rules of evidence

Claridad vs Esteban (G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013)

Callo-Claridad vs Esteban
G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013

Facts: Around 5:30 p.m. of February 27, 2007, Chase returned home from visiting his girlfriend, Ramonna Liza “Monnel” Hernandez. Around 7:00 p.m., Chase’s sister Ariane was sitting at the porch of their house when she noticed a white Honda Civic car parked along the street. Recognizing the driver to be Philip, Ariane waved her hand at him. Philip appeared nonchalant and did not acknowledge her gesture. Ariane decided to stay behind and leave with their house helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, only after Chase had left on board the white Honda Civic car. Marivic Rodriguez, a house helper of Shellane Yukoko, the resident of No. 9 Cedar Place, Ferndale Homes, was with her co-employee nanny Jennylyn Buri and the latter’s ward, Joei Yukoko, when they heard somebody crying coming from the crime scene: Help! Help! This was at about 7:30 p.m. Even so, neither of them bothered to check who had been crying for help. It was noted, however, that No. 10 Cedar Place, which was owned by one Mrs. Howard, was uninhabited at the time. Based on the initial investigation report of the Megaforce Security and Allied Services, Inc., the Estebans were illegally parking their cars at Mrs. Howard’s carport. The initial investigation report stated that the SGs would regularly remind the Estebans to use their own parking garage, which reminders had resulted in heated discussions and altercations. The SGs kept records of all the illegal parking incidents, and maintained that only the Estebans used the carport of No. 10 Cedar Place. Around 7:45 p.m., respondent Teodora Alyn Esteban (Teodora) arrived at Ferndale Homes on board a vehicle bearing plate XPN 733, as recorded in the subdivision SG’s logbook. At that time, three cars were parked at the carport of No. 10 Cedar place, to wit: a Honda CRV with plate ZAE 135 parked parallel to the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999, and another Honda Civic with plate JTG 333, the car frequently used by Philip, then parked diagonally behind the two cars. Some witnesses alleged that prior to the discovery of the Chase’s body, they had noticed a male and female inside the car bearing plate JTG 333 engaged in a discussion. At around 7:50 p.m., SG Abelardo Sarmiento Jr., while patrolling around the village, noticed that the side of the Honda Civic with plate JTG 333 had red streaks, which prompted him to move towards the parked cars. He inspected the then empty vehicle and noticed that its radio was still turned on. He checked the cars and discovered that the rear and side of the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999 were smeared with blood. He saw on the passenger seat a cellular phone covered with blood. It was then that he found the bloodied and lifeless body of Chase lying between the parallel cars. The body was naked from the waist up, with a crumpled bloodied shirt on the chest, and with only the socks on. SG Sarmiento called for back-up. SG Rene Fabe immediately barricaded the crime scene. Around 7:55 p.m., SG Solis received a phone call from an unidentified person who reported that a “kid” had met an accident at Cedar Place. SG Solis later identified and confirmed the caller to be “Mr. Esteban Larry” when the latter entered the village gate and inquired whether the “kid” who had met an accident had been attended to. Moreover, when SG Fabe and SG Sarmiento were securing the scene of the crime, they overheard from the radio that somebody had reported about a “kid” who had been involved in an accident at Cedar Place. SG Fabe thereafter searched the village premises but did not find any such accident. When SG Fabe got back, there were already several onlookers at the crime scene.

Issue: Whether or not the evidence is sufficient to charge the respondents of murder.

No. For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all the circumstances must be consistent with one another and must constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that a crime has been committed and that the respondents are probably guilty thereof. The pieces of evidence must be consistent with the hypothesis that the respondents were probably guilty of the crime and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that they were innocent, and with every rational hypothesis except that of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, therefore, if: (a) there is more than one circumstance, (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived have been proven, and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The records show that the circumstantial evidence linking Philip to the killing of Chase derived from the bare recollections of Ariane (sister of Chase), and of Guray and Corpus (respectively, the househelp and nanny in the household of a resident of the subdivision) about seeing Chase board the white Honda Civic at around 7:00 p.m. of February 27, 2007, and about Philip being the driver of the Honda Civic. But there was nothing else after that, because the circumstances revealed by the other witnesses could not even be regarded as circumstantial evidence against Philip. To be sure, some of the affidavits were unsworn. The statements subscribed and sworn to before the officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) having the authority to administer oaths upon matters connected with the performance of their official duties undeniably lacked the requisite certifications to the effect that such administering officers had personally examined the affiants, and that such administering officers were satisfied that the affiants had voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.

Thus, it is imperative that the circumstantial evidence that the victim was last seen in the company of respondent Philip must be established by competent evidence required by the rules in preliminary investigation. Here, it was allegedly Chase’s sister, Ariane, and their two household helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, who saw respondent Philip pick up Chase at around 7:00 o’clock in the evening of February 27, 2007. Yet, such fact from which the inference is derived was not duly proven. The statements of Marivic and Michelle both executed on February 28, 2007 were not sworn to before the proper officer.

Neither was the affidavit dated July 3, 2009 of Ariane Claridad duly notarized nor is there any explanation why the same was belatedly executed.


People vs Whisenhunt (GR No. 123819 November 14, 2001)

People of the Philippines vs Whisenhunt
GR No. 123819 November 14, 2001

Facts: That on or about September 24, 1993, in the municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, the above named accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to kill and taking advantage of superior strength, attack, assault and use personal violence upon the person of one Elsa Santos-Castillo by then and there stabbing her with a bladed weapon in different parts of her body, thereby inflicting upon her mortal wounds which were the direct and immediate cause of her death and thereafter outraged or scofted her corpse by then and there chopping off her head and different parts of her body. The medico-legal officer, found contusions on accused-appellant’s left periumbilical region, right elbow, left and right forearms and right leg. Dr. Ronaldo Mendez, the medico-legal officer who conducted the autopsy, concluded that the cause of death of Elsa were stabbed wounds. Respondent, Whisenhunt as his witness his lawyer who is also a medico-legal officer.

Issue: Whether or not the testimony of respondent’s presented witness as a lawyer-witness will be given.

Held: No. Accused-appellant makes capital of the fact that the medico-legal officer, Dr. Mendez, did not examine the pancreas of the deceased notwithstanding Demetrio’s statement that according to accused-appellant, Elsa died of “bangungot”, hemorrhage of the pancreas, because of this accused-appellant insist that the cause of death was not adequately established. Then, he relied on the controverting testimony of his witness, lawyer-doctor, Ernesto Brion, who was himself a medico-legal officer of the NBI for several years, to the effect that the autopsy report prepared by Dr. Mendez was unreliable and inconclusive. The trial court, however, noted that Dr. Brion was a biased witness whose testimony cannot be relied upon because he entered his appearance as one of the counsel for the accused-appellant and, in such capacity, extensively cross-examined Dr. Mendez accused-appellant counters that there’s no prohibition against lawyers giving testimony. Moreover, the trial court’s ruling would imply that lawyers who testify on behalf of their clients are presumed to be lying.

By rejecting the testimony of Dr. Brion, the trial court did not mean that he perjured himself on the witness stand. Notably, Dr. Brion was presented as expert witness. His testimony and the questions propounded on him dealt with his opinion on the probable cause of death of the victim. Indeed the presentation of expert testimony is one of the well-known exceptions to the rule against admissibility of opinions in evidence. In like manner, Dr. Mendez was presented on the stand to give his own opinion on the same subject. His opinion differed from that of Brion, which is not at all unusual. What the trial court simply did was to choose which — between two conflicting medico-legal opinions – was the more plausible. The trial court correctly lent more credence to Dr. Mendez’s testimony not only because Dr. Brion was a biased witness, but more importantly, because it was Dr. Mendez who conducted the autopsy and personally examined Elsa’s corpse up close.

Physical evidence is a mute but eloquent manifestation of truth, and it ranks high in the hierarchy of our trustworthy evidence.

Lejano vs People (GR No. 176389 December 14, 2010)

Lejano vs People of the Philippines
GR No. 176389 December 14, 2010

Facts: On June 30, 1991, Estrelita Vizconde and her daughter Carmela nineteen and Jennifer seven were brutally slain at their home in Parañaque City. Following an intense investigation, the police arrested a group of suspects, some of whom gave detailed confessions. But the trial court smelled a frame-up and eventually ordered them discharged. Thus, the identities of the real perpetrators remained a mystery especially to the public whose interest were aroused by the gripping details of what everybody referred to as the Vizconde massacre. Four years later in 1995, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) announced that it had solved the crime. It presented star witness Jessica Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed ghat she witnessed the crime. She pointed to the accused Herbert Jeffrey Webb, Antonio “Tony Boy” Lejano, Artemio Dong Ventura, Michael Gatchalian, Hospicio Pyke Fernandez, Peter Estrada, Miguel Ging Rodriguez, and Joey Filart as the culprits. She also tagged police officer Gerardo Biong as an accessory after the fact. Relying primarily on Alfaro’s testimony, on August 10, 1995, the public prosecutors filed an information for rape with homicide against Webb etal. The prosecution presented Alfaro as its main witness with the others corroborating her testimony. These included the medico-legal officer who autopsied the bodies of the victims, the security guard of Pitong Daan subdivision, the former laundry-woman of the Webb’s household, police officer Biong’s former girlfriend, and Lauro Vizconde, Estrelita’s husband.

Issue: Whether or not failure to conduct a DNA test on the semen specimen found on Carmela is a ground for Webb’s acquittal.

Held: No. The medical evidence clearly established that Carmela was raped and, consistent with this, semen specimen was found in her. It is true that Alfaro identified Webb in her testimony, as Carmela’s rapist and killer but serious questions had been raised about her credibility. At the very least, there exist a possibility that Alfaro had lied. On the other hand, the semen specimen was taken from Carmela cannot possibly lie. It cannot be coached or allured by a promise of reward or financial support. No two persons have the same DNA finger print, with the exception of identical twins. If, on examination, the DNA of the subject specimen does not belong to Webb, then he did not rape Carmela. It is that simple. Thus, the court would have been able to determine that Alfaro committed perjury in saying that he did. Still, Webb is not entitled to acquittal for failure of the state to produce the semen specimen at this late stage. For one thing, the ruling in Brady vs Maryland that he cites his no longer long been overtaken by the decision in Arizona vs Youngblood, where the US Supreme Court held that due process does not require the State to preserve the semen specimen although it might be useful to the accused unless the latter is able to show bad faith on the part of the prosecution or the police. Here, the state presented a medical expert who testified on the existence of the specimen and Webb in fact, sought to have the same subjected to DNA test.

For another, when Webb raised the DNA issue, the rule governing DNA evidence did not yet exist, the country did not yet have the technology for conducting the test and no Philippine precedent had as yet recognized its admissibility as evidence.