FACTS: Sometime in September 1996, victim Josephine Deauna who was 19 years old at that time, was at their house in Block 10-A, Lot 7 of Nylon Street, Litex Village San Jose, Montalban, Rizal. She was lying down while her sister Jasmin was already sleeping when a man suddenly held her hand. She recognized the man to be her father, appellant Richard Deauna. Appellant proceeded to kiss Josephine’s neck, who was at that time lying on her stomach. Then appellant touched her breasts. Thereafter, appellant inserted his finger in Josephine’s vagina and played with it (‘Pinaglaruan niya ng kanyang daliri ang aking ari.’).
While Josephine was lying on her stomach, she felt appellant insert his penis in her vagina and felt pain at the penetration. Josephine, however, could not do anything because she was afraid of her father. When appellant withdrew, he warned Josephine not to tell her mother about this incident.
In another incident, one evening in July 1997, Josephine was already sleeping when appellant approached her again. Appellant kissed her neck and started playing with her body, particularly feeling her breasts. Appellant proceeded to touch her vagina and succeeded in having intercourse with her. Josephine kept her eyes shut and did not do anything for fear of her father.
Josephine later told her mother [of] these incidents but the latter refused to believe her. Thus, on August 2, 1997, Josephine went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to report the two (2) criminal incidents. There, she gave her sworn statements and the Medico-Legal expert in the person of Dr. Noel Minay subjected Josephine to a medical genital examination. The medico-legal corroborated Josephine’s testimony upon testifying there was indeed lacerations in the hymen. Richard Deauna was convicted two counts of the rape of his daughter Josephine Deauna.
The defense presented the testimonies of two medical officers in the National Center for Mental Health, one of which noted that the subject Josephine was insane because her thought processes were loose, there was derailment in the words used, and depersonalization (a strange sense of the personal self or the body) was evident. Josephine manifested that she was already dead and was brought back to life. The mental state of Josephine may be brought about by a situation, strong enough to bring her to the so called breaking point. There is doubt that when she testified in court, she was expressing her thoughts or feelings, truthfully or intelligently as her judgment was already clouded.
ISSUE: Whether or not the prosecution failed to establish proof beyond reasonable doubt
HELD: NO. Appellant claims that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. He avers that the testimony of complainant is uncorroborated and materially inconsistent with the medical findings of the examining doctor. He adds that her conduct after the alleged rape incident renders her accusations highly dubious. He points to alleged uncertainty as to the cause of her vaginal lacerations and insists that such uncertainty should be resolved in his favor. Moreover, he explains that she merely concocted the rape charges, allegedly because of a grudge against him for having disciplined her.
As regards the argument that the vaginal lacerations could have been caused by reasons other than penile penetration, suffice it to say that the presence or the absence of vaginal lacerations is of no moment. It is settled that a hymenal rupture or any indication of vaginal laceration or genital injury is not necessary for the consummation of rape.
The accused may be convicted on the basis of the lone uncorroborated testimony of the rape victim, provided that her testimony is clear, credible, convincing and otherwise consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. When a rape victim’s testimony is straightforward, unflawed by any material or significant inconsistency, it deserves full faith and credence and cannot be discarded.
The fact of rape and the identity of the perpetrator were sufficiently established by the prosecution on the basis of the clear, coherent and candid narration by the victim of the sexual abuse she suffered in the hands of her father.
As regards the allegation of appellant that his daughter merely fabricated the charges of rape against him in retaliation for his having whipped her, we find it hard to believe that she would concoct a tale of rape against her father, simply to take revenge for the physical maltreatment inflicted upon her. This Court has declared that parental punishment is not a sufficient reason for a daughter to falsely charge her father with rape. Even when chastised or consumed with revenge, a daughter, more so a young woman like the victim, would have to have a certain amount of psychological depravity to concoct a story that could take the life or the liberty of her father and drag herself and the rest of the family to shame and humiliation.
ISSUE: Whether or not Complainant’s testimony is credible
HELD: YES. In determining the credibility of the testimony of private complainant, the pivotal question to be resolved is whether she was insane when she testified in court on the rape incidents. In this connection, it may well be noted that during the pendency of the appeal, she submitted to the Court numerous letters and manifestations including an affidavit of desistance, essentially stating that her father had not raped her, and that she had been insane when she testified in court.
The normal state of mind of the victim was unperturbed even after the foregoing initial mental examination and remained intact during the early and the middle part of the trial. Although one of the expert witnesses testified that the mental illness of the victim could have existed prior to the diagnosis made on her, no clear and categorical statement to this effect was presented. In any event, courts are not bound by the opinions of expert witnesses on such matters, especially when they appear to be merely speculative and conjectural, as in this case.
Generally, expert opinions are regarded, not as conclusive, but as purely advisory in character. A court may place whatever weight it chooses upon such testimonies. It may even reject them, if it finds that they are inconsistent with the facts of the case or are otherwise unreasonable.
Even assuming that the victim was already insane during her earlier testimony, this fact alone will not render her statements incredible or inadmissible in evidence. Her mental imbalance or abnormal state of mind would not automatically affect her credibility. Indeed, even a mental retardate or feeble-minded person may qualify as a competent witness, considering that all persons who can perceive and, perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses.
Unsoundness of mind does not per se render a witness incompetent. One may be insane, yet be capable in law of giving competent testimony. The general rule is that lunatics or persons affected with insanity are admissible as witnesses, if they have sufficient understanding to apprehend the obligation of an oath and are capable of giving correct accounts of the matters that they have seen or heard with respect to the questions at issue.
As regards the recantation of the victim, we emphasize that mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate her original testimony. If such testimony was sufficiently clear, consistent and credible to establish the crime beyond reasonable doubt, a conviction may be based on it, notwithstanding its subsequent retraction. It has long been held that retractions are generally unreliable and are looked upon with considerable disfavor by the courts.
To be sure, recantations made by witnesses must be viewed with utmost caution and circumspection, because the motivations behind them may not necessarily be in consonance with the truth. Moreover, to automatically uphold them in any form would allow unscrupulous witnesses to trifle with the legal processes and make a mockery of established judicial proceedings, to the detriment of the entire justice system.