Conditions To Be Qualified as State Witness

In the discharge of an accused in order that he may be a state witness, the following conditions must be present, namely:

(1)              Two or more accused are jointly charged with the commission of an offense;

(2)              The motion for discharge is filed by the prosecution before it rests its case;

(3)              The prosecution is required to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge;

(4)              The accused gives his consent to be a state witness; and

(5)              The trial court is satisfied that:

a)           There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;

b)          There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused;

c)           The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;

d)          Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and,

e)           Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

According to petitioner, the testimony of an accused sought to be discharged to become a state witness must be substantially corroborated, not by a co-accused likewise sought to be discharged, but by other prosecution witnesses who are not the accused in the same criminal case.  Petitioner justifies this theory on the general principles of justice and sound logic.  He contends that it is a notorious fact in human nature that a culprit, confessing a crime, is likely to put the blame on others, if by doing so, he will be freed from any criminal responsibility.  Thus, in the instant case, petitioner supposes that both Abutin and Tampelix will naturally seize the opportunity to be absolved of any liability by putting the blame on one of their co-accused.  Petitioner argues that prosecution witnesses Parane and Salazar, who are not accused, do not have personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the alleged conspiracy.  Thus, they could not testify to corroborate the statement of Abutin and Tampelix that petitioner is the mastermind or the principal by induction.

We agree with the Court of Appeals in dismissing this reasoning as specious.  To require the two witnesses Parane and Salazar to corroborate the testimony of Abutin and Tampelix on the exact same points is to render nugatory the other requisite that “there must be no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of the state witness.”[5]  The corroborative evidence required by the Rules does not have to consist of the very same evidence as will be testified on by the proposed state witnesses.  We have ruled that “a conspiracy is more readily proved by the acts of a fellow criminal than by any other method.  If it is shown that the statements of the conspirator are corroborated by other evidence, then we have convincing proof of veracity.  Even if the confirmatory testimony only applies to some particulars, we can properly infer that the witness has told the truth in other respects.[6]  It is enough that the testimony of a co-conspirator is corroborated by some other witness or evidence.  In the case at bar, we are satisfied from a reading of the records that the testimonies of Abutin and Tampelix are corroborated on important points by each other’s testimonies and the circumstances disclosed through the testimonies of the other prosecution witnesses, and “to such extent that their trustworthiness becomes manifest.”[7]

As part of the conspiracy, Abutin and Tampelix can testify on the criminal plan of the conspirators.  Where a crime is contrived in secret, the discharge of one of the conspirators is essential because only they have knowledge of the crime.[8]  The other prosecution witnesses are not eyewitnesses to the crime, as, in fact, there is none.  No one except the conspirators knew and witnessed the murder.  The testimonies of the accused and proposed state witnesses Abutin and Tampelix can directly link petitioner to the commission of the crime.

In Chua v. Court of Appeals,[9] we ruled that the trial court has to rely on the information offered by the public prosecutor as to who would best qualify as a state witness.  The prosecutor knows the evidence in his possession and the witnesses he needs to establish his case.  In Mapa v. Sandiganbayan,[10] we held:

The decision to grant immunity from prosecution forms a constituent part of the prosecution process. It is essentially a tactical decision to forego prosecution of a person for government to achieve a higher objective. It is a deliberate renunciation of the right of the State to prosecute all who appear to be guilty of having committed a crime. Its justification lies in the particular need of the State to obtain the conviction of the more guilty criminals who, otherwise, will probably elude the long arm of the law. Whether or not the delicate power should be exercised, who should be extended the privilege, the timing of its grant, are questions addressed solely to the sound judgment of the prosecution. The power to prosecute includes the right to determine who shall be prosecuted and the corollary right to decide whom not to prosecute.

We further ruled:

In reviewing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in these areas, the jurisdiction of the respondent court is limited.  For the business of a court of justice is to be an impartial tribunal, and not to get involved with the success or failure of the prosecution to prosecute. Every now and then, the prosecution may err in the selection of its strategies, but such errors are not for neutral courts to rectify, any more than courts should correct the blunders of the defense. For fairness demands that courts keep the scales of justice at equipoise between and among all litigants. Due process demands that courts should strive to maintain the legal playing field perfectly even and perpetually level.

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Criminal Law, Evidence, Prosecutorial Power, State Witness, Testimony of Witnesses and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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