Thursday, April 05, 2012

PEOPLE VS. MIÑON [G.R. Nos. 148397-400]

Facts: The accused was charged of four (4) counts of QUALIFIED RAPE, committed against his two nieces and two cousins. The accused interposed a defense of alibi, which was disregarded by the trial court who then found him guilty of three (3) counts of rape and dismissed the other complaint, with the attending circumstance in all the three (3) cases, that the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a relative by consanguinity within the third civil degree and sentenced him to suffer three (3) DEATH penalties. 

Issue: Whether or not the death penalty be imposed upon the accused. 

Held: NO. The attendant circumstances provided by Republic Act 7659 must be specifically alleged in the information for rape in order that they may properly qualify the crime to the penalty specially prescribed by law. 

In qualified rape, the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender must both be alleged and proved with certainty; otherwise the death penalty cannot be imposed. Thus, even if the victim’s minority is alleged in the information, the prosecution must still prove clearly and adequately that the victim was under eighteen (18) years of age at the time of the rape. There must be independent evidence proving the age of the victim, other than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses and the absence of denial by the accused. Where there is no evidence at all of the minority age of the victim or where the evidence is weak, unreliable and insufficient, the Court is impelled not to impose the death penalty. In the present case, while the age of the private complainants at the time of the rape was indicated in the Informations, the prosecution was not able to establish their age during trial. At most, their ages were mentioned only at the beginning of their testimonies describing their personal circumstances. 

Furthermore, it has been previously held that if the accused is merely a relation - not a parent, ascendant, step-parent, or guardian or common-law spouse of the mother of the victim - it must be alleged in the information that he is "a relative by consanguinity of affinity (as the case may be) within the third civil degree." The relationship by consanguinity or affinity between the accused and private complainants was not alleged in the Informations in this case. The allegation that the private complainants are cousins of the accused is not specific enough to satisfy the special qualifying circumstance of relationship. Besides, even if it were so alleged, it was still necessary to specifically allege that such relationship was within the third civil degree. 

More importantly, in the case at bar, the accused is a first cousin of the private complainants. As properly pointed out by the accused, he is merely a relative within the fourth civil degree of the private complainants. Consequently, he cannot be held liable for qualified rape under Art. 266-B of the Revised Penal Code. The death penalty cannot be imposed in this case. 

It must be noted that the trial court ordered the accused to pay private complainants only the civil liability arising from the offense in the amount of P50,000.00 each. This is equivalent to actual or compensatory damages in civil law. However, in addition to the civil indemnity in such amount the offended parties are entitled to moral damages, which are automatically granted in rape cases without need of any proof. Currently, moral damages for rape is fixed at P50,000.00. Hence, the additional sum of P50,000.00 each should be awarded to Eloisa and Elizabeth Miñon.

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