Miriam: Cunanan qualified as state witness
MANILA, Philippines - As far as Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is concerned, Technology Resource Center (TRC) head Dennis Cunanan is qualified to be a state witness even if proven that he lied about receiving kickbacks from alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Napoles.
The former regional trial court judge told students at Assumption College in Makati City on Monday, March 10, that under the Rules of Court, an accused can become a state witness "if it appears that he is not the most guilty."
Santiago said in her speech on media and good governance that the legal provision is often mistaken by non-lawyers to mean that state witness should be "the least guilty," but these two "mean different things."
The senator said the state witness rule is an exception to the rule that when a witness is caught lying in one detail, he should be presumed to be lying in all details.
She cited jurisprudence, including the 2008 case of Tarapen v. People, where the Supreme Court ruled, “The testimony of a witness may be believed in part and disbelieved in another, depending on the corroborative evidence or the probabilities and improbabilities of the case.”
The senator said that in the 2003 case of People vs. Masapol, the Supreme Court stated, “The doctrine of falsus in uno falsus in omnibus, (meaning false in one, false in all) deals only with the weight of evidence, and is not a positive rule of law, and the same is not an inflexible one of universal application.”
Debate on Cunanan, 'immaterial'
Santiago said the debate on whether Cunanan should be accepted as a state witness is immaterial at this time, since only the Sandiganbayan can make the decision.
“Neither the justice secretary nor the Ombudsman has the power to admit a state witness. This power is reserved for the trial court, meaning the Sandigan," she said.
Santiago said the justice secretary is only empowered to admit a person into the Witness Protection Program (WPP), and the Ombudsman, to conduct a preliminary investigation.
"The best that the Ombudsman can do is to file a motion with the Sandigan to admit some of the accused as state witnesses,” she said.
Santiago was among the senators who grilled Cunanan at the Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam on March 6, where the TRC head was questioned about his lifestyle amid the allegations of Benhur Luy, a whistleblower in the pork barrel scam, that Cunanan received kickbacks. (READ: Pork barrel lawyers, whistleblowers wary of Cunanan)
At that hearing, Senator Grace Poe urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to carefully screen potential state witnesses – in this case, Cunanan – to ensure that they do not "poke holes" in the testimony of other witnesses, referring to Luy.
Luy claimed that he had seen Cunanan at the Discovery Suites office of Napoles and had prepared the government officials' alleged commission, but did not see the money being handed to Cunanan, who has repeatedly denied the allegation.
De Lima said on March 7, a day after the Senate hearing, that she has given Cunanan a "chance to rectify himself" or to admit that he had received commissions from Napoles for pork barrel fund releases to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) coursed through his office.
But she, too, said that Cunanan can still become a state witness even if he would admit to receiving kickbacks. – Mia Gonzalez/Rappler.com