Political Law

People of the Philippines vs Eugenio Pasilan

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G.R. No. L-18770 – 14 SCRA 694 – Political Law – Powers of the President – Amnesty; When it cannot be invoked

Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – New Trial – Recantation of Witness Testimony

Eugenio Pasilan was a former guerrilla fighting against the Japanese. In 1944, while cleaning his gun outside the house of one Justina Miguel, a certain Ciriaco Abarra passed by. Pasilan ordered Abarra to wait for him. Abarra waited and after cleaning his gun, Pasilan interrogated Abarra. Abarra was alleged to be supporting the Japanese cause and he was one of the persons who accompanied the Japanese troops in raiding the barrio where Pasilan lived. After interrogating, Pasilan inflicted upon Abarra 2 stab wounds on Abarra’s chest. Abarra ran towards the river. Ten days later, the decaying body of Abarra was found. About 10 years after the incident, Morales, an agent, was sent to the barrio to investigate crimes committed during the war. He conducted some investigation and was also able to have Justina Miguel testify against Pasilan for the murder of Abarra. Pasilan was subsequently convicted. On July 29, 1964, Pasilan moved for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence which allegedly would reverse the decision of the lower court. Alleged as newly discovered evidence are sworn statement attesting to Justina Miguel’s recantation. Pasilan likewise sought to avail of Proclamation No. 8 by President Roxas granting amnesty to persons who during the war committed any act penalized under the RPC in furtherance of the resistance against the enemy or against person aiding in the war efforts of the enemy.

ISSUE: Whether or not Pasilan is eligible to be admitted for amnesty.

HELD: Not every recantation of a witness entitles the accused to a new trial. Otherwise, the power to grant a new trial would rest not in the courts but in the witnesses who have testified against the accused. Recanting testimony, furthermore, is exceedingly unreliable. Since Justina Miguel’s alleged recantation has already been passed upon by the trial court, new trial is uncalled for.

Neither can the additional ground of amnesty entitle appellant to a new trial. In the first place, Proclamation No. 8 of President Roxas is not a newly discovered evidence, for it was already known when the case was tried. Secondly, availing of the benefits granted by the amnesty proclamation would be inconsistent with the plea of not guilty which appellant entered upon his arraignment. Amnesty presupposes the commission of a crime, and when the accused maintains that he has not committed a crime, he cannot avail of amnesty.

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