Prostitute witness
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2019 - 12:00am

As already ruled in a number of cases, the guilt of an accused must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by clear and convincing evidence. For this purpose the credibility of the witness who has allegedly seen the commission of the crime must be proven. And in determining the credibility of an eyewitness, will her reputation as a woman of loose morals be material? Also explained and answered in this case is treachery, one of the circumstances that aggravate the commission of the crime.

This case involves Cardo, Badong and Mando, members of the Integrated National Police (INP) serving as jail wardens in a city jail. Mando was then a detainee in the jail for some infraction still under investigation. The incident happened early morning when Ramon, Lando and two other jail guards in the night shift, allowed Nahemiah, an Egyptian national previously detained in the jail, to enter the premises together with a female companion, Vicky. Then at about 4 a.m. when Nahemiah and Vicky were already going out of jail, Cardo, then on the night shift duty also, escorted out detained co-accused Mando without any authorization from the desk officer on duty. Jail guard Ramon asked Cardo to secure the approval of the desk officer but the latter ignored him and continued on his way out with Mando.

That same early morning, Dinah a woman working in a disco joint near the city jail, and her companions, Lina and Becky, were at a street corner after coming out of the joint. Dinah decided to pass by the city jail to see her brother who was also detained there. She however stopped at a nearby burger stand to have her money broken into smaller denominations so she can give some to her brother.

While at the burger stand, Dinah saw Nahemiah and Vicky at the center island of the Boulevard engaged in argument with Cardo and another man. She recognized Nahemiah and Vicky because she had previously seen them in jail for Nahemiah’s swindling. Afterwards the first gunfire from Cardo felled Nahemiah followed by two more shots from Badong and Cardo. Then they chased Vicky who ran toward the burger stand. They told Vicky that she will be brought to a nearby waiting cab. However when the two were already beside Vicky, they both shot her and then ran toward a market.

Policemen, particularly PC/Sgt. Guerrero from the homicide section responded to a report about the incident and the two dead bodies of Nahemiah and Vicky were brought to the NBI for autopsy. They were found to have died from the three gunshot wounds in different parts of the body.

So Cardo, Badong and Mando were accused of two counts of murder for the killing of Nahemiah and Vicky. Based on the investigation report of the police, and the testimony of Dinah, only Cardo and Badong were found guilty and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua by the trial court as it found Mando not guilty and acquitted him. On appeal after conviction, Badong escaped and so his appeal was dismissed.

For his part, Cardo assails among others the credibility of Dinah as an eyewitness to the incident as there are facts or circumstances of weight and influence which were not appreciated by the court particularly the inconsistencies in the details between her declarations in the administrative and criminal proceedings. Cardo also claimed that Dinah is not credible because she is a woman of loose morals. He also contended that it is improbable that Dinah will tell the exact truth because she may have the slightest motive to testify falsely as she was willing to sell her evidence like her readiness to offer her person for sale.

The Supreme Court however found Cardo’s claims untenable. The SC declared that per se, loose morals is not a ground to discredit a witness. There must be clear indications militating against her credibility other than her being a person of ill repute. Even a prostitute may be a competent witness and an accused may be duly convicted on her sole testimony provided it is not coached or rehearsed and worthy of credence beyond reasonable doubt on all other counts. The reputation of Dinah is not germane to the case. The discrepancies in her answers and the supposed lie concerning her personal circumstances are not enough to discredit her because she ascribes them to her constant fear, considering that he was threatened by Cardo, a policeman whom she knew could kill as he did kill the two victims. Besides, her untrue statements do not deal with her positive identification of Cardo and Badong.

Conspiracy between Cardo and Badong has also been established. The unity of purpose between them was clearly established by the plain and clear testimony of Dinah who saw the two in an argument with Nahemiah before both of them shot the latter. Clearly, both are guilty.

Treachery also attended the commission of the crimes qualifying them to murder. Both accused employed means, methods and forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and especially to insure their execution without risk to themselves arising from the defense or resistance which the victims might make. So the killings was qualified by treachery to make it murder punishable by reclusion perpetua (People vs. Cheng, Malubay and Sioco, G.R. 120158-59, September 15, 1997)

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