Published 24 November 2023, The Daily Tribune

Allegations contained in the information must be precise.

Under Section 6, in relation to Section 9, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Information must be sufficient, and in the event that a qualifying or aggravating circumstance attended the commission of the crime, the same must be established in ordinary and concise language, sufficient to inform the accused, not only of the crime but also of the attendant qualifying circumstances in its commission.

Thus, the allegations pertaining to the relationship between the offender and the victim cannot be stated in the alternative by using the disjunctive term “or” in the charge of qualified rape. (People of the Philippines v. xxx, G.R. No. 245926, 25 July 2023).

The crime of rape becomes qualified when any of the circumstances under Art. 266-B (1) of the Revised Penal Code is present, such as when the victim is under 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, stepparent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.

The Supreme Court held that while all elements of rape were present in this case, the prosecution failed to establish the above-mentioned qualifying circumstance. Part of the Information stated:

“The above-named accused, knowing full[y] well the minority of his first cousin or relative within the third civil degree of consanguinity, through force and intimidation and through grave abuse of authority, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously insert his penis into the vagina of “AAA,” 16 [sic] years old, without her consent, to her damage and prejudice.”

Although the minority of the victim was sufficiently indicated in the Information, the qualifying circumstance of the relationship was not. The disjunctive word “or” signifies disassociation, indicates an alternative, and that the things enumerated should be taken separately.

Applying the rules on statutory construction, the terms ‘first cousin’ and ‘third degree relative by consanguinity’ were then accorded distinct meanings in this case.

The Court found two inferences from the phrase: (1) that the victim may either be a first cousin or a relative of the accused within the third civil degree of consanguinity, or (2) that the accused, being a third cousin, is a relative within the third civil degree of consanguinity.

The phrasing of the allegation inevitably results in confusion, and as such, it may not be fully understood by a person of ordinary intelligence.

Moreover, the Supreme Court explained that using such word in the information allowed the prosecution to indict the accused in the alternative, either as a first cousin or a third-degree relative by consanguinity.

Having failed to specifically allege the relationship, the accused was not fully apprised of the charge against him, made serious by the qualifying circumstances.

The imprecision of the charge cannot make the accused liable for the same. Accordingly, the Court convicted the accused of simple rape.

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