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TOPIC: “THIS HOUSE SHALL PROSECUTE CRIMES WITHOUT


THE AID OF STATE WITNESS: (NEGATIVE)

Adolfo, Lisandro
Baltazar, Risha Kay Vocis
Pascasio, Ma. Veah Luisa

MOTION TO DISCHARGE ACCUSED AS STATE WITNESS

I. INTRODUCTION

In trial, there are two contending parties, namely: the


Prosecution and the Defense. Either party will always use a witness
to prove their respective position in court. On the part of the
Prosecution, when a crime is committed and no one is willing to
come forward to offer their testimony to aid in prosecuting the
alleged suspects, it is quite hard for the Prosecution to secure a
conviction. In view of this, the State through the Rules of Court
provides for a way out or a remedy to address the matter, with the
use of a State Witness.

II. ARGUMENTS

A.

Before anything else, it is basic to know first “Who is a


Witness?” Section 20, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence,
provides that;

Sec. 20. Witnesses; their qualifications. – Except as


provided in the next succeeding section, all persons who
can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their
perception to others, may be a witness.

xxx xxx xxx

With this in mind, the next logical question would be “Who is


the Accused?” An accused is a person who has been formally
charged by the prosecutor with a crime within the jurisdiction of the
court. Under Philippine Laws, an ACCUSED may become a
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WITNESS. However, emphasis must be made that we are talking


here of a STATE WITNESS and not a hostile witness where in this
situation his (hostile witness) right against self-incrimination maybe
violated if the prosecution presses on. Who then is a STATE
WITNESS? Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court
provides for the conditions by which an accused qualifies as a State
Witness;

SEC. 17. Discharge of accused to be state witness. -


When two or more persons are jointly charged with the
commission of an offense, upon motion of the prosecution
before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of
the accused to be discharged with their consent so that
they may be witness for the state when, after requiring
the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn
statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in
support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that;
(a) There is absolute necessity for the
testimony of the accused whose discharge is
requested;
(b) There is no other direct evidence
available for the proper prosecution of an offense
committed except the testimony of said accused;
(c) The testimony of said accused can be
substantially corroborated in its material points;
(d) Said accused does not appear to be the
most guilty; and
(e) Said accused has not at any time been
convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall
automatically form part of the trial. If the court
denies the motion for discharge of the accused as
state witness, his sworn statement shall be
inadmissible in evidence.

As can be gleaned from the above, there are five qualifications


in order to be a state witness. We shall now discuss each qualification
one by one; first, that there is absolute necessity for the testimony of
the accused whose discharge is requested. This requirement is aimed
to curtail miscarriage of justice. Absolute necessity of the testimony
of the defendant, whose discharge is requested must be shown, if the
discharge is to be allowed, and it is the court upon which the power
to determine the necessity is lodged;
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The second qualification stresses on the fact that there is no


other direct evidence available for the prosecution of the offense
committed, except the testimony of said accused. The discharge of
the witness may only be made if he alone has knowledge of the crime
and not when his testimony would simply corroborate or otherwise
strengthen the evidence in the hands of the prosecution;

Third qualification is that the testimony of said accused can be


substantially corroborated in its material points. This is an
indispensible requirement because it is a known fact in human nature
that a culprit confessing a crime is likely to put the blame on others
rather than him;

Fourth, is that the said accused does not appear to be the most
guilty. The law only requires that the defendant whose exclusion is
requested does not appear to be the guiltiest, not necessarily that he
is the least guilty;

Lastly, that the said accused has not at any time been convicted
of any offense involving moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is defined
as anything done contrary to justice, honesty, principle or good
morals. In this requirement prior conviction is necessary, so if the
witness being discharged was merely accused of a crime involving
moral turpitude or has been acquitted of the same, he is still eligible
for discharge. The discharge of an accused operates as acquittal and
shall be a bar to future prosecution for the same offense, unless the
accused fails or refuses to testify against his co-accused in accordance
with his sworn statement constituting the basis for his discharge. It is
true that an accused cannot be made a hostile witness for the
prosecution, for to do so would compel him to be a witness against
himself. However, he may testify against co-defendant where he has
agreed to do so with full knowledge of his right and the
consequences of his acts. It is not necessary that the court discharges
him as a state witness.

B.

There is a difference between testifying as a state witness and


testifying as a co-accused. In the first, the proposed state witness has
to qualify as a state witness, i.e., that his testimony is absolutely
necessary in the case; that there is no other direct evidence available
for the proper prosecution of the offense; that his testimony can be
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corroborated in its material points; that he does not appear to be the


most guilty; and that he has not been convicted of any offense
involving moral turpitude. After satisfying these conditions, he is
discharged as an accused and exempted from prosecution. In the
second, the witness remains as an accused and can be made liable
should he be found guilty of the criminal offense.

As a state witness, one may avail of the witness protection


program. While the application as state witness is the domain of the
court, the application for admission in the program is filed to and
approved by DOJ. An application form may be obtained from the
Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program Secretariat (at the
DOJ building in Padre Faura, Manila) or from any Regional State
Prosecutor. In order to be admitted, the state witness apart from the
requirements earlier enumerated, it is a must that:

• The offense in which the accused testimony will be used is a


grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code or its
equivalent under special laws.

Apart from the acquittal, the other benefits that the witness under
the program may receive are:

• Security protection and escort services


• Secure housing facility
• Assistance in obtaining a means of livelihood.
• Reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance while
acting as a witness
• Free medical treatment, hospitalization and medicine for any
injury or illness incurred or suffered while acting as a witness
• Burial benefits of not less than P10,000 if the witness is killed
• Free education from primary to college level for the minor or
dependent children of a witness who dies or is permanently
incapacitated
• Non-removal or demotion in work because of absences due to
his being a witness, and payment of full salary or wage while
acting as witness.

The state may also offer the witness a place in the witness
protection program, giving them a new identity, so they need not fear
retaliation from their former accomplices. With such support from
the Government, conviction of offender in a seemingly hopeless case
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wherein at first there is no witness who is willing to risk his personal


safety is suddenly almost certain and within arms reach.

Offender(s) will be having a difficult time belying or parrying


the testimony of their previous associate turned state witness;
specially so if the nitty-gritty of the commission of the crime are
accurately narrated in court by the witness just like with fluidity of
an orchestra in harmony with its conductor and its music.

C.

Philippine jurisprudence has long established and


acknowledged the importance of State Witnesses in the prosecution
of criminal cases. Its justification lies in the particular need of the
State to obtain the conviction of the more guilty criminals, otherwise,
will probably elude the long arm of the law.

Being a state witness, the criminal enters into a contract with


the State that in recompense for his exemption or immunity from
criminal liability, he shall honestly and fairly make a full disclosure
of the crime upon the trial court of a confederate, whether the
confederate is convicted or not. Having set the qualifications for state
witnesses, the court has ensured that such testimonies given by said
witnesses would be of vital importance and credibility.

In Salvanera v. People, G.R. No. 143093, May 21, 2007, the


Supreme Court ruled that a conspiracy is more readily proved by the
acts of a fellow criminal than by any other method. If it is shown that
the statements of the conspirator are corroborated by other evidence,
then we have convincing proof of veracity. Where a crime is
contrived in secret, the discharge of one of the conspirators is
essential because only they have the knowledge of the crime.
Moreover, prosecution witnesses, who are not accused, do not have
personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the alleged
conspiracy, thus they could not testify to corroborate the statements
of the state witnesses as to the participation of the accused.

In Chua v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 103397, August 28, 1996, the
court stated that countless crimes would go unpunished as insolent
and contumacious criminals oft-times defy the law with impunity if
the rules on criminal procedure were so construed or applied as to
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seal hermetically the mouths of accomplices, informers and participers


in general. Since most crimes are conceived, planned and resolved to
be committed in secret, the facts which would sustain a conviction
are known only to the conspirators themselves and as such without
the aid of said state witnesses, many guilty parties would escape
punishment.

One cannot deny the importance of the aid that state witnesses
offer in the prosecution of criminal cases. When there is no direct
evidence available for the proper prosecution of the criminal offense,
the accused may be acquitted and unpunished and the State then,
irretrievably prejudiced.

D.

In criminal cases, the burden of proof to establish the guilt of


the accused lies upon the prosecution, hence it is imperative for the
latter to exhaust all judicious means in providing evidence of guilt
beyond reasonable doubt. In circumstances however where the facts
alleged and supporting evidence presented are not sufficient enough
to warrant affirmation of the culpability of the accused, the testimony
of the one of the accused may be sought in order to assist in the
proper resolution of the offense allegedly committed. As it is a well–
founded principle in our legal system that justice delayed is justice
denied, it is therefore incumbent upon the Court to not only
impartially administer the rendition of judgment but also to deliver it
in a prompt and timely manner. Hence, resorting to the aid of a State
Witness will facilitate the speedy trial and timely resolution of the
case.

An exploration to obtain a testimony from a third party witness


will impose a costly and time–consuming ordeal upon the opposing
parties as well as the Court. There is a risk for the outcome to be
futile considering that no qualified witness may be found or no
veracious statements may be produced from the same. Hence, to
consider a co–accused as a state witness is an advantage for the state
as it will save the Court the time and effort spent in useless search for
pieces of evidence which may not be as sufficient as those obtained
from one who committed the crime subsidiarily.
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Moreover, Section 9 of Republic Act No. 6981, otherwise known


as An Act Providing for a Witness Protection, Security and Benefit
Program and For Other Purposes provides the following, viz.

“In any case where a Witness admitted into the


Program shall testify, the judicial or quasi–judicial body,
or investigating authority shall assure a speedy hearing
or trial and shall endeavor to finish said proceeding
within three (3) months from the filing of the case.”

Considering the foregoing provision, in the implementation of the


Witness Protection Program, the judiciary is compelled to assure a
speedy trial and accomplish the disposition of the case within the
aforementioned prescribed timeframe. Hence, discharging the
accused as State Witness considering that it will facilitate speedy trial
will be beneficial to the Court as well as the litigants.

III. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

All things considered, it is a huge advantage for the state to use


an accused to be a state witness because it becomes convenient and
easier to pin down the guilt of the remaining accused by the
testimony of no other than an accomplice or associate. In particularly
high-profile or dangerous cases such as organized crime trials and
other federal crimes trials, witnesses may be offered immunity from
prosecution even if they have committed serious crimes themselves,
provided, that all the necessary, material elements and requirements
needed to be a state witness are complied with. Prosecuting with the
use of state witness enhances the almost nil chance of conviction to
almost certain.