The case of PEOPLE vs. MARY LOU OMICTIN, GR 188130, July 26, 2010 involved illegal recruitment. The CA Decision affirmed the Decision dated May 3, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 104 in Quezon City, finding accused-appellant Mary Lou Omictin guilty of violating Section 6, in relation to Sec. 7(b), of Republic Act No. (RA) 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. Specifically, accused-appellant was charged with and adjudged guilty of illegal recruitment in large scale and three (3) counts of Estafa. Inter alia, it is instructive as to the issue of the difference between self-serving testimony versus hearsay testimony.
The May 3, 2007 RTC Decision found Omictin guilty as charged, thus:
“WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
(1) In Criminal Case No. 04-125442, the Court finds accused MARY LOU OMICTIN guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal of ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT IN LARGE SCALE defined and penalized in Section 6 in relation to Section 7(b) of Republic Act No. 8042, and sentences her to life imprisonment and a fine of One Million Pesos.
(2) In Criminal Case No. 04-125443, the Court finds accused MARY LOU OMICTIN guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime of ESTAFA, defined and penalized in Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code, and sentences her to an indeterminate penalty of two (2) years, eleven (11) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional as minimum to seven (7) years of prision mayor as maximum, and to indemnify complainant Roy Fernandez Mago in the amount of Forty Thousand (P40,000.00) Pesos.
(3) In Criminal Case No. 04-125444, the Court finds accused MARY LOU OMICTIN guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime of estafa defined and penalized in Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code, and sentences her to an indeterminate penalty of two (2) years, eleven (11) months and eleven days of prision correccional as minimum to six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty (20) days of prision mayor as maximum, and to indemnify complainant Anthony Ambrosio in the amount of Sixteen Thousand (P16,000.00) Pesos.
(4) In Criminal Case No. 04-125445, the Court finds accused MARY LOU OMICTIN guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime of ESTAFA, defined and penalized in Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code, and sentences her to an indeterminate penalty of two (2) years, eleven (11) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional as minimum to seven (7) years of prision mayor as maximum, and to indemnify complainant Arvin Guevarra in the amount of Forty Thousand (P40,000.00) Pesos.
Eventually, the CA rendered the assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, in light of the [foregoing] disquisitions, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 104, in Criminal Case Nos. Q-04-125442, Q-04-125443, Q-04-125444, and Q-04-125445, finding appellant Mary Lou Omictin, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged, is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
The Supreme Court held that the appeal was without merit. Its doctrinal pronouncements are reproduced below, thus:
X x x.
An examination of the issues raised by Omictin in her Brief would readily reveal that the same are all factual issues. Subject to well-defined exceptions, the Court, not being a trier of facts, will not delve once more into the factual findings of the trial court as affirmed by the appellate court. The Court, in Dueñas v. Guce-Africa, has articulated the rule as follows:
We will not review, much less reverse, the factual findings of the Court of Appeals especially where, as in this case, such findings coincide with those of the trial court, since we are not a trier of facts. The established rule is that the factual findings of the Court of Appeals affirming those of the RTC are conclusive and binding on us. We are not wont to review them, save under exceptional circumstances as: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (6) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (7) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and (8) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record. (Emphasis supplied.)
None of the foregoing exceptions is present in the instant case. We thus perceive no reason to disturb the findings of fact and conclusions of law arrived at by the courts a quo.
X x x.
First, the testimony of Ambrosio cannot be considered as self-serving evidence. The phrase “self-serving evidence” is a concept which has a well-defined judicial meaning. Hernandez v. Court of Appeals clarified what self-serving evidence is and what it is not, thus:
The common objection known as “self-serving” is not correct because almost all testimonies are self-serving. The proper basis for objection is “hearsay” (Wenke, Making and Meeting Objections, 69).
Petitioner fails to take into account the distinction between self-serving statements and testimonies made in court. Self-serving statements are those made by a party out of court advocating his own interest; they do not include a party’s testimony as a witness in court (National Development Co. v. Workmen’s Compensation Commission, 19 SCRA 861 ).
Self-serving statements are inadmissible because the adverse party is not given the opportunity for cross-examination, and their admission would encourage fabrication of testimony. This cannot be said of a party’s testimony in court made under oath, with full opportunity on the part of the opposing party for cross-examination.
This principle was reiterated in the more recent People v. Villarama, where the Court ruled, “x x x [A] self-serving declaration is one that is made by a party, out of court and in his favor. It does not include the testimony he gives as a witness in court.” Assayed against the foregoing standards, Ambrosio’s testimony is not self-serving and is admissible in evidence.
We can hypothetically assume, as a second consideration, that the testimonies of Guevarra and Ambrosio are unsubstantiated and self-serving. Still, the unsubstantiated and self-serving nature of said testimonies would not carry the day for Omictin, since she admitted, during trial, the substance of their testimonies. Omictin testified thus before the RTC:
Q So how much did each of the four complainants paid (sic) you for the processing of their visa?
A Arvin [Guevarra] and Roy [Mago], P40,000.00 each.
Q How about this Anthony Ambrosio?
Through her testimony, Omictin admitted and established the fact that she was paid by Guevarra the amount of PhP 40,000 and Ambrosio the amount of PhP 16,000.
In all, we find no compelling reason to disturb the findings and core disposition of the CA, confirmatory of that of the trial court.
X x x.