People of the Philippines vs Teodoro
G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013
Facts: Two informations, both dated March 25, 1998, charged Teodoro with statutory rape. Based on the medical certificate, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Norte charged Teodoro with two counts of statutory rape through the informations. At his arraignment on August 17, 1998, Teodoro pleaded not guilty to the informations. Although he subsequently manifested a willingness to change the pleas to guilty, he balked when he was re-arraigned on December 23, 1998 by qualifying that he had only “fingered” AAA. Accordingly, the RTC reinstated his pleas of not guilty. During the trial, AAA and BBB testified for the Prosecution, but two years later recanted and turned hostile towards the Prosecution, now telling the RTC that Teodoro had only touched AAA’s vagina on the nights of December 18, 1997 and February 8, 1998.
Issue: Whether or not the recantation of the victim be considered in determining the penalty of the accused.
Held: No. The crimes charged were two counts of statutory rape. The elements of statutory rape are that: (a) the victim is a female under 12 years or is demented; and (b) the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim. Considering that the essence of statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a female without her consent, neither the use of force, threat or intimidation on the female, nor the female’s deprivation of reason or being otherwise unconscious, nor the employment on the female of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority is necessary to commit statutory rape. Full penile penetration of the female’s genitalia is not likewise required, because carnal knowledge is simply the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman.
In objective terms, carnal knowledge, the other essential element in consummated statutory rape, does not require full penile penetration of the female. The Court has clarified in People v. Campuhan that the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge. All that is necessary to reach the consummated stage of rape is for the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act to come into contact with the lips of the pudendum of the victim. This means that the rape is consummated once the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act touches either labia of the pudendum. As the Court has explained in People v. Bali-Balita, the touching that constitutes rape does not mean mere epidermal contact, or stroking or grazing of organs, or a slight brush or a scrape of the penis on the external layer of the victim’s vagina, or the mons pubis, but rather the erect penis touching the labias or sliding into the female genitalia. Accordingly, the conclusion that touching the labia majora or the labia minora of the pudendum constitutes consummated rape proceeds from the physical fact that the labias are physically situated beneath the mons pubis or the vaginal surface, such that for the penis to touch either of them is to attain some degree of penetration beneath the surface of the female genitalia. It is required, however, that this manner of touching of the labias must be sufficiently and convincingly established.
As a rule, recantation is viewed with disfavor firstly because the recantation of her testimony by a vital witness of the State like AAA is exceedingly unreliable, and secondly because there is always the possibility that such recantation may later be repudiated. Indeed, to disregard testimony solemnly given in court simply because the witness recants it ignores the possibility that intimidation or monetary considerations may have caused the recantation. Court proceedings, in which testimony upon oath or affirmation is required to be truthful under all circumstances, are trivialized by the recantation. The trial in which the recanted testimony was given is made a mockery, and the investigation is placed at the mercy of an unscrupulous witness. Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the party adversely affected to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it. The recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand. In that respect, the finding of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons necessitate its re-examination, the reason being that the trial court is in a better position to hear first-hand and observe the deportment, conduct and attitude of the witnesses.