Remedial Law

PEOPLE v. FRANCO G.R. No. 118607 March 4, 1997 Hearsay Evidence, Formal Offer of Evidence

FACTS:

On August 9, 1991 at around 6:45 a.m., Angelo Tongko discovered the lifeless body of Aurelio Cuya, a security guard of Dunkin Donut Binondo.

The branch supervisor of Dunkin Donut informed the police that the sales of the establishment, which was allegedly kept in the safety locker in the same place where the dead body was found, was missing. Acting on this allegation by the supervisor, the police proceeded to the place of appellant Julito Franco and were able to interview Maribel Diong and Hilda Dolera, who allegedly told the police that appellant allegedly confessed to them that he killed somebody in the evening of August 8, 1991.


Thereafter, appellant was brought to the police headquarters where his confession was taken allegedly on his free will and with the assistance of a lawyer.

The trial court convicted the appellant of the crime of robbery with homicide on the basis principally of his alleged extra-judicial confession.

As the records reveal, the  extra-judicial confession was not offered in evidence by the prosecution. Neither were its contents recited by the appellant in his testimony.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in its reliance on Franco’s  extra-judicial confession, considering that it was not offered in evidence by the prosecution

RULING:

The appeal is impressed with merit.

It was a grave error for the trial court to have considered the extra-judicial confession, let alone be the basis of appellant’s conviction.

We thus reiterate the rule that the court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. So fundamental is this injunction that litigants alike are corollarily enjoined to formally offer any evidence which they desire the court to consider.

Mr. Chief Justice Moran explained the rationale behind the rule in this wise:

. . . the offer is necessary because it is the duty of a judge to rest his findings of facts and his judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties to the suit.

It cannot be argued either that since the extra-judicial confession has been identified and marked as Exhibit “N” by the prosecution in the course of the cross-examination of the appellant,  then it may now be validly considered by the trial court.

There is a significant distinction between identification of documentary evidence and its formal offer.  

The former is done in the course of the trial and is accompanied by the marking of the evidence as an exhibit, while the latter is done only when the party rests its case.

Our settled rule is that the mere fact that a particular document is identified and marked as an exhibit does not mean that it has thereby already been offered as part of the evidence of a party.

The testimony on appellant’s alleged separate confession/admission to Hilda Dolera and Maribel Diong, which the trial court invariably considered in its decision as establishing the truth of the facts asserted therein, is hearsay.

And whether objected to or not, as in this case, said testimony has no probative value.  To repeat, the failure of the defense to object to the presentation of incompetent evidence, like hearsay, does not give such evidence any probative value.

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