Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Round-up Jan 26-28 2k10 SC Decisions

The Supreme Court closes the first month of the year with four decisions. It fines CA Associate Justice Amelita Tolentino in the amount of PHP 15,000 for delay in resolving a Motion for Voluntary Inhibition. Justice Tolentino was the judge who convicted Hubert Webb and company in the notorious Visconde Massacre case.

The Court also dismisses a petition for certiorari for failure of the petitioner to file a motion fo reconsideration, and declares that the Court would not annul a simulated sale if a litigant who wanted it annulled was party to the simulation.

Justice Corona (will he or will he not be the next Chief Justice?) writes the Court's opinion as it rejects the recanted testimony of a rape victim and affirms the conviction of the rapist. The Court said,

We affirm the decision of the CA but modify the award of damages.

We see no cogent reason to disturb the factual findings of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, that appellant forced AAA, on three separate occasions, and BBB, to engage in sexual intercourse with him.

The “sweetheart theory” is an admission of carnal knowledge of the victim and consequently places on the accused the burden of proving the supposed relationship by substantial evidence. Appellant presented no evidence to substantiate his claim.

Furthermore, the Court does not look with favor on affidavits of retraction. Recanted testimony is highly questionable because it can be secured through monetary considerations. It is dangerous for courts to reject testimonies solemnly given before the courts of justice simply because the witnesses who made them change their minds later on. Such a rule would make solemn trials a mockery and place the investigation of truth at the mercy of unscrupulous witnesses. Here, the affidavit of retraction was precisely executed by AAA in exchange for financial assistance and land (which she never received).

Lastly, the Court has time and time again ruled that denial and alibi are inherently weak defenses as these are self-serving.

Appellant’s guilt of the crime of simple rape through force or intimidation has been established beyond reasonable doubt. Pursuant to recent jurisprudence, the award of P50,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as moral damages and P25,000 as exemplary damages for each count of rape (or P375,000 to AAA and P125,000 to BBB) is in order. Inasmuch as the minority of both AAA and BBB was not proven and their relationship with appellant was outside the scope of Article 14 of the RPC and Article 266-B of RA No 8353, these circumstances cannot be considered as aggravating circumstances.

Nonetheless, the victims are entitled to exemplary damages since appellant used a deadly weapon to perpetrate the offense. While the use of a deadly weapon is not one of the generic aggravating circumstances in Article 14 of the RPC, under Article 266-B thereof, the presence of such circumstance in the commission of rape increases the penalty, provided that it has been alleged in the Information and proved during trial. This manifests the legislative intent to treat the accused who resorts to this particular circumstance as one with greater perversity and, concomitantly, to address it by imposing a greater degree of liability. Thus, even if the use of a deadly weapon is not alleged in the Information but is proven during the trial, it may be appreciated to justify the award of civil liability, particularly exemplary damages.

In this instance, while the Information did not state that appellant possessed a deadly weapon, the prosecution sufficiently established that he threatened his victims with a knife in order to facilitate the commission of his bestial acts and cow his victims into silence. Inasmuch as appellant may not be sentenced to death, the presence of such circumstance justifies the award of exemplary damages.

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