Thursday, January 25, 2007
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Blog Lecture No. 68: State Witnesses

Hello! It's been a while you know.

So let's get started on another year of blog lectures, shall we?

Don't worry this will be short.

Distinguish a state witness from an ordinary witness?

A state witness participated in the prosecuted crime. An ordinary witness is not necessarily a participant to the crime.

Where is the rule on state witnesses in the Philippines?

It's found in Republic Act No. 6981, known as the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act and Rule 119 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.

How do you qualify as a state witness?

Section 10 of the law states:

Section 10. State Witness. - Any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a witness for the State, can apply and, if qualified as determined in this Act and by the Department, shall be admitted into the Program whenever the following circumstances are present:

(a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code or its equivalent under special laws;

(b) there is absolute necessity for his testimony;

(c) there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed:

(d) his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;

(e) he does not appear to be most guilty; and

(f) he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

An accused discharged from an information or criminal complaint by the court in order that he may be a State Witness pursuant to Section 9 and 10 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court may upon his petition be admitted to the Program if he complies with the other requirements of this Act. Nothing in this Act shall prevent the discharge of an accused, so that he can be used as a State Witness under Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Sections 9 and 10 of the Revised Rules of Court referred to in this law are now Sections 17 and 18 of the same Rules which read as follows:

Section 17. Discharge of accused to be state witness. — When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that:

(a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;

(b) The is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused;

(c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;

(d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and

(e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence.

Section 18. Discharge of accused operates as acquittal. — The order indicated in the preceding section shall amount to an acquittal of the discharged accused and shall be a bar to future prosecution for the same offense, unless the accused fails or refuses to testify against his co-accused in accordance with his sworn statement constituting the basis for the discharge.

What is a grave felony?

Article 9 of the Revised Penal Code distinguished grave, less grave and light felonies, as follows:

Article 9. Grave felonies, less grave felonies and light felonies. — Grave felonies are those to which the law attaches the capital punishment or penalties which in any of their periods are afflictive, in accordance with article 25 of this Code.

Less grave felonies are those which the law punishes with penalties which in their maximum period are correctional, in accordance with the above-mentioned article.

Light felonies are those infractions of law for the commission of which the penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos or both, is provided.

What are afflictive penalties?

These are reclusion perpetua to prision mayor, according to Article 25 of the Revised Penal Code.

So I participated in the crime of, let's say, plunder. I want to turn state witness. How do I go about it?

Of course you have to qualify first, given the requisites of the law. This means:

1. If the crime is not grave, NO DEAL!

2. If the testimony is not necessary, that is, the prosecution can prove the case without the testimony, NO DEAL!

3. If the testimony cannot be verified by other evidence (object or testimonial), NO DEAL!

4. If the snitch is actually the mastermind of the plot, NO DEAL!

5. If the snitch has been convicted of a crime like estafa before, NO DEAL!

If the snitch qualifies, he executes a sworn statement describing in detail the manner in which the offense was committed and his participation therein.

If after said examination of said person, his sworn statement and other relevant facts, the prosecution is satisfied that the requirements of this as and its implementing rules are complied with, it may admit such person as a state witness.

The prosecution then files a motion in court to discharge the snitch in the criminal case as a state witness. If granted, that discharge operates as an acquittal, unless he does not live up to the end of his bargain, which is if the snitch fails or refuses to testify against his co-accused in accordance with his sworn statement constituting the basis for the discharge.

What about co-principals or co-conspirators?

Depending on the evaluation of the prosecution and the court, if these snitches do not appear as the most guilty, then they may become state witnesses. But then again, an act of a co-conspirator is the act of all so guilt becomes equally distributed. Ruling on the amount of guilt then becomes the judgment call of both prosecution and the court.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss the difference between homicide and murder.

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