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Similar Acts as Evidence

Sec. 34. Similar acts as evidence. — Evidence that one did or did not do a certain thing at one time is not admissible to prove that he did or did not do the same or similar thing at another time; but it may be received to prove a specific intent or knowledge, identity, plan, system, scheme, habit, custom or usage, and the like. (Rule 130, Rules of Court)


Sec. 34 is the second branch of the rule of res inter alios acta (Rule 130, Sec. 28) and applies to both civil and criminal cases.

What is the rationale for the rule?

● The rule is founded upon reason, public policy, justice and judicial convenience. The fact that a person has committed the same or similar acts at some prior time affords, as a general rule, no logical guaranty that he committed the act in question. This is so because, subjectively, a man's mind and even his modes of life may change; and, objectively, the conditions under which he may find himself at a given time may likewise change and thus induce him to act in a different way. Besides, if evidence of similar acts are to be invariably admitted, they will give rise to a multiplicity of collateral issues and will subject the defendant to surprise as well as confuse the court and prolong the trial. (Metrobank vs Custodio, G.R. No. 173780, March 21, 2011)

● It is clear that evidence of other crimes compels the defendant to meet charges of which the indictment gives him no information, confuses him in his defense, raises a variety of issue, and thus diverts the attention of the court from the charge immediately before it. The rule may be said to be an application of the principle that the evidence must be confined to the point in issue in the case on trial. In other words, evidence of collateral offenses must not be received as substantive evidence of the offenses on trial.

People vs. Manalo, 
G.R. No. 141644. May 27, 2004

In its attempt to pin the crime on appellant, the prosecution dug up other criminal cases filed against appellant. Appellant was previously charged with robbery and illegal possession of a deadly weapon, concealing a deadly weapon, and assault, for which he was released after posting bond.

Evidence is not admissible when it shows, or tends to show, that the accused in a criminal case has committed a crime independent from the offense for which he is on trial. A man may be a notorious criminal, and may have committed many crimes, and still be innocent of the crime charged on trial.

Section 14, Article 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. An accused is entitled to acquittal unless his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution has failed to discharge its burden of proof. We hold that appellant is entitled to a mandatory acquittal.

US vs. Evangelista 
G.R. No. L-8132 March 25, 1913

On a trial for arson, the prosecution may prove that the prisoner had attempted to set fire to the house on a day previous to the burning alleged in the indictment, for the purpose of showing the intent of the prisoner in subsequently setting fire to the house. Where a person is charged with the commission of a specific crime, testimony may be received of other similar acts, committed about the same time, for the purpose only of establishing the criminal intent of the accused.

People v. Irang
64 Phil 285 (1937)

Facts: After barging into her home, a man ordered Maximiniana to bring out her money and jewelry. As she turned over the items, she looked at the man's face and saw that he had pockmarks and a scar on his left eyelid. Irang was identified by Maximiana from a police line-up and was charged. During the trial, Maximiana’s neighbor, Juana, testified that on the night in question, her house was assaulted by malefactors. Juana noticed that one of them had pockmarks and a scar on the left eyelid. She identified that man to be Irang.

Held: The testimony of Juana indirectly corroborates Maximiniana’s testimony that the man of the same description was the one who went to her house and demanded delivery of her money and jewelry. While evidence of another crime is, as a rule, not admissible in a prosecution for robbery, it is admissible when it is otherwise relevant, as where it tends to identify defendant as the perpetrator of the robbery charged, or tends to show his presence at the scene or in the vicinity of the crime at the time charged, or when it is evidence of a circumstance connected with the crime.

People vs. Saguban
G.R. No. 96287, April 25, 1994

Accused-appellant bewails the action of the court a quo in appreciating against him his previous conviction also for rape in Criminal Case No. 6353. He posits that notwithstanding the fact of his conviction in another and earlier charge of rape, it was not an all-conclusive and infallible deduction therefrom that he committed another rape. Such attitude, he argues, simply betrays the bias of the court a quo.

We are not persuaded by the conclusion of accused-appellant on this issue. This Court sees no illegality or impropriety in the trial court's action which, in our view, is fully supported by the Rules on Evidence. Rule 130 provides: xxx

In upholding the validity of the above-questioned act of the court a quo, we find that not only was the previous conviction of the accused-appellant in Criminal Case No. 6353 for rape duly proved in the course of the trial but, more importantly, proof of said previous conviction was not made the sole basis of accused-appellant's conviction in the case at bench. Rather, it was the confluence of duly established facts — positive identification, medical certificate, healed lacerations and body scars, as well as weak alibi — which, together with proof of said previous conviction, all formed the basis for accused-appellant's conviction in the present case. 

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