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Evidently, both the trial court and counsel for theaccused led the accused to believe that his plea of guiltwould be a mitigating circumstance in his favor. This wasclearly misleading because (1) a plea of guilty may onlybe considered as mitigating when seasonably
interjected, that is, before the prosecution presents itsevidence; and (2) the penalty of death is indivisible andis not affected by either aggravating or mitigatingcircumstances. Clearly, too, the accused was notcategorically advised that his plea of guilt would notunder any circumstance affect or reduce his sentence,making his re-arraignment flawed. People vs. Nunez.Fernando Ramilla was charged a raping 10 yearold Crisanda Cabugza Calderon. The trial courtfound him guilty of rape and sentenced him todeath. Crisanda Cabugza Calderon wasentrusted by her parents Francisco Calderonand Emy Cabugza to the custody of their longtime friends, the spouses Fernando and JocelynRamilla. Fernando now argues that suchcircumstancemadeher vulnerabletomanipulation and external pressure from thosewho exercised authority over her, such that thepossibility that her testimony was misguided isgreat. He also remonstrates that the order of thetrial court submitting the case for decision afterhe failed to present evidence was prematuredue to the absence of an express waiver on hispart thus resulting in denial of due process. Therecords fail to show that he ever assailed thepropriety of the order of the trial court submittingthe case for decision. Consequently, he cannotnow argue against his conviction. However, inview of the gravity of the offense and thecircumstance that automatic review by this Courtof a death sentence is intended primarily for theprotection of the accused, specifically to ensureits correctness, the court shall nonethelessconsider his arguments. Was the accuseddeprived of due process?Answer: No. The rationale behind this ruling is the verynature of the offense where, oftentimes, the onlyevidence that can be adduced to establish the guilt ofthe accused is the offended party's testimony. In otherwords, if the court disallows the testimony of Crisandaon account of her tender age, we will in effect beforeclosing her right to seek justice. The offense wasperpetrated with no persons present other than theoffender and the victim. Recently, we reiterated that inrape cases we seldom find any disinterested person whowas actually present when the offense was committed,and rape is essentially an offense of secrecy, notgenerally attempted except in dark or deserted andsecluded places away from prying eyes, and aprosecution for the crime usually commences solelyupon the word of the offended woman herself, andconviction invariably turns upon her credibility as thePeople's single witness of the actual occurrence. Toenlighten accused even more, we have sustainedconvictions for the same crime based on the credibletestimonies of victims much younger than Crisanda,some at five years of age or even less. Needless to
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Ulysses, Appellate court, Legal burden of proof, Trial court, Rights of the accused