Thursday, April 12, 2012

Witness; inconsistencies in testimony - G.R. No. 175924

G.R. No. 175924

"x x x.

Our review reveals, however, that Sabadlab has not tendered any clear and persuasive reasons that may warrant the reversal or modification of the findings of both lower courts on the credibility of AAA and his criminal liability. The supposed inconsistencies dwelled on minor details or collateral matters that the CA precisely held to be badges of veracity and manifestations of truthfulness due to their tendency of demonstrating that the testimony had not been rehearsed or concocted. It is also basic that inconsistencies bearing on minor details or collateral matters should not adversely affect the substance of the witness’ declaration, veracity, or weight of testimony.[12] The only inconsistencies that might have discredited the victim’s credible testimony were those that affected or related to the elements of the crime. Alas, that was not true herein.

The supposed inconsistencies were inconsequential to the issue of guilt. For one, the matter of who of the three rapists had blindfolded and undressed AAA was trifling, because her confusion did not alter the fact that she had been really blindfolded and rendered naked. Nor did the failure to produce any torn apparel of AAA disprove the crime charged, it being without dispute that the tearing of the victim’s apparel was not necessary in the commission of the crime charged. In fact, she did not even state that her clothes had been torn when Sabadlab had forcibly undressed her. Verily, details and matters that did not detract from the commission of the crime did not diminish her credibility.

We hardly need to remind that the task of assigning values to the testimonies of witnesses and of weighing their credibility is best left to the trial judge by virtue of the first-hand impressions he derives while the witnesses testify before him.[13]  The demeanor on the witness chair of persons sworn to tell the truth in judicial proceedings is a significant element of judicial adjudication because it can draw the line between fact and fancy. Their forthright answers or hesitant pauses, their quivering voices or angry tones, their flustered looks or sincere gazes, their modest blushes or guilty blanches  -  all these can reveal if the witnesses are telling the truth or lying in their teeth.[14] As the final appellate reviewer in this case, then, we bow to the age-old norm to accord the utmost respect to the findings and conclusions on the credibility of witnesses reached by the trial judge on account of his unmatched opportunity to observe the witnesses and on account of his personal access to the various indicia available but not reflected in the record.[15]

Secondly, AAA’s recollection of the principal occurrence and her positive identification of the rapists, particularly Sabadlab, were firm. It is reassuring, too, that her trustworthiness in identifying Sabadlab as one of the rapists rested on her recognition of him as the man who had frequently flirted with her at the store where she had usually bought pandesal for her employer’s table. As such, the identification of him as one of the rapists became impervious to doubt.  

Thirdly, AAA’s failure to shout for help and her failure to escape were not factors that should diminish credibility due to their being plausibly explained, the first by the fact that her mouth had been stuffed by Sabadlab with crumpled newspaper, preventing her from making any outcry, and the second by the fact that the culprits had blindfolded her and had also tied her hands behind her back. 

And, lastly, Sabadlab’s allegation that AAA did not sustain any bodily injuries was actually contrary to the medical certification showing her several physical injuries and the penetration of her female organ.[16] This should debunk without difficulty his submission that she did not offer any resistance to the sexual assaults she suffered. Her resistance to Sabadlab’s order for her to go with him was immediately stifled by his poking of the gun at her throat and by appearance of his two cohorts. At any rate, it is notable that among the amendments of the law on rape introduced under Republic Act No. 8353 (The Anti-Rape Act of 1997) is Section 266-D, which adverts to the degree of resistance that the victim may put up against the rapist, viz:

Article 266-D. Presumptions. -  Any physical overt act manifesting resistance against the act of rape in any degree from the offended party, or where the offended party is so situated as to render her/him incapable of giving valid consent, may be accepted as evidence in the prosecution of the acts punished under Article 266-A.

x x x."