The pursuit of the truth has always been the main goal of every litigation in order to properly serve justice. There can only be justice when every party involved in a particular case is given the opportunity to present his side of the story. Justice, in its fullest sense, is fair play.
Every person has a right to due process. No one shall be convicted of a crime without undergoing the proper procedure or without being tried in our court of law.
Article III, Section I of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. Any violation of a person’s right to due process would render a decision and the entire proceeding void.1
True to the mandate of the due process clause, the basic rights of notice and hearing pervade not only in criminal and civil proceedings, but in administrative proceedings as well. Non- observance of these rights will invalidate the proceedings.
Individuals are entitled to be notified of any pending case affecting their interests, and upon notice, they may claim the right to appear therein and present their side and to refute the position of the opposing parties.2
In every trial, each party is given the chance to present all the pieces of evidence he has in order to establish a fact. The burden of proof or the onus probandi is the duty of a party to present all the the necessary facts substantiated with credible evidence to prove his or her side of the story.
One who alleges a certain fact has the burden of proof to prove the same and it cannot be shifted to the other party. This is what we call the onus probandi or the burden of proof.
What is Onus Probandi in Law?
Section 1 of Rule 131 of the Rules of Court defines onus probandi or burden of proof as the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish his or her claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law. Burden of proof never shifts.3
Case law has defined “burden of proof” as the duty to establish the truth of a given proposition or issue by such quantum of evidence as the law demands in the case at which the issue arises.
Rule 133 of the Rules of Court provides the requisite quantum of evidence in civil and criminal cases. It specifically provides that:4
“Section 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. — In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence.5
“In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which there are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial.6
“The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number.”7
“Section 2. Proof beyond reasonable doubt. — In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.”8
In civil cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish his case by preponderance of evidence, i.e., superior weight of evidence on the issues involved. “Preponderance of evidence” means evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it.9
The rule on burden of proof in a criminal case places upon the prosecution the task of establishing the guilt of an accused, relying on the strength of its own evidence, and not banking on the weakness of the defense of an accused.
Requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt finds basis not only in the due process clause of the Constitution, but similarly, in the right of an accused to be “presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”
Undoubtedly, it is the constitutional presumption of innocence that lays such burden upon the prosecution. Should the prosecution fail to discharge its burden, it follows, as a matter of course, that an accused must be acquitted.10
In the case of People vs. Ganguso,11 the Supreme Court held that an accused has in his favor the presumption of innocence which the Bill of Rights guarantees. Unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt, he must be acquitted.
This reasonable doubt standard is demanded by the due process clause of the Constitution which protects the accused from conviction except upon proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.12
The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and unless it discharges that burden the accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf, and he would be entitled to an acquittal. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not, of course, mean such degree of proof as, excluding the possibility of error, produce absolute certainty.13
Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. The conscience must be satisfied that the accused is responsible for the offense charged.14
Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is the rule that the conviction of the accused must rest, not on the weakness of the defense, but on the strength of the prosecution. The burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, not on the accused to prove his innocence.15
Onus probandi incumbid ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat
As a general rule in evidence, the burden of proof rests upon who asserts it, and not upon who denies it. By the nature of things, the one who denies a fact is not capable of producing any evidence of it. In civil cases, the party who asserts a claim and has the burden of proof must institute his case by preponderance of evidence.
It means that the evidence he must establish shall have a greater weight, or that is more convincing than what is offered in the opposition. The one who asserts a claim should prove that his allegations are true and that the defending party caused damages or injury.
Allegations must be validated by sufficient evidence because mere allegation is definitely not evidence, and the party who alleges the same has the burden of proving his allegation in accordance with the requisite quantum of evidence as provided by law.
On the other hand, the party that does not carry the burden of proof (the party who denies the claim), sustains the benefit of assumption of being correct. Generally, they shall be presumed to be correct until otherwise proven after the party bringing the action presents his evidence to the court.
For instance, to establish the validity of a mortgage, a preponderance of the evidence must be shown and it has been ruled that a clear and convincing proof is essential to show duress, fraud, or undue influence. Any material and relevant pieces of evidence which are competent, are admissible on the issue of establishing the validity of a mortgage.
And if the party asserting the claim utterly failed to show relevant evidence in order to support their factual claims and offered no valid explanation, such omission is fatal to their action and their action may be dismissed for lack of evidence required by law.
Onus probandi incumbit actori
Onus probandi incumbit actori îs legal maxim which means that the party who instituted the legal action, must provide sufficient evidence to win the lawsuit he filed against the defending party.
It is the obligation of the plaintiff to submit all the necessary proofs and pieces of evidence to the court that will justify his or her claims against the defendant.
In other words, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, who is responsible to support the aspects of his claims by providing sufficient evidence required by law. The mere filing or instituting a case in court is not sufficient to win the lawsuit.
The plaintiff must have sufficient and concrete evidence to support his allegations in order to convince the court that the defending party has caused damage or injury to the plaintiff, or that there exists an act or omission on the part of the defending party which violates the right of the plaintiff.
In criminal actions, the burden to prove such a claim rests upon the prosecutor who is in control of the criminal proceedings and asserting a claim against the opposing party.
Here is a sample16 illustration:
“AAA and BBB have been married for ten years. Even if they are faithfully married to each other, BBB has been harassing AAA, through mental and physical abuse for around 2 years.
“Because of this, AAA has to undergo medications and treatments to manage her trauma caused by such abuse and assault.
“After a year, AAA filed a complaint for Violence against Women and Children on the basis of such violative actions of BBB. In this case, AAA has to prove that BBB had caused her physical and psychological suffering through acts of abuse, harassment and assault.
“AAA shall provide sufficient evidence to support her claims before the court which has jurisdiction over the case.”17
What is the Burden of Proof in criminal cases?
In a criminal proceeding, the accused is to be acquitted, except when his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. A proof beyond reasonable doubt does not necessary mean such a degree of proof, excluding chance of error, produces absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is required or else that degree of proof which gives a conviction in an unbiased mind.
This rule rests upon the prosecutor the obligation of establishing the guilt of an accused, depending on the strength of its own evidence, and basing on the weakness of the defense of an accused.
The requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt obtains basis not only in the due process clause of the 1987 Constitution, but correspondingly, in the guaranteed right of an accused to be “presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”
Clearly, it is the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the constitution that lays such a burden upon the prosecutor.” If the prosecution fails to present its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt, it follows that an accused shall be acquitted.
The court held in Basilio vs. People of the Philippines,18 “an accused has in his favor the presumption of innocence which the Bill of Rights guarantees. Unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt, he must be acquitted.
This reasonable doubt standard is demanded by the due process clause of the Constitution which protects the accused from conviction except upon proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.19
The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and unless it discharges that burden the accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf, and he would be entitled to an acquittal. The conscience must be satisfied that the accused is responsible for the offense charged”.20
Shifting the burden of Proof Fallacy
The burden of proof lies upon the person who needs to prove his or her case by preponderance of evidence or balance of probabilities.
It is most likely often discharged by the prosecution by proving that every element of crime present is beyond reasonable doubt.
This so-called “burden of proof” cannot be shifted to another person. Shifting the burden of proof is commonly called as “shifting the burden of proof fallacy”.
The fallacy of shifting the burden of proof occurs when someone making a claim does not respect their responsibility to provide the needed sufficient evidence for it, but instead tries to evade it in the form of denial or by shifting the burden to someone else.
An example of this is when someone who makes a claim that something is real instead of explaining and showing why they believe they are correct, suddenly shifts their burden of proof to their opponent by asserting that it is the latter’s responsibility to disprove it.
This fallacious line of reasoning, more often than not, is commonly involved in proving something that is unfalsifiable. Claims that are not possible to disprove such as religious and supernatural claims.
Moreover, the burden of proof fallacy involves several behavioral patterns which leads to someone evading one’s burden of proof.
Such patterns of behavior are denying the need to prove their claims, pretending to have already proven their claim without actually doing anything, and shifting the burden of proof to others by stating that the latter should disprove the original claim.
In layman’s sense, a classic example of the burden of proof fallacy is when someone claims that ‘aswang’ exists, but cannot prove this, and instead shifts the burden of proof to someone else, by stating that anyone who disagrees must them give proofs that ‘aswang’ do not exists at all.
What does presumption mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, presumption is a belief that something is true even though it has not been proven yet.
Under the Bill of Rights, an accused has in his favor the presumption of innocence until it was proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. If the prosecution fails to fulfill the burden of proof, an accused must, in principle, be acquitted.
The presumption of innocence of an accused in a criminal case is a basic constitutional principle, fleshed out by procedural rules which place on the prosecution the burden of proving that an accused is guilty of the offense charged by proof beyond reasonable doubt. Corollary thereto, conviction must rest on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence and not on the weakness of the defense.21
Likewise, prosecution arises from the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused that no less than the Constitution has guaranteed. Conversely, as to his innocence, the accused has no burden of proof, that he must then be acquitted and set free should the Prosecution not overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor.
In other words, the weakness of the defense put up by the accused is inconsequential in the proceedings for as long as the Prosecution has not discharged its burden of proof in establishing the commission of the crime charged and in identifying the accused as the malefactor responsible for it.22
What does Preponderance of Evidence mean?
In any civil or criminal proceedings, both the burden and standard of proof are legally applied. These two factors mandate which party is responsible for convincing the courts and to what extent that party needs to justify their claims. Preponderance of evidence is one of these legal proofs.
Preponderance of evidence is when a claim can be demonstrated to be more likely to be true than not true, the burden of proof is met. This basically applies primarily to civil law cases.
By preponderance of evidence means that the evidence as a whole adduced by one side is superior to that of the other. It refers to the weight, credit and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered to be synonymous with the term “greater weight of evidence” or “greater weight of the credible evidence.” It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.23
In case proceedings, preponderance of evidence is the lowest standard of proof and mainly applicable to civil law cases. Meanwhile, beyond reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof and mainly used in criminal cases.
When will Preponderance of Evidence become important in a proceeding?
Due process, in its layman sense, is a proceeding which hears before it condemns, and renders judgment only after trial and based on the pieces of evidence presented to the Court. Our judicial system, in the exercise of its adjudicatory power is guided by the Rules of Court, and in
said rule includes the Rule on Evidence, which governs the weight and sufficiency of evidence. The said weight and sufficiency of evidence or quantum of evidence has its hierarchy. On top of it is “proof beyond reasonable doubt,” which is required to convict an accused in criminal cases.24
Followed by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is “less than proof beyond reasonable doubt (for criminal cases) but greater than preponderance of evidence (for civil cases).”25
The next is “preponderance of evidence,” which degree of proof is required in civil cases. Lastly, the “substantial evidence,” which is applicable in administrative cases.
Section 1, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides that in civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his or her case by a preponderance of evidence.
Meaning, the quantum of proof required in civil cases is the aforesaid standard of proof. Preponderance of evidence signifies “evidence that is of greater weight or is more convincing that that which is in opposition to it.
It does not mean absolute truth; rather, it means that the testimony of one side is more believable than of the other side, and that the probability of truth is on one side than on the other.”26
In our jurisdiction, civil cases tried by our courts include, among others, Small Claims Cases, Ejectment Proceedings, Collection of Sum of Money. Even forfeiture proceedings under RA No. 1379 are civil in nature,19 thus, preponderance of evidence is the quantum of evidence in the said proceedings.
In other words, preponderance of evidence is more likely to be given weight and importance, being the quantum of evidence required in discharging the burden of proof in civil cases.
What does Balance of Probabilities mean in Law?
The burden of proof lies upon the petitioner to prove his or her case by preponderance of evidence or balance of probabilities. The burden of proof is discharged by the petitioner if he or she is able to prove his or her cause of action more likely than not.27
Taking into consideration of this definition, penned by Honorable Madamme Justice Amy Lazaro- Javier, balance of probabilities is likely defined as how preponderance of evidence is defined by our jurisprudence, and laws.
The equipoise rule finds application if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, for then the evidence does not suffice to produce a conviction.”28
“Briefly stated, the needed quantum of proof to convict the accused of the crime charged is found lacking.”29
The equipoise rule is applicable only where the evidence of the prosecution and the defense are so evenly balanced as to call for the tilting of the scales in favor of the accused who is presumed innocent under the Bill of Rights.30
Preponderance of evidence likely as probability of truth
In the old but operative case of Municipality of Moncada vs. Pio Cajuigan,31 the Supreme Court had the occasion to define preponderance of evidence as “the weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side.”32
This ruling was reiterated in the case of Memoria Encinas vs. National Bookstore, Inc.,33 wherein preponderance of evidence was “considered to be synonymous with the term ‘greater weight of the evidence’ or ‘greater weight of the credible evidence.’ Preponderance of evidence is a phrase which, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.”34
Proof beyond reasonable doubt
In the case of People vs. Fabian Urzais,35 citing People vs. Geron,36 the Supreme Court held, “proof beyond reasonable doubt, however, is a burden particular to the prosecution and does not apply to exculpatory facts as may be raised by the defense; the accused is not required to establish matters in mitigation or defense beyond a reasonable doubt, nor is he required to establish the truth of such matters by a preponderance of the evidence, or even to a reasonable probability.”
The prosecution must rely on the strength of their evidence and not on the weakness of the evidence for the defense
In the case of Guilbemer Franco vs. People,37 citing People vs. Villanueva,38 the Supreme Court ruled, “[t]he burden of such proof rests with the prosecution, which must rely on the strength of its case rather than on the weakness of the case for the defense. Proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of proof sufficient to produce a moral certainty that would convince and satisfy the conscience of those who act in judgment, is indispensable to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence.”39
The author so believes that the aforesaid jurisprudence is based on the Constitutional Guarantee that set forth in the Bill of Rights that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”40
In criminal cases, the prosecution has the onus probandi of establishing the guilt of the accused. Ei incumbit probatio non qui negat. He who asserts – not he who denies – must prove. The burden must be discharged by the prosecution on the strength of its own evidence, not on the weakness of that for the defense.
Hence, circumstantial evidence that has not been adequately established, much less corroborated, cannot be the basis of conviction. Suspicion alone is insufficient, the required quantum of evidence being proof beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, “the sea of suspicion has no shore, and the court that embarks upon it is without rudder or compass.”41
It must be stressed that in our criminal justice system, the overriding consideration is not whether the court doubts the innocence of the accused, but whether it entertains a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.
Where there is no moral certainty as to their guilt, they must be acquitted even though their innocence may be questionable. The constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can be overthrown only by proof beyond reasonable doubt.42
The bottom line is, the party who has the burden of proof has the responsibility to adduce all evidence deemed necessary to prove or disprove a fact. It is basic that whoever alleges a fact has the burden of proving it because a mere allegation is not evidence. In civil cases, the burden of proof is on the party who would be defeated if no evidence is given on either side.
Justice is the main goal of every litigation. Parties undergo gruesome trials just to procure the justice they deserve. However, in the pursuit of justice, there are rules of procedure that should be followed. Although these rules can be dispensed with when substantive rights will be affected, it doesn’t mean that these rules on technicality should not be diligently complied with.
The Court is fully aware that procedural rules are not to be simply disregarded as they insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice. Nonetheless, it is equally true that courts are not enslaved by technicalities.
They have the prerogative to relax compliance with procedural rules of even the most mandatory character, mindful of the duty to reconcile both the need to speedily put an end to litigation and the parties’ right to an opportunity to be heard.
Cases should be decided only after giving all parties the chance to argue their causes and defenses. Technicality and procedural imperfection should, as a rule, not serve as bases of decisions. In that way, the ends of justice would he served.43
- Cruz, Constitutional Law, 1993 Ed., pp. 102-106
- Cruz, Phil. Administrative Law, 1996 ed., p. 6
- Sec 1, Rule 131, Rules of Court
- Rule 133, Rules of Court
- Sec 1, Rule 133, Rules of Court
- Sec 2, Rule 133, Rules of Court
- Republic of the Philippines vs. Borja, G.R. No. 187448, January 09, 2017
- People of the Philippines vs. Basilio, G.R Mo. 180597, November 7, 2008
- G.R. No. 115430 November 23, 1995
- Macayan vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175842
- AAA vs. BBB, G.R. No. 212448, January 11, 2018
- AAA vs. BBB, G.R. No. 212448, January 11, 2018
- G.R. No. 180597, November 7, 2008
- People vs. Macabalang, G.R. No. 174369, June 10, 2012
- Patula vs People, 669 SCRA 135
- Raymundo vs. Lunaria, 569 SCRA 526
- Sec. 2, Rule 133, Rules of Court
- Tankeh v. DBP 720 Phil. 641 (2013) as cited in Riguer vs. Mateo, G.R. No. 222538, June 21, 2017
- Manlar Rice Mill, Inc. vs. Lourdes Deyto, G.R. no. 191189, January 29, 2014
- Bernardine Santos-Gantan vs. John-Ross Gantan, G.R. No. 225193, October 14, 2020
- People vs. Gabo, G.R. No. 161083, August 3, 2010
- Tin vs. People, G.R. No. 126480, August 10, 2001 
- People vs. Genebie Ragay, G.R. No. 230867, March 4, 2019
- G.R. No. L-7048, January 12, 1912
- G.R. No. 162704, November 19, 2004
- G.R. No. 207662, April 13, 2016
- Supra note 23 at 29 citing 23 C.J.S. 195-196
- G.R. No. 131773, February 13, 2002
- G.R. No. 131773, February 13, 2002
- Section 14 (2), Article III, 1987 Constitution
- People vs Asis, G.R. No. 142531, October 15, 2002
- People vs. Macayan, G.R. 175842, March 18, 2015
- People vs. Latogan, G.R. No. 238298, January 22, 2020