Dear PAO,

My brother was implicated in a certain crime. However, there are no allegations of the witnesses in their affidavits which will point to him as the perpetrator of the crime. Am I correct in my belief that my brother will be acquitted because there is no direct evidence that he committed the crime?

Halsema

Dear Halsema,

Basic is the rule in criminal prosecution of a crime that the evidence required is proof beyond reasonable doubt. This is in accordance with Section 2, Rule 133, of A. M. No. 19-08-15-SC (2019 Amendments to the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence) which provides that:

"In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his or her guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind."

In this regard, the criminal liability of the accused maybe proved by either direct or circumstantial evidence. Thus, even if there is no direct evidence, criminal liability may still be proven by circumstantial evidence, which is in consonance with Section 4, Rule 133 of the same rule which specifically states that:

Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:

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(a) There is more than one circumstance;

(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and

(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

Applying the foregoing rule, the Supreme Court held that the lack of direct evidence is not synonymous to lack of evidence which would result to acquittal. In the case of People of the Philippines vs. Agan, G.R. No. 243984, February 1, 2021, the Supreme Court speaking through Honorable Former Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos stated that:

"In People v. Lignes, we held that the lack or absence of direct evidence does not necessarily mean that the guilt of the accused cannot be proved by evidence other than direct evidence. Direct evidence is not the sole means of establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, because circumstantial evidence, if sufficient, can supplant the absence of direct evidence.

Thus, conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be upheld, provided that the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person."

Based from the facts you provided, the absence of statements of the witnesses about the alleged actual participation of your brother in the commission of the crime would imply that there is no direct evidence linking him as the author thereof. However, it does not necessarily follow that there is no evidence against him. Applying the above- quoted decision in your situation, lack of direct evidence does not necessarily result to an acquittal. The prosecution may present circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of your brother. Circumstantial evidence, if sufficient to produce conviction beyond reasonable doubt, can supplant the absence of direct evidence. Hence, the lack of direct evidence against your brother will not guarantee his acquittal. It will not discount the possibility that there may be circumstantial evidence present under the circumstances to prove his guilt.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]