Saturday, July 14, 2018

Presumption of innocence; Section 14, Art. III of the 1987 Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL THE CONTRARY IS PROVED.”

The trial court erred in finding that the appellant was guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of the crimes charged.

The appellant was not the owner and possessor of the nontransparent/opaque tubular container which contained the alleged prohibited drug and paraphernalia. His testimony thereon was clear, sincere, positive and forthright. He was corroborated on that point by a credible witness, xxx, whose testimony was admitted by the prosecutor and who was not subjected to cross examination by the prosecutor. The corroborating testimony of xxx in favor of the appellant xxx stands uncontested and uncontroverted by the prosecution. There was no credible factual and legal basis “beyond reasonable doubt” to convict the appellant for alleged violation of Sec. 11 [possession of shabu] of RA 9165 in Crim. Case No. xxx [appealed case].

Besides, the appellant was not performing a criminal activity at the time of his warrantless arrest. He and his companions were merely drinking softdrinks. The illegally confiscated items, which were the “fruits of the poisonous tree”, should have been rejected by the trial court for being inadmissible, unconstitutional, illegal and prejudicial to the constitutional and human rights of the appellant [a] to substantive due process of law, [b] to equal protection of the law, [c] to presumption of innocence, and [d] to privacy and to his right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Article III [Bill of Rights] of the 1987 Constitution enshrines the basic constitutional principle of the PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE. The prosecution has the heavy burden of proof to overcome such constitutionally cherished doctrine.

Section 14, Art. III of the 1987 Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL THE CONTRARY IS PROVED.”

The case of EDMUND SYDECO y SIONZON vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 202692, November 12, 2014 is instructive. It held that “conviction must come only after it survives the test of reason” and that “every circumstance favoring one’s innocence be duly considered”. It further held that “in case of doubt as to the MORAL CERTAINTY OF CULPABILITY, the balance tips in favor of innocence” and that “the burden of proving the guilt of an accused lies on the prosecution which must rely on the strength of its evidence and NOT ON THE WEAKNESS OF THE DEFENSE”. It furthermore held that “the blind reliance and simplistic invocation by the trial court and the CA on the presumption of regularity in the conduct of police duty is clearly misplaced”. It emphasized that “the presumption of regularity [in the conduct of police duty] is merely just that, a presumption disputable by contrary proof and which when challenged by the evidence cannot be regarded as binding truth” and that “this presumption [of regularity in the conduct of police duty] alone CANNOT PREPONDERATE OVER THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE that prevails if not overcome by proof that obliterates all doubts as to the offender’s culpability”.

Under the EQUIPOISE RULE, when the inculpatory and the exculpatory evidence are equal, the constitutional presumption of innocence tilts the balance in favor of the accused.

In the case of FRANCISCO M. LECAROZ and LENLIE LECAROZ, vs. SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 130872, March 25, 1999, it was held that “the principle of equipoise demands that if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction”.