G.R. No. 1647. November 21, 1905

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5 Phil. 339

[ G.R. No. 1647. November 21, 1905 ]




This is a motion for a rehearing on the ground that the accused in
this case was convicted on the testimony of confederates,
self-confessed accomplices in the commission of the crime with which he
was charged. The question of the admissibility and competency of the
evidence of accomplices was maturely considered at the original hearing
on appeal, and the court held as follows :

“While the evidence of accomplices or confederates
is always subject to grave suspicion, ‘coming, as it does, from a
polluted source,’ and should be received with great caution and closely
and doubtingly examined, we are of opinion, nevertheless, that it is
admissible and competent, and may be taken into consideration under the
provisions of section 55 of General Orders, No. 58, series of 1900.”

The rule allowing the admission of accomplices or confederates in the
crime to testify is supported by public policy and necessity, since it
is scarcely possible to detect conspiracies and many worse offenses
without the information of those who are implicated in the crime.’ (Am.
and Eng. Ency. of Law, second edition, vol. 1, p. 397.)”

Under the provisions of General Orders, No. 58, the American system
of procedure in criminal cases has been substantially adopted in these
Islands, and the above ruling is in accordance with the American and
English doctrine, except in those jurisdictions where a different rule
is expressly prescribed by statute.

The reasons upon which this doctrine is founded are as potent under
the new system of criminal procedure in the Philippines as in the
United States or England and the danger of error resulting therefrom is
certainly no greater where questions of fact are determined by the
court than where such questions are submitted to a jury, for the judge
is presumed to be a man learned in the law, skilled in the art of
sifting and weighing evidence, and keenly alive to the tainted
character of the evidence of accomplices, and to the need for the
exercise of the greatest jealousy and caution in its acceptance.

It is contended, however, that the evidence in this case rests on
the uncorroborated testimony of accomplices, and this court is
requested to lay down a rule that a finding of guilt can not be
sustained upon such evidence. We are of opinion, however, that the lack
of corroboration merely affects the credibility of the witness and in
no wise affects his competence, and that if his testimony satisfies the
court as to the guilt of the accused, beyond a reasonable doubt, it is

This is no new doctrine as will appear from an examination of the
American and English cases and text writers, some of whom we quote at
length, in view of the doubt and uncertainty which seems to have arisen
on this point :

The degree of credit which ought to be
given to the testimony of an accomplice is a matter exclusively within
the province of the jury. It has sometimes been said that they ought
not to believe him, unless his testimony is corroborated by other
evidence; and, without doubt, great caution in weighing such testimony
is dictated by prudence and good reason. But there is no such rule of
law; it being expressly conceded that the jury may, if they please, act
upon the evidence of the accomplice, without any confirmation of his
statement. But, on the other hand, judges, in their discretion, will
advise a jury not to convict of felony upon the testimony of an
accomplice alone and without corroboration; and it is now so generally
the practice to give them such advice, that its omission would be
regarded as an omission of duty on the part of the judge.” (Greenleaf
on Evidence, vol. 1, par. 380.)

“Under the common law, the
mere uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice will, if beyond a
reasonable doubt it satisfies the jury, who are the sole judges of the
evidence, sustain a verdict of guilty.” (Bishop’s New Criminal
Procedure, vol. 1, par. 1169.)

“Since accomplices are
competent witnesses, it appears to follow, as a necessary consequence,
that if their testimony is believed by the jury, a prisoner may be
legally convicted upon it, though it be unconfirmed by any other
evidence. It is the peculiar province of the jury to determine upon the
degree of credit to be attached to any competent evidence submitted to
their consideration; and it has accordingly been laid down in many
cases as a settled rule that a conviction obtained upon the unsupported
testimony of an accomplice is strictly legal.” (Phillips on Evidence,
vol. 1, p. 110, fourth American edition.)

“Since the
testimony of accomplices is competent, and since the jury are to judge
of the credibility of witnesses, it logically follows that a defendant may be convicted upon the unsupported evidence of an accomplice. If the jury so act upon such testimony, the verdict will not be set aside.” (Jones’s Law of Evidence, vol. 3, par. 787.)

it has often been said by judges and elementary writers that no person
should be convicted on the testimony of an accomplice unless
corroborated by other evidence, still, there is no such inflexible rule
of law. It is a question for the jury, who are to pass upon the
credibility of an accomplice, as they must upon that of every other
witness. His statements are to be received with great caution, and the
court should always so advise; but, after all, if this testimony
carries conviction of its truth, they should give the same effect to
such testimony as should be allowed to that of an unimpeached witness,
who is in no respect implicated in the offense. Such testimony will
authorize a conviction in any case. The court certainly will advise
great caution on the part of the jury where the testimony depends upon
the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice; but they are not to be
instructed, as a matter of law, that the prisoner in such case must be
acquitted.” (People vs. Costello, 1 Denio, 83.)

The motion for a rehearing should be denied, and it is so ordered.

Arellano C.J., Torres, Mapa, and Johnson, JJ., concur.

Date created: April 28, 2014


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