Gagging Mariano Part 3

Re: THAT THE TESTIMONY OF MR. TANENGLIAN IS “SUSPECT” AND “WOULD SERVE NO USEFUL PURPOSE FOR THE GOVERNMENT”

The OSG has also taken the position that the testimony of Mr. Tanenglian is “suspect” and therefore “valueless.”

That conclusion seems to be borne out of the following premises:

(i) The PCGG does not know the motives for the offer to testify

(ii) It took Mariano Tanenglian 20 years before offering to testify

Testimony is not “suspect”

Even assuming that Mr. Tanenglian has an interest adverse to his brother, this fact alone will not make his testimony untrue.  The Philippine Supreme Court has time and again ruled that a party’s interest is “not a ground for disregarding his testimony,” thus:

While  a party’s interest may to some extent affect  his credibility, his interest alone is not a ground for disregarding his testimony. The argument that the testimony of an interested party is self-serving and therefore inadmissible in evidence misses the essential nature of self-serving evidence and the ground for its exclusion.

[National Development Co. vs. Workmen’s Compensation Commission, et al; G.R. No. L-21724, 27 April 1967]

The common objection known as self-serving is not correct because all testimonies are self-serving.

[Hernandez vs. Court of Appeals; G.R. No. 104847, 14 December 1993]

“The law itself provides that a party or any other person interested in the outcome of a case may testify (section 18, Rule 130, Rules of Court). The testimony of an interested witness, this Court has said, should not be rejected on the ground of bias alone, and must be judged on its own merits, and if such testimony is clear and convincing and not destroyed by other evidence on record, it may be believed (U.S. vs. Mante, 27 Phil. 134).”

[Carandang vs. Cabatuando; G.R. No. L-25384, 26 october 1973]

Indeed, testimony by an individual is naturally and generally “self-serving” and made for his own interests. That Mariano Tanenglian has personal interest in the subject of litigation does not necessarily invalidate his testimony.

Regarding a possible ulterior motive, the rule is that in its absence, all testimony must be given full faith and credibility. The presumption is in favor of the good faith.

The PCGG, on the other hand, is presuming just the opposite, which contravenes well known rules of appreciation laid down by the Supreme Court, to wit:

It is settled that when there is no showing that the principal witnesses for the prosecution were actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that the witnesses were not so actuated and their testimonies are thus entitled to full faith and credit. Testimonies of witnesses who have no motive or reason to falsify or perjure their testimonies should be given credence.

[People vs. Gallarde; G.R. No. 133025, 17 February 2000]

Without showing any reason or motive for a prosecution witness to perjure his testimony, the presumption is that no such improper motive exists, and his testimony is worthy of full faith and credit.

[People vs. Carino; G.R. No. 129960, 28 august 2001]

Absent any evidence showing any reason or motive for the prosecution witnesses to perjure, the logical conclusion is that no such improper motive exists, and their testimonies are thus worthy of full faith and credit.

[People vs. Mallari; G.R. No. 145993, 17 June 2003]

Since the presumption is in favor of the witness’ good faith, clear and convincing evidence of bad faith is necessary to overturn the presumption [Heirs of Severina Gregorio vs. Court of Appeals, et al.; G.R. No. 117609, 29 December 1998].   Thus, the government is under no obligation at the first instance to establish goodwill or a noble motive in order to put Mr. Tanenglian on the witness stand.

Corollarily, it seems incongruous for the OSG to automatically attribute ill-motive on a potential witness simply due to his relations to one of the defendants.  As a matter of fact, jurisprudence itself proclaims that relationship should not automatically give rise to a presumption of bad faith, thus:

Relationship per se does not give rise to the presumption of ulterior motive nor does it ipso facto tarnish the credibility of a witness.

[People vs. Vicente, et al., G.R. No. 142447, 21 December 2001]

With respect to motives in “ill-gotten wealth” cases in particular, the High Court in “Tanchangco and Lacson vs. Sandiganbayan, et al.” [G.R. No. 141675-96, 25 November 2005]  recognized that self-serving interests such as protection and benefit are ACCEPTABLE motives, thus:

In tracing and recovering the colossal sums of `ill-gotten wealth’, the PCGG would inevitably collide with powerful interests. Persons who would be able to assist in the prosecution of cases of ill-gotten wealth may understandably be hesitant to cooperate with the PCGG without the assurance of some protection, or perhaps corresponding benefit on their part. There may be some inherent unease with the notion that persons may acquit themselves of their own criminal culpability by striking a deal with the government, yet the process of compromise has long been allowed in our jurisdiction, and in the jurisdiction of other states as well. This holds especially true in the prosecution of ill-gotten wealth cases, which not only involve monumental amounts, but have also acquired immense symbolic value. [emphasis supplied]

Neither is the alleged delay in Mr. Tanenglian’s offer to testify sufficient to destroy the credibility of his testimony, thus:

It has been a consistent ruling of this court that a witness’ delay in testifying does not affect his credibility.

[People of the Philippines vs. Obosa; G.R. No. 132069, 31 May 2000]

It is not uncommon for a witness to a crime to show some reluctance about getting involved in a criminal case. The natural reticence of most people to get involved is of judicial notice. It is understandable for a witness to fear for his safety, especially in this case where PC men were involved in the commission of a crime. Such initial reticence does not affect the witness’ credibility.

[People vs. Caraig; G.R. No. 116224-27, 28 March 2003]

Even more importantly, beyond a preliminary determination that a witness is qualified for discharge and/or immunity under the rules, neither the PCGG nor the OSG have any business preempting the rightful prerogative of the courts to decide on issues such as the credibility of the witnesses and weight of their testimony.

By placing unnecessary obstacles to the testimony of Mr. Tanenglian, the prosecution is effectively depriving the Sandiganbayan of the opportunity not only to hear evidence but also to perform its constitutionally mandated function.

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