FACTS:Iniyot ako ni Mario, Fernan and Dondon.” That statement uttered by mental Retardate Mary Grace Labatete to her sister Werlinia upon seeing Fernan Pervera. This led to the investigation which resulted in an information of the crime of rape against Fernan Pervera, Mario Hamto and Ronald Cuesta. Mario and Ronald were apprehended but Fernan remained at large. Mary Grace was brought to the National Center for Mental Health for psychiatric examination. At the Criminal Investigation Section in Camp Crame, Mary Grace, with the assistance of her sister, gave a statement on the alleged rape.

Mary Grace testified that Fernan, Mario and Ronald raped her in the fifteen-seater double-tire jeepney. They all smelled of liquor at that time, according to her. It was Mario who raped her first, she said. Mario boxed her on the chest, covered her mouth and held her hands. Mario then removed her panty. Ronald prevented her from going out of the jeepney. Mario removed his pants and raped her. Afterwards, Mary Grace said “Ayaw ko nang magpaiyot“. The three refused to let her go and raped her again one after another. She felt pain. She did not tell her Ate Lina (Werlinia) about the incident because she forgot to do so.

Dr. Ma. Cristina Freyra, Medico-legal Officer of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory, also testified for the prosecution. In her report, she confirmed that Mary Grace had deep-healed lacerations at 3:00 o’clock and 6:00 o’clock positions indicating that she is no longer a virgin and that the deep-healed lacerations were inflicted more than seven (7) days prior to the examination.

Dr. Celeste Peña-Vista, a resident physician at the National Center for Mental Health, conducted a psychiatric examination of Mary Grace and found that Mary Grace was retarded with a mental age of a seven-year-old. It was also established that she had an IQ level of 35-42 and had “diminutive deficit in adoptive functioning.” She was perceptive but had difficulty in interpretation. She could tell what happened but found it difficult to know the meaning of things.

The Hamto used the defense of alibi, stating that he was at Atimonan Quezon for a ‘pasiyam’ in a funeral. Mario Hamto and Fernan Pervera were employed by Werlinia as drivers while Ronald Cuesta, nicknamed Dondon, was hired as conductor. Mario Hamto y Coderas and Ronald Cuesta y Overo are convicted of rape. Mario appealed his conviction.

ISSUE: Whether or not the testimony of a mental retardate may be given probative value.

HELD: YES. Although Mary Grace was mentally retarded, her testimony cannot be discredited. All persons who can perceive, and perceiving can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses. Mere intellectual weakness of a witness is not a ground to disqualify, or at the very least discredit, a witness. The intellectual weakness of Mary Grace does not make her incompetent as a witness if, at the time she testified, she had the mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, understand the nature and obligation of an oath, and give a fairly intelligent and reasonable narrative of the matters about which she testifies. Her narration as to how the rape was committed, in the court’s view, was straightforward, despite her mental weakness.

A perusal of said testimony would readily show that Mary Grace despite her mental deficiency was able to testify clearly and persuasively. The psychiatrist who examined her testified that Mary Grace was capable of being receptive and perceptive. She could tell what happened but found difficulty in interpreting things. Mary Grace’s credibility commands great weight and respect.

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