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People vs Dela Torre
G.R. No. 137953-58
April 11, 2002
Appellee WILFREDO DELA TORRE had three (3) children with his common-law wife Melinda Torre, namely: M1, M2 and M3. Melinda left her family when M1 was about seven (7) years old bringing with her M3. The victim lived with her father and brother M2 in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.
In January of 1997, Felita Sobrevilla, teacher of M1, noticed sudden changes in her behavior and when confronted, the latter admitted that she was sexually abused by her father. Her head teacher informed her Aunt Elpidia Balindo about the sexual abuses. They referred the case to the DSWD who took her under its custody.
M1 testified that her father committed sexual abuses on her on the following dates: September 30, 1996, October 10, 1996, October 18, 1996, November 01, 1996, November 12, 1996 and December 23, 1996.
A medical examination conducted by Dr. Milagrina Mayor, Rural Health Physician of Sta. Cruz, Zambales, on Mary Rose revealed that her hymen was broken with healed lacerations at the 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 nine o’clock positions. The girl also suffered from urinary tract infection.
(a) Whether appellee should be penalized with reclusion perpetua in each of the four indictments for rape, instead of imposing the supreme penalty of death as mandated by R.A. No. 7659?
(b) Whether an increase in the penalty imposed by the lower court will violate the right of the accused against double jeopardy.
The RTC ruled that "it was duly established that accused Wilfredo committed acts of lasciviousness against M1 on 30 September 1996 and 10 October 1996, and had carnal knowledge [of] M1 on 18 October 1996, 01 November 1996, 12 November 1996 and 23 December 1996." Further, the trial court added that the moral ascendancy of appellee over the victim was equivalent to intimidation. It did not give any probative value to his uncorroborated and unsubstantiated defenses of denial and alibi.
However, the court refused to impose the supreme penalty of death on appellee. It maintained that there were circumstances that mitigated the gravity of the offenses.
The prosecution asks this Court to modify the RTC Decision by imposing the supreme penalty of death on the accused. It argues that it has proven that the victim is the daughter of the accused, and that she was below eighteen (18) years old when the rapes took place. As a consequence, the trial court should have imposed the penalty of death pursuant to Section 11 of RA 7659.
Under Section 1, Rule 122 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure, any party may appeal from a judgment or final order, unless the accused will be placed in double jeopardy. This provision is substantially the same as that provided by the 1985 Rules.
In several cases, this Court has already definitively ruled on this issue. Recently, in People v. Leones, it unmistakably declared that "[w]hile it is true that this Court is the Court of last resort, there are allegations of error committed by a lower court which we ought not to look into to uphold the right of the accused. Such is the case in an appeal by the prosecution seeking to increase the penalty imposed upon the accused for this runs afoul of the right of the accused against double jeopardy."
The ban on double jeopardy is deeply rooted in jurisprudence. The doctrine has several avowed purposes. Primarily, it prevents the State from using its criminal processes as an instrument of harassment to wear out the accused by a multitude of cases with accumulated trials. It also serves the additional purpose of precluding the State, following an acquittal, from successively retrying the defendant in the hope of securing a conviction. And finally, it prevents the State, following conviction, from retrying the defendant again in the hope of securing a greater penalty.
"While certiorari may be used to correct an abusive acquittal, the petitioner in such extraordinary proceeding must clearly demonstrate that the lower court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. On the other hand, if the petition, regardless of its nomenclature, merely calls for an ordinary review of the findings of the court a quo, the constitutional right against double jeopardy would be violated. Such recourse is tantamount to converting the petition for certiorari into an appeal, contrary to the express injunction of the Constitution, the Rules of Court and prevailing jurisprudence on double jeopardy."
Case Digest by: cbcabalza2009