Offer of compromise not always an admission of guilt
"My cousin learned from one barangay (village) official, via text message, that one of our relatively new neighbors is thinking of filing a criminal complaint against her because of an alleged bounced check that my cousin supposedly issued early this year. This is impossible because my cousin has been living in Australia for two years now and she has not returned since she left. So, we are more than certain that my cousin could not have issued the alleged check. We believe that the said neighbor may have mistaken my cousin for someone else. Notwithstanding, my cousin is thinking of sending a representative to talk to this neighbor and settle the matter just to buy peace. She has no plans of travelling just to come home, especially with the pandemic going on. But she is worried that such offer of settlement might seem as an admission of guilt and may be used against her later on. Please advise.Candice of Isabela
Dear Candice of Isabela,Under Section 28 (formerly Section 27), Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, an offer of compromise may be considered as an implied admission of guilt. The said provision states that:
“Section 28. Offer of compromise not admissible. — xxx“In criminal cases, except those involving quasi-offenses (criminal negligence) or those allowed by law to be compromised, an offer of compromise by the accused may be received in evidence as an implied admission of guilt. xxx”
But it has been explained by the Supreme Court that, in order to be considered as an implied admission of guilt, the offer of compromise must have been made when the criminal proceedings are ongoing. If it is made prior to the filing of the criminal complaint or when there are no criminal proceedings yet, then such offer cannot be taken as an admission of guilt on the part of the offeror. To be sure, it was ruled in the case of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) vs Kalalo (GR 185522, June 13, 2012, Ponente: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno) that:“xxx the fact that respondent made a compromise offer to petitioner SMC cannot be considered as an admission of liability. In Pentagon Steel Corporation v[s] Court of Appeals, we examined the reasons why compromise offers must not be considered as evidence against the offeror:
“First, since the law favors the settlement of controversies out of court, a person is entitled to “buy his or her peace” without danger of being prejudiced in case his or her efforts fail hence, any communication made toward that end will be regarded as privileged. Indeed, if every offer to buy peace could be used as evidence against a person who presents it, many settlements would be prevented and unnecessary litigation would result, since no prudent person would dare offer or entertain a compromise if his or her compromise position could be exploited as a confession of weakness.“Second, offers for compromise are irrelevant because they are not intended as admissions by the parties making them. A true offer of compromise does not, in legal contemplation, involve an admission on the part of a defendant that he or she is legally liable, or on the part of a plaintiff, that his or her claim is groundless or even doubtful, since it is made with a view to avoid controversy and save the expense of litigation. It is the distinguishing mark of an offer of compromise that it is made tentatively, hypothetically, and in contemplation of mutual concessions. (citations omitted) x x x“We do not agree. As correctly pointed out by respondent, the Offer of Compromise dated 5 December 2000 was made prior to the filing of the criminal complaint against her on 9 March 2001 for a violation of the Bouncing Checks Law. The Offer of Compromise was clearly not made in the context of a criminal proceeding and, therefore, cannot be considered as an implied admission of guilt.”Applying the foregoing, we submit that your cousin’s intention to offer a settlement with said neighbor may not be taken against her as an admission of guilt to the crime allegedly being imputed to her considering that no criminal complaint has yet been filed against her.
Hence, her intention to settle “just to buy peace” may not be deemed more than really just buying peace.We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org"
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"Offer of compromise not always an admission of guilt"
was written by Mary
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and updated on 15 September 2021