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CASE NO.

5
Credibility of witnesses| Circumstantial Evidence| DNA Testing

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. JOEL YATAR alias "KAWIT"

G.R. No. 150224 (428 SCRA 504); May 19, 2004

FACTS

Accused-appellant was sentenced to death for the special complex crime of Rape with
Homicide, and ordering him to pay the heirs of the victim. Appellant was charged to have
had carnal knowledge of a certain Kathylyn Uba against her will, and with the use of a
bladed weapon, stabbed the latter inflicting upon her fatal injuries resulting in her untimely
demise.

In the instant case, appellant raises the issue of credibility of witnesses, specifically
assigning as error on the part of the trial court, the latters giving of much weight to the
evidence presented by the prosecution notwithstanding their doubtfulness.

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ISSUE (1)

Whether appellants contentions as regards the witnesses credibility are meritorious.

HELD: NO.

The issue regarding the credibility of the prosecution witnesses should be resolved against
appellant. This Court will not interfere with the judgment of the trial court in determining the
credibility of witnesses unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of
weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been
misinterpreted.
Well-entrenched is the rule that the findings of the trial court on credibility of witnesses are
entitled to great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons are presented necessitating a
reexamination if not the disturbance of the same; the reason being that the former is in a
better and unique position of hearing first hand the witnesses and observing their
deportment, conduct and attitude. Absent any showing that the trial judge overlooked,
misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight which would affect the
result of the case, the trial judges assessment of credibility deserves the appellate courts
highest respect. Where there is nothing to show that the witnesses for the prosecution were
actuated by improper motive, their testimonies are entitled to full faith and credit.

The weight of the prosecutions evidence must be appreciated in light of the well-settled rule
which provides that an accused can be convicted even if no eyewitness is available, as long
as sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented by the prosecution to prove beyond doubt
that the accused committed the crime.

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ISSUE (2)

Sufficiency of Circumstantial Evidence

HELD: Circumstantial evidence, to be sufficient to warrant a conviction, must form an


unbroken chain which leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused, to the
exclusion of others, is the perpetrator of the crime. To determine whether there is sufficient
circumstantial evidence, three requisites must concur: (1) there is more than one
circumstance; (2) facts on which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the
combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable
doubt.

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ISSUE (3)

In an attempt to exclude the DNA evidence, the appellant contends that the blood sample
taken from him as well as the DNA tests were conducted in violation of his right to remain
silent as well as his right against self-incrimination under Secs. 12 and 17 of Art. III of the
Constitution.
Is the contention of appellant tenable?

HELD: NO.

The kernel of the right is not against all compulsion, but against testimonial compulsion. The
right against self- incrimination is simply against the legal process of extracting from the lips
of the accused an admission of guilt. It does not apply where the evidence sought to be
excluded is not an incrimination but as part of object evidence.

We ruled in People v. Rondero that although accused-appellant insisted that hair samples
were forcibly taken from him and submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation for
forensic examination, the hair samples may be admitted in evidence against him, for what is
proscribed is the use of testimonial compulsion or any evidence communicative in nature
acquired from the accused under duress.

Hence, a person may be compelled to submit to fingerprinting, photographing, paraffin,


blood and DNA, as there is no testimonial compulsion involved. Under People v. Gallarde,
where immediately after the incident, the police authorities took pictures of the accused
without the presence of counsel, we ruled that there was no violation of the right against
self-incrimination. The accused may be compelled to submit to a physical examination to
determine his involvement in an offense of which he is accused.