Press Release
March 10, 2014


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, in a speech at Assumption College Makati, said that Technology Research Center director Dennis Cunanan is qualified to be a state witness, even if it could be proved that he was lying when he denied that he received pork barrel kickbacks.

Santiago, a former UP law professor and RTC judge, said that the Rules of Court, Rule 119, Sec. 17, allows an accused to become a state witness " if it appears that he is not the most guilty."

The senator clarified that the legal provision is often mistaken by laymen to mean that the state witness should be "the least guilty."

"These two concepts are often mistaken as meaning the same thing. They mean different things," the senator said.

Santiago said that the state witness rule is an exception to the rule that when a witness is caught lying in one detail, he should be presumed to be lying in all details.

Santiago cited the 2008 case of Tarapen v. People, where the Supreme Court ruled: "The testimony of a witness maybe believed in part and disbelieved in another, depending on the corroborative evidence or the probabilities and improbabilities of the case." The senator cited the 2003 case of People vs. Masapol, where the Supreme Court ruled: "The doctrine of falsus in uno falsus in omnibus, (meaning false in one, false in all) deals only with the weight of evidence, and is not a positive rule of law, and the same is not an inflexible one of universal application."

In addition, Santiago turned to the 1997 U.S. case of Walls v. Travelers, where the American court held: "Even if a portion of the witness's testimony is shown to be false or unreliable, the trier of fact need not discount the entirety of that witness's testimony."

The American-educated Santiago went on to cite the 1994 American case of Outten v. State, where the American court ruled: "Witnesses have been held competent to testify despite admissions of perjury in earlier testimony and proceedings in the case at hand, at least where the record indicates that the witness nevertheless understands the importance of the oath to tell the truth."

Santiago also said that the debate on whether Cunanan should be accepted as a state witness is immaterial at this time, because it is only the court, meaning the Sandiganbayan, that can make the decision.

"Neither the justice secretary nor the Ombudsman has the power to admit a state witness. This power is reserved for the trial court, meaning the Sandigan. The only power of the justice secretary is to admit a person into the Witness Protection Program. The only power of the Ombudsman is to conduct a preliminary investigation. The best that the Ombudsman can do is to file a motion with the Sandigan to admit some of the accused as state witnesses," she said.

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