Published 21 April 2023, The Daily Tribune
In these modern times, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed almost everywhere – whether hidden or apparent, whether in a public or private place. CCTV cameras are now fixtures in homes to safeguard families, and in commercial establishments to protect businesses. They have been likewise installed in common areas such as streets, highways, airports, and on public transportations.
It cannot be denied that CCTV cameras help greatly in preventing and detecting crime. The cameras reassure the public of their safety and make a criminal think again before committing a crime.
Since CCTV footage has been considered to be a great help to authorities in investigating the commission of crimes, it follows that video footage is usually offered as evidence to prove the commission of a crime. A question to be asked, however: Is CCTV footage admissible in evidence?
The Rules on Electronic Evidence, amended in 2002, expressly provide for the admissibility of video recordings as evidence in court; provided that:
To authenticate means to prove or show that the video is true, genuine, and valid. It must be shown that the video was not tampered, altered or manipulated.
Without the testimony of the person who took the video or the testimony of any other competent person who can identify, explain or authenticate it, the video is inadmissible in evidence.
In the case of People v. Manansala (G.R. No. 233104, 02 September 2020), the Supreme Court elucidated that “persons authorized to authenticate the video or CCTV recording is not limited solely to the person who made the recording but also by another witness who can testify to its accuracy.”
In the above-cited case, the testimony of a competent person as to the authenticity of a barangay CCTV footage, corroborated and supported by the testimonies of eyewitness, was sufficient to hold the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder.
However, in People v. Concepcion (G.R. No. 249500, 06 December 2021), the Supreme Court clarified that the case of Manansala requires the party presenting the recording to account for: its origin; how it was transferred to a storage device; and how it reached the trial court for its presentation.
In the case of Concepcion, which involves a criminal case of rape, the accused offered in evidence CCTV footage to prove that it was physically impossible for him to have raped the victim since he was at home with his common-law wife, Vanessa Vivar.
The defense presented the testimony of Rolando Recto, the administrative manager of the five-floor building where accused resided. Recto affirmed that accused was a lessee of the Unit 401 and the CCTV camera on that floor was placed near that unit.
When initially questioned by the lower court, Recto admitted that he was not the one who downloaded the video footage, and that the one who did so was no longer connected with the building. He said the CCTV video footage had a lifespan of three weeks.
On cross-examination, Recto mentioned that a certain Rafael Santos was in-charge of the CCTV, and that Recto was not around when an investigating team asked for a copy of the subject CCTV video footage.
In resolving the case, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that the CCTV footage the accused offered could not be admitted and relied upon because the person who downloaded or copied the CCTV footage from the main server was never identified.
The Supreme Court found that aside from general assurances that Recto is familiar with the CCTV footage, his testimony failed to account for the origin of the footage, how it was transferred to a storage device, and how it reached the trial court for presentation.