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Case Digest on PEOPLE v. NUNEZ (310 SCRA 168; 1999)

November 10, 2010


Facts:

Accused Demetrio Nunez had carnal knowledge of her 14 yr. old  daughter Janeth Nunez in their own house one evening.

Procedure:

  • Janeth voluntarily instituted a case which led to the filing of an information   But said info. merely charged accused with rape under art. 335 of RPC and alleged that the accused had carnal knowledge of his daughter, without alleging the minority Janeth.
  • Accused pleaded not guilty upon arraignment.
  • Trial commenced and prosecution presented its witnesses Dr. Ledesma, who conducted the medico-legal examination on the victim; PO2 Raul Tonzo, who arrested the accused; and the Social Welfare assistant who interviewed the victim-complainant
  • During second hearing, a re-arraignment was held upon manifestation of defense counsel Atty. Te (taga-PAO sya, pero malamang hindi si Teddy Boy natin to, as you may see later) that accused was willing to make a plea of guilty.  The accused pleaded guilty as charged, and the court after having ascertained its voluntariness of the plea, entered his plea.  (but it was clear from the records that in making the plea of guilt, the accused was made to believe by both Atty. Te and the trial court that a plea of guilt would mitigate his liability).
  • Defense waived its right to present its own evidence and merely submitted the case for decision.
  • Trial court convicted accused of statutory rape under sec. 11, sub-par. 7 of RA#7659, and sentenced him to death penalty by lethal injection pursuant to RA#8176
  • On automatic review, accused claimed that the trial court gravely erred in accepting accused-appellant’s improvident plea of guilty to a capital offense and in failing to conduct a searching inquiry to fully determine whether the accused fully understood the consequences of his plea.

HELD:

  1. A plea of guilty may only be considered as mitigating when seasonably interjected, that is, before the prosecution presents its evidence.
  2. Furthermore, the penalty of death is indivisible and is not affected by either aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

Thus, accused’s re-arraignment was indeed flawed.  However,

It is settled that a decision based on an irregular plea may nevertheless be upheld where the judgment is supported by other adequate evidence on record.   In the case at bar, the evidence supports the finding of guilt of the accused:  oral testimony of complainant and medico-legal finding of laceration on victim’s hymen and labia.

With regard to the imposable penalty, the Court held that:

The fact of minority and relationship should be alleged in the information or complaint before death penalty can properly be imposed.  In qualified rape, both the fact of minority of the victim and the actual relationship between the parties, as worded in RA#7659, must be alleged in the information.   In the case at bar, only the relationship of the parties was alleged.

Thus, THE COURT URGED THE PROSECUTING FISCALS WHO ARE CHARGED WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PREPARING INFORMATIONS TO STATE WITH PARTICULARITY THE ATTENDANT CIRCUMSTANCES PROVIDED FOR UNDER SEC. 11 OF RA#7659.

Judgment Modified.  Accused sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

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