Capable and competent
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Under Rule 130 (Sec 20) of the Rules of Court, any person who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be a witness. This is the general requirement for a person to be a competent witness in court.  But can a child who has been a victim of accuse testify as a witness? Is there an age requirement for a witness? How can her testimony be acceptable and credible? What are the reasons that may render her testimony incredible or inadmissible? These are the issues raised and answered in this case of Maya.

Maya is the seven-year-old daughter of Ernie. Father and daughter are living peacefully under one roof together with Ernie’s sister Lisa and Lisa’s common law husband Dindo. Also living in the same house is Jericho the brother of Dindo.

The peaceful atmosphere in the house was rocked one day when Pat, the mother of Ernie and Lisa and the Lola of Maya asked Maya to call Lisa, her aunt, who was then taking an afternoon nap. As Maya knocked at the door of Lisa’s room, Jericho suddenly pulled her into his adjacent room, then mercilessly ravished her. After quite a considerable time in satisfying his lust,   Jericho warned Maya not to tell anybody about what happened to her.

The following day however, Lisa noticed Maya’s bloody underwear in the washroom. So she confronted Maya who was forced to tell Lisa what Jericho did to her. Then Lisa shared the information to Ernie who saw Maya still bleeding. Ernie told Lisa to keep quiet first and asked her to accompany Maya to the police station as he stayed behind to ensure that Jericho would not leave the house. The police also saw Maya and were convinced that the young girl had been raped. So Jericho was brought to the police station and detained for investigation. Then Maya was examined by the NBI medico legal officer who confirmed that she was sexually abused. After Jericho was charged in court with the crime of rape, the seven-year-old Maya testified in a credible, natural and convincing manner consistent with human nature.

On the other hand, in his defense, Jericho presented his brother Dindo who claimed that he was the true father of Maya and as such was withdrawing the charge of rape. This was not accepted by the lower court because in Maya’s birth certificate, her father is “unknown”. Furthermore Lisa also testified on rebuttal and disputed Dindo’s allegation. She said that it was her brother Ernie who raised Maya as his own child.

So, after weighing the evidence, the trial court rendered judgment convicting Jericho of rape and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua. He was also ordered to pay moral damages to the victim and her heirs.

On appeal to the Supreme Court (SC), Jericho maintains his innocence and claims that it is unbelievable that Maya, at her tender age, could classify the incident as “rape” without previous instructions from someone legally well versed. Thus, according to Jericho, Maya was well rehearsed on what to testify in the witness stand. The SC however ruled that the evidence pointing to Jericho’s culpability is so overwhelming. According to the SC, there is no question that Maya was seven years old at the time she was sexually abused. For all intents and purposes, this type of sexual abuse is statutory rape. So no proof of involuntariness on the part of the victim is necessary as she is considered by law to be incapable of consenting to the sexual act. To convict the accused, the only circumstance that needs to be proven is the fact of intercourse. And in this regard the sole testimony of Maya is enough proof because it is credible, natural, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature, as found by the trial court.

Even on cross examination, the seven year old lass did not waver in pointing at Jericho as her ravisher. Besides, Maya could not be mistaken about the identity of Jericho as the one who abused her because they were living in the same house prior to that fateful day of the incident.

As regards the sole defense of Jericho that his brother Dindo is the father of Maya and that the latter was withdrawing the complaint, the prosecution submitted sufficient evidence rebutting said defense. So Dindo could not validly withdraw the complaint. Even assuming that Dindo was indeed the father of Maya, he still cannot solely withdraw the complaint because it was filed by Maya herself with the assistance of her known father, Ernie, which was adequate to confer jurisdiction on the trial court to try and hear the case. A minor has the right to institute a criminal action by herself or successively, through her parents, grandparents or guardian. Besides, under the Rules of Criminal Procedure (Section 5, Rule 110), the offended party, even if a minor, has the right to initiate the prosecution for rape independently of her parents, grandparents or guardian, unless she is incompetent or incapable of doing so upon grounds other than minority.

So the decision of the trial court as to the guilt and the sentence of Jericho is affirmed with the modification that he should also indemnify Maya, in the amount of P75,000 and pay moral damages of P80,000 (People vs. Ignacio G.R. 114849, Aug. 24, 1998).

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

 

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