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Weight and sufficiency of evidence: proof beyond reasonable doubt

People v. Caliso
GR No. 183830
Oct 19, 2011

BERSAMIN, J.:

FACTS:
Delfin Caliso (Caliso) was arrianged and tried for the crime of rape with homicide before the RTC
of Lanao Del Norte for the alleged rape and murder of AAA, a 16 year old, mental retardate.

The facts are as follows. A lone eye witness, Soledad Amegable (Amegable) heard the cries of a
girl pleading for mercy: Please stop noy, it is painful noy! The cries came from the area with lush bamboo
growth. Subsequently Amegable heard sounds of beating and mauling ending the girl’s cries. Amegable
hid behind banana trees and from there she saw a man with short pants bearing the number 11 who
drgged the limped body of a girl, submerged it into murky waters, then threw the body in the deep
portion, then ran away towards the other side of the river. Amagable did not see the face of the man as
his back was always facing her, regardless she was sure it was Caliso. Thus she went home, told her
husband who then reported it to the barangay chairman.

SPO3 Romulo Pancipanci (SPO3 Pancipanci) declared in an affidavit that it was he who heard
about the report about AAA’s death and that it was he and 2 other officers who proceeded to the crime
scene to investigate. They traced Caliso as AAA’s killer, and that Caliso gave an extrajudicial admission of
such killing, but was useless as the prosecution did not present the same.

Leo Bering (Bering), the barangay chairman, attested that he had heard Caliso admit to the
officers about the owner of the short pants recovered form the crime scene, and also heard about his
extrajudicial admission.

Municipal Health Officer Dr. Joseph Fuentecilla (Dr. Fuentecilla) conducted an post mortem
examination and a physical examination on AAA’s body and had concluded that AAA died from
asphyxiation. The results also showed that there were multiple scrathes on the body of AAA, however
there no clear evidence that AAA was raped

In his defense, Caliso alleged that he was farming in the rice field of Alac Yangyang (Yangyang)
from 7:00 to 4:00pm. Yangyang corroborated his story, however Yangyang testified that he was not aware
where Caliso was at the time of the killing.

The RTC rules that Caliso was guilty of murder only. Rape was unlikely, for it not be proven with
certainty as there were only old healed hymenal lacerations of AAA and irregularly placed panties. RTC
also did not admit the testimony of Caliso regarding the pants as it was not presented before the court as
evidence, and the police officers involved did not testify about the pants in court.

The CA affirmed the decision of the RTC. The CA also relied on the identification of Amegable on
Caliso, because despite the fact that she did not see Caliso’s face, she had positively identified him to be
the killer
ISSUE:
Whether Caliso was proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt by the lone testimony of Amegable

HELD:
No. The lone testimony of Amegable is not sufficient to prove Caliso’s guilt with moral certainty
or beyond reasonable doubt.

The identification of a malefactor, to be positive and sufficient for conviction, does not always
require direct evidence from an eyewitness; otherwise, no conviction will be possible in crimes where
there are no eyewitnesses. Indeed, trustworthy circumstantial evidence can equally confirm the
identification and overcome the constitutionally presumed innocence of the accused. Thus, the Court has
distinguished two types of positive identification in People v. Gallarde,[21] to wit:

(a) that by direct evidence, through an eyewitness to the very commission of the act; and
(b) that by circumstantial evidence, such as where the accused is last seen with the victim
immediately before or after the crime.

The test to determine the moral certainty of an identification is its imperviousness to skepticism
on account of its distinctiveness. To achieve such distinctiveness, the identification evidence should
encompass uniquephysical features or characteristics, like the face, the voice, the dentures, the
distinguishing marks or tattoos on the body, fingerprints, DNA, or any other physical facts that set the
individual apart from the rest of humanity.

A witness familiarity with the accused, although accepted as basis for a positive identification,
does not always pass the test of moral certainty due to the possibility of mistake.

No matter how honest Amegables testimony might have been, her identification of Caliso by a
sheer look at his back for a few minutes could not be regarded as positive enough to generate that moral
certainty about Caliso being the perpetrator of the killing, absent other reliable circumstances showing
him to be AAAs killer. Her identification of him in that manner lacked the qualities of exclusivity and
uniqueness, even as it did not rule out her being mistaken. Indeed, there could be so many other
individuals in the community where the crime was committed whose backs might have looked like Calisos
back. Moreover, many factors could have influenced her perception, including her lack of keenness of
observation, her emotional stress of the moment, her proneness to suggestion from others, her
excitement, and her tendency to assume. The extent of such factors are not part of the records; hence,
the trial court and the CA could not have taken them into consideration. But the influence of such varied
factors could not simply be ignored or taken for granted, for it is even a well-known phenomenon that
the members of the same family, whose familiarity with one another could be easily granted, often
inaccurately identify one another through a sheer view of anothers back. Certainly, an identification that
does not preclude a reasonable possibility of mistake cannot be accorded any evidentiary force.[23]

Amegables recollection of the perpetrator wearing short pants bearing the number 11 did not
enhance the reliability of her identification of Caliso. For one, such pants were not one-of-a-kind apparel,
but generic. Also, they were not offered in evidence. Yet, even if they had been admitted in evidence, it
remained doubtful that they could have been linked to Caliso without proof of his ownership or possession
of them in the moments before the crime was perpetrated.
Nor did the lack of bad faith or ill motive on the part of Amegable to impute the killing to Caliso
guarantee the reliability and accuracy of her identification of him. The dearth of competent additional
evidence that eliminated the possibility of any human error in Amegables identification of Caliso rendered
her lack of bad faith or ill motive irrelevant and immaterial, for even the most sincere person could easily
be mistaken about her impressions of persons involved in startling occurrences such as the crime
committed against AAA. It is neither fair nor judicious, therefore, to have the lack of bad faith or ill motive
on the part of Amegable raise her identification to the level of moral certainty.

The injuries found on the person of Caliso by Dr. Fuentecilla, as borne out by the medical
certificate dated June 9, 1997,[24] did not support the culpability of Caliso. The injuries, which were mostly
mere scratch marks,[25] were not even linked by the examining physician to the crime charged. Inasmuch
as the injuries of Caliso might also have been due to other causes, including one related to his doing menial
labor most of the time, their significance as evidence of guilt is nil.

In the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt as to the identity of the culprit, the accuseds
constitutional right to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved is not overcome, and he is
entitled to an acquittal,[26] though his innocence may be doubted.[27] The constitutional presumption of innocence
guaranteed to every individual is of primary importance, and the conviction of the accused must rest not
on the weakness of the defense he put up but on the strength of the evidence for the Prosecution.[