Friday, July 21, 2017

Questioned document examination - G.R. No. 192274

"x x x.

At any rate, the Court does not perceive any injustice in the denial of Lees motion. In fact, the RTC wrote that the accused has the option to utilize the concerned NBI intended witness during the presentation of defense evidence.[14] When his time comes to present evidence, Lee can utilize the NBI by availing of the coercive power of the court.

The Court had the occasion to rule on an almost similar issue in Joey P. Marquez v. Sandiganbayan,[15] where the Court ordered the Sandiganbayan to act favorably on the motion of the accused therein to cause the NBI to examine the documents already submitted to the court. In said case, the Court wrote:

In this case, the defense interposed by the accused Marquez was that his signatures in the disbursement vouchers, purchase requests and authorizations were forged. It is hornbook rule that as a rule, forgery cannot be presumed and must be proved by clear, positive and convincing evidence and the burden of proof lies on the party alleging forgery.

Thus, Marquez bears the burden of submitting evidence to prove the fact that his signatures were indeed forged. In order to be able to discharge his burden, he must be afforded reasonable opportunity to present evidence to support his allegation. This opportunity is the actual examination of the signatures he is questioning by no less than the countrys premier investigative force the NBI. If he is denied such opportunity, his only evidence on this matter is negative testimonial evidence which is generally considered as weak. And, he cannot submit any other examination result because the signatures are on the original documents which are in the control of either the prosecution or the graft court.

At any rate, any finding of the NBI will not be binding on the graft court. It will still be subject to its scrutiny and evaluation in line with Section 22 of Rule 132. Nevertheless, Marquez should not be deprived of his right to present his own defense. How the prosecution, or even the court, perceives his defense to be is irrelevant. To them, his defense may seem feeble and his strategy frivolous, but he should be allowed to adduce evidence of his own choice. The court should not control how he will defend himself as long as the steps to be taken will not be in violation of the rules.

The Marquez ruling, however, cannot be applied in this case. In Marquez, the accused had requested for the examination of the disbursement vouchers, purchase requests and authorization requests by the NBI from the beginning. Records of the case showed that right upon his alleged discovery of the forged signatures, while the case was still with the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), the accused already sought referral of the disbursement vouchers, purchase requests and authorization requests to the NBI for examination. At that stage, OSP denied his plea. In the case at bench, the trial had already started and, worse, the accuseds motion for reconsideration was filed beyond the reglementary period.

At any rate, as earlier pointed out, the denial of his motion was without prejudice as the RTC stated that he could utilize the concerned NBI intended witness during the presentation of defense evidence.

x x x."