Will SC ruling on Arroyo apply to a typical nobody’s case?
FORMER PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has just been ordered released by the Supreme Court after dismissing the plunder case against her for “insufficiency of evidence.” The Court applied a basic principle of law: Where evidence does not prove “guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the accused should be acquitted (though not necessarily declared “innocent”).
The Court acted on Arroyo’s plunder case with unusual dispatch—less than one year after the case was elevated to it for review of the Sandiganbayan’s finding of “strong evidence of guilt” against Arroyo—considering that the former president had been under “hospital arrest” for about four years already, much to her discomfort and inconvenience. Such enviable luxury still involved deprivation of her liberty, you know.
With this recent Supreme Court decision in mind, I am calling attention for the umpteenth time to the glaring injustice done to Christopher Soliva, my former dorm-mate during our college days at the University of the Philippines Diliman. We were then in our 20s. Soliva is now in his late 40s, serving life imprisonment for “conspiracy” with others, on the testimony of a single witness who said to the policemen —moments after the incident —that he could not recognize anyone of those who attacked him and his friends, and then, months later(!), testified in court that he recognized Soliva as one of the attackers who caused the death of one of them.
Any way one sliced that lone testimony, that could not pass muster as to “sufficiency of evidence” to warrant a finding of “guilt beyond reasonable doubt.” The thing about this case was, while there were other witnesses who supposedly identified the other attackers, none of them saw Soliva anywhere at the scene of the crime. His conviction was based only on the sole testimony of that flip-flopping witness.
Thus, unlike the case against Arroyo, where the Supreme Court really dug into the volumes of testimony and tons of documentary evidence with a shovel to force a verdict of “insufficient evidence,” the case against Soliva, a typical nobody, got no more than short shrift. Whatever happened to “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” Blackstone’s oft-quoted aphorism in criminal law?
—MARIUS V. CANONOY, [email protected]
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