Credible eyewitness
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Usually crimes are committed without eyewitnesses so that the culprit will not be identified and thus escape liability. In this case however the crime was committed in the midst of an affair with many people present. Also discussed here is the effect of using a false surname on the credibility of an eyewitness. Is the testimony of said witness still believable? When will such use of another name not affect the credibility of the testimony. This are the issues discussed and answered in this case of Tony.

The affair in this case is the graduation exercises of a municipal public school in a Visayan municipality. Among those attending the occasion are Mr. Corcuera, the town’s Vice Mayor and his wife Jessica. Corcuera was on the right side of a high school student-scholar named Abby who was behind Tony separated from the latter only by a waist-high bamboo fence. Because Tony stationed himself so close to Abby, she thought at first that Tony was going to molest her.

When Vice Mayor Corcuera turned his head to the left looking at the assistant high school principal who was at the stage about to deliver his address, Tony shot the Vice Mayor, with the bullet entering the left parietal bone at the back of the head passing through the brain and exiting at the right temporal side of the skull, causing instantaneous death.

Abby saw the shooting and even remembered Tony’s facial features, notably his slanting left eye which in Tagalog means pirot. So Tony was charged with murder. Also charged was Nichol his brother who allegedly conspired with him.

At the trial, Abby testified as the eyewitness who identified Tony and told the court how he shot the vice mayor. However when cross-examined she admitted that her real surname is Veloso and not Romero which is the surname of her grandmother where she was staying. Tony on the other hand denied having shot the Vice Mayor. He testified that he was with two other women friends (Rosie and Lina) at some distance away from the Vice Mayor carrying on his shoulder Rosie’s child. He said that when they heard the shot, they scampered and left the place. Also testifying was Tony’s mother (Pinang) who said that, two months before the incident she complained to the Secretary of National Defense about the persecutory acts of the Vice Mayor against her children. It turned out however that this complaint was dismissed by the commanding officer of the Philippine Constabulary company in the town to whom it was endorsed by the provincial commander.

The trial court however did not give credence to Tony’s evidence because he was positively identified by Abby as the gun-wielder. According to the trial court, Abby was not impelled by any improper motive in testifying against Tony. So Tony was found guilty of murder but his brother Nichol was absolved on the ground of reasonable doubt. Tony appealed the decision and contends that the trial court should have given credence to his evidence rather than that of the prosecution. He cited the wrong surname given by Abby to the court which allegedly affects her credibility. Tony also argued that he could not have fired the shot which entered the left side of the vice mayor’s head because he was allegedly on Abby’s right.

The Supreme Court however did not accept Tony’s contentions. The SC said that while it is true that the real surname of Abby is Veloso and not Romero, she used Romero because it is the maternal surname of her grandmother with whom she was then living. She feared that if she used Veloso which she used when she enrolled in high school, Tony might be able to identify her and inflict reprisal on her. The SC also ruled that while Tony was allegedly on Abby’s right and could have fired the shot which entered the left side of the vice mayor’s head, there is no proof that he was right handed. And even if he was right handed, it is clear that he fired the shot at the moment when the vice mayor’s head was turned to the left.

So Tony is really guilty of murder as the killing was qualified by treachery since he employed a mode of attack which insured its execution without any risk to him arising from the defense which the victim might have made. So the trial court properly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua with the modification that the indemnity is increased to P30,000 (People vs. Moreno, G.R. L-53915 May 28, 1984)

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