MANUEL SOLIMAN, Petitioner, v. HON. SANDIGANBAYAN, 3RD DIVISION; and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
G.R. No. 71305, November 24, 1986.
Petitioner Manuel Soliman was convicted of qualified theft by Sandiganbayan for having allegedly conspired with his co-workers in the Malacañang garage to steal 1,000 liters of gasoline. All his co-accused were acquitted with the exception of Bernardo Cube, the driver of the truck where the stolen fuel was carried, who had escaped and could not be tried.
A requisition was made by the Malacañang garage for 9,000 liters of gasoline which was filled in Pandacan. 1,000 liters was retained in the delivery truck which the accused were allegedly intending to sell. It was foiled as a surveillance team prevented the sale. The driver was arrested and implicated his other co-accused.
In finding the petitioner guilty, the Sandiganbayan relied heavily on the supposed confession of Cube, who was at large and never tried. However, the confession had not been formally and specifically offered in evidence by the prosecution.
The Court also relied on the alleged confession of Soliman, although he alleged the confession was elicited by interrogators who manhandled him.
The Court also made the conjecture that since Soliman had gone to the Pandacan depot and later rode with Cube in the delivery truck that brought the gasoline to Malacañang, he really conspired with Cube.
Although Soliman explained that he was ordered by a superior to follow up on the requisition, Sandiganbayan held that the said person should have been presented as a defense witness.
ISSUE: W/N Soliman could be held guilty of qualified theft.
1. The confession of Cube was not offered in evidence, in contravention of the Section 35 Rule 132 of the Rules of Court (on offer of evidence).
2. Cube's confession should have been barred altogether as pure hearsay since the petitioner did not have the chance to confront and cross-examine his accuser.
3. Soliman's alleged confession is inadmissible for being violative of his Bill of Rights while under custodial investigation.
4. The conclusion of conspiracy is far-fetched. In effect, the petitioner is held guilty because of his presence in the Pandacan depot and later in the delivery truck, as if such presence were a crime.
5. The non-presentation of Soliman's supervisor does not point to his guilt, since there is still constitutional presumption of innocence. If at all, it was the prosecution that had to introduce evidence to disprove the Soliman's testimony and not the other way around.
"We repeat our counsel against ill-considered convictions based only, as in this case, on unfounded surmises or, in other cases, prejudgments and prejudices. Although these errors may at times be corrected and undone on appeal, the stigma of a criminal conviction, even if ultimately reversed, is never quite washed away and remains to soil the innocent man’s name to his dying day."