Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Malana vs. People G.R. No. 173612 March 26, 2008 Equipoise Rule



The petitioners Dominador and Rodel, together with their acquitted co-accused Elenito, were charged with the crime of murder and multiple frustrated murder before the RTC. The charges stemmed from an incident that left Betty dead, and her daughter Suzette and granddaughter injured. The appellants pleaded not guilty during the arraignment. Vicente, the husband of deceased Betty, testified that appellants had been threatening to liquidate him and his family, due to their belief that he was in the practice of witchcraft by which he had caused the deaths of Rodels parents-in-law.

Appellants proffered the defenses of denial and alibi. The RTC found Dominador and Rodel guilty of two (2) separate crimes of murder and frustrated murder, and acquitted Elenito on the ground of reasonable doubt.

The trial court gave credence to the eyewitness accounts of Vicente and Suzette who positively identified the appellants as two of the three perpetrators of the crime. However, the trial court acquitted Elenito as he was not positively identified by Suzette as the third man and his physical appearance does not fit the description of the tall fat man seen by Suzette. The CA affirmed the guilt of appellants.




What is the “Equipoise” rule? When can this be invoked?



This rule provides that where the evidence of the parties in a criminal case is evenly balanced, the constitutional presumption of innocence should tilt the scales in favor of the accused. There is, therefore, no equipoise if the evidence is not evenly balanced. Said rule is not applicable in the case before us because the evidence here presented is not equally weighty. The equipoise rule cannot be invoked where the evidence of the prosecution is overwhelming.

Against the direct, positive and convincing evidence for the prosecution, appellants could only offer denials and uncorroborated alibi. It is elementary that alibi and denial are outweighed by positive identification that is categorical, consistent and untainted by any ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter. Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. The prosecution witnesses positively identified appellants as two of the perpetrators of the crime. It is incumbent upon appellants to prove that they were at another place when the felony was committed, and that it was physically impossible for them to have been at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. This they failed to prove.

Ultimately, the Court also said that there is no merit in appellants assiduous assertion that they should be acquitted under the equipoise rule in view of what to them are doubts as to their guilt.

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