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Character of Witnesses

Character Evidence Character of Witnesses Rule 130 - Rules of Admissibility Rule 132 - Presentation of Evidence

Sec. 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions:—

c) In the case provided for in Rule 132, Section 14.

Sec. 14. Evidence of good character of witness. — Evidence of the good character of a witness is not admissible until such character has been impeached. 


NOTES:

May the bad moral character of a witness be proved by either party?

Yes. In both civil and criminal cases, the bad moral character or a witness may always be proved by either party. Sec. 11, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 11. Impeachment of adverse party's witness. — A witness may be impeached by the party against whom he was called, by contradictory evidence, by evidence that his general reputation for truth, honestly, or integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has made at other times statements inconsistent with his present, testimony, but not by evidence of particular wrongful acts, except that it may be shown by the examination of the witness, or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an offense.
With respect to a witness in both criminal and civil cases, evidence of his character, in order to affect his credibility, must refer to his “general reputation for truth, honesty or integrity. Thus, testimonies attacking the character of a witness for the purpose of impugning his credibility must relate and be confined to the general reputation which such witness has in the community or neighborhood where he lives or has lived.  Personal opinions on the moral character of a witness, being usually too general, sweeping or subjective, are excluded. (People vs Comiling, et al., G.R. No. 14040. March 4, 2004)


May the good moral character of a witness be proved?

No. The good moral character of a witness may not be proved unless it has been impeached. (Sec. 14, Rule 132)


CASES:
G.R. No. 120158-59, September 15, 1997

Facts: Eleseo Cheng was charged of the crime of murder. One of the witness for the prosecution was Emma Ruth Ilocso. Ilosco testified that she was at the burger stand when she saw Cheng shot the victim. Cheng was convicted. On appeal, Cheng assailed the credibility of Ilosco, claiming that she was a woman of loose morals. Is loose morals a ground to discredit a witness?

Held: Loose morals per se 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.  Otherwise stated, even a prostitute may be a competent witness to the extent that even with her sole testimony an accused may be duly convicted, provided that such witness is not coached and her testimony is not rehearsed and on all other counts worthy of credence beyond reasonable doubt.

The all too sweeping contention in accused-appellant’s motion for reconsideration that it is improbable that Ilocso will tell the exact truth where there is the slightest motive for testifying falsely as she would probably be willing to bring her evidence to market as she was ready to offer her person for sale, presents a cynical and too dark an outlook of a human person for acceptance.  In the first place, Ilocso has not been shown to be a person of ill repute. Then too, the reputation of this witness is not germane to the case.



G.R. No. 137299, August 21, 2001

It is suggested by accused-appellant that the testimony of witness Bienvenido Beatisola should be rejected considering the witness’s questionable reputation and personal background as evidenced by the criminal charges filed against him.

It is true that under the Rules of Court, a witness may be impeached by evidence that his general reputation for truth, honesty, or integrity is bad. However, a witness cannot be impeached by evidence of particular wrongful acts unless there is a showing of previous conviction by final judgment  such that not even the existence of a pending information may be shown to impeach him. In the present case, there was no testimony that the reputation of Beatisola for truth, honesty or integrity is bad. The defense merely presented evidence of the witness’s alleged previous wrongful acts by the introduction into evidence of criminal complaints filed by police officers and offended parties against the witness before the municipal trial court. There is no showing that these cases were eventually tried and that Beatisola was convicted thereof. Thus, they only establish that criminal complaints were filed against the witness and as such, the fact thus established will not detract from Beatisola’s competence as a witness.


G.R. No. 140405.  March 4, 2004

Appellant Galingan also impugns the credibility of prosecution witness Naty Panimbaan.  He maintains that Naty was a woman of ill-repute whom he paid P700 everytime they had sex.  Galingan insists that the only reason why Naty implicated him in the offense was because she wanted him to leave his wife which he did not want to do.  Furthermore, according to Galingan, Naty was a drug user and this supposedly tainted her credibility.

These attacks on Naty’s character and reputation are too flimsy and irrelevant to deserve serious consideration. The fact that a witness is a person of unchaste character or even a drug dependent does not per se affect her credibility. Character is frequently used to refer to one’s reputation in the neighborhood. It means the estimate attached to the individual by the community and not the qualities of the individual as conceived by one person. With respect to a witness in both criminal and civil cases, evidence of his character, in order to affect his credibility, must refer to his “general reputation for truth, honesty or integrity.” Thus, testimonies attacking the character of a witness for the purpose of impugning his credibility must relate and be confined to the general reputation which such witness has in the community or neighborhood where he lives or has lived.  Personal opinions on the moral character of a witness, being usually too general, sweeping or subjective, are excluded.

Measured against the foregoing standard, appellant Galingan’s testimony on the alleged bad character and unreliability as a witness of Naty Panimbaan deserves no merit.  Other than his adverse testimony, Galingan never credibly established that Naty was reputed in the community or neighborhood to be a woman of loose morals or a drug user. Clearly, Galingan’s testimony and evidence concerning Naty’s character was based solely on his own self-serving claim or private opinion, and did not at all reflect the general reputation by which Naty was held by the community. We therefore remain convinced of Naty’s credibility as a witness.

Besides, the credibility of a witness is left primarily to the judgment of the trial judge. Given the direct opportunity to observe the witness on the stand, the trial judge is in a vantage position to assess the witness’ demeanor, conduct and attitude under grueling examination

 

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