Right decision, wrong sentence A Law Each Day [Keeps Trouble Away]
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Pursuant to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, when rape is committed by the stepfather of the victim, death penalty may be imposed on the accused if such relationship is properly alleged in the Information and duly proven in Court. If the accused however is merely the common law husband of the victim’s mother, will the sentence still be death? What must be shown to prove that the accused is really the stepfather of the victim? These are the questions answered in the following case. Also tackled here is whether the delay in making the criminal accusation will affect the credibility of the victim’s testimony.

This is the case of tomboyish but obedient girl Jackie, the only surviving child of Doray with her late husband Mando. When Jackie was only three years old and after the death of Mando, Doray already started living with Edgar without the benefit of marriage. Jackie regarded Edgar as her own father and affectionately addressed him as “Papa”. To support their family, Edgar worked six days a week at a factory while Doray peddled food and drinks at a dancing hall until late evening.

When Jackie was about 15 years old, during one Saturday evening in the month of January, Edgar took advantage of Doray’s absence as he embraced Jackie, poked a knife at her neck and warned her not to shout. Then despite her struggle to free herself, Edgar was able to satisfy his lusts on Jackie after mashing her breast and tying her legs on the bedpost. The sexual assault was repeated on two more Saturdays in the month of March and July. Unable to bear the repeated indignity and seeming indifference of her mother Doray, Jackie left home for the next three months and worked as a domestic helper. Later she her employer and wandered from place to place with her peers. Then she was caught by the police pilfering several packs of cigarette at a market stall.

In the interview conducted by SPO4 Marites, Jackie narrated that she ran away from their home because Edgar raped her on three occasions although she could not remember the exact date while her mother Doray seemed to be indifferent to the ordeals and indignities she suffered. After being entrusted to the care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), three counts of rape were filed against Edgar before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Edgar, “the stepfather of the offended party by means of force, violence, threat and intimidation.”

Jackie and a guidance psychologist testified for the prosecution to prove the charges and to show her schizophrenic personality and why she is suffering from anxiety and anger because of the hurt and resentment she felt due to her strained relationship with her mother and Edgar.

For his defense, Edgar denied the charges and claimed that he was at work when the alleged rapes happened. This was corroborated by a co-worker and by Doray herself who testified that the alleged rapes never happened as she was with her all those times.

The RTC did not buy the defense of denial and alibi of Edgar and relied more on the testimony of Jackie. Thus it rendered judgment finding Edgar guilty of triple rapes, sentencing him to three death penalties plus payment of indemnity and exemplary damages.

On automatic review by the Supreme Court, Edgar insisted that the charges against him were mere fabrications of Jackie to get back at him for his heavy handed method of discipline. He also contended that her choosing to report the rapes to the authorities more than a year after the occurrence is indicative of a deceitful scheme to escape from an impending indictment for theft by appealing to the sense of pity of the police officers.

But the Supreme Court still convicted Edgar of three rapes despite some inconsistencies in Jackie’s testimony especially as to the date and place where the rapes happened. It declared that these inconsistencies are not valid and sufficient justification for totally discarding Jackie’s testimony for they are minor inconsistencies indicative of unrehearsed account. The exact dates when she was ravished did not lessen the veracity of her testimony for they are not essential elements in the commission of rapes. The SC found Jackie’s testimony to be candid and straightforward. The SC said that it is highly improbable for a girl her age and with a low IQ to concoct an elaborate tale without wavering in material points.

The SC also said that the delay of Jackie in making the criminal accusation did not impair her credibility because it was merely due to the fear that her “father” might kill her. Edgar’s moral ascendancy and his threats against her were enough to intimidate her. And when she told her mother of the wrong done to her, her mother did not believe her and even sided with Edgar thus forcing her to run away from home.

But the SC ruled that instead of three death sentences, only reclusion perpetua should be imposed on Edgar because the three Informations for rapes alleged that Edgar was the stepfather of Jackie although the prosecution was able to prove that he was a common-law husband of Doray her mother, as they were never married (People vs. Magtrayo, G.R. 134480-82, October 4, 2000).

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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