X rapes V. X is indicted. Trial ensues. The trial court convicts X. He appeals to the appellate court. While the appeal is pending, V receives cash from X. She also applies for a US visa. It is granted by the US Embassy. Pending appeal and two years after judgment was rendered, V executes an affidavit of recantation in favor of X. Then, she flies to USA.
This is the story of convicted rapist Smith, a US marine, and Nicole, a Filipina, which has been hugging the headlines in the Philippine media for the past days.
V has not received any protection from the Philippine Government from the very beginning because of political pressures from the US Government to exonerate Smith and to preserve the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is the next best things to a military base. (The Philippine Constitution prohibits foreign military bases in the country).
What probative value would you give to the recantation of V?
May I cite below some decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court on the issue of recantation, for purposes of legal research of the visitors of this blog.
In the case of People v. Alicante, 332 SCRA 440, and People v. Junio, 237 SCRA 826, the Philippine Supreme Court reiterated the long-held doctrine in Philippine jurisprudence that an afterthought had no probative value. I would make a solemn trial a mockery and place the investigation at the mercy of unscrupulous witnesses. A recantation can be easily secured from poor and ignorant witnesses, usually for money, and is exceedingly unreliable, the Court stated.
In the case of PEOPLE vs. FONTANILLA, GR 147662-63 EN BANC, August 15, 2003, the Philippine Supreme Court held that affidavit of recantation cannot qualify as newly discovered evidence to justify a new trial; that affidavits of retraction of testimonies are generally looked with disfavor because there is always the probability that they may later be repudiated; that . Thus:
X x x.
As for the trial court’s denial of appellant’s motion for new trial arising from Methel’s affidavit of recantation: Said affidavit cannot qualify as newly discovered evidence to justify a new trial, the following requisites for which, and these must concur, are not present: (a) the evidence was discovered after the trial; (b) such evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even with the exercise of reasonable diligence; and (c) such evidence is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative, or impeaching, and is of such weight that, if admitted, would probably change the judgment.
Besides, affidavits of retraction of testimonies are generally looked with disfavor because there is always the probability that they may later be repudiated.
x x x The unreliable character of this document is shown by the fact that it is quite incredible that after going through the process of having accused-appellant arrested by the police, positively identifying him as the person who raped her, enduring the humiliation of a physical examination of her private parts, and then repeating her accusations in open court by recounting her anguish, Maryjane would suddenly turn around and declare that “after a careful deliberation over the case, [she] find[s] that the same does not merit or warrant criminal prosecution.
Thus, we have declared that at most the retraction is an afterthought which should not be given probative value. It would be a dangerous rule to reject the testimony taken before the court of justice simply because the witness who has given it later on changed his mind for one reason or another. Such a rule will make a solemn trial a mockery and place the investigation at the mercy of unscrupulous witnesses. (Underscoring supplied)
X x x.
In the case of PEOPLE vs. AYUMAN, GR 133436 EN BANC, ____, 2004, the Court held that that mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate the original testimony if credible; that the Court looks with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court; that the rationale for the rule is that affidavits of retraction can easily be secured from witnesses, usually through intimidation or for a monetary consideration; and that recanted testimony is exceedingly unreliable. Thus:
X x x
For his part, the Solicitor General, in the appellee’s brief, maintains that Ermita’s affidavit of recantation is an afterthought and exceedingly unreliable. Moreover, the circumstantial evidence relied upon by the trial court sustains the conviction of appellant of the crime charged.
X x x.
But appellant discredits Ermita’s sworn statement because she retracted. It bears emphasis that mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate the original testimony if credible, as in this case. We look with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court. The rationale for the rule is obvious: Affidavits of retraction can easily be secured from witnesses, usually through intimidation or for a monetary consideration. Recanted testimony is exceedingly unreliable. There is always the probability that it will later be repudiated. Thus, the trial court correctly disregarded Ermita’s affidavit of desistance. Obviously, she was influenced by appellant to execute it. Moreover, if it were true that an unidentified person killed their son, why did appellant fail to report the matter to the proper authorities? There can be no other conclusion, therefore, than that Ermita’s affidavit of retraction is an afterthought, intended to exculpate appellant from criminal liability.
X x x.
In the case of PEOPLE vs. OCTAVIO MENDOZA, G.R. No. 109279-80, January 18, 1999, it was held that mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate his original testimony; and that a testimony solemnly given in court should not be lightly set aside and that before this can be done, both the previous testimony and the subsequent one be carefully compared, the circumstances under which each was given be carefully scrutinized, the reasons or motives for the change carefully scrutinized, in other words, all the expedients devised by man to determine the credibility of witnesses should be utilized to determine which of the contradictory testimonies represents the truth. Thus:
X x x.
The contention is without merit. Mere retraction by a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate his original testimony. As this Court held in People vs. Ubina: 20 [97 Phil. 515, 525-526 (1955). Reiterated in People vs. Panida, G.R. Nos. 127125 & 138952, July 6, 1999.]
" x x x Merely because a witness says that what he had declared is false and that what he now says is true, is not sufficient ground for concluding that the previous testimony is false. No such reasoning has ever crystallized into a rule of credibility. The rule is that a witness may be impeached by a previous contradictory statement [now Rule 132, section 11]; not that a previous statement is presumed to be false merely because a witness now says that the same is not true. The jurisprudence of this Court has always been otherwise, i.e., that contradictory testimony given subsequently does not necessarily discredit the previous testimony if the contradictions are satisfactorily explained. (U.S. vs. Magtibay, 17 Phil. 417; U.S. vs. Briones, 28 Phil. 362; U.S. vs. Dasiip, 26 Phil. 503; U.S. vs. Lazaro, 34 Phil. 871). We have also held that if a previous confession of an accused were to be rejected simply because the latter subsequently makes another confession, all that an accused would do to acquit himself would be to make another confession out of harmony with the previous one (U.S. vs. Acasio, 37 Phil. 70). Similarly, it would be a dangerous rule for courts to reject testimonies solemnly taken before courts of justice simply because the witnesses who had given them later on change their mind[s] for one reason or another, for such rule would make solemn trials a mockery and place the investigation of truth at the mercy of unscrupulous, witnesses. x x x
The rule should be that a testimony solemnly given in court should not be lightly set aside and that before this can be done, both the previous testimony and the subsequent one be carefully compared, the circumstances under which each given carefully scrutinized, the reasons or motives for the change carefully scrutinized-in other words, all the expedients devised by man to determine the credibility of witnesses should be utilized to determine which of the contradictory testimonies represents the truth."
X x x.
Form your own opinion.
Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.