Reaction of eyewitness; credibility

It is a settled principle that people react differently when confronted with a startling and dangerous experience. For example, a person who witnessed a hacking incident may faint, act with nonchalance, or may hide out of fear for his life; on the other hand, he may also act with bravery by coming to the aid and succor of the victim, most especially if the latter is a relative; or, he may act cautiously and seek the help of other people. The list is not all-encompassing because people do not act similarly to a given situation.Hence, in the case of People v. Britanico (G.R. No. 201836, June 22, 2015), the Supreme Court did not find it unnaturalfor Rolando to hide in the grassy area upon witnessing the hacking of his uncle, Segundo, by the appellants. Rolando also admitted that he got scared which is also a reasonable and logical reaction to such a startling event.

The failure of Rolando to immediately report the incident to the authorities did not diminish his credibility. According to Rolando, upon seeing his uncle fall to the ground, he left his hiding place and proceeded directly to the house of his cousin, Alma, the daughter of the deceased, and informed her of what happened to her father. Thereafter, he went home as it was already nighttime. However, appellants assail this reaction on the part of Rolando; according to them, if Rolando indeed saw the incident, then he should have lost no time in reporting the same to the authorities. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Rolando's actuations should not be measured against the expectations of appellants. It is possible that as far as Rolando is concerned, he already did his share. And considering that he already divulged the incident to the family of the deceased, then it was up to them to decide on the next possible course of action. Surprisingly, appellants did not question the failure of Alma (as well as her mother and brother) to immediately inform the police authorities about the fate of her father. Records show that upon being informed about the incident, Alma and her brother proceeded to the house of the Britanicos to avenge their father. Upon their arrival thereat, nobody was around but they saw bloodstains in the yard. In fact, they even thought, and hoped, that their father was able to escape and that he was still alive. Without reporting the incident yet to the police authorities, they returned home. It was only upon the discovery of the decomposing body of their father that they decided to disclose the incident to the police.

The credibility of an eyewitness account is not diminished simply because the number of wounds sustained by the victim did not match the number of blows delivered to the private victim, as testified in court. For one, this does not negate the fact that the accused hacked or killed the victim.

For example, in People v. Britanico, Rolando testified that he did not consciously count the number of blows delivered by the victim's assailants. He only surmised that the number of wounds sustained by Segundo is four because he saw Francisco, Rolly, Allan and Jojo each deliver a hacking blow on the victim. The medico-legal officer found a gaping wound on the victim's forehead; his neck was slashed and his head almost got detached from his body; and both his hands were cut when he tried to parry the blows. It is also possible that the victim sustained other injuries but were no longer detected since his body was already in a state of decomposition.

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