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Admissibility and weight of evidence

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2021 - 12:00am

This is another case involving married spouses, particularly the rights and obligations of the husband or father of their children. The issues raised in this case are the timeliness of the objections raised on the evidence offered and on the grounds for such objections. This is the case of Rudy and Marta.

Rudy and Marta have been married for about eight years during which they begot two children aged three and two years old. At that time Marta started suspecting that Rudy was sexually molesting his own children because she would often see them playing with their genitalia. When Marta asked who taught them of such activity, the children would answer “Papa.” Thus to protect the minors from further abuse, Marta left the conjugal dwelling and took the children to her parents.

Three years thereafter, Rudy filed a Petition to “Fix the Rights of the Father with Prayers for the Issuance of a Temporary Protection Order and Hold Departure Order.” After Marta filed her answer also with a Prayer for Temporary Protection Order, Rudy manifested during the pre-trial that he would be presenting, among other witnesses, Dr. Doris Holmes who will testify on his mental state and fitness to exercise parental authority over their minor children.

So, at the hearing of the Petition, Dr. Holmes confirmed her psychological evaluation report on Rudy which she retrieved from Rudy’s memory while under hypnotic trance. She narrated that the children have accidentally witnessed their parents in the act of sexual intercourse on several occasions which caused them to develop sexual hyperactivity. Before propounding questions for the cross examination of Holmes, Marta’s counsel, Atty. Payo, moved to strike out the direct testimony of Holmes on the ground that her expertise had not been established and that it was inadmissible because it was derived from hypnotically-induced recollection. But the RTC ruled to retain the testimony subject to continuing objection on the qualification of the witness.

So Atty. Payo proceeded to cross examine Holmes about her qualifications and the methodology she used in examining Rudy. Then he filed a motion to expunge the testimony of Holmes because of her lack of qualification as an expert witness, and to suppress the evidence of Rudy, particularly the psychological evaluation report by reason of the inadmissibility of hypnotically induced recollection.

The RTC, however, still denied Atty. Payo’s motion to expunge the testimony of Holmes for failure to timely question her qualification. It also denied his motion to suppress the psychological report because the same is premature, considering that such report has not yet been formally offered. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) on a petition for certiorari filed by Atty. Payo. The CA ruled that no objection was raised during Holmes’ direct examination, which operates as an implied waiver of the inadmissibility of her testimony. Moreover, Atty. Payo repeatedly cross-examined Holmes, thereby waiving any objection to her testimony. As to the motion to suppress the psychological evaluation report, the CA ruled that an objection thereto cannot be made in advance of the offer of evidence sought to be introduced. Was the CA correct?

The Supreme Court said yes. In order to exclude evidence, the objection must be made at the proper time, and on the grounds specified. Objection to oral evidence must be made after the objectionable question is asked, or after the answer is given if it becomes apparent only at that time. In the case of documentary evidence, objection should be made after all the witnesses of a party have testified and during the offer of evidence specifying the purpose for which the document is being offered. If the offer of evidence is made in writing, it may be objected to within three days after notice of the offer unless a different period is allowed by the court (Section 35, in relation to Section 36, Rule 132,Rules of Court).

So, with respect to the testimony of Holmes, Marta, through her counsel, should have objected to her qualification as an expert witness during the course of her direct testimony. Marta should not have waited in ambush after the expert witness had already finished testifying. By so doing, she did not save the time of the court in hearing the testimony of the witness which she claimed is inadmissible.

With regards to the documentary evidence consisting of the psychological report, objection thereto must be made at the time it is formally offered as an exhibit and not when it is still being identified and before it is marked as an exhibit. So the objections interposed by Marta as to both oral and documentary evidence were not timely made.

At any rate, the SC stressed that admissibility of evidence should not be confused with its probative value. Admissibility refers to the question of whether certain evidence are to be considered at all, while probative value refers to the question of whether the admitted evidence sufficiently proves an issue. Thus in this case, even if the testimony of Holmes and her evaluation report may be admissible, their probative value or evidentiary weight depends on the evaluation of the RTC within the guidelines provided by the rules on evidence (Villanueva-Magsino vs. Magsino, G.R. 205333, Feb. 18, 2019).

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

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