Monday, March 05, 2012

People vs. Sabardan [429 SCRA 9, May 21, 2004]

Facts: In September 15, 1991, Richelle Banluta, 12 years old, was scolded by her “adoptive” mother. Richelle packed a few clothes into her school bag and left the house. She passed the apartment of Domingo Sabardan, a catechist and her neighbor, while he was taking out his garbage. Sabardan asked Richelle where she was going, and she said that she was earlier berated by her mother so she left the house. He then invited Richelle to his apartment, and to spend the night there. Richelle felt happy, thinking that she was in good hands. Besides, she had nowhere to go. 

Sabardan led Richelle to a room on the second floor of the apartment, where she slept. The next morning, Sabardan served breakfast to her in that room. He told Richelle that Ella, who stayed in the house (probably the house help, but the case does not say) had left earlier. The room where Richelle slept had three padlocked windows with jalousies. 

That night, Sabardan entered the room completely naked. Richelle asked what he was doing but he did not respond. Richelle kicked him and pulled his hair and told him to get out, so he left the room. 

The next morning, Richelle told Sabardan that she wanted to go home already but Sabardan dissuaded her by saying that she will just be scolded by her mother if she returns home. Sabardan left the house, so Richelle tried to open the door but she found out that it was locked from outside. 

In the evening of her fourth day of detention, while Richelle was in the sala of the house, Sabardan forced her to drink beer. She refused at first, but he threatened to kill her if she did not drink, so she did. Sabardan then embraced her, kissed her and touched her breasts. She passed out afterwards. 

Richelle woke up to find herself completely naked and her vagina painful and bloody. She saw Sabardan lying naked beside her. She asked her what he did to her but Sabardan remained silent. Richelle washed her vagina with water. This event was repeated for another six times over the next week, with Sabardan forcing her to drink either beer or juice. 

On Sept. 30, 1991, Sabardan left the house, but closed the door outside with three padlocks. At about 5 a.m. on that same day, Elizabeth de Luna, a housewife who lived about 30 meters away from Sabardan heard someone shouting “Mang Domeng!” Elizabeth sensed that it was Richelle’s voice. She looked out of the window of her housed and saw Sabardan in the upper floor of his apartment, walking to and fro. 

Elizabeth waited for daybreak, and at 6 a.m. reported the incident to Val Banluta, Richelle’s brother. They went to Sabardan’s house and knocked on the door. No one responded. They kept the incident to themselves (and weird!) At 11 a.m. Elizabeth sensed that someone was watching TV inside the house. She told of the incident to Richelle’s other brother, Rico, who climbed the wall of Sabardan’s house which was next to a vacant lot. Through the window he saw Richelle inside the apartment. Rico and Val went to the police station to report the incident. Instead of destroying the padlocks, the policemen asked Rico and his friends to climb over the wall. Rico and superfriends manage to get Richelle out of the house by removing the jalousies. Sabardan was not in the house at that time. Richelle was brought to the police station for investigation. A physical and medical examination revealed that there were healed lacerations on her hymen. 

Issue: Is Sabardan guilty of serious illegal detention? 

Held: No. Sabardan contends that Richelle consented to stay in his apartment; hence, he cannot be convicted of serious illegal detention. The SC agrees with Sabardan that he is not guilty of serious illegal detention, but does not agree that Richelle consented to stay in his apartment from Sept. 17-30. When she ran away and had nowhere to go, she believed at that time that she was safe with Sabardan because he was their neighbor and also he brother’s friend. However, when he sat naked on her bed, Richelle decided to leave the next day. She balked at leaving only when Sabardan warned her that her mother would scold her for sleeping at his apartment. Obviously, this act of Sabardan instilled fear in her mind to force Richelle to stay in his apartment. Richelle should have left the apartment and returned home that day, but she was merely twelve and cannot be expected to make decisions the way an adult would. She could not have foreseen Sabardan’s evil intent of raping her. 

In light of the evidence, the original and primordial intention of Sabardan in keeping Richelle in his apartment was to rape her and not to deprive her of liberty. Hence, he is only guilty of rape under Art. 335, paragraph 1 of the RPC, not the complex crime of serious illegal detention with rape under Art. 267, in relation to Arts. 335 and 48 of the RPC. Hence, the trial court correctly sentenced Sabardan to reclusion perpetua.

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