• Exemplary damages in rape cases

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    A fifty-four year-old man was charged with qualified rape for allegedly having sexual intercourse with his thirteen year-old grandneice. The accused was the brother of the young girl’s paternal grandfather whom she fondly called “Papa.” The granduncle was very close to his brothers family and even lived with them for four months while his house was being built. After the house’s completion, the granduncle moved into his new house along with the grandneice because he had promised to send her to school.

    She lived with him for three years and it was while she was living with him that she got raped several times. The granduncle threatened to kill his grandneice if she told anyone. Thus, she never did. But eventually, she got pregnant and she could no longer keep her secret. The granduncle initially denied the accusations and even told everyone that a certain Boyet was the father but eventually defended himself by using the sweetheart theory that they were in love and living together as husband and wife.

    The trial court found the accused guilty of rape beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals (CA) modified the trial court’s decision, ruling that only simple rape was commited because the prosecution was not able to prove that the victim was a minor and what was alleged in the information was that the accused was her grandfather and not her granduncle. The CA also ordered him to pay the victim and her family P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and another P50,000.00 as moral damages.

    On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the CA’s decision of simple rape. It noted that even if the information properly alleged the blood relationship of the accused with the victim, granduncle instead of grandfather, the accused would only be liable for simple rape because a granduncle is a relative of the victim in the fourth civil degree. For blood relationship to be considered a qualifying circumstance, Art. 266-B, par. 5(1), Anti-Rape Law of 1997, provides that the accused must be a relative within the third civil degree.

    The SC also awarded exemplary damages to the grandneice, in addition to the civil indemnities and moral damages granted by the lower courts, given the alarming circumstances of the case due to the age of the grandneice and the moral influence and ascendancy the accused had over her. Moreover, facts of the case evidenced that the grandneice treated him like her own father. Citing People v. Rante, the Court held that “exemplary damages can be awarded, not only in the presence of an aggravating circumstance, but also where the circumstances of the case show the highly reprehensible or outrageous conduct of the offender.”

    In the case at bar, accused-appellant exhibited an extremely appalling behavior in forcing himself upon his thirteen-year old grandniece, threatening to kill her, and even persisted in humiliating her by depicting her as a girl with very loose morals. Accordingly, “to set a public example [and]serve as deterrent to elders who abuse and corrupt the youth,” we hereby award exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 to AAA in accordance with Art. 2229 [of the Civil Code](People v. Deligero, G.R. No. 189280, 17 April 2013, J. Leonardo-De Castro).

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