State Witnesses

With the ouster of Erap, criminal charges may now be filed against him for the offenses he committed while he was in office.  Because of this, most of his cronies have abandoned him and have expressed their desire to turn into state witnesses.  But are these people really qualified to become witnesses for the State or are they just trying to save their own skins by trying to cut a deal? We shall now examine the pertinent laws in the discharge of a witness.

REQUIREMENTS OF DISCHARGE:

Who can be a state witness? This query is addressed by Section 9, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

“Sec. 9. Discharge of accused to be state witness.

When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any 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 witnesses 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 the 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;

(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 above, there are five qualifications in order for a person to be a state witness. We shall now discuss each qualification one by one:

1. 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.

2.  There is no other direct evidence available for the proper 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.

3.  The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points.

This is an indispensable 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 himself.

4.   Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty.

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

5.  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.

EFFECT OF 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.