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RULE 130

Rules of Admissibility

8. Character Evidence

Section 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions: —

(a) In Criminal Cases:

(1) The accused may prove his good moral character which is
pertinent to the moral trait involved in the offense charged.

(2) Unless in rebuttal, the prosecution may not prove his bad
moral character which is pertinent to the moral trait involved in
the offense charged.

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended party may
be proved if it tends to establish in any reasonable degree the
probability or improbability of the offense charged.

(b) In Civil Cases:

Evidence of the moral character of a party in civil case is admissible


only when pertinent to the issue of character involved in the case.

(c) In the case provided for in Rule 132, Section 14, (46a, 47a)

RULE 132

Section 14. Evidence of good character of witness. — Evidence of the


good character of a witness is not admissible until such character has been
impeached. (17)

G.R. No. 139070 May 29, 2002

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
NOEL LEE, accused-appellant.

1
PUNO, J.:

On automatic review is the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan


City, Branch 127 in Criminal Case No. C-54012 (98), which sentenced
accused-appellant Noel Lee to death for the murder of Joseph Marquez.

On May 27, 1998, an Information was filed against accused-appellant


charging him with the crime of murder committed as follows:

"That on or about the 29th day of September 1996, in Kalookan City,


Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident
premeditation did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack and shoot one JOSEPH MARQUEZ y LAGANDI, with the use
of a handgun, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious physical
injuries, which ultimately caused the victim’s death.

CONTRARY TO LAW."1

Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. At the trial, the


prosecution presented the following witnesses: (a) Herminia Marquez, the
mother of the victim; (b) Dr. Darwin Corpuz, a resident doctor at the Manila
Caloocan University (MCU) Hospital; (c) PO2 Rodelio Ortiz, a police officer
who examined the crime scene; and (d) Dr. Rosaline Cosidon, a medico-
legal officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory.

The prosecution established the following facts: At 9:00 in the evening of


September 29, 1996, Herminia Marquez, 46 years of age and her son,
Joseph, 26 years of age, were in the living room of their house located at
No. 173 General Evangelista St., Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. The living
room was brightly lit by a circular fluorescent lamp in the ceiling. Outside
their house was an alley leading to General Evangelista Street. The alley
was bright and bustling with people and activity. There were women sewing
garments on one side and on the other was a store catering to customers.
In their living room, mother and son were watching a basketball game on
television. Herminia was seated on an armchair and the television set was
to her left. Across her, Joseph sat on a sofa against the wall and window of
their house and the television was to his right. Herminia looked away from
the game and casually glanced at her son. To her complete surprise, she
saw a hand holding a gun coming out of the open window behind Joseph.
She looked up and saw accused-appellant Noel Lee peering through the
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window and holding the gun aimed at Joseph. Before she could warn him,
Joseph turned his body towards the window, and simultaneously, appellant
fired his gun hitting Joseph’s head. Joseph slumped on the sofa. Herminia
stood up but could not move as accused-appellant fired a second shot at
Joseph and three (3) shots more— two hit the sofa and one hit the cement
floor. When no more shots were fired, Herminia ran to the window and saw
accused-appellant, in a blue sando, flee towards the direction of his house.
Herminia turned to her son, dragged his body to the door and shouted for
help. With the aid of her neighbor and kumpare, Herminia brought Joseph
to the MCU Hospital where he later died.1âwphi1.nêt

Police investigators arrived at the hospital and inquired about the shooting
incident. Herminia told them that her son was shot by Noel Lee. From the
hospital, Herminia went to the St. Martin Funeral Homes where Joseph’s
body was brought. Thereafter, she proceeded to the Caloocan City Police
Headquarters where she gave her sworn statement about the shooting.2

Upon request of the Caloocan City police, a post-mortem examination was


made on Joseph’s body. Dr. Rosaline O. Cosidon, a medico-legal officer of
the PNP Crime Laboratory Service made the following findings:

"FINDINGS:

Fairly developed, fairly nourished male cadaver in rigor mortis with


postmortem lividity at the dependent portions of the body.
Conjunctiva are pale, Lips and nailbeds are cyanotic. A needle
puncture mark was noted at the dorsum of the right hand.

HEAD:

(1) Gunshot wound, frontal region, measuring 0.5 x 0.5 cm, just
right of the anterior midline, 161 cm from heel, with an
upbraded collar, measuring 0.2 cm superiorly and laterally, 0.1
cm medially and inferiorly directed posteriorwards, downwards
and to the left fracturing the frontal bone, lacerating the brain. A
deformed slug was recovered embedded at the left cerebral
hemisphere of the brain.

(2) Gunshot wound, occipital region, measuring 0.5 x 0.5 cm, 2


cm left of the posterior midline, 162 cm from heel, with a
uniform 0.2 cm upbraded collar, directed slightly anteriorwards,
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downwards and lateralwards, fracturing the occipital bone and
lacerating the brain. A deformed slug was recovered at the left
auricular region.

(3) Contusion, right eyebrow, measuring 3 x 2 cm, 3 cm from


the anterior midline.

There are subdural and subarachnoidal hemorrhages.

Stomach is ¼ full of partially digested food particles and


positive for alcoholic odor.

CONCLUSION:

Cause of death is intracranial hemorrhage as a result of gunshot


wounds. Head."3

At the time of his death, Joseph was employed as driver by the Santos
Enterprises Freight Services earning P250.00 a day.4 He left behind two
children by his live-in partner who are now under his mother’s care and
support. Herminia spent approximately P90,000.00 for the funeral and
burial expenses of her deceased son. The expenses were supported by
receipts5 and admitted by the defense.6

Herminia filed a complaint for murder against accused-appellant. The


complaint, docketed as I.S. No. 96-3246, was however dismissed for
insufficiency of evidence in a Resolution dated December 4, 1996 by
Prosecutor Dionisio C. Sison with the approval of Caloocan City Prosecutor
Rosauro J. Silverio.7 Herminia appealed the order of dismissal to the
Secretary of Justice. In a letter dated March 16, 1998, Secretary of Justice
Silvestre Bello III reversed and set aside the appealed Resolution and
ordered the City Prosecutor of Caloocan City to file an information for
murder against the accused-appellant.8 Accordingly, the Information was
filed and a warrant of arrest issued against accused-appellant on June 8,
1998. On October 16, 1998, appellant was arrested by agents of the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Appellant is a well-known figure in their neighborhood and has several


criminal cases pending against him in Caloocan City. He was charged with
frustrated homicide in 1984 and attempted murder in 1989.9

4
For his defense, accused-appellant presented two witnesses: (a) Orlando
Bermudez, a neighbor; and (b) himself. He denies the killing of Joseph
Marquez. He claims that from 8:00 to 10:00 in the evening of September
29, 1996, he was in his house located at 317 M. de Castro St., Bagong
Barrio, Caloocan City. He was having some drinks with his neighbor,
Orlando Bermudez, and his driver, Nelson Columba. They were enjoying
themselves, drinking and singing with the videoke. Also in the house were
his wife, children and household help. At 10:00 P.M., Orlando and Nelson
went home and accused-appellant went to sleep. He woke up at 5:30 in the
morning of the following day and learned that Joseph Marquez, a neighbor,
was shot to death. To appellant’s surprise, he was tagged as Joseph’s
killer.10

Accused-appellant had known the victim since childhood and their houses
are only two blocks apart. Joseph had a bad reputation in their
neighborhood as a thief and drug addict. Six days before his death, on
September 23, 1996, accused-appellant caught Joseph inside his car trying
to steal his car stereo. Joseph scampered away. As proof of the victim’s
bad reputation, appellant presented a letter handwritten by his mother,
Herminia, addressed to Mayor Reynaldo Malonzo of Caloocan City, and
sent through PO3 Willy Tuazon and his wife, Baby Ruth. In the letter,
Herminia was surrendering her son to the Mayor for rehabilitation because
he was hooked on shabu, a prohibited drug, and was a thief. Herminia was
scared that eventually Joseph might not just steal but kill her and everyone
in their household because of his drug habit.11

The accused-appellant likewise explained the two criminal cases filed


against him in 1984 and 1989. The information for attempted murder was
dismissed as a result of the victim’s desistance while in the frustrated
homicide case, the real assailant appeared and admitted his crime.12

In a decision dated June 22, 1999, the trial court found accused-appellant
guilty and sentenced him to the penalty of death. The court also ordered
appellant to pay the heirs of the victim civil indemnity of P50,000.00, actual
damages of P90,000.00, moral damages of P60,000.00 and exemplary
damages of P50,000.00 and the costs of the suit. Thus:

"WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered and the prosecution


having established beyond an iota of doubt the guilt of accused
NOEL LEE of the crime of Murder as defined and penalized under

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Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659, this
court, in view of the presence of the generic aggravating
circumstance of dwelling and without any mitigating circumstance to
offset it, hereby sentences the said accused to suffer the extreme
penalty of DEATH; to indemnify the legal heirs of the deceased civil
indemnity of P50,000.00; to pay the private complainant actual
damages of P90,000.00 plus moral and exemplary damages of
P60,000.00 and P50,000.00, respectively; and to pay the costs.

Consistent with the provisions of Section 10, Rule 122 of the 1985
Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended, let the entire records
hereof including the complete transcripts of stenographic notes be
forwarded to the Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment,
within the reglementary period set forth in said section.

SO ORDERED.13

Hence, this appeal. Before us, accused-appellant assigns the following


errors:

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN RELYING HEAVILY ON


THE SELF-SERVING AND CONTRADICTORY TESTIMONY OF
THE MOTHER OF THE VICTIM, HERMINIA MARQUEZ, WHOSE
NARRATION OF THE CHAIN OF OCCURRENCE THAT LED TO
THE DEATH OF JOSEPH MARQUEZ WAS BEYOND BELIEF.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HASTILY TAGGING THE


ACCUSED-APPELLANT, NOEL LEE, AS THE ASSAILANT BASED
MERELY ON THE BIASED DECLARATION OF THE MOTHER
WITHOUT CONSIDERING THE SHADY CHARACTER OF THE
VICTIM AGAINST WHOM OTHERS MIGHT HAVE AN AXE TO
GRIND.

III

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ITS DECISION OF


FINDING GUILT ON THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WITHOUT EVEN

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RAISING A FINGER IN SATISFYING ITSELF THAT THE PHYSICAL
EVIDENCE OBTAINING IN 1996 ARE STILL PREVAILING IN 1999
WHEN THE CASE WAS TRIED ON THE MERITS SO AS TO
ESTABLISH THE IDENTITY OF THE ASSAILANT BEYOND
DOUBT.

IV

THE COURT A QUO GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN TREATING WITH


LENIENCY HERMINIA MARQUEZ’S VACILLATION WITH
RESPECT TO THE "BUTAS NG BINTANA" AS CONTAINED IN HER
SWORN STATEMENT AND THE "BUKAS NA BINTANA" AS PER
HER REPAIRED TESTIMONY—A SERIOUS PROCEDURAL
ANOMALY THAT ASSAULTED THE SUBSTANTIAL RIGHT OF THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE


EXTREME PENALTY OF DEATH UPON ACCUSED-APPELLANT
DESPITE OBVIOUS REASONABLE DOUBT."14

The assigned errors principally involve the issue of the credibility of


Herminia Marquez, the lone prosecution eyewitness. Accused-appellant
claims that the trial court should not have accepted Herminia’s testimony
because it is biased, incredible and inconsistent.

Herminia’s testimony on direct examination is as follows:

"x x x

ATTY. OPENA: Now who was your companion, if any, at that time?

WITNESS: Me and my son, Joseph Marquez, and the wife upstairs


putting the baby to sleep.

Q: What were you and your son, Joseph, doing then?

A: Watching TV.

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Q: Will you please tell us your position, I am referring to you and
your son in relation to the television set where you are watching the
show.

A: We were facing each other while watching television which is


on the left side.

Q: Will you please tell us where exactly was your son, Joseph,
seated while watching television?

A: At the end most of the sofa.

Q: The sofa you are referring to is the one near the window.

A: Yes, sir. Dikit lang po.

Q: Will you give us an idea or describe to us that window which


you mentioned awhile ago?

A: Transparent glass.

Q: How high is it from the ground?

COURT: Which one?

ATTY. OPENA: The window glass?

WITNESS: About three feet from the ground.

ATTY. OPENA TO WITNESS:

Q: You said three feet. What do you mean by that? Is that window
elevated from the ground?

A: The same height as this court window which is about three feet
from the ground, and from one another about four by four window
[sic], three feet by the ground.

Q: Now, you demonstrated by showing a portion, you mean to tell


us that window was mounted on a concrete or hollow block?

A: Hollow block, po.

8
Q: How high is that hollow block that you were referring to?

COURT: She said three feet.

ATTY. OPENA TO WITNESS:

Q: Which is higher, that sofa which is posted near the window or


the hollow block?

A: Hollow block.

Q: By how many inches or feet?

A: About half a foot.

Q: You said the sofa was long. Will you please tell us in what
portion of your sofa your son Joseph was seated?

ATTY. VARGAS: Already answered, your Honor. She said dulo, end
of the sofa.

COURT: Sustained.

ATTY. OPENA TO WITNESS:

Q: When you said end of sofa which portion, the left side or the
right side?

A: The right.

Q: Now, while you and your son were watching television, was
there anything unusual that transpired?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Tell us what was that all about.

A: Mayroon po akong napansin na kamay na nakatutok sa anak


ko. Nakita ko po si Noel Lee na nakatayo sa may bintana.

Q: What do you mean by the word "kamay?"

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A: Hawak hawak po niya iyong baril, nakatutok po sa anak ko.

Q: What did you do with what you saw?

A: Nakita ko pong gumanoon siya, sumilip na ganoon, sabay


putok ng baril. Tumingin po siya sa may bintana, ganoon po, sabay
putok ng baril.

COURT: You said he turned the head. Who turned the head? Sino
ang gumanyan sa sinabi mo?

A: (Witness demonstrating that the victim peeped through the


window).

Q: And then?

A: At the same time the firing of the gun [sic] and I saw my son
slumped.

ATTY. OPENA TO THE WITNESS:

Q: And after your son was slumped, what did you do?

A: I went to my son and carried him to take him to the hospital.

Q: How many shots did you hear?

A: Five shots.

Q: That was prior to helping your son?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And how many times was your son hit?

ATTY. VARGAS:

Q: Objection, your honor. It was already answered. Because


according to her it was five shots.

COURT: It does not follow that the victim was hit. So, the witness
may answer.

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WITNESS: Twice, Two shots hit my son, two shots on the sofa and
one shot on the cement.

COURT: How about the other one?

A: Doon po sa semento.

ATTY. OPENA TO WITNESS:

Q: And who fired these shots?

A: Noel Lee.

Q: That Noel Lee that you are referring to, will you please point at
him if he is around?

A: (Witness going down the witness stand and pointing to


accused Noel Lee).

Q: How do you know that it was Noel Lee who shot your son?

A: Kitang kita ko po. Magkatapat po kami.

Q: Will you please describe to us?

A: Maliwanag po kasi ang ilaw. Maliwanag din po sa labas, may


nananahi doon. Nandoon po kaming dalawa ng anak ko nanonood
ng television. (Witness sobbing in tears). Napakasakit sa akin. Hindi
ko man lang naipagtanggol and anak ko.

COURT: She was emotionally upset.

ATTY. OPENA: I’ll just make it on record that the witness was
emotionally upset. May I ask if she can still testify?

xxx xxx xxx

WITNESS: Masakit lang po sa loob ko ang pagkawala ng anak ko.

ATTY. OPENA TO WITNESS:

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Q: You saw that the light was bright. Where were those lights
coming from?

A: Maliwanag po sa loob ng bahay namin dahil may fluorescent


na bilog. Saka sa labas may nananahi po doon sa alley katapat ng
bahay namin. At saka po doon sa kabila, tindahan po tapat po namin,
kaya maliwanag ang ilaw.

Q: After trying to help your son, what happened?

A: I was able to hold on to my son up to the door. Upon reaching


the door, I asked the help of my kumpare.

Q: Meanwhile, what did the accused do after shooting five times?

A: He ran to the alley to go home.

Q: Now you said he ran to an alley towards the direction of their


house. Do you know where his house is located?

A: Yes, sir. 142 M. de Castro Street, Bagong Barrio, Caloocan


City.

Q: How far is that from your residence?

A: More or less 150 to 200 meters.

Q: Where did you finally bring your son?

A: MCU.

Q: When you say MCU, are you referring to MCU Hospital?

A: Yes, sir. MCU Hospital.

Q: At MCU, life-saving devices were attached to my son. Later,


after reaching 11:00, he died.

COURT: 11:00 P.M.?

A: Yes, ma’am.

12
Q: Same day?

A: Yes, ma’am.

xxx xxx x x x."15

Herminia’s testimony is positive, clear and straightforward. She did not


waver in her narration of the shooting incident, neither did she waffle in
recounting her son’s death. She was subjected by defense counsel to
rigorous cross and re-cross examinations and yet she stuck to her
testimony given in the direct examination. She readily gave specific details
of the crime scene, e.g., the physical arrangement of the sofa and the
television set, the height of the sofa, the wall and the window, because the
crime happened right in her own living room. She explained that she was
unable to warn Joseph because she was shocked by the sight of accused-
appellant aiming a gun at her son. The tragic events unfolded so fast and
by the time she took hold of herself, her son had been shot dead.

A son’s death in his mother’s house and in her presence is a painful and
agonizing experience that is not easy for a mother to forget, even with the
passing of time. Herminia’s testimony shows that she was living with a
conscience that haunted and blamed her own self for failing to protect her
son or, at least, save him from death.

Nonetheless, accused-appellant points out inconsistencies in the


eyewitness’ testimony. In her affidavit of September 30, 1996 given before
PO2 Rodelio Ortiz, Herminia declared that while she and Joseph were
watching television, she saw a hand holding a gun pointed at her son. The
hand and the gun came out of a hole in the window, i.e., "butas ng
bintana." On cross-examination, Herminia stated that she saw a hand
holding a gun in the open window, i.e., "bukas na bintana." According to
accused-appellant, this inconsistency is a serious flaw which cannot be
repaired by her statement on the witness stand.

The inconsistency between her affidavit and her testimony was


satisfactorily explained by Herminia on cross-examination:

"x x x xxx xxx

ATTY. VARGAS

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Q: You said that you saw a hand from a hole in the window with a
gun, is that correct?

A: Bukas na bintana. Not from a hole but from an open window.

Q: Madam witness, do you recall having executed a sworn


statement before the police, right after the shooting of your son?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: I will read to you paragraph 8 of your statement which is


already marked as your Exhibit "A" in which is stated as follows:
"Isalaysay mo nga sa akin ang buong pangyayari? Answer: Sa mga
oras ng alas 9:00 ng gabi petsa 29 ng Setyembre 1996 habang ang
aking anak ay nanonood ng palabas sa TV ng basketball malapit sa
kanyang bintana sa labas at ako naman ay nakaupo sa sopa katapat
ko siya subalit medyo malayo ng konti sa kanya, mayroon akong
napansin na kamay na may hawak ng baril at nakaumang sa aking
anak sa may butas ng bintana," do you recall that?

A: Opo.

Q: What you saw from that butas is a hand with a gun, is that
correct?

A: Opo.

Q: Madam witness, your window is just like the window of this


courtroom?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: In your testimony, you did not mention what part of the window
was that hand holding a gun that you saw? Is that correct?

A: Hindi naman po butas, kundi bukas na bintana. Nakabukas


iyong bintana namin.

Q: So in your sinumpaang salaysay in the statement that you said


butas na bintana is not correct?

14
A: Mali ho kasi, hindi ko na napansin iyan, kasi ito napansin ko,
kinorect ko.

COURT: You show to the witness. There, butas na bintana.

WITNESS: Mali po ang letra, Bukas hindi butas.

xxx xxx x x x."16

Herminia corrected her affidavit by saying in open court that she saw the
hand and the gun coming out of the open window, not from a hole in the
window. In her direct testimony, Herminia presented a photograph of her
living room just the way it looked from her side on the night of the
shooting.17 The sofa on which Joseph was seated is against the wall, with
the window a few inches above the wall. The window is made of
transparent glass with six (6) vertical glass panes pushing outwards. The
entire window is enclosed by iron grills with big spaces in between the
grills. The living room is well-lit and the area outside the house is also lit by
a fluorescent lamp.

Between Herminia’s testimony in open court and her sworn statement, any
inconsistency therein does not necessarily discredit the witness.18 Affidavits
are generally considered inferior to open court declarations because
affidavits are taken ex-parte and are almost always incomplete and
inaccurate.19 Oftentimes, they are executed when the affiant’s mental
faculties are not in such a state as to afford him a fair opportunity of
narrating in full the incident that transpired.20 They are usually not prepared
by the affiant himself but by another who suggests words to the affiant, or
worse, uses his own language in taking the affiant’s statements.21

Accused-appellant argues that since Herminia declared in her affidavit that


she saw a hand coming from the window, she did not see the person
holding the gun, let alone who fired it.22 A complete reading of the pertinent
portion of Herminia’s affidavit will refute appellant’s arguments, viz:

"x x x xxx xxx

T - Isalaysay mo nga sa akin and buong pangyayari?

S – Sa mga oras ng alas 9:00 ng gabi, petsa 29 ng Setyembre 1996,


habang ang aking anak ay nanonood ng palabas sa T.V. ng

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basketball malapit sa aming bintanan [sic] sa labas, at ako naman ay
nakaupo sa sopa katapat ko siya subalit medyo malayo ng kaunti sa
kanya, mayroon akong napansin akong [sic] kamay na hawak-hawak
na baril na nakaumang sa aking anak sa butas na bintana na
nakaawang, maya-maya ng kaunti ay nakarinig na ako ng putok at
ang unang putok ay tumama sa ulo ng aking anak kaya napayuko
siya, pagkatapos noon ay sunod-sunod na ang putok na narinig ko,
mga limang beses, kaya kitang kita ko siya ng lapitan ko ang
aking anak at nakita ko itong si NOEL LEE, pagkatapos noon ay
tumakbo na ito papalabas ng iskinita papunta sa kanila.

xxx xxx x x x."23

It is thus clear that when Herminia approached her son, she saw that the
person firing the gun was accused-appellant. Appellant continued firing and
then ran away towards the direction of his house. This account is not
inconsistent with the witness’ testimony in open court.

Herminia’s declarations are based on her actual account of the commission


of the crime. She had no ill motive to accuse appellant of killing her son, or
at least, testify falsely against appellant. Accused-appellant himself
admitted that he and Herminia have been neighbors for years and have
known each other for a long time. Appellant is engaged in the business of
buying and selling scrap plastic and Herminia used to work for him as an
agent.24 She would not have pointed to appellant if not for the fact that it
was him whom she saw shoot her son.1âwphi1.nêt

Indeed, the Solicitor General points out that it was appellant himself who
had strong motive to harm or kill Joseph.25Appellant revealed that six days
before the shooting, he caught Joseph inside his car attempting to steal the
stereo. The alibi that appellant was drinking with his friends that fateful
night of September 29, 1996 does not rule out the possibility that he could
have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. The
victim’s house is merely two blocks away from appellant’s house and could
be reached in several minutes.26

The lone eyewitness’ account of the killing finds support in the medico-legal
report. Dr. Rosalie Cosidon found that the deceased sustained two gunshot
wounds—one to the right of the forehead, and the other, to the left side of
the back of the victim’s head.27 Two slugs were recovered from the victim’s

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head. Judging from the location and number of wounds sustained, Dr.
Cosidon theorized that the assailant could have been more than two feet
away from the victim.28 Both gunshot wounds were serious and fatal.29

Accused-appellant makes capital of Joseph’s bad reputation in their


community. He alleges that the victim’s drug habit led him to commit other
crimes and he may have been shot by any of the persons from whom he
had stolen.30As proof of Joseph’s bad character, appellant presented
Herminia’s letter to Mayor Malonzo seeking his assistance for Joseph’s
rehabilitation from drugs. On rebuttal, Herminia admitted that she wrote
such letter to Mayor Malonzo but denied anything about her son’s
thievery.31

Character evidence is governed by Section 51, Rule 130 of the Revised


Rules on Evidence, viz:

"Section 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions:--

(a) In Criminal Cases:

(1) The accused may prove his good moral character which is
pertinent to the moral trait involved in the offense charged.

(2) Unless in rebuttal, the prosecution may not prove his bad
moral character which is pertinent to the moral trait involved in
the offense charged.

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended party may
be proved if it tends to establish in any reasonable degree the
probability or improbability of the offense charged.

xxx xxx x x x."

Character is defined to be the possession by a person of certain


qualities of mind and morals, distinguishing him from others. It is the
opinion generally entertained of a person derived from the common
report of the people who are acquainted with him; his
reputation.32 "Good moral character" includes all the elements
essential to make up such a character; among these are common
honesty and veracity, especially in all professional intercourse; a
character that measures up as good among people of the community

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in which the person lives, or that is up to the standard of the average
citizen; that status which attaches to a man of good behavior and
upright conduct.33

The rule is that the character or reputation of a party is regarded as


legally irrelevant in determining a controversy, so that evidence
relating thereto is not admissible. Ordinarily, if the issues in the case
were allowed to be influenced by evidence of the character or
reputation of the parties, the trial would be apt to have the aspects of
a popularity contest rather than a factual inquiry into the merits of the
case. After all, the business of the court is to try the case, and not the
man; and a very bad man may have a righteous cause.34 There are
exceptions to this rule however and Section 51, Rule 130 gives the
exceptions in both criminal and civil cases.

In criminal cases, sub-paragraph 1 of Section 51 of Rule 130 provides


that the accused may prove his good moral character which is
pertinent to the moral trait involved in the offense charged. When the
accused presents proof of his good moral character, this strengthens
the presumption of innocence, and where good character and
reputation are established, an inference arises that the accused did
not commit the crime charged. This view proceeds from the theory
that a person of good character and high reputation is not likely to
have committed the act charged against him.35 Sub-paragraph 2
provides that the prosecution may not prove the bad moral character
of the accused except only in rebuttal and when such evidence is
pertinent to the moral trait involved in the offense charged. This is
intended to avoid unfair prejudice to the accused who might
otherwise be convicted not because he is guilty but because he is a
person of bad character.36 The offering of character evidence on his
behalf is a privilege of the defendant, and the prosecution cannot
comment on the failure of the defendant to produce such
evidence.37 Once the defendant raises the issue of his good character,
the prosecution may, in rebuttal, offer evidence of the defendant’s
bad character. Otherwise, a defendant, secure from refutation, would
have a license to unscrupulously impose a false character upon the
tribunal.38

Both sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) of Section 51 of Rule 130 refer to


character evidence of the accused.39 And this evidence must be

18
"pertinent to the moral trait involved in the offense charged,"
meaning, that the character evidence must be relevant and germane
to the kind of the act charged,40 e.g., on a charge of rape, character for
chastity; on a charge of assault, character for peacefulness or
violence; on a charge for embezzlement, character for honesty and
integrity.41 Sub-paragraph (3) of Section 51 of the said Rule refers to
the character of the offended party.42Character evidence, whether
good or bad, of the offended party may be proved "if it tends to
establish in any reasonable degree the probability or improbability of
the offense charged." Such evidence is most commonly offered to
support a claim of self-defense in an assault or homicide case or a
claim of consent in a rape case.43

In the Philippine setting, proof of the moral character of the offended party
is applied with frequency in sex offenses and homicide.44 In rape and acts
of lasciviousness or in any prosecution involving an unchaste act
perpetrated by a man against a woman where the willingness of a woman
is material, the woman’s character as to her chastity is admissible to show
whether or not she consented to the man’s act.45 The exception to this is
when the woman’s consent is immaterial such as in statutory rape46 or rape
with violence or intimidation.47 In the crimes of qualified seduction48 or
consented abduction,49 the offended party must be a "virgin," which is
"presumed if she is unmarried and of good reputation,"50 or a "virtuous
woman of good reputation."51 The crime of simple seduction involves "the
seduction of a woman who is single or a widow of good reputation, over
twelve but under eighteen years of age x x x." 52 The burden of proof that
the complainant is a woman of good reputation lies in the prosecution, and
the accused may introduce evidence that the complainant is a woman of
bad reputation.53

In homicide cases, a pertinent character trait of the victim is admissible in


two situations: (1) as evidence of the deceased’s aggression; and (2) as
evidence of the state of mind of the accused.54 The pugnacious,
quarrelsome or trouble-seeking character of the deceased or his calmness,
gentleness and peaceful nature, as the case may be, is relevant in
determining whether the deceased or the accused was the
aggressor.55 When the evidence tends to prove self-defense, the known
violent character of the deceased is also admissible to show that it
produced a reasonable belief of imminent danger in the mind of the

19
accused and a justifiable conviction that a prompt defensive action was
necessary.56

In the instant case, proof of the bad moral character of the victim is
irrelevant to determine the probability or improbability of his killing.
Accused-appellant has not alleged that the victim was the aggressor or that
the killing was made in self-defense. There is no connection between the
deceased’s drug addiction and thievery with his violent death in the hands
of accused-appellant. In light of the positive eyewitness testimony, the
claim that because of the victim’s bad character he could have been killed
by any one of those from whom he had stolen, is pure and simple
speculation.

Moreover, proof of the victim’s bad moral character is not necessary in


cases of murder committed with treachery and premeditation. In People v.
Soliman,57 a murder case, the defense tried to prove the violent,
quarrelsome or provocative character of the deceased. Upon objection of
the prosecution, the trial court disallowed the same. The Supreme Court
held:

"x x x While good or bad moral character may be availed of as


an aid to determine the probability or improbability of the
commission of an offense (Section 15, Rule 123),58 such is not
necessary in the crime of murder where the killing is committed
through treachery or premeditation. The proof of such character
may only be allowed in homicide cases to show "that it has produced
a reasonable belief of imminent danger in the mind of the accused
and a justifiable conviction that a prompt defensive action was
necessary (Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, 1952 ed., Vol.
3, p. 126). This rule does not apply to cases of murder."59

In the case at bar, accused-appellant is charged with murder committed


through treachery and evident premeditation. The evidence shows that
there was treachery. Joseph was sitting in his living room watching
television when accused-appellant peeped through the window and,
without any warning, shot him twice in the head. There was no opportunity
at all for the victim to defend himself or retaliate against his attacker. The
suddenness and unexpectedness of the attack ensured his death without
risk to the assailant. Following the ruling in People v. Soliman, where the
killing of the victim was attended by treachery, proof of the victim’s bad

20
character is not necessary. The presence of this aggravating circumstance
negates the necessity of proving the victim’s bad character to establish the
probability or improbability of the offense charged and, at the same time,
qualifies the killing of Joseph Marquez to murder.

As to the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, this cannot be


appreciated to increase the penalty in the absence of direct evidence
showing that accused-appellant deliberately planned and prepared the
killing of the victim.60

Neither can the aggravating circumstance of dwelling found by the trial


court be applied in the instant case. The Information alleges only treachery
and evident premeditation, not dwelling. Under Sections 8 and 9, Rule 110
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, a complaint or Information
must specify the qualifying and aggravating circumstances in the
commission of the offense.61 The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
took effect on December 1, 2000, and Section 8, Rule 110 is favorable to
the accused. It may be applied retroactively to the instant case.

Accordingly, without the aggravating circumstance of dwelling, the penalty


of death was erroneously imposed by the trial court. There being no
aggravating circumstance, there is no basis for the award of exemplary
damages.62

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision dated June 22, 1999 of the Regional
Trial Court, Caloocan City, Branch 127 in Criminal Case No. C-54012 (98)
is affirmed insofar as accused-appellant Noel Lee is found guilty of murder
for the death of Joseph Marquez. The death sentence imposed by the trial
court is however reduced to reclusion perpetua, there having been no
aggravating circumstance in the commission of said crime. Except for the
award of exemplary damages, the award of civil indemnity, other damages
and costs are likewise affirmed.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 132164 October 19, 2004

21
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, petitioner,
vs.
ALLYSON BELAGAN, respondent.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

When the credibility of a witness is sought to be impeached by proof of his


reputation, it is necessary that the reputation shown should be that which
existed before the occurrence of the circumstances out of which the
litigation arose,1 or at the time of the trial and prior thereto, but not at a
period remote from the commencement of the suit.2This is because a
person of derogatory character or reputation can still change or reform
himself.

For our resolution is the petition for review on certiorari of the Court of
Appeals’ Decision3 dated January 8, 1998, in CA-G.R. SP. No. 44180, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, Resolution No. 966213 dated September 23, 1996


and Resolution No. 972423 dated April 11, 1997 of the respondent
Civil Service Commission are hereby set aside. The complaint
against petitioner Allyson Belagan filed by Magdalena Gapuz is
hereby DISMISSED.

The dismissal of petitioner Belagan is lifted and he is hereby ordered


to be immediately reinstated to his position without loss of seniority,
retirement, backwages and other rights and benefits.

SO ORDERED."

The instant case stemmed from two (2) separate complaints filed
respectively by Magdalena Gapuz, founder/directress of the "Mother and
Child Learning Center," and Ligaya Annawi, a public school teacher at Fort
Del Pilar Elementary School, against respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan,
Superintendent of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports
(DECS), all from Baguio City. Magdalena charged respondent with sexual
indignities and harassment, while Ligaya accused him of sexual
harassment and various malfeasances.

22
Magdalena’s sworn complaint alleges that sometime in March 1994, she
filed an application with the DECS Office in Baguio City for a permit to
operate a pre-school. One of the requisites for the issuance of the permit
was the inspection of the school premises by the DECS Division Office.
Since the officer assigned to conduct the inspection was not present,
respondent volunteered his services. Sometime in June 1994, respondent
and complainant visited the school. In the course of the inspection, while
both were descending the stairs of the second floor, respondent suddenly
placed his arms around her shoulders and kissed her cheek.
Dumbfounded, she muttered, "Sir, is this part of the inspection? Pati ba
naman kayo sa DECS wala ng values?" Respondent merely sheepishly
smiled. At that time, there were no other people in the area.

Fearful that her application might be jeopardized and that her husband
might harm respondent, Magdalena just kept quiet.

Several days later, Magdalena went to the DECS Division Office and asked
respondent, "Sir, kumusta yung application ko?" His reply was "Mag-date
muna tayo." She declined, explaining that she is married. She then left and
reported the matter to DECS Assistant Superintendent Peter Ngabit.

Magdalena never returned to the DECS Division Office to follow up her


application. However, she was forced to reveal the incidents to her
husband when he asked why the permit has not yet been released.
Thereupon, they went to the office of the respondent. He merely denied
having a personal relationship with Magdalena.

Thereafter, respondent forwarded to the DECS Regional Director his


recommendation to approve Magdalena’s application for a permit to
operate a pre-school.

Sometime in September 1994, Magdalena read from a local newspaper


that certain female employees of the DECS in Baguio City were charging a
high-ranking DECS official with sexual harassment. Upon inquiry, she
learned that the official being complained of was respondent. She then
wrote a letter-complaint for sexual indignities and harassment to former
DECS Secretary Ricardo Gloria.

On October 4, 1994, respondent was placed under suspension.

23
On the part of Ligaya Annawi, she alleged in her complaint that on four
separate occasions, respondent touched her breasts, kissed her cheek,
touched her groins, embraced her from behind and pulled her close to him,
his organ pressing the lower part of her back.

Ligaya also charged respondent with: (1) delaying the payment of the
teachers’ salaries; (2) failing to release the pay differentials of substitute
teachers; (3) willfully refusing to release the teachers’ uniforms,
proportionate allowances and productivity pay; and (4) failing to constitute
the Selection and Promotion Board, as required by the DECS rules and
regulations.

The DECS conducted a joint investigation of the complaints of Magdalena


and Ligaya. In his defense, respondent denied their charge of sexual
harassment. However, he presented evidence to disprove Ligaya’s
imputation of dereliction of duty.

On January 9, 1995, the DECS Secretary rendered a Joint


Decision4 finding respondent guilty of four (4) counts of sexual "indignities
or harassments" committed against Ligaya; and two (2) counts of "sexual
advances or indignities" against Magdalena. He was ordered dismissed
from the service. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision reads:

"WHEREFORE, foregoing disquisitions duly considered, decision is


hereby rendered in the two above-entitled cases, finding:

a) Respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the


DECS Baguio City Schools Division GUILTY of the four counts
of sexual indignities or harassments committed against the
person and honor of complainant Miss Ligaya Annawi, a Baguio
City public school teacher, while in the performance of his
official duties and taking advantage of his office. He is,
however, ABSOLVED of all the other charges of administrative
malfeasance or dereliction of duty.

b) Respondent Baguio City Superintendent Allyson Belagan


likewise GUILTY of the two counts of sexual advances or
indignities committed against the person and honor of
complainant Mrs. Magdalena Gapuz, a private school teacher
of Baguio City, while in the performance of his official duties
and taking advantage of his office.
24
Consequently, respondent Allyson Belagan is HEREBY ORDERED
DISMISSED from the government service, with prejudice to
reinstatement and all his retirement benefits and other remunerations
due him are HEREBY DECLARED FORFEITED in favor of the
government.

SO ORDERED."5

Upon appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), on September 23,


1996, promulgated Resolution No. 9662136affirming the Decision of the
DECS Secretary in the case filed by Magdalena but dismissing the
complaint of Ligaya. The CSC ruled that respondent’s transgression
against Magdalena constitutes grave misconduct. Thus:

"The acts of Belagan are serious breach of good conduct since he


was holding a position which requires the incumbent thereof to
maintain a high degree of moral uprightness. As Division
Superintendent, Belagan represents an institution tasked to mold the
character of children. Furthermore, one of his duties is to ensure that
teachers in his division conduct themselves properly and observe the
proper discipline. Any improper behavior on his part will seriously
impair his moral ascendancy over the teachers and students which
can not be tolerated. Therefore, his misconduct towards an
applicant for a permit to operate a private pre-school cannot be
treated lightly and constitutes the offense of grave misconduct.

WHEREFORE, respondent Allyson Belagan is hereby found guilty


of grave misconduct and imposed the penalty of DISMISSAL from
the service with all the accessory penalties. The decision of the
DECS Secretary is modified accordingly."7

On October 29, 1996, respondent seasonably filed a motion for


reconsideration, contending that he has never been charged of any offense
in his thirty-seven (37) years of service. By contrast, Magdalena was
charged with several offenses before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Baguio City, thus:

"1. Criminal Case No. 43416 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION


(December 3, 1980)

25
2. Criminal Case No. 45629 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES (May
13, 1982)

3. Criminal Case No. 45630 for GRAVE THREATS (May 13, 1982)

4. Criminal Case No. 45914 for GRAVE THREATS (June 24, 1982)

5. Criminal Case No. 51532 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (January 25,


1985)

6. Criminal Case No. 51533 for LIGHT THREATS (January 25, 1985)

7. Criminal Case No. 51556 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION


(January 30, 1985)

8. Criminal Case No. 51818 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION (March


18, 1985)

9. Criminal Case No. 51819 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (March


18, 1985)

10. Criminal Case No. 51820 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (March 18,
1985)

11. Criminal Case No. 51821 for UNJUST VEXATION (March 18,
1985)

12. Criminal Case No. 62173 for UNJUST VEXATION (May 29, 1991)

13. Criminal Case No. 62172 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (May
29, 1991)

14. Criminal Case No. 62754 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION


(December 2, 1986)

15. Criminal Case No. 55642 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION


(December 2, 1986)

16. Criminal Case No. 55423 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION


(October 24, 1986)

26
17. Criminal Case No. 55846 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION
(November 4, 1986)

18. Criminal Case No. 55800 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION


(January 7, 1987)

19. Criminal Case No. 57312 for UNJUST VEXATION (November 29,
1987)

20. Criminal Case No. 55643 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES


(December 13, 1985)

21. Criminal Case No. 53404 for UNJUST VEXATION (December 13,
1985)

22. Criminal Case No. 55422 for UNJUST VEXATION (October 24,
1986)"8

In addition, the following complaints against Magdalena were filed with the
Barangay Chairmen of Barangay Gabriela Silang and Barangay Hillside,
both in Baguio City:

"1. Ordana vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 11-19-02-A) for GRAVE
THREATS, UNJUST VEXATION, RUMOR MONGERING

2. Teresita De Los Santos vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 86-8-26-8) for
GRAVE THREATS & ORAL DEFAMATION

3. Mrs. Conchita Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 029) for
ORAL DEFAMATION and FALSE ACCUSATION

4. Mrs. Clara Baoas vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 030) for
HARASSMENT and THREATS

5. GABRIELA SILANG TANOD FORCES vs. Gapuz (Case No. 031)


for HABITUAL TROUBLE MAKER

6. Pablo Ortiz vs. Gapuz (November 1, 1979) for ORAL


DEFAMATION

27
7. C. Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (September 11, 1978) for ORAL
DEFAMATION

8. Mrs. Liza Ancheta vs. Gapuz (September 27, 1978) for RUMOR
MONGERING

9. Mr. Pananin (Beneco Personnel) (October 8, 1978) for ORAL


DEFAMATION

10. Mrs. Minda Valdez vs. Gapuz (November 6, 1978) for ORAL
DEFAMATION

11. WOMEN’S CLUB vs. GAPUZ (February 9, 1979) for ORAL


DEFAMATION

12. Vistro Salcedo case (May 8, 1979)


Where Mrs. Gapuz was spreading rumors against Barangay
Captain and Police Chief

13. Demolition Scandal (May 10, 1979)


Where she called all the residents of their Barangay for an
emergency meeting and where she shouted invectives against the
residents

14. Incident of June 13, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the Barangay Sanitary
Inspector

15. Incident of August 25, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the servants of Mr. De
Leon

16. Incident of August 26, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz terrorized the council meeting

17. Incident of September 2, 1978


Mrs. Clara Baoas was harassed by Mrs. Gapuz

18. Incident of September 9, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz quarreled with Mrs. C. Ballesteros during the council
meeting

28
19. Incident of September 10, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz was hurling invectives along her alley in the early
morning

20. Incident of September 13, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz tapped electric wire from Mrs. Tessie de los Santos
with the latter’s consent

21. Incident of September 21, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz was shouting and hurling invectives scandalously
around her residence

22. Incident of September 21, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz was shouting, complaining about alleged poisoned
sardines near the premises of her residence which killed her hen.

23. Incident of September 23, 1979


Mrs. Gapuz was shouting unpleasant words around the
neighborhood. She did not like the actuations of a bayanihan group
near the waiting shed."9

Respondent claimed that the numerous cases filed against Magdalena cast
doubt on her character, integrity, and credibility.

In its Resolution No. 97242310 dated April 11, 1997, the CSC denied
respondent’s motion for reconsideration, holding that:

"The character of a woman who was the subject of a sexual assault is


of minor significance in the determination of the guilt or innocence of
the person accused of having committed the offense. This is so
because even a prostitute or a woman of ill repute may become a
victim of said offense.

As such, the fact that complainant Magdalena Gapuz is shown to


have had cases before the regular courts for various offenses and
was condemned by her community for wrongful behavior does not
discount the possibility that she was in fact telling the truth when she
cried about the lecherous advances made to her by the respondent. x
x x"

29
Respondent then filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review. As
stated earlier, it reversed the CSC Resolutions and dismissed Magdalena’s
complaint.

The Appellate Court held that Magdalena is an unreliable witness, her


character being questionable. Given her aggressiveness and propensity for
trouble, "she is not one whom any male would attempt to steal a kiss." In
fact, her "record immediately raises an alarm in any one who may cross her
path."11 In absolving respondent from the charges, the Appellate Court
considered his "unblemished" service record for 37 years.

Unsatisfied, the CSC, through the Solicitor General, filed the instant petition
raising the following assignments of error:

"I. The Supreme Court may rule on factual issues raised on appeal
where the Court of Appeals misappreciated the facts. Furthermore,
where the findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are
contrary to each other, the Supreme Court may review the record and
evidence. The Court of Appeals erred in not giving credence to the
testimony of complainant Magdalena Gapuz despite convincing and
overwhelming signs of its truthfulness.

II. The Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it failed to


give due weight to the findings of the DECS, which conducted the
administrative investigation, specifically with respect to the credibility
of the witnesses presented.

III. The Court of Appeals erred in ruling that respondent should be


penalized under Sec. 22 (o) of the Omnibus Rules Implementing
Book V and not Sec. 22 (e) of said rules."12

In his comment, respondent maintains that Magdalena’s derogatory record


undermines the verity of her charge and that the Court of Appeals is correct
in dismissing it.

The petition is impressed with merit.

The pivotal issue before us is whether complaining witness, Magdalena


Gapuz, is credible. This is a question of fact which, as a general rule, is not
subject to this Court’s review.

30
It is a rule of long standing that factual findings of the Court of Appeals, if
supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive and binding on the
parties and are not reviewable by this Court.13 This Court is, after all, not a
trier of facts. One of the exceptions, however, is when the findings of the
Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court or a quasi-
judicial body, like petitioner herein.14

Here, the Court of Appeals and the CSC are poles apart in their
appreciation of Magdalena’s derogatory record. While the former
considered it of "vital and paramount importance" in determining the truth of
her charge, the latter dismissed it as of "minor significance." This
contrariety propels us to the elusive area of character and reputation
evidence.

Generally, the character of a party is regarded as legally irrelevant in


determining a controversy.15 One statutory exception is that relied
upon by respondent, i.e., Section 51 (a) 3, Rule 130 of the Revised
Rules on Evidence, which we quote here:

"SEC. 51. Character evidence not generally


admissible; exceptions. –

(a) In Criminal Cases:

xxx xxx

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended


party may be proved if it tends to establish in any
reasonable degree the probability or improbability of
the offense charged."

It will be readily observed that the above provision pertains only to


criminal cases, not to administrative offenses. And even assuming
that this technical rule of evidence can be applied here, still, we
cannot sustain respondent’s posture.

Not every good or bad moral character of the offended party may be
proved under this provision. Only those which would establish the
probability or improbability of the offense charged. This means that
the character evidence must be limited to the traits and
characteristics involved in the type of offense charged.16 Thus, on a
31
charge of rape - character for chastity, on a charge of assault -
character for peaceableness or violence, and on a charge of
embezzlement - character for honesty.17 In one rape case, where it
was established that the alleged victim was morally loose and
apparently uncaring about her chastity, we found the conviction of
the accused doubtful.18

In the present administrative case for sexual harassment, respondent


did not offer evidence that has a bearing on Magdalena’s chastity.
What he presented are charges for grave oral defamation, grave
threats, unjust vexation, physical injuries, malicious mischief, etc.
filed against her. Certainly, these pieces of evidence are inadmissible
under the above provision because they do not establish the
probability or improbability of the offense charged.

Obviously, in invoking the above provision, what respondent was


trying to establish is Magdalena’s lack of credibility and not the
probability or the improbability of the charge. In this regard, a
different provision applies.

Credibility means the disposition and intention to tell the truth in the
testimony given. It refers to a person’s integrity, and to the fact that
he is worthy of belief.19 A witness may be discredited by evidence
attacking his general reputation for truth,20 honesty21 or
integrity.22 Section 11, Rule 132 of the same Revised Rules on
Evidence reads:

"SEC. 11. Impeachment of adverse party’s witness. –A witness


may be impeached by the party against whom he was called, by
contradictory evidence, by evidence that his general reputation
for truth, honesty, or integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has
made at other times statements inconsistent with his present
testimony, but not by evidence of particular wrongful acts,
except that it may be shown by the examination of the witness,
or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an
offense."

Although she is the offended party, Magdalena, by testifying in her


own behalf, opened herself to character or reputation attack pursuant
to the principle that a party who becomes a witness in his own behalf

32
places himself in the same position as any other witness, and may be
impeached by an attack on his character or reputation.23

With the foregoing disquisition, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding


that the character or reputation of a complaining witness in a sexual charge
is a proper subject of inquiry. This leads us to the ultimate question – is
Magdalena’s derogatory record sufficient to discredit her credibility?

A careful review of the record yields a negative answer.

First, most of the twenty-two (22) cases filed with the MTC of Baguio City
relate to acts committed in the 80’s, particularly, 1985 and 1986. With
respect to the complaints filed with the Chairmen of Barangay Gabriela
Silang and Barangay Hillside, the acts complained of took place in 1978 to
1979. In the instant administrative case, the offense was committed in
1994. Surely, those cases and complaints are no longer reliable proofs of
Magdalena’s character or reputation. The Court of Appeals, therefore,
erred in according much weight to such evidence. Settled is the principle
that evidence of one’s character or reputation must be confined to a time
not too remote from the time in question.24 In other words, what is to be
determined is the character or reputation of the person at the time of the
trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the commencement
of the suit.25 Hence, to say that Magdalena’s credibility is diminished by
proofs of tarnished reputation existing almost a decade ago is
unreasonable. It is unfair to presume that a person who has wandered from
the path of moral righteousness can never retrace his steps again.
Certainly, every person is capable to change or reform.

Second, respondent failed to prove that Magdalena was convicted in any of


the criminal cases specified by respondent. The general rule prevailing in a
great majority of jurisdictions is that it is not permissible to show that a
witness has been arrested or that he has been charged with or prosecuted
for a criminal offense, or confined in jail for the purpose of impairing his
credibility.26 This view has usually been based upon one or more of the
following grounds or theories: (a) that a mere unproven charge against the
witness does not logically tend to affect his credibility, (b) that innocent
persons are often arrested or accused of a crime, (c) that one accused of a
crime is presumed to be innocent until his guilt is legally established, and
(d) that a witness may not be impeached or discredited by evidence of
particular acts of misconduct.27 Significantly, the same Section 11, Rule

33
132 of our Revised Rules on Evidence provides that a witness may not be
impeached by evidence of particular wrongful acts. Such evidence is
rejected because of the confusion of issues and the waste of time that
would be involved, and because the witness may not be prepared to
expose the falsity of such wrongful acts.28 As it happened in this case,
Magdalena was not able to explain or rebut each of the charges against
her listed by respondent.

But more than anything else, what convinces us to sustain the Resolution
of the CSC is the fact that it is supported by substantial evidence. As aptly
pointed out by the Solicitor General, Magdalena testified in a
straightforward, candid and spontaneous manner. Her testimony is replete
with details, such as the number of times she and respondent inspected the
pre-school, the specific part of the stairs where respondent kissed her, and
the matter about her transient boarders during summer. Magdalena would
not have normally thought about these details if she were not telling the
truth. We quote her testimony during the cross-examination conducted by
DECS Assistant Secretary Romeo Capinpin and Undersecretary Antonio
Nachura, thus:

"Q Was there any conversation between you and Dr. Belagan during
the inspection on the first floor and the second floor?

A There was, sir. It was a casual conversation that we had with


regard to my family, background, how the school came about, how I
started with the project. That was all, sir.

Q Nothing about any form of sexual harassment, in words or in


deeds?

A Sir, because he inspected the second floor twice, sir. We went up


to the stairs twice, sir.

Q Why?

A I really don’t know what was the reason behind, sir. But on the
second inspection, sir, I told him that as of that time I had some
transients with me. I was making use of the premises for transients
because that was summer then, sir. And I already started paying the
place so I said, ‘Sir, I have some transients with me in the evening’
and he said, You know Mrs. Gapuz, I am interested to stay in one of
34
the rooms as one your boarders. But I respectfully declined saying,
‘Sir, I think for delicadeza I cannot accept you. Not that I don’t want
you to be here but people might think that I am keeping you here and
that would prejudice my permit, sir.’

ASEC R. CAPINPIN:

Q When did the alleged kissing occur? Was it during the first time that
you went up with him or the second time?

A No, sir, on the second time, sir.

Q Second time?

A Yes, sir. We were going down, sir.

Q And you were going down?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you recall what portion of the stairs where you were during the
alleged kissing?

A Sir, on the topmost of the stairs.

Q Before you went down?

A Yes, sir. At the topmost because there is a base floor going up to


the stairs and it has 16 steps.

Q So, it was not on the 16th step but still on the topmost?

A Yes sir.

Q Part of the floor of the building?

A Yes, sir. Topmost, sir?

ASEC R. CAPINPIN:

Q Will you kindly tell us your relative position at that time?

35
A Sir, on the second time that we went up and I mentioned about
these transients that I had then and he wanted to stay in the place in
one of the rooms and then I declined and I was still showing the
rooms simultaneously. On the last, the biggest room that I had, he
said, ‘No. Never mind, I am not going to see that anymore.’ So he
waited for me there and upon reaching the place, as I was to step
down on the first step going down, he placed his arm and held me
tightly and planted the kiss on my cheek, sir.

Q You said that he wanted to stay in one of the rooms?

A Yes, sir, as a boarder.

Q Is that room used for transients?

A During that time, sir, during the summertime, I made use of the time
to get some transients.

Q And he was telling you that he wanted to occupy one of the rooms?

A Yes, but I declined, sir for delicadeza.

Q At that time, there were no transients yet.

A When he came over for the inspection sir, nobody was there."29

The above testimony does not stand in isolation. It is corroborated by Peter


Ngabit, DECS Assistant Division Superintendent. Ngabit testified that
Magdalena reported to him that respondent kissed her and asked her for a
"date."

"Q I would like to call your attention to Exhibit ‘A’ which is the affidavit
of Mrs. Magdalena B. Gapuz, particularly item no. 8, and may I read
for your information – ‘That the Monday after the incident, I went to
the DECS Division Office expecting to get favorable recommendation
from the DECS Regional Office for the issuance of my permit. That I
proceeded to the Superintendent and asked him, ‘Sir, kumusta ‘yung
application ko’ and he said, ‘mag date muna tayo’ but I refused and
explained that I am married, after which I proceeded to the Office of
Asst. Superintendent Peter Ngabit to relate the incident and then left

36
the Division Office.’ Do you remember if Mrs. Gapuz went to your
Office on the particular day?

A Yes, sir.

Q What time was that?

A I cannot remember, sir.

Q Was it morning, afternoon?

A I think it was in the morning, sir.

Q Morning.

A Yes, sir.

Q Early morning?

A About noon, sir.

Q What transpired between you and Mrs. Gapuz in your office?

A When she came to my Office, she was relating about that and she
was even insulting me saying among others that I was a useless
fixture in that Office because I cannot do anything with the processing
of her paper or application.

Q It says here that she would relate the incident to you. Did she
relate any incident?

A Yes, she did sir.

Q What was that incident all about?

A She was saying that when Mr. Belagan went to visit her
school, he stole a kiss from her and that she was saying that
when she asked Supt. Belagan for her papers, she was asked for
a date before the Indorsement. After that, she left."30

With Magdalena’s positive testimony and that of Ngabit, how can we


disregard the findings of the DECS and the CSC? Surely, we cannot
37
debunk it simply because of the Court of Appeals’ outdated
characterization of Magdalena as a woman of bad reputation. There are a
number of cases where the triers of fact believe the testimony of a witness
of bad character31 and refuse to believe one of good character.32 As a
matter of fact, even a witness who has been convicted a number of times is
worthy of belief, when he testified in a straightforward and convincing
manner.33

At this juncture, it bears stressing that more than anybody else, it is the
DECS investigating officials who are in a better position to determine
whether Magdalena is telling the truth considering that they were able to
hear and observe her deportment and manner of testifying.34

In reversing the CSC’s Resolutions, the Court of Appeals ruled that "there
is ample evidence to show that Magdalena had a motive" in accusing
respondent, i.e., to pressure him to issue a permit. This is unconvincing.
The record shows that respondent had already issued the permit when
Magdalena filed her letter-complaint. Indeed, she had no more reason to
charge respondent administratively, except of course to vindicate her
honor.

Petitioner prays that we sustain its ruling penalizing respondent for grave
misconduct and not merely for disgraceful or immoral conduct which is
punishable by suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1)
year for the first offense.35 Misconduct means intentional wrongdoing or
deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior, especially by a
government official.36 To constitute an administrative offense, misconduct
should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official
functions and duties of a public officer.37 In grave misconduct as
distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear
intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be
manifest.38 Corruption as an element of grave misconduct consists in the
act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his
station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another
person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.39 This is apparently
present in respondent’s case as it concerns not only a stolen kiss but also a
demand for a "date," an unlawful consideration for the issuance of a permit
to operate a pre-school. Respondent’s act clearly constitutes grave
misconduct, punishable by dismissal.40

38
We are, however, not inclined to impose the penalty of dismissal from the
service. Respondent has served the government for a period of 37 years,
during which, he made a steady ascent from an Elementary Grade School
Teacher to Schools Division Superintendent. In devoting the best years of
his life to the education department, he received numerous awards.41 This
is the first time he is being administratively charged. He is in the edge of
retirement. In fact, he had filed his application for retirement when
Magdalena filed her complaint. Section 16, Rule XIV, of the Rules
Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292 provides:

"SEC. 16. In the determination of penalties to be imposed, mitigating


and aggravating circumstances may be considered. x x x."

The mitigating circumstances are enumerated in Section 53, Rule IV, of the
Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,42 which reads
in part:

"SEC. 53. Extenuating, Mitigating, Aggravating, or Alternative


Circumstances. – In the determination of the penalties to be imposed,
mitigating, aggravating and alternative circumstances attendant to the
commission of the offense shall be considered.

The following circumstances shall be appreciated:

xxx xxx

j. length of service

xxx xxx

l. and other analogous cases."

Conformably with our ruling in a similar case of sexual harassment,43 and


respondent’s length of service, unblemished record in the past and
numerous awards,44 the penalty of suspension from office without pay for
one (1) year is in order.

While we will not condone the wrongdoing of public officers and


employees, however, neither will we negate any move to recognize and
remunerate their lengthy service in the government.

39
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated January 8, 1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 44180 is REVERSED.
The CSC Resolution Nos. 966213 and 972423 are AFFIRMED, subject to
the modification that respondent ALLYSON
BELAGAN is SUSPENDED from office without pay for ONE (1) YEAR,
with full credit of his preventive suspension.

SO ORDERED.

40