driving an
ambulance, fetched witness Malabanan at his residence in the early morning of June 28, 1993 on the
pretext that they will apprehend one Rodolfo Calva alias Tisoy a notorious gun runner and drug pusher
in the locality. Next to be picked up was Ama in Barangay Masiit, then Luis Corcolon (hereafter, Luis) in
Barangay Mabacan. On board the ambulance, the five (5) men made stopovers in Barangays Imok and
Wawa until they headed back for Calauan at past 7:00 oclock in the evening, upon orders of Luis.

At the Shell gas station in the poblacion of Calauan, the five (5) men met and picked up Rogelio Corcolon
(hereafter, Boy), Kawit and Brion, then they proceeded to Los Baos. Along the way, Luis announced to
the group that the real purpose behind the Los Baos trip is to take a pretty young lass long desired by
the Mayor and offer her to him as a gift. Luis, to satisfy his companions curiosity, even guaranteed that
her beauty will make their saliva drip.
Not for long, the ambulance arrived at the U.P. Los Baos grounds. Witness Centeno drove the
ambulance around the campus at a snails pace while Luis scoured the area with watchful eyes. As the
search inside the campus proved fruitless, Luis then ordered Centeno to slowly drive out of the
university compound and to stop upon reaching the vicinity of the Agrix complex. Luis, Boy, Ama, Brion
and Kawit alighted from the ambulance and went inside the Agrix complex. Witness Centeno overheard
Medialdea informing the Boss, via the radio, that they were already in the area. The Boss was the
Mayor.

Inside the Agrix complex is a restaurant called Caf Amalia. Parked in front of that establishment was a
Tamaraw van. Eileen and Allan were its passengers, both occupying the front seats. She was wearing a T-
shirt, white shorts and rubber shoes. Armed with guns, Luis and Boy approached Eileen and Allan,
forcibly took the two and loaded them at the back of the van. All the appellants boarded the van while
Centeno and Malabanan stayed in the ambulance. Both vehicles then headed for Erais Farm situated in
Barangay Curba, owned by the Mayor.

As soon as the group arrived at the farm, the two (2) captives were brought down the van. Eileen was
gagged by a handkerchief and her hands, like Allan, were tied. A white towel was wound around Allans
mouth. The Mayor, then wearing a jogging attire, emerged from the resthouse and asked the group: My
children, whats the problem? To this Luis respondent: Mayor, this is our gift to you, the girl youve been
longing for. Shes really beautiful. But whos that man? asked the Mayor. Eileens companion, boss.
Medialdea replied. We brought him along to avoid complications, he continued.

The two youngsters were then brought inside the resthouse where Eileen was taken to the Mayors
room. Allan was badly beaten up by Luis, Boy, Ama and Medialdea and thereafter thrown out of the
resthouse. Kawit followed-up by striking Allans diaphragm with the butt of an armalite, causing Allan to
fall against a cement box. Brion thought Allan was already dead, but Kawit said: :His death will come
later.

Meanwhile, Centeno, while waiting for further orders, joined the Mayors personal aides Edwin Cosico
and Raul Alorico watch television at the adjacent resthouse. Alorico told Centeno that the Mayor had
been eagerly waiting for the group and worried that they will not arrive.
At around 1:00 a.m. of the next day, a crying Eileen was dragged out of the resthouse by Luis and
Medialdea her hair disheveled, mouth covered by a handkerchief, hands still tied and stripped of her
shorts. The Mayor, clad merely in white polo, appeared and thanked Luis and Medialdea for the gift. I
am through with her. Shes all yours, the Mayor uttered in contentment. When asked what will happen
to Allan, Medialdea assured the Mayor that they will also kill him for full measure. Eileen and Allan were
then loaded in the Tamaraw van by the appellants and headed for Calauan, followed closely by the
ambulance.

En route to Calauan, Centeno, who was driving the ambulance, noticed the van swaying from side to
side. Then he heard gunfire coming therefrom. The van pulled over whereupon Kawit dragged Allan,
whose head was already drenched in blood, out of the vehicle onto the road and finished him off with a
single gunshot from his armalite. The ambulance and van then sped away.

The next destination was a sugarcane field in Sitio Paputok, Kilometro 74 of Barangay Mabacan. It was
here that Luis announced that its tiime for the group to feast on Eileen (the exact words of Luis were
Turbohin na rin natin ang tinurbo ni Boss). She was laid at the back of the van, with her hands and legs
being held by the appellants while waiting for their turn. Then the gang-rape began. The first to ravish
Eileen was Luis, then Medialdea, Boy, Ama, Brion and finally, Kawit. Bewailing the helplessness of her
situation, Eileen pleaded, in between sobs and whimpers, for the torture to stop. However, her tears for
compassion fell, weak and ineffective, upon the insensitive brutes. Kawit invited Centeno to join the
sexual fiasco but the latter refused as he cannot, in conscience, bear the bestiality being committed on
Eileen who appeared to be dead. After Kawits turn, Eileen knelt on the seat of the van and begged for
her life. Unmoved, Luis muted Eileens cried by forcing an object into her mouth and then fired his baby
armalite at her. Centeno was thereafter ordered to get rid of Eileens dead body. Moments later, all eight
(8) men boarded the ambulance and proceeded to Calauan, leaving the Tamaraw van with Eileens
remains behind. Along the way, Centeno and Malabanan watched in dismay as Luis, Boy, Medialdea,
Ama, Brion and Kawit savored the nights escapade, to their sickening delight. Appellants and Malabanan
were then brought to their respective homes by Centeno.

June 29, 1993 and the day following were tense moments for the group. In the morning of June 29,
Medialdea and Centeno fetched Malabanan, Luis and Ama. They were going to Barangay Imok to make
it appear that they were conducting some police operations in that area. Upon reaching Barangay Imok,
the group saw Allans body which they dumped a few hours earlier. Luis, Medialdea and Malabanan
alighted from the ambulance, whereupon Luis ordered Centeno to drive back to the municipal hall.
Boy Corcolon, who was at the municipal hall, informed Ama that a dead female loaded inside a Tamaraw
van was found in Barangay Mabacan. Ama then radioed the PNP Chief of Calauan, Major Cao, who at
that time was summoned by the Mayor. Major Cano thereafter arrived and ordered one SPO2 Melencio
Nuez to investigate the matter. Meanwhile, Centeno received word that he was to fetch Malabanan,
Luis and Medialdea in Barangay Imok. After picking up the three (3), Centeno drove the ambulance to
Barangay Mabacan where the dead Eileen was found.

Eileens body lying inside the Tamaraw van was a pitiful sight. Her face bore a gunshot wound; a
handkerchief was stuffed in her mouth; her T-shirt was rolled up revealing her breasts; and her panty
was rolled down on one of her feet still with rubber shoes on. Medialdea covered Eileens exposed
private parts by fixing her T-shirt and underwear and by placing a sackcloth over her lower body. The
group then escorted the van with Eileens body in it, to the UP Los Baos police station where student
milled around and identified the cadaver to be Eileen indeed. Later on, the van carrying Eileen, as well as
Allans body, was brought to the Calauan municipal hall. There, Centeno saw a prisoner named Arnold
cleaning the van.

Meanwhile, Malabanan, Ama and Medialdea, on June 29, went to the site (Bgy. Imok) where Allans body
was found, started asking residents about the incident and were able to retrieve an empty armalite
shell. Malabanan thereafter handed the empty shell to Major Cao at the police station. The three (3)
men and one SPO3 Rizaldy Belen, sometime in the afternoon of the same day, visited the Mayor at his
house in Bay, Laguna. Medialdea informed the Mayor of the presence of people from the CIS, NBI and
press in the locality. The Mayor flared up and blamed them for not using their heads. But he later on
assured them that he could fix the problem in less the amount of a brand new car.

The following day, June 30, Medialdea, upon the Mayors directive, handed a pair of white walking shorts
to Major Cao. When Malabanan asked Medialdea whose pair of shorts was that, the latter replied that it
was the short of Eileen which the Mayor wanted to be delivered to Major Cao.

That same day of June 30, Centeno went to see the Mayor at his house in Calauan about his worries
over reports that the driver of the ambulance involved in the rape-slay was being hunted down. The
Mayor gave Centeno P2,000.00 and advised him to keep silent or better yet, to go into hiding. Centeno
did hide himself until CIS agents accosted him at the Divisoria market on August 10, 1993. As to
Malabanan, he, Medialdea and Ama were brought to the PNP Sta. Cruz Command to shed light on the
cleaning of the Tamaraw van.
Coming now to the defense, each of the appellants had an alibi to tell and sought to put the blame on
Kit Alqueza, the son of a feared general (Dictador Alqueza) who earned the monicker Barako from the
local residents.

The Mayor claimed that he was at the residence of his mistress Elvira in Bay, Laguna in the morning of
June 28, 1993. They left for Makati City at about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon thereafter proceeded to
San Pablo City at around 4:00 p.m., left that city at 7:30 p.m. and then returned to Elviras house in Bay
at around 10:00 p.m. He and Elvira retired at around 12:30 in the morning. He woke up at 5:00 a.m.
Jogging was his favorite form of exercise, but foul whether prevented him from running that morning.
His three (3) children with Elvira greeted him at around 6:30 a.m. before heading for school. He took his
breakfast and lunch at Elviras house.

Medialdea, Ama and Malabanan arrived between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. and informed the Mayor of
the rape-slay in which Kit Alqueza was the prime suspect. This made the Mayor very angry, for which he
ordered a thorough investigation of the incident to avoid any whitewash. "I will not hesitate to have the
perpetrators of this crime killed (by electric chair), whether a generals son in involved or not, son of a
bitch!, he blurted. The Mayor then advised appellants not to worry if they were really innocent and that
the primordial concern is that a full investigation be conducted.

The Mayor then went to his residence in Calauan. At around 4:00 p.m. of that same day (June 29), he
sent his driver Mario Puyales to Barangays Masiit and Balayhangin to inquire from the residents about
the crime. Puyales returned at around 7:00 p.m. and informed the Mayor that a card gambler was able
to retrieve a pair of white shorts lying near the national highway in Barangay Balayhangin. Puyales was
sent back to that barangay to advise the residents thereof to keep the shorts at their fence near the
highway as it may later on aid the on-going investigation.

In the morning of June 30, 1993, the Mayor, with some companions, jogged towards the direction of
Barangay Mabacan and at the same time inquired from residents whether they noticed anything
unusual on the night of June 28, 1993. A certain Mang Torio told the Mayor that he found a pair of
maong pants lying at the side of the road but left if there. After inspecting the dirty maong pants, the
Mayor instructed Mang Torio to keep the pants as the former will send someone back to pick it up.

Eventually, the Mayor got hold of the pairs of white shorts and maong pants. The shorts was clean, with
complete beltloops and without any tear. He then ordered his driver Puyales to send the articles to
Medialdea for safekeeping. But during the trial, the Mayor, when shown the shorts and pants, claimed
that they are quite different from the articles he got hold of previously. The maong pants shown to him
by Mang Torio was of a darker shade of blue. As to the white shorts, it was the same pair he gave to
Medialdea, but now it is torn and has some missing beltloops.

Based on his own investigation, the Mayor came to know that Kit Alqueza is a feared and dangerous
student of the university, being a member of an elite fraternity in the campus and a generals son at that.
The Mayor later informed Congressman Tingzon of Kits probable involvement in the crime.
Congressman Tingzon, in turn, disclosed that Kit, his nephew-in-law (the congressmans wife is the sister
of Gen. Alquezas wife), was hiding in his house and that the legislator will call Gen. Alqueza in Davao City
to discuss the matter.

The Mayor also testified that he closely coordinated with Major Cao in investigating the case. This
included frequent evening conferences with Malabanan, medialdea and Ama who were members of
Major Caos investigation team.

Subsequently, the Mayor was requested to facilitate the surrender of Luis and Boy Corcolon to Camp
Crame since the CIS suspected them of being involved in the crime together with Kit. The Corcolon
brothers, accompanied by the Mayor, peacefully surrendered to CIS operatives in the afternoon of July
12, 1993.

On August 10, 1993, the Mayor received an anonymous phone call advising him that he would better
leave the country because he was to be arrested in three (3) days time. He refused to heed the advice
because he had nothing to do with the crime. And so he was apprehended on August 13, 1993 at his
Calauan residence and brought to Camp Vicente Lim where he was presented to the media. There he
saw Centeno and Malabanan who did not greet him. General Salimbangon ordered the two (2)
witnesses to implicate the Mayor. The general then ordered that the Mayor be handcuffed as he is the
rapist. You son of a bitch, Salibangon. You framed me up, the Mayor cursed.

The Mayor denied having given Centeno advice and P2,000.00 pocket money on June 30, 1993. It was
only in the courtroom that he saw Centeno, although he knows the latter. The Mayor also denied
Malabanans testimony implicating him in the crime. In fact, Malabanan wrote him letters asking for his
help. The trial court noted, however, that the letter adverted to by the Mayor were all addressed to
Judge Baldo.
Appellant Medialdea was Calauan policeman until his summary dismissal on September 10, 1993. He
claimed that he, being a member of a crack team formed by Major Cao and composed of Malabanan,
Luis and Ama, was preoccupied the whole day of June 28, 1993 conducting police operations on board
an ambulance in different barangays of the town in search of Tisoy. The fruitless operations ended at
about 9:00 p.m. of June 28. Driving the ambulance, he got home at around 10:30 p.m. where he saw his
wife playing mahjong with some friends. Medialdea joined the players for about an hour, then he slept
until 5:00 a.m. of the next day (June 29).

The crack team met again in the morning of June 29, 1993 to continue the manhunt for Tisoy. At around
7:15 a.m. in Barangay Imok, they saw Tisoy speed by in a motorcycle. Medialdea and Luis fired shots in
the air but Tisoy managed to escape. Centeno was not present when this event transpired because he
was instructed to go to the municipal hall with the ambulance.

Upon hearing news over the radio that a dead body was found at Sitio Paputok, Km. 74, Barangay
Mabacan, Medialdea radioed Centeno to fetch the group at the fishpond of one Gani. As soon as
Centeno arrived at around 8:00 a.m., they proceeded to Km. 74 where they saw Eileens body inside the
van parked in the sugarcane field. Major Cao and several policemen were already there. Medialdea had
to pull down Eileens T-shirt and roll up her underwear to spare her from numerous kibitzers staring at
her naked body. He recovered several scattered items inside the van like cigarette packs, a paddle, spike
shoes, and 5 bottles of beer. The van was then driven by a certain Gener to the UP Los Baos escorted by
the ambulance and Major Caos police car.

Thereafter, at around 9:30 a.m., Medialdea, on Major Caos directive, went to the Gomez residence and
asked for Allan. The maid told him that Allan has not come home since the night before and that she last
saw him at around 6:30 p.m. with one Jet Tejada. As there was no other person inside the house except
the maid, Medialdea, with her permission, searched for Allan inside but to no avail. Before leaving, he
instructed the maid to tell Allan that he better make good his hiding because Allan is a suspect in the
crime. At the Tejada residence, Jet was neither there. So Medialdea proceeded to the boarding house of
Eileen and instructed the landlady to inform calmly Eileens parents on what had happened to their
daughter.

Medialdea then returned to the UP Los Baos security force where he told Major Cao that Allan had
escaped. Before leaving UP campus to bring Eileens body to Calauan, Major Cao ordered Medialdea to
still look for Allan. When his efforts to find Allan inside the campus proved futile, Medialdea sought the
aid of Barangay Captain Cesar Ruiz who brought him to the barangay hall where Jet Tejada was. Tejada
strongly objected to Medialdeas insinuation of his and Allans participation in the crime, saying that they
can never do anything as dastardly as that.

Afterwards, a certain Allan, a barangay tanod, volunteered that he knew Allan. This Allan opines that if
Allan was dead then Kit had a hand on it since Allan had earned Kits ire when the former began dating
the latters girlfriend named Rose. Medialdea informed Major Cao that Allan perhaps has gone to Manila
with his father. The Major replied that Allan is here, but is likewise dead.

Ama then informed Major Cao that they have a suspect named Kit who had an axe to grind against
Allan. Then someone in the crowd uttered Ako iyon. Kit approached and told Ama that he and Allan had
patched up their differences three (3) months ago. Medialdea noticed a drop of blood on the middle of
Kits right thigh. Kit explained that the blood oozed after punching a wall with his right knuckle.

At the municipal hall, Ama handed an empty armalite shell recovered from the site where Allans body
was found. Thereafter, Arnold (the prisoner who was cleaning the van) was seen carrying the rubber
matting of the Tamaraw van to hang it over the municipal fence to dry. Ama could not help but curse
Arnold and ordered the latter to bring it back. Ama explained to Major Cao that they could be dragged
to the case just like what happened to the policeman in the Paraaque massacre who burned a mosquito
net and was thereafter sacked.

Medialdea also testified that it was Major Cao who ordered the cleaning of the van to diffuse the stench
caused by the blood stains therein.

Then on July 6, 1993, Medialdea, together with Ama and Malabanan, went to the PNP Sta. Cruz
Command to answer queries about the cleaning of the van. They were then brought to Canlubang
where they executed their respective sworn statements. Medialdea also recalled that Major Cao
instructed them not to say anything about the cleaning of the van. Afterwards, they were brought back
to the PNP Sta. Cruz and detained therein pending the filing of formal charges against them.

Major Cao visited Medialdea the next day, July 7. The major advised him that they should just point to
Malabanan as the one who cleaned the van. Medialdea did not heed his advice for he pitied Malabanan
and besides, it was Major Cao who really ordered its cleaning. The major then reiterated the reason why
he caused its cleaning (the unbearable stench of blood).
Days later, on July 16, 1993, Medialdea and Ama, together with Malabanan, were brought to the
Department of Justice where Fiscal Abesamis asked them to sign a waiver of their detention. On July 24,
1993, the three (3) men were led back to PNP Canlubang where Colonels Gualberto and Tiangco began
investigating then on July 27, 1993. During the investigation, Medialdea was being enticed by Col.
Gualberto to cooperate with the government by testifying against the Mayor, as there is an order from
the higher echelon to bring the Mayor down. He refused, saying that the Mayor is completely innocent
because he is pro-poor and the Mayor even walks the church aisle on his knees. Col. Gualberto
threatened that he will be dragged all the more to the case if he will not cooperate. Medialdea begged
for mercy and suggested that they should investigate Kit instead. The colonel said that messing up with
Kit is like ramming into a wall. Medialdea was then asked to sign a statement that contained inaccurate
answers. The inaccuracies were supplied by Col. Gualberto.

Medialdea also professed his ignorance before Col. Tiangco. This colonel was less diplomatic. He
splashed coffee on Medialdeas face, cursed him and whipped his face. So was Malabanan. The
investigators would hit then when they try to reason. Back to his cell, Medialdea heard Col. Tiangco
order somebody to have him killed in the evening.

On August 13, 1993, one Colonel Versoza advised Medialdea to follow Malabanan in testifying against
the Mayor. They will be placed under the Witness Protection Program where they would be entitled to
allowances, free housing facilities and the chance to go abroad with their families where they can live
peacefully, Col. Versoza assured them. Medialdea refused once again. Malabanan therafter informed
him that he and Centeno had already given false statements for they can no longer stand the torture
inflicted on them. But Medialdea stood pat with his refusal, for he cannot testify falsely against his
companions just to free himself. It is still better to live than to die a martyr, Malabanan answered.

We now to go appellant Luis Corcolons story which painted the Kit Alqueza angle in greater detail. In the
morning of June 25, 1993, three (3) men went to Luis residence in Barangay Mabacan. They told Luis
that their boss, Edgardo Lavadia alias Uod, wanted to see him the next day. Lavadia is a very generous
friend of Luis for so many years who, as a professional forger of checks, is being protected by General
Alqueza.

Luis arrived at Lavadias house at around 2:00 p.m. of June 26. There he saw Kit and Lavadias men.
Lavadia requested him to abduct and kill Allan because the latter has done something wrong to Kit. Luis
asked what Allans fault was and then suggested that if its just a small squabble, they better forgive
Allan. Lavadia insisted, but Luis appeared hesitant since it might put him in big trouble. Lavadia
tempered his request by asking Luis to merely help in getting rid of the body. Luis agreed. He and
Lavadia were to meet again on June 28, 1993 in the Bay cockpit. After this, Luis left.

Luis was also a member of the team formed by Major Cao to hunt down Tisoy. At around 8:30 in the
morning of June 28, 1993, he was fetched by Medialdea, Ama, Malabanan and proceeded to Barangay
Imok on board the ambulance driven by Centeno to apprehend Tisoy. At around 1:00 p.m., Luis left the
group and went to Bay cockpit to meet Lavadia, as agreed upon the previous day. When he arrived at
the cockpit, only Lavadias men were there. Luis then asked one of the men to tell Lavadia that he is
backing out of the agreement. He first attended the derby being held at the cockpit before returning to
Barangay Imok at around 5:00 p.m. and re-joined the team. They left Barangay Imok at around 7:30 p.m.
and proceeded to Barangay Wawa, San Pablo City where they stayed for about two (2) hours waiting for
Tisoy. Sensing that Tisoy would not be passing by, the team headed back for Calauan. Luis was driven
home first and reached his house at around 9:30 p.m. A certain Ernesto Bustillo was waiting for him to
borrow his passenger jeepney. Thereafter, Luis slept at around 10:30 p.m.

At around 4:45 a.m. of the next day (June 29) while Luis was preparing the breakfast of his children, a
Tamaraw van, driven by Kit, stopped in front of his house honking its horn continuously. Four (4)
motorcycle-riding men, each wearing bonnet masks and maong jackets, escorted the van. Kit sought his
help in burying at once the dead female body inside the van. Luis inspected the van and saw a naked
corpse of a woman. He refused Kits summons after which Luis immediately returned to his house,
turned off the lights and closed door for fear that Kits escorts would shoot him. The convoy then headed
towards the direction of Sitio Paputok, Km. 74.

At about 6:30 a.m., Luis, Centeno, Medialdea and Malabanan met and continued their surveillance of
Tisoy at Barangay Imok. They saw Tisoy pass by at around 7:10 a.m. but were not able to apprehend
him. The group thereafter went to Ganis fishpond at about 8:30 a.m. then proceeded to Km. 74 to verify
reports of a females death. There they saw the Tamaraw van with a dead woman inside. Luis recognized
the vehicle as that driven by Kit hours earlier, but he kept silent. The group then brought the van to the
UP Los Baos campus.

In the morning if June 30, 1993, Luis met the Mayor. The latter instructed him to investigate on who
dumped Eileens body at Km. 74. Luis obliged and said that he will make a report within a week. He,
however, did not tell the Mayor about Kits involvement in the crime.
On July 7, 1993, CIS agents of Canlubang raided his house during his absence thereat. The agents, his
wife said, planted a gun inside. The next day, Luis read in the papers that a P100,000.00 reward has
been offered for his and brother Boys capture. He rushed to the Mayor who advised him to remain
quiet.

In the afternoon of July 12, 1993, Luis went to Boys house upon being summoned by the Mayor who
was with General Quizon and Colonel Hilario. He and Boy were brought to Camp Crame for interview.
After the interview, the CIS took their sworn statements. The answers therein, Luis said, were furnished
by the agents. He signed the statement out to fear without the assistance of a lawyer of his own choice.
For several days, he was investigated by PACC agents. Then on or July 20, 1993, he and Boy were
transferred to CIS Canlubang and were interrogated by Col. Tiangco who repeatedly manhandled and
cursed him. Luis insisted on his innocence and suggested that it is Kit who they should investigate. After
the interview, Luis was tortured by way of water treatment, denied of food and was not allowed to
receive visitors. In the afternoon of June 28, 1993, Luis was brought before the PACC where he was
again manhandled during the 2-hour interrogation. He answered yes to all the questions hurled at him
because he was already dizzy. He was also informed that Lavadia had already executed a statement
saying that the latter paid him.

On August 1, 1993 at the PACC-TFH office, General Quizon was forcing him to testify against the Mayor.
He was also interviewed by media afterwhich, he was brought back to his cell where he met Lavadia. He
cursed and strangled Lavadia. Luis suggested that they should now tell the truth about Kits involvement,
but Lavadia advised him to remain silent because reprisal from General Alqueza would be far worse. Luis
was detained at the PACC until the start of the trial. He also filed a complaint for torture before the
Commission on Human Rights.

Boy Corcolon testified that he never left house on the night of June 28, 1993. He woke up at around 7:00
a.m. of the next day and proceeded to the Calauan police station on his motorcycle upon being
informed of the discovery of a dead female in sitio Paputok, Km. 74. After going to the municipal
building where he saw Ama, Major Cao and Judge Baldo, Boy followed Major Cao and his men in going
to Km. 74. There he saw the naked body of the dead woman inside the van. Boy thereafter followed the
van to the UP compound. Moments later, the van was brought to Calauan municipal hall compound. He
did not stay in the municipal hall, but went straight home instead.

The CIS agents raided his house on July 7, 1993. The next day, Boy read in the papers that he and his
brother Luis were being haunted down by the authorities and a P100,000.00 bounty is at stake for their
capture. He rushed to the house of the Mayor to inform the latter of the raid. The Mayor advised him to
remain calm and to avoid being visible.

In the afternoon of July 12, 1993, he and Luis were fetched by General Quizon and Colonel Hilario at Luis
residence and thereafter brought to Camp Crame. At the camp, press people interviewed them after
which they were led to a room for taking of their respective sworn statements. Boy claimed that he was
forced to give his statement after being kicked, slapped and cursed by the investigators. He tried to
correct portions of his statement but the investigating officer did not allow him. Boy and Luis were
detained at the camp until charges have been filed against them, for their refusal to cooperate with the
CIS.

On July 20, 1993, the two (2) brother were brought to an uninhabited place near a hill in Barangay
Paliparan where they were made to stand in front of the military group consisting of Generals Quizon
and Salimbangon, Colonel Gualberto and his men. Boy and Luis were each asked to hold an armalite
rifle, and then pictures were taken of them handing the rifles over to the generals.

The next day (June 21), they were brought to CIS Canlubang and stayed there until the start of the trial
in September, 1993. Boy claimed he was subjected to electric shock and water treatment to make him
confess his guilt.

Ama, also a member of the team involved in the Tisoy manhunt, related a similar story on the groups
sorties in different barangays on June 28, 1993. After the failed mission, Centeno dropped him off at his
residence in Barangay Masiit at about 10:00 p.m. of the same day and did not leave the house until the
next morning.

At around 6:15 a.m. of the next day (June 29), he was at Barangay Balayhangin to wait for Tisoy per
Medialdeas instruction. Minutes later, he saw Tisoy pass by on a motorcycle and thereafter reported the
matter to Medialdea. Ama learned of Eileens death at around 8:00 a.m. when he was at the Calauan
police station. Centeno thereafter picked him up and they, together with Medialdea, Malabanan and
Luis proceeded to Sitio Paputok where Eileens body was found.

From the university compound, he, Medialdea, Malabanan and a UP student named Butch went to
Allans house but the latter was not there. They also went to Jet Tejadas and Eileens boarding houses.
At Barangay Batong Malaki, Los Baos, barangay tanod Allan revealed to Medialdea that the dead Allans
enemy was Kit. Allan was fond of girls and there was a time when Kit got angry at and threatened Allan
when the latter dated Kits girlfriend Rose, the tanod narrated.

Ama and the rest of the group were able to talk to Jet Tejada who denied any involvement in the crime.
After Major Cao informed him that Allan is already dead, Ama told the major about the friction between
Allan and Kit. Then someone tapped Major Caos shoulder and identified himself as Kit who clarified that
he had patched up with Allan about three (3) months ago. Kit angrily pointed his finger at Ama, then
Major Cao pacified them. Ama asked Kit about the drops of blood on his right thigh. Kit explained that
the blood came from his right knuckle. He is our suspect Ama blurted. Major Cao, however,
reprimanded him for making such a loud comment.

*(On the cleaning of the van, Amas story is similar to Medialdeas account heretofore discussed).

Thereafter, Ama, Medialdea and Malabanan found their way to the Mayors residence in bay. Ama
revealed to the Mayor that Kit is the suspect. The Mayor said that Kit comes from a very powerful and
influential family, and that his father, General Alqueza, is a tough man. The Mayor nonetheless assured
them of his support.

On July 1, 1993, Ama accompanied some CIS personnel at the site where Allans body was found. They
found drops of blood, cigarette butts and wrappers in the area. Later in the afternoon, Ama went to
Canlubang as he was asked by Colonel Roxas to make a written report on the Kit Alqueza angle. He
completed his statement in about five (5) hours. The officer before whom he was sworn, Ama noticed,
was drunk.

On July 3, 1993, he received word that he was to undergo counter-insurgency training effective that
same day. Two (2) days after (July 5), he asked a certain Colonel Toco why he was being required to
undergo training again. The colonel promised to look into the matter. On that same day, Malabanan
informed him that Luis appeared panicky and was acting suspiciously, as the latter seemed to go back
and forth to the municipal hall and kept asking Malabanan for the names of people investigating the
case. Also on that day, Ama gave the NBI Regional Director some information about Kit and Luis which
started the NBI investigation.
On July 6, 1993, Ama, together with Medialdea and Malabanan, executed his statement in CIS
Canlubang assisted by one Atty. Exconde who asked him to sign the same even before Ama can read it.
At PHQ Sta. Cruz, the Deputy Provincial Commander for Operations fumed when he declared in his
statement that he was absent during the cleaning of the van. He declared so because Major Cao
instructed him to keep silent on that matter. Subsequently (July 7), he learned of Malabanans escape.

On July 24, 1993, Ama, Malabanan and Medialdea were brought to CIS Canlubang. They ate drugged
food which gave him chest pain and made him very weak and talkative. He saw Medialdea being
whipped on the head with a newspaper by one official.

Five days later (July 29), they were brought to the PACC where Luis pointed to them before the media.
The next day (July 30), he and General Alqueza met at the Department of Justice. The general cursed
him for dragging Kit in the case and even challenged him to a fistfight outside the building.

On August 7, 1993, at General Salimbangons office, the general informed him that his summary
dismissal is on hand unless he testifies against the Mayor. When he refused, the general cursed him.
Colonel Gualberto also tried to convince him by offering promotion, house and lot, monthly allowance,
or a chance to leave the country with his family. But Ama insisted on his innocence.

On August 13, 1993, a sobbing Malabanan embraced Ama and asked for his forgiveness because the
former has already implicated him falsely in the crime. Malabanan said he could no longer bear the
torture being inflicted on him and the threats on his life and family. He was also advised by Malabanan
to follow suit, but he refused once again.

Brion is the Mayors nephew. He denied being in the company of any of the appellants on the evening of
June 28, 1993 as he stayed at their house on J. del Valle St., Calauan the whole night. In the morning of
July 29, 1993, he was arrested at his father-in-laws house without any warrant. The arresting officer told
him that Colonel Navarro (PNP Director of Laguna) wanted to interview him. Brion was brought to the
Calamba police station from where he was taken to Canlubang. There, Col. Navarro cursed him for being
so elusive. Brion answered that he never went into hiding. Col. Navarro informed him that Luis Corcolon
has revealed that he was the third man to rape Eileen. Brion then heard Malabanan shouting that he is
taking all the blame for the crime if they would just spare the two students (Brion and Kawit) who are
totally innocent.
Brion, together with Malabanan, Ama and Luis, was brought to the office of the then Vice-President
Estrada who asked Ama and Malabanan whether they raped Eileen. Ama belied the accusation.
Malabanan, too, professed innocence and said that in the nine (9) years he stayed in Mindanao, it is his
first time to cry this way. This convinced the vice-president of Malabanans innocence. Kawit also cried at
this point. Brion saw Luis being held up by two men towards the room as Luis appeared to be on the
brink of collapse. One of the escorts then raised Luis hand so as to point at Brion.

On July 30, 1993, Brion, Ama, Malabanan, Kawit, Luis and Boy were brought to the Department of
Justice where Fiscal Zuo asked them to sign some papers. Luis was instructed to re-affirm his sworn
statement before the PACC while Brion and Kawit were asked to sign a waiver of detention. The three
(3), however, refused. Fiscal Zuo offered them a lawyer from the Public Assistance Office (PAO) to assist
them but Brion rejected the offer.

On August 6, 1993, General Quizon asked Brion to sign a confession but he refused. When a second
statement was prepared, he cried because he was allowed to read only that portion relating to his
personal circumstances before being forced to sign it without the assistance of a lawyer. Thereafter, he
was brought back to PHQ Sta. Cruz at around 5:00 p.m.

Brion related having executed a sworn statement detailing the methods of torture he underwent to
force him into implicating the Mayor, Ama, Medialdea and Malabanan, viz:

1) he would be placed in a doghouse-like cell fitted with loudspeakers;

2) his hands would be tied behind his back and he would be tied to a bench. A towel would be placed
over his mouth and nostrils, then 7-up is poured on his face;

3) his body would be whipped with guns.

No medical examination was ever conducted on him. More, his captors would padlock his cell whenever
Atty. Arias paid him a visit.
Kawit was a houseboy of the Mayor in his Calauan residence. He claimed he slept at around 9:00 p.m. of
June 28, 1993 and woke up at 6:00 a.m. the following day to water the plants.

On July 16, 1993, he was interrogated in connection with the deaths of Eileen and Allan. Later in the day,
Medialdea and some policemen fetched him at his house in Barangay Bagong Pook and brought him to
PHQ Sta. Cruz. Kawit was led into a room where Medialdea, in the presence of Centeno and Malabanan,
asked him the name of the girl who was reportedly shouting while Kawit was dragging her at CPAMMS.
Kawit answered that there were two (2) bar girls, whose names are Carla and Ninja Joyce, who were
shouting at Barangay Bagong Pook. Ama then entered the room and requested Malabanan and
Medialdea not to hurt Kawit. When Malabanan and Medialdea left the room, Kawit explained to Ama
that the two (2) bar girls complained of one Melvin Pajadan not paying them for their services.

Thereafter, Kawit was asked by one Major Uyami to make a statement. After signing the statement,
Kawit was told by investigator Cansanay that the major wanted him to include in his statement the
Mayors involvement in the Gomez-Sarmenta slaying, but Kawit refused. He was thus detained for the
night. A policeman in civilian clothes thereafter asked him to sign a paper bearing his name and the
handwritten words: Pauuwiin ka na bukas ng umaga. Kawit signed the paper, but he was not released
the next day.

Before this Court, Mayor Sanchez and Medialdea filed their consolidated Appellants Brief, and so did
Ama, Brion and Kawit. Brothers Luis and Boy Corcolon, on the other hand, filed separate appeal briefs.
Briefly, the pith of the assigned errors and the focus of the appellants arguments is the issue of
witnesses Centeno and Malabanans credibility, whose open-court narrations served as principal basis
for the trial courts rendition of a guilty verdict.

So oftenly repeated by this Court is that the matter of assigning values to declarations on the witness
stand is best and most competently performed by the trial judge[4] who had the unmatched
opportunity to observe the witnesses and to assess their credibility by the various indicia available but
not reflected in the record. The demeanor of the person on the stand can draw the line between fact
and fancy. The forthright answer or the hesitant pause, the quivering voice or the angry tone, the
flustered look or the sincere gaze, the modest blush or the guilty blanch these can reveal if the witness is
telling the truth or lying in his teeth.[5]
Judge Demetriou who presided over the entire trial until its very conclusion expressed her satisfaction
with the way witnesses Centeno and Malabanan survived the hot seat with flying colors, so to speak.
With respect to Centeno, the honorable Judge had this to say:

In thus passing upon the credibility of Centeno, this Court kept his alleged dubious reputation for
veracity in mind. But, after carefully reviewing the testimony of Centeno in his direct examination and
gruelling (sic) cross-examination for almost 3 months, this Court, even with a jaundiced eye, could not
help but be impressed about the myriad of details in his testimony and his frank, spontaneous and
straightforward manner of testifying. The lengthy and punishing cross-examination by seven lawyers to
which he was subjected failed to bring out any serious flaw or infirmity in his perception or recollection
of events or destroy the coherence of his narration. That Centeno merely wove such a yarn from his
fertile imagination, conflict with a multitude of details, is highly improbable considering that his highest
educational attainment was sixth grade in the elementary school.[6]

Similarly, Malabanan displayed a frank, straightforward manner of answering questions and a desire to
state all the facts within his knowledge, and his credibility was never shaken on cross-examination; there
was no indication of prevarication or evasiveness. Consequently, (his) testimony is entitled to full faith
and credit, the honorable Judge observed.[7] Her impressions of these star witnesses for the State bind
this Court, for we accord great respect if not finality, to the findings of the trial court on the credibility of
witnesses.[8] They, therefore, ought not to be disturbed.[9] And once the prosecution witnesses are
afforded full faith and credit, the defenses version necessarily stands discredited.[10]

To recall, all the appellants relied on the defense of denial/alibi, i.e., they were at their respective homes
on the night of the rape-slay. But Centeno and Malabanan confirmed the presence of all the appellants
on the night of June 28, 1993 till the early morning of the following day and detailed the exact
participation of each in the crime. Positive identification by credible witnesses of the accused as the
perpetrators of the crime, as we have consistently held, demolishes the alibi[11] - the much abused
sanctuary of felons.[12] Moreover, except for the Mayor who presented Ave Marie Tonee Jimenez
Sanchez (his daughter with his mistress Elvira) and Medialdea who presented his neighbor Anastacia
Gulay, the other appellants failed to present corroborating testimonial evidence to butress their
respective alibis. The defense of alibi is inherently weak especially when wanting in material
corroboration. Categorical declarations of witnesses for the prosecution of the details of the crime are
more credible than the uncorroborated alibi interposed by the accused.[13] Ave Maries testimony is of
no help to the Mayor, since alibi becomes less plausible as a defense when it is invoked and sought to be
crafted mainly by the accused himself and his immediate relatives.[14] Anastacia Gulays testimony is
likewise worthless since the trial court found her testimony rehearsed. We will not disturb this finding
because it touches on credibility.
In fine, the defense of alibi is an issue of fact that hinges on the credibility of witnesses, and the
assessment of the trial court, unless patently and clearly inconsistent, must be accepted.[15]

In an attempt to discredit Centeno, appellants principally harp on the contradictions in four (4) Sworn
Statements executed by Centeno on August 13, 1993, August 15, 1993, August 17, 1993 and August 30,
1993. The Solicitor Generals Office summarizes appellants asseverations on this point, viz:

Appellants point out that while in his Sworn Statement dated August 13, 1993, Centeno stated that after
the victims were seized, they were brought to CPAMMS, in his Sworn Statement dated August 15, 1993,
he claimed that the two were brought to Erais Farm (p. 86-96, Sanchez and Medialdea; p. 11-12, Luis
Corcolon; p. 38, Ama, Brion and Kawit; p. 10, Rogelio Corcolon). Appellant also point out that in the
August 13, 1993 Sworn Statement, Centeno merely referred to a person named Edwin (without stating
his family name) and another person he did not know who was in the place where the victims were
brought. In his Sworn Statement dated August 17, 1993, Centeno supplied the family name of Edwin as
Cosico and the name of the other person whom he did not know as Lito Angeles (pp. 96-97, Sanchez and
Medialdea).

Another major contradiction pointed out is that in his August 13, 1993 Sworn Statement, Centeno
mentioned that he drove the Corcolon brothers to the house of Edgardo Uod Lavadia in Bangkal Street,
Los Baos, Laguna. Upon arriving at the house of Lavadia, Centeno saw Lavadia and Teofilo Kit Alqueza
talking. Later Lavadia handed an envelop to Luis Corcolon. In the latest Sworn Statement dated August
30, 1993, Centeno stated that they did not go to the house of Lavadia and that during the whole day of
June 26, 1993, Centeno was with Malabanan (pp. 99-102, Sanchez and Medialdea; pp. 37-40, Ama, Brion
and Kawit; p. 8, Rogelio Corcolon).[16]

The trial judge found Centenos explanation on these inconsistencies satisfactory, justifying such finding
with pertinent jurisprudence. The Court, therefore, affirms and adopts her disquisition on the matter,
viz:

With respect to the portion of his sworn statement dated August 13, 1993 which implicated Kit Alqueza,
Centeno explained that it was dictated by a CIS agent named Rommel. He feared Rommel because the
latter threatened him that he would be hurt if he did not cooperate. Even when his family was already
under the custody of the CIS on August 15, 1993, he did not ask for the deletion of the said portion
because he was still under the CIS custody. It was only on August 30, 1993 when he was placed under
the Witness Protection Program that he found the courage to execute another sworn statement for the
specific purpose of deleting the reference to Kit Alqueza. Although he was placed under the Witness
Protection Program on August 17, 1993, there was a delay in his retraction of Kit Alquezas involvement
due to his inability to reach Fiscal Arellano.

Centenos explanation is quite believable because he had already implicated the accused Sanchez in his
sworn statement of August 13, 1993. Thus, the portion implicating Kit Alqueza does not jibe with the
main story of Centeno that Eileen Sarmenta was abducted by Medialdea, Ama, the Corcolon brothers,
Brion and Kawit to be given as a gift to their boss, Mayor Sanchez.

As to his sworn statement of August 15, 1993 where he stated that the victims were taken to Erais Farm
instead of CPAMMS as originally indicated in his August 13, 1993 sworn statement, Centeno explained
that when he gave his first statement he was still hoping that Mayor Sanchez would help him.
Furthermore, he feared the power and influence of the Mayor. Thus, according to him, he gave the
wrong place to mislead his investigators. It was only on August 15, 1993 when the accused Sanchez was
already in prison that Centeno decided to correct his previous statements.

This Court is inclined to accept the explanation of Centeno that his earlier attempt to mislead the
investigators by saying that the victims were taken to CPAMMS was out of fear of the Mayor. Our
Supreme Court has recognized that the inherent fear of reprisal by witnesses who refuse initially to
disclose what they know about a crime is quite understandable, especially when the accused is a man of
power and influence in the community (People v. Catao, 107 Phil. 861 [1960]).

In a recent case, People v. Pascua (206 SCRA 628 [1992]), the Supreme Court observed that Fear for
ones life explains the failure on the part of a witness to immediately notify the authorities of what
exactly transpired. And, [o]nce such fear is overcome by a more compelling need to narrate the truth,
the Supreme Court went on to say, then the witness must be welcomed by the courts to help dispense
justice.

Consequently, this Court will not reject the testimony of Centeno on the basis of inconsistencies in his
sworn statements taken by police authorities which have been sufficiently explained. What is more
important is that Centeno testified on the witness stand in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous
and frank manner and remained consistent on cross-examination. This Court, therefore, finds Centeno a
credible witness.[17]
To further fortify this observation, we advert to that all-too familiar rule that discrepancies between
sworn statements and testimonies made at the witness stand do not necessarily discredit the
witnesses.[18] Sworn statements/affidavits are generally subordinated in importance to open court
declarations because the former are often executed when an affiants mental faculties are not in such a
state as to afford him a fair opportunity of narrating in full the incident which has transpired.[19]
Testimonies given during trials are mush more exact and elaborate.[20] Thus, testimonial evidence
carries more weight than sworn statements/affidavits.

Appellants would also quibble on the following portions of Centenos testimony, to wit:

1) he could not give exactly where the appellants went after sexually abusing Eileen;]

2) he was unsure whether it was Eileens left or right foot that hit the chair of the van when she was
struggling;

3) he was unsure of their speed while on their way to the UP compound;

4) he could not give the exact distance between the ambulance he was driving and the van;

5) he said he could see the protruding end of the roof of a kubo when he parked the ambulance in front
of the Big J restaurant. Appellants claim that from where Centeno was allegedly standing, there was no
way he could see the roof of that kubo;

6) he was able to recall what appellants were wearing on that night of June 28, 1993;

7) he saw Kawit hit Allan at his diaphragm with the butt of an armalite, but the medico-legal finding of
Dr. Escueta revealed no injury in the abdominal region of Allan;
8) his testimony that the appellants raped Eileen inside the van which was very limited space, while
appellants could have chosen a far more comfortable or remote place to do the crime. With respect to
the Mayor, it was very unbelievable for him to commit rape inside his room filled with religious
adornments and in the process risk his reputation as mayor and an established man in the community;

9) his testimony to the effect that appellants rolled their pants down to their knees and then climbed
the van to rape Eileen. Appellants would consider such testimony impossible, claiming that the narrow
circumference of the waistline will impede and obstruct the upward movement of the legs.

10) his admission that he can lie for money, or out fear.

It may be conceded that these inconsistencies marred Centenos testimony, but they refer to trivial
details which do not, in actuality, touch upon the whys and wherefores of the crime committed.[21]
Equally settled is the rule that inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses when referring only to
minor details and collateral matters do not affect either the substance of their declaration, their
veracity, or the weight of their testimony. Although there may be inconsistencies on minor details, the
same do not impair the credibility of the witnesses where there is consistency in relating the principal
occurrence and positive identification of the assailants,[22] as in this case. Slight contradictions in fact
even serve to strengthen the sincerity of a witness and prove that his testimony is not rehearsed.[23]
They are fail-safes against memorized perjury.[24] Besides, errorless testimonies cannot be expected
especially when a witness is recounting details of a harrowing experience.[25] Even the most truthful
witnesses can make mistakes but such innocent lapses do not necessarily affect their credibility.[26]
Consequently, Centenos and Malabanans credibility still remains intact notwithstanding these
inconsistencies.

Other pieces of evidence further enhance the damaging testimonies of Centeno and Malabanan. For
one, a missing belt loop from the pair of white shorts worn by Eileen on the night of the crime was
recovered from Erais Farm by prosecution witness Major Lulita Chambers who, together with Col.
Gualberto and other officers, went there on August 19, 1993 to effect service of the search warrant
issued by RTC Judge Geraldez. Major Chambers, a forensic chemist, conducted a series of laboratory
examinations and later concluded that the retrieved beltloop matched in color, size and fiber
composition with a beltloop she detached from the white shorts of Eileen which she (Major Chambers)
used as a standard.
Another corroborating evidence is the M16 empty bullet shell recovered at the site where Allans body
was found. The ballistic examination on the empty shell conducted by FID-PNP Chief Ballistician Vicente
de Vera revealed that the striations of the empty shell were the same as those registered by the
cartridges from M16 rifle bearing Serial No. 773159 surrendered by Luis Corcolon. Mr. De Vera also
found the metallic fragments recovered from Eileens body, after conducting microscopic examinations
thereof, to bear the same characteristics as those from a bullet fired from an M16 rifle.

The autopsy and vaginal examination conducted by prosecution witness Dr. Vladimir V. Villaseor,
medico-legal officer of the PNP-CIS, on Eileens cadaver buttresses all the more the gang-rape story of
the prosecution. Dr. Villaseors findings, in a nutshell, disclosed the presence of multiple contusions on
Eileens body, fresh shallow lacerations on her hymen, a congested cervix, a gaping labia majora and
oozing whitish fluid (tested positive for spermatozoa) from the vaginal opening. Oozing spermatozoa,
Dr. Villaseor explained, means that the amount of semen was much more than the vaginal canal could
contain and that there were several seminal ejaculations that occurred therein. He also noted that a
great quantity of whitish fluid continued to ooze from Eileens vaginal opening despite her death for
several hours. Taking into account all these findings, Dr. Villaseor ruled out the possibility of any
consented sexual intercourse. In this connection, appellants would belittle Dr. Villaseors findings by
insisting as the more convincing opinion the defenses medical expert witness, Dr. Ernesto Brion who
testified to the effect that there can be no multiple rape if there is only one laceration on Eileens hymen
as testified to by Dr. Villaseor. We dismiss appellants argument by reiterating anew that the absence of
extensive abrasions or contusions on the vaginal wall does not rule out rape because the slightest
penetrations enough.[27] It is not an indispensable element for the successful prosecution of said
crime.[28] Moreover, Dr. Brion is an uncle by consanguinity and erstwhile counsel of record of the
Mayor, thus making his objectivity highly questionable.

Appellants Ama, Kawit and Brion would assail the trial courts finding that they were part of the
conspiracy to commit the rape-slay. Their concurrency of sentiment with the other appellants, however,
was evident from the time they abducted Eileen and Allan, brought the two to Erais Farm where Eileen
was raped by the Mayor and Allan beaten up black and blue, headed for a sugarcane field killing Allan
along the way, sexually abused Eileen in rapid succession and finally killed her. In not an instance did any
of the three appellants (Ama, Kawit and Brion) desist from that common design.[29] Likewise, the
complicity of the Mayor in the crime can be deduced from the following conversations he had with
some of the appellants at the Erais Farm (per Centenos testimony), viz.:

LUIS CORCOLON: Mayor, ito po yung regalo namin sa inyo. Ito po yung babae na matagal na po ninyong
kursunada.
MAYOR: Aba, and ganda talaga ng babaeng yan. Pero sino yung kasama ninyong lalake?

MEDIALDEA: Boss, kasama ho yan ng babae yung lalake. Isinama na rin ho namin para wala pong
bulilyaso.

After raping Eileen, the Mayor had this short exchange with Medialdea:

MAYOR: O sige mga anak, salamat sa regalo ninyo. Salamat sa regalo ninyo sa akin. Tapos na ako, sa inyo
na iyan. Bahala na kayo diyan. Ano naman ang gagawin ninyo diyan sa lalake?

MEDIALDEA: Boss, papatayin na rin po namin ito para wala pong bulilyaso.

Finally, on appellants claim that the publicity given to this case impaired their right to a fair trial, we
need only to revisit this Courts pronouncements in People v. Teehankee, Jr. (249 SCRA 54), viz:

We cannot sustain appellants claim that he was denied the right to impartial trial due to prejudicial
publicity. It is true that the print and broadcast media gave the case at bar pervasive publicity, just like
all high profile and high stake criminal trials. Then and now, we rule that the right of an accused to a fair
trial is not incompatible to a free press. To be sure, responsible reporting enhances an accuseds right to
a fair trial for, as well pointed out, a responsible press has always been regarded as the handmaiden of
effective judicial administration, especially in the criminal field x x x. The press does not simply publish
information about trials but guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police,
prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny and criticism.

Pervasive publicity is not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to fair trial. The mere fact that the
trial of appellant was given a day-to-day, gavel-to-gavel coverages does not by itself prove that the
publicity so permeated the mind of the trial judge and impaired his impartiality. For one, it is impossible
to seal the minds of members of the bench from pre-trial and other off-court publicity of sensational
criminal cases. The state of the art of our communication system brings news as they happen straight to
out breakfast tables and right to our bedrooms. These news form part of our everyday menu of the facts
and fictions of life. For another, our idea of a fair and impartial judge is not that of a hermit who is out of
touch with the world. We have not installed the jury system whose members are overly protected from
publicity lest they lose their impartiality. Criticisms against the jury system are mounting and Mark
Twains wit and wisdom put them all in better perspective when he observed: When a gentleman of high
social standing, intelligence, and probity swears that testimony given under the same oath will outweigh
with him, street talk and newspaper reports based upon mere hearsay, he is worth a hundred jurymen
who will swear to their own ignorance and stupidity x x x. Why could not the jury law be so altered as to
give men of brains and honesty an equal chance with fools and miscreants? Our judges are learned in
the law and trained to disregard off-court evidence and on-camera performances of parties to a
litigation. Their mere exposure to publications and publicity stunts does not per se fatally infect their
impartiality.

At best, appellant can only conjure possibility or prejudice on the part of the trial judge due to the
barrage of publicity that characterized the investigation and trial of the case. In Martelino, et al. v.
Alejsndro, et al., we rejected this standard of possibility of prejudice and adopted the test of actual
prejudice as we ruled that to warrant a finding of prejudicial publicity, there must be allegation and
proof that the judges have been unduly influenced, not simply that they might be, by the barrage of
publicity. In the case at bar, the records do not show that the trial judge developed actual bias against
appellant as a consequence of the extensive media coverage of the pre-trial and trial of his case. The
totality of circumstances of the case does not prove that the trial judge acquired a fixed opinion as a
result of prejudicial publicity which is incapable of change even by evidence presented during the trial.
Appellant has the burden to prove this actual bias and he has not discharged the burden.

And so we come to hear another tale of woe, of an infamous public figure and his minions indicted for
having raped and killed a young lady and a budding lad, of these victims who had led short obscure lives
that earned an equally ignominous end, and of a criminal enterprise so despicable only the unthinking
beasts can orchestrate. It was, indeed, a plot seemingly hatched in hell. And let it not be said that the
full protection of the law had been deprived appellants. Even a beast cannot deny this.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED in all respects. In addition, each of the
appellants having been found guilty of seven (7) counts of rape with homicide and considering that
existing jurisprudence pegs the amount of indemnity for the death of the victim at Fifty Thousand
(P50,000.00) Pesos, this Court hereby orders each of the appellants to pay the respective heirs of Eileen
Sarmenta and Allan Gomez the amount of Seven Hundred Thousand (P700,000.00) Pesos as additional
indemnity.

SO ORDERED.