Dying person's declaration = proof of killer's identity

In the case of People v. Palanas (G.R. No. 214453. June 17, 2015), the Supreme Court said that the Court of Appeals (CA) is also correct in admitting SPO2 Borre's statements on his way to the hospital as evidence, both as a dying declaration and as part of the res gestae.

In death cases, for a dying declaration to constitute an exception to the hearsay evidence rule, four (4) conditions must concur:
  1. The declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant's death;
  2. That at the time the declaration was made, the declarant is conscious of his impending death;
  3. The declarant was competent as a witness; and
  4. The declaration is offered in a criminal case for Homicide, Murder, or Parricide where the declarant is the victim.
On the other hand, a statement to be deemed to form part of the res gestae, and thus, constitute another exception to the rule on hearsay evidence, requires the concurrence of the following requisites:
  1. The principal act, the res gestae, is a startling occurrence;
  2. The statements were made before the declarant had time to contrive or devise; and
  3. The statements must concern the occurrence in question and its immediately attending circumstances.
In People v. Palanas, SPO2 Borre's statements constitute a dying declaration, given that they pertained to the cause and circumstances of his death and taking into consideration the number and severity of his wounds, it may be reasonably presumed that he uttered the same under a fixed belief that his own death was already imminent. This declaration is considered evidence of the highest order and is entitled to utmost credence since no person aware of his impending death would make a careless and false accusation.Verily, because the declaration was made in extremity, when the party is at the point of death and when every motive of falsehood is silenced and the mind is induced by the most powerful considerations to speak the truth, the law deems this as a situation so solemn and awful as creating an obligation equal to that which is imposed by an oath administered in court.

In the same vein, SPO2 Borre's statements may likewise be deemed to form part of the res gestae.

Res gestae refers to the circumstances, facts, and declarations that grow out of the main fact and serve to illustrate its character and are so spontaneous and contemporaneous with the main fact as to exclude the idea of deliberation and fabrication. The test of admissibility of evidence as a part of the res gestae is, therefore, whether the act, declaration, or exclamation is so intimately interwoven or connected with the principal fact or event that it characterizes as to be regarded as a part of the transaction itself, and also whether it clearly negates any premeditation or purpose to manufacture testimony.

In this case of Palanas, SPO2 Borre's statements refer to a startling occurrence, i.e., him being shot by Palanas and his companion. While on his way to the hospital, SPO2 Borre had no time to contrive the identification of his assailants. Hence, his utterance was made in spontaneity and only in reaction to the startling occurrence. Definitely, such statement is relevant because it identified Palanas as one of the authors of the crime. Therefore, the killing of SPO2 Borre, perpetrated by Palanas, is adequately proven by the prosecution.

ADDITIONAL READINGS:

[1] Part of res gestae (evidence) - Project Jurisprudence.
[2] Section 42, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 42. Part of res gestae. — Statements made by a person while a startling occurrence is taking place or immediately prior or subsequent thereto with respect to the circumstances thereof, may be given in evidence as part of the res gestae. So, also, statements accompanying an equivocal act material to the issue, and giving it a legal significance, may be received as part of the res gestae.
[3] People v. Villarico, Sr., 662 Phil. 399, 418 (2011).
[4] People v. Cerilla, 564 Phil. 230, 240 (2007).
[5] People v. Cortezano, 425 Phil. 696, 715 (2002).
[6] United States v. Gil, 13 Phil. 530, 549 (1909).
[7] People v. Saliling, 161 Phil. 559, 572-573 (1976).
[8] See People v. Gatarin, G.R. No. 198022, April 7, 2014.
[9] People v. Salafranca, G.R. No. 173476, February 22, 2012, 666 SCRA 501, 514.

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