High court confirms conviction based on pure conjecture | Inquirer Opinion

High court confirms conviction based on pure conjecture

12:00 AM February 26, 2015

When an overseas Filipino worker gets capital punishment for a crime committed in the Middle East, we fall all over each other in pretending that we care and will do anything to save his life. We even raise funds in the millions to pay for “blood money.” The show of compassion, whether real or fake, edges out any concern about his actual guilt and makes it irrelevant.

But right here at home, a young man in his 20s and a promising student at the University of Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, was sentenced to life imprisonment (by itself a capital punishment) for a crime he should have been acquitted of—and we pretend he does not exist? The Constitution presumes everyone innocent. Only proof of guilt “beyond reasonable doubt” can destroy that presumption.

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I first came to know about that case from the Inquirer (“SC upholds murder conviction of 5 UP fratmen,” Metro, 6/8/15). After coming across an article about it by one Marius Canonoy (“Court decision goes against common sense,” Opinion, 2/9/15), I was intrigued and felt sympathy for the young man. So I Google-searched that decision myself via Lawphil.

People vs Feliciano is about a fraternity rumble in the UP campus in Quezon City. My focus here is on the conviction of the young Christopher Soliva (now in his 40s and still in jail). After going through the majority and dissenting opinions, I saw that, indeed, there was only one complainant/witness against Soliva. That lone witness did admit to the UP cops and the UP doctor at the clinic that he “could not recognize the attackers because they were wearing masks.” Then about four days later—and after consulting with lawyers in his fraternity—he told a different story to the National Bureau of Investigation.

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Soliva only had that lone complainant’s word against his (he was on a lunch date at that time with his girlfriend who said the same thing in court). No other witness backed up that lone complainant’s revised story. As to that, the Court declared: “It is quite possible that at this point in time, they knew the identities of their attackers but chose not to disclose [them] without first conferring with their other fraternity brothers … Their act of not disclosing the correct information to the UP Police or to Dr. Mislang does not make the police officer or the doctor’s testimonies more credible than those of the victims. It should not be forgotten that the victims actually witnessed the entire incident, while (the police officers and the doctor) were merely relaying second-hand information.”

“Quite possible”—the lone complainant was able to identify Soliva but chose not to disclose his identity until after consulting with lawyers in his fraternity! Didn’t that fact alone give the Court enough reason to suspect, by dint of good old-fashioned common sense, that the witness might have embellished his story, courtesy of his lawyers? So, if it was “possible” that he knew who the attackers were, it should logically follow that it was also “possible” he really did not know (as he so forthrightly told the policemen and the doctor earlier without benefit of “coaching” from his lawyers)!

It is quite obvious the Court was not sure; hence, its resort to pure conjecture. As lawyers like to say, “I rest my case!”

—RIMALDO PACIFICO, [email protected]

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TAGS: Christopher Soliva, fraternity violence, hazing, justice, wrongful conviction
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