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Opinion Rule: Expert witness

People v. Abriol
GR No. 123137
Oct 17, 2001

QUISUMBING, J.:

FACTS:
Romeo Sta. Cruz, Jr. (Cruz), a radio news reporter, then aboard his jeep, had just reached
the ABS-CBN compound in P. del Roasario Street Cebu City, when he heard gunshots. He saw a man
running towards the intersection of P. del Roasario Street and Jones Avenue. The man was shouting
for help, while a red jiffy almost hit the man, and the man fell. After which the jiffy made a u-turn
and stopped beside the fallen man. A thin man went down the jiffy and fired several shots at the
fallen man, then drove off.

PO3 Alexander Rustella (Rustella) was at a vulcanizing shop near the intersection, when he
heard the gunshots. He ran towards the scene and saw a red jiffy pass by him boarded by 3 persons.
He immediately radioed for assistance, 3 patrols cars boarded by policemen from difference
locations responded to the incident and cornered the jiffy. They ordered the 3 men to alight the jiffy,
then identified the 3 men as Macario Astellero (Astellero), the driver, Albert (Abriol), Manuario
Dosdos (Dosdos). The police frisked them and found 3 firearms, a .38 caliber revolver and 2 .45
caliber pistol. During the chase another patrol went to the crime scene and immediately rushed the
victim, later identified as Alejandro Flores (Flores) “alex”, to the hospital who DoA.

Dr. Ladislao Diola, Jr. (Diola), Chief of the PNP Region 7 Crime Laboratory, Autopsied the
victim’s body, and found the cause of death was due to cardiorespiratory arrest due to shock and
hemmorage secondary to multiple gunshot wounds to the head and the trunk.

SP04 Lemuel Caser (Caser) ballistician of the PNP crime laboratory reported that the bullets
matched the individual characteristics of the shells with the gun.

The following day, the appelants underwent a paraffin test, which yielded positive results
for gunpoweder residues, as tested by Inspector Myrna Areola (Areola), Chief of the Chemistryt
Section of the PNP Region 7.

The widow and the relatives of Flores believed that it was due to the fact that Flores failed
to remit P31,000 of the proceeds from pushing prohibited drugs.

The 3 men denied the accusations and alleged that they were merely on a trip to acquire
money from food when suddenly they heard gunshots and say a thin man shooting a person on the
floor, when suddenly the police started to chase them and then arrest them. The defense also
presented Dr. Jesus P. Cerna (Cerna), a medico-legal officer of the Cebu City PNP command, and
attested that it was impossible for the .45 calibre guns to inflicts the wounds as the holes were too
small.
RTC held them guilty,
ISSUE:
Whether Caser is qualified to be an expert witness despite the allegation of the defense that
he lacked adequate training and expertise in ballistics.

HELD:
Yes. An expert witness is one who belongs to the profession or calling to which the subject
matter of the inquiry relates and who possesses special knowledge on questions on which he
proposes to express an opinion. There is no definite standard of determining the degree of skill or
knowledge that a witness must possess in order to testify as an expert. It is sufficient that the
following factors be present:
(1) training and education;
(2) particular, first-hand familiarity with the facts of the case; and
(3) presentation of authorities or standards upon which his opinion is based.[39] The question of
whether a witness is properly qualified to give an expert opinion on ballistics rests with the
discretion of the trial court

In giving credence to Casers expert testimony, the trial court explained:

The defense downgraded the capability of Caser in forensics ballistics and identifying
firearms. Much stress is given to the absence of photographs of his examination. Nonetheless, the
Court is satisfied (with) Casers examination, findings and conclusions with the use of a microscope.
Casers conclusion based on his examination deserves credit. He found the impressions on the primer
of the fired cartridges that were test-fired to have the same characteristics with those recovered at
the scene of the crime. Whenever a triggerman pumps a bullet (into) the body of his victim, he
releases a chunk of concrete evidence that binds him inseparably to his act. Every gun barrel deeply
imprints on every bullet its characteristic marking peculiar to that gun and that gun alone. These
marking might be microscopic but they are terribly vocal in announcing their origin. And they are as
infallible for purposes of identification, as the print left by the human finger.

We agree with the trial court that P/Inspector Caser qualifies as a ballistics expert. He is a
licensed criminologist, trained at the Ballistics Command and Laboratory Center in Fort Bonifacio, in
the PNP Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame, and in the National Bureau of Investigation. He had
previously testified as an expert witness in at least twenty-seven (27) murder and homicide cases
all over the country. An expert witness need not present comparative microphotographs of test
bullets and cartridges to support his findings. Examination under a comparison microscope showing
that the test bullet and the evidence bullet both came from the same gun is sufficient. Moreover,
the ballistician conclusively found similar characteristic markings in the evidence, test cartridges and
slugs.