DOCTRINE: The fact of prior conviction alone does not suffice to discredit a witness; the testimony of such a witness must be assayed and scrutinized in exactly the same way the testimony of other witnesses must be examined for its relevance and credibility.

FACTS:

Sometime after 8:00 o’clock in the evening of 6 February 1986, that is, on the eve of the “snap” presidential election held on 7 February 1986, appellant Prudencio Dominguez then Mayor of the Municipality of Sinacaban, Misamis Occidental and his brother Roger C. Dominguez went to visit their second cousin, Judge Purita A. Boligor. Judge Boligor, according to the defense, was promoting the candidacy of Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino, the opposition candidate in the presidential race. Mayor Dominguez was affiliated with the “Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan” (“KBL”) and was at that time working for the re-election of former President Marcos. Mayor Dominguez and Roger arrived at Judge Boligor’s house in Sinacaban in an Integrated National Police (“INP”) jeep driven by Felix Amis, a police officer detailed as security man of Mayor Dominguez. Rodolfo Macalisang, brother-in-law of Mayor Dominguez, emerged on the leftside of the jeep, spoke briefly with the Mayor, then stepped aside and stayed under the shadow of a citrus (calamansi) tree. The Mayor and his brother Roger proceeded towards Judge Boligor’s house and entered that house. There they met with Judge Boligor and her brother Luther Avanceña who was then the UNIDO Chairman in Sinacaban, Misamis Occidental. About ten (10) minutes later, Rodolfo Macalisang entered Judge Boligor’s house with an M-16 armalite automatic rifle and bursts of gunfire were heard. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Dominguez and Roger ran out of the house, got into the jeep which had been waiting for them and sped away. Macalisang then came out of the house and disappeared into the darkness. Judge Boligor and Luther were found inside the house, with multiple bullet wounds in vital parts of their bodies which caused their instantaneous death.

Meanwhile,prosecution’s case rested mainly on the testimony of Oscar Cagod who witnessed the above sequence of events from a store across the street. The defense, for its part, attacked the credibility and the testimony of Oscar Cagod on the following grounds:  First, Cagod was not a disinterested witness, having lived in the house of Judge Boligor for eighteen (18) to nineteen (19) years and having treated the Judge like his own mother;Second, Cagod waited for four (4) months after the slaying of Judge Boligor and Luther Avanceña before he executed his sworn statement;Third, Cagod, according to the defense, executed his sworn statement only after the police authorities had arrested him and promised him immunity from prosecution. His testimony therefore came from a polluted source and should be received only with utmost caution.Fourth, Cagod had been convicted, when he was twelve (12) years old, of murder, a crime involving moral turpitude and accordingly his testimony deserved no credence.Last, the defense assailed the testimony of Cagod as being incredible in itself.

ISSUE: WON the prior conviction of a crime of Oscar Cadot would discredit him as a witness.

HELD.  NO.

Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court provides as follows: Sec. 20. Witnesses; their qualifications. — Except as provided in the next succeeding section, all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses.

. . . [C]onviction of a crime unless otherwise provided by law, shall not be a ground for disqualification. (Emphasis supplied).

In Cordial v. People, this Court echoed the above cited provision of law stating that

even convicted criminals are not excluded from testifying in court so long as, having organs of sense, they “can perceive and perceiving can make known their perceptions to others. 

The fact of prior criminal conviction alone does not suffice to discredit a witness; the testimony of such a witness must be assayed and scrutinized in exactly the same way the testimony of other witnesses must be examined for its relevance and credibility. None of the cases cited by the appellants militates against this proposition. 

Oscar Cagod did not dispute his prior conviction for murder when he was only twelve (12) years old. Because of his minority, instead of being imprisoned, he was placed under the custody of Judge Boligor and her late husband, who was then Chief of Police of Sinacaban. Cagod lived with the for eighteen (18) or nineteen (19) years until Judge Boligor was slain. During that period of time, Cagod had no record of any bad or socially destructive behavior. He had in fact been of much help around the Boligors’ house and had in fact worked for appellant Mayor Dominguez himself as a motorcar driver.  His testimony was not in favor of an accused “comrade,”  and Oscar Cagod, moreover, was obviously not a hardened criminal. Taking account of these circumstances, the Court considers that Oscar Cagod’s credibility was not put in doubt by reason alone of conviction of a crime when he was twelve (12) years old.

Therefore, the decision of the trial court dated 10 May 1991 is hereby AFFIRMED. Prudencio and Rodolfo were found guilty and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Judge Purita A.

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