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Digest: CSC v. Belagan

[G.R. NO. 132164 : October 19, 2004]


When the credibility of a witness is sought to be impeached by proof of his reputation, it is necessary that the reputation shown should be that which existed before the occurrence of the circumstances out of which the litigation arose, or at the time of the trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the commencement of the suit. This is because a person of derogatory character or reputation can still change or reform himself.


Stemmed from two (2) separate complaints filed respectively by Magdalena Gapuz, founder/directress of the "Mother and Child Learning Center," and Ligaya Annawi, a public school teacher at Fort Del Pilar Elementary School, against respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), all from Baguio City. Magdalena charged respondent with sexual indignities and harassment, while Ligaya accused him of sexual harassment and various malfeasances.

she filed an application with the DECS Office in Baguio City for a permit to operate a pre-school. One of the requisites for the issuance of the permit was the inspection of the school premises by the DECS Division Office. Since the officer assigned to conduct the inspection was not present, respondent volunteered his services.

In the course of the inspection, while both were descending the stairs of the second floor, respondent suddenly placed his arms around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. Dumbfounded, she muttered, "Sir, is this part of the inspection? Pati ba naman kayo sa DECS wala ng values?" Respondent merely sheepishly smiled. At that time, there were no other people in the area.

Fearful that her application might be jeopardized and that her husband might harm respondent, Magdalena just kept quiet.

Several days later, Magdalena went to the DECS Division Office and asked respondent, "Sir, kumusta yung application ko?" His reply was "Mag-date muna tayo." She declined, explaining that she is married. She then left and reported the matter to DECS Assistant Superintendent Peter Ngabit

she was forced to reveal the incidents to her husband when he asked why the permit has not yet been released. Thereupon, they went to the office of the respondent. He merely denied having a personal relationship with Magdalena.

Ligaya Annawi, she alleged in her complaint that on four separate occasions, respondent touched her breasts, kissed her cheek, touched her groins, embraced her from behind and pulled her close to him, his organ pressing the lower part of her back.

The DECS conducted a joint investigation of the complaints of Magdalena and Ligaya. In his defense, respondent denied their charge of sexual harassment. However, he presented evidence to disprove Ligaya's imputation of dereliction of duty.

DECS Secretary rendered a Joint Decision4 finding respondent guilty. Civil Service Commission (CSC) affirming the Decision of the DECS .

respondent seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration, contending that he has never been charged of any offense in his thirty-seven (37) years of service. By contrast, Magdalena was charged with several offense.

Respondent claimed that the numerous cases filed against Magdalena cast doubt on her character, integrity, and credibility.

CSC denied MR. Respondent then filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Review . As stated earlier, it reversed the CSC Resolutions and dismissed Magdalena's complaint.

The Appellate Court held that Magdalena is an unreliable witness, her character being questionable. Given her aggressiveness and propensity for trouble, "she is not one whom any male would attempt to steal a kiss." In fact, her "record immediately raises an alarm in any one who may cross her path."11 In absolving respondent from the charges, the Appellate Court considered his "unblemished" service record for 37 years.


Whether the Court of Appeals erred in not giving credence to the testimony of complainant Magdalena Gapuz despite convincing and overwhelming signs of its truthfulness.


Generally, the character of a party is regarded as legally irrelevant in determining a controversy.15 One statutory exception is that relied upon by respondent, i.e., Section 51 (a) 3, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, which we quote here:

"SEC. 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions. '

(a) In Criminal Cases:

x x x           x x x

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved if it tends to establish in any reasonable degree the probability or improbability of the offense charged."

It will be readily observed that the above provision pertains only to criminal cases, not to administrative offenses. And even assuming that this technical rule of evidence can be applied here, still, we cannot sustain respondent's posture.

Not every good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved under this provision. Only those which would establish the probability or improbability of the offense charged. This means that the character evidence must be limited to the traits and characteristics involved in the type of offense charged.16 Thus, on a charge of rape - character for chastity, on a charge of assault - character for peaceableness or violence, and on a charge of embezzlement - character for honesty.17 In one rape case, where it was established that the alleged victim was morally loose and apparently uncaring about her chastity, we found the conviction of the accused doubtful.18

In the present administrative case for sexual harassment, respondent did not offer evidence that has a bearing on Magdalena's chastity. What he presented are charges for grave oral defamation, grave threats, unjust vexation, physical injuries, malicious mischief, etc. filed against her. Certainly, these pieces of evidence are inadmissible under the above provision because they do not establish the probability or improbability of the offense charged.

Obviously, in invoking the above provision, what respondent was trying to establish is Magdalena's lack of credibility and not the probability or the improbability of the charge. In this regard, a different provision applies.

Credibility means the disposition and intention to tell the truth in the testimony given. It refers to a person's integrity, and to the fact that he is worthy of belief.A witness may be discredited by evidence attacking his general reputation for truth,honesty or integrity. Section 11, Rule 132 of the same Revised Rules on Evidence reads:

"SEC. 11. Impeachment of adverse party's witness. 'A witness may be impeached by the party against whom he was called, by contradictory evidence, by evidence that his general reputation for truth, honesty, or integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has made at other times statements inconsistent with his present testimony, but not by evidence of particular wrongful acts, except that it may be shown by the examination of the witness, or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an offense."

Although she is the offended party, Magdalena, by testifying in her own behalf, opened herself to character or reputation attack pursuant to the principle that a party who becomes a witness in his own behalf places himself in the same position as any other witness, and may be impeached by an attack on his character or reputation.23

With the foregoing disquisition, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding that the character or reputation of a complaining witness in a sexual charge is a proper subject of inquiry. This leads us to the ultimate question - is Magdalena's derogatory record sufficient to discredit her credibility?

A careful review of the record yields a negative answer.

First, most of the twenty-two (22) cases filed with the MTC of Baguio City relate to acts committed in the 80's, particularly, 1985 and 1986. Settled is the principle that evidence of one's character or reputation must be confined to a time not too remote from the time in question. In other words, what is to be determined is the character or reputation of the person at the time of the trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the commencement of the suit. Hence, to say that Magdalena's credibility is diminished by proofs of tarnished reputation existing almost a decade ago is unreasonable

Second, respondent failed to prove that Magdalena was convicted in any of the criminal cases specified by respondent. The general rule prevailing in a great majority of jurisdictions is that it is not permissible to show that a witness has been arrested or that he has been charged with or prosecuted for a criminal offense, or confined in jail for the purpose of impairing his credibility. This view has usually been based upon one or more of the following grounds or theories: (a) that a mere unproven charge against the witness does not logically tend to affect his credibility, (b) that innocent persons are often arrested or accused of a crime, (c) that one accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until his guilt is legally established, and (d) that a witness may not be impeached or discredited by evidence of particular acts of misconduct.

General, Magdalena testified in a straightforward, candid and spontaneous manner. Her testimony is replete with details, such as the number of times she and respondent inspected the pre-school, the specific part of the stairs where respondent kissed her, and the matter about her transient boarders during summer

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 8, 1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 44180 is REVERSED. The CSC Resolution Nos. 966213 and 972423 are AFFIRMED

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