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151085 August 20, 2008 FACTS: The petitioner, Joemar Ortega, who was then 14 years old, was charged with the crime of rape for allegedly raping AAA, who was about 8 years old. That the rape happened in 3 occasions, the first one happened sometime August 1999, when AAA s mother left her in the care of the petitioner s mother, Luzviminda. That the petitioner woke up AAA and led her in the sala and raped her. The second occasion happened the next day when the petitioner led AAA into the bathroom and raped her there. In all the instances, petitioner warned AAA to not tell her parents or he will spank her. The third and last time happened in the house of AAA, where her brother caught her and the petitioner naked waist down and having intercourse. The brother then told the incident to his mother. MMM testified that when she asked AAA what happened, AAA told her that petitioner inserted his fingers and penis into her vagina. And when MMM examined the private part of her daughter, she noticed that it was reddish and white fluid was coming out of it. MMM called Luzviminda and confronted her about what happened. Luzviminda then demanded that AAA should be brought to a doctor for examination. The Rural Health Officer, however, did not find any indication that AAA was molested. Subsequently, the two families reached an amicable settlement that requires the petitioner to depart from their house and stay with a certain priest. However, a year later, the family of AAA charged the petitioner with 3 counts of rape, in which the petitioner plead not guilty. The RTC ruled that the petitioner is guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the crime of rape and is sentenced to reclusion temporal. The CA affirmed the ruling of the trial court. During the pendency of the case in the SC, RA 9344 Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act was enacted that establishes a comprehensive system to manage children in conflict with the law. At the case at bar, because the petitioner was a minor under 15 years of age at the commission of the crime, he can be relieved from criminal liability. ISSUE: Whether or not the petitioner can avail exempting circumstance provided by the newly enacted law on minors in conflict with law. HELD: Yes RATIO: The petitioner can avail the exempting circumstance that will relieve him from criminal liability because the law enacted was favorable to the accused, and is therefore retroactive in application. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act provides that a child under 15 years of age in the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability, but is subject to an intervention program. Exemption from criminal liability, however, does not include exemption from civil liability. Section 64 of the newly enacted law also provides that cases of children under 15 years of age at the commission of the crime, shall immediately be dismissed and the child shall be referred to the appropriate local social welfare and development officer. The Court therefore held that the case against Joemar Ortega is hereby DISMISSED. Petitioner is hereby referred to the local social welfare and development officer of the locality for the appropriate intervention program.