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G.R. NO. 170566 – 484 SCRA 76 – Criminal Law – Book I – Aggravating Circumstances; Must be alleged in the Information
Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Exemplary Damages; When awarded in criminal cases
Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – Aggravating Circumstances; Must be alleged in the Information
In 1998, Alejandro Calongui raped his minor cousin Marinel Calongui twice. First in January and the second in September. Both incidents were witnessed by Noel Calongui, the brother of Marinel. During trial, Calongui denied the first incident but admitted the second one as he averred that he and Marinel are sweethearts.
The trial court convicted Calongui. Apart from his sentence of reclusion perpetua, he was ordered to pay civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages. No aggravating circumstances were considered by the court as there were none alleged in the Information.
On automatic review, the Supreme Court determined, among others, if the award of exemplary damages is proper.
ISSUE: Whether or not the award of exemplary damages is proper.
HELD: No. As a rule, exemplary damages in criminal cases are only awarded if there are aggravating circumstances attendant to the case. In this case, no aggravating circumstances were alleged in the Informations filed against Calonqui and none were proven in Court.
This case was filed prior to the effectivity of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which became effective on 01 December 2000. The 2000 Rules provide that all aggravating circumstances must be alleged in the Information. Otherwise, they cannot be considered for any purpose even if they are proven in court. However, since this case was filed prior to the 2000 Rules, the Supreme Court reviewed the record to determine if Marinel is entitled to exemplary damages. This is because under the old rules, aggravating circumstances, alleged in the Information or not, may be appreciated for purposes of determining exemplary damages. This right has already vested in Marinel.
Thus: a review of the records shows that there are no aggravating circumstances present in the case at bar. Dwelling cannot be appreciated because Marinel and Calongui lived in the same house at the time of the rape incidents. The rationale for considering dwelling as an aggravating circumstance, i.e., the violation by the offender of the sanctity of the home of the victim by trespassing therein to commit a crime, is absent. Night time cannot likewise be appreciated because there is no proof that Calongui deliberately sought the cover of darkness to facilitate the commission of the crime. Relationship is not aggravating because the relationship between Marinel and the appellant as first cousins is not within the concept contemplated in Article 15 of the Revised Penal Code. Abuse of confidence is likewise absent because the prosecution did not establish that it facilitated the attainment of the rape. Finally, use of a deadly weapon cannot be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance because Marinel’s belated assertion on cross-examination that Calongui used a knife to perpetrate the two rapes raised doubts as to the knife’s existence.
NOTE: Art. 2230 of the Civil Code provides: In criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of the civil liability may be imposed when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. Such damages are separate and distinct from fines and shall be paid to the offended party.
Also worth reading in relation to exemplary damages: People vs Orilla (G.R. Nos. 148939-40, 13 February 2004)