#KidapawanShooting @inquirerdotnet @ABSCBNNews Paraffin Test Unreliable accdg to Supreme Court, see cases here #JeSuisKidapawan #NousSommesKidapawan
The Supreme Court has ruled in a line of cases that a paraffin test is unreliable in proving that a person had fired a gun. In fact, the Supreme Court has held that the handling of fertilizers, cosmetics, cigarettes, urine, and other nitrogenous compounds, or the handling of leaves or sprouts with nitrites or nitrates such as leguminous plants like peas, beans, and alfalfa, or the use of tobacco, will each result in a positive paraffin test. In People vs. Julian Mendoza, G.R. No. 67858, June 29, 1989, the Supreme Court held: (Justice Sarmiento): “xxx With respect to the paraffin test undergone by the appellant which yielded positive results for nitrates, we hold that this fact alone, uncorroborated by any other evidence, is not sufficient to establish the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the appellant. The prosecution insists that the finding was due to the firing of the firearm which was employed to kill the victim. The defense on the other hand attributes the positive finding to the appellant’s having applied fertilizer to his plantings and manufactured fireworks thereafter. It is submitted that both these activities could produce the same positive finding: Authorities on this subject seem to support the submission of the defense.
“The (Diphenylamine or Parrafin) test is not conclusive as to the presence of gunpowder because fertilizers, cosmetics, cigarettes, urine, and other nitrogenous compounds with nitrates and nitrates will give a positive reaction. (citing medico-legal expert Pedro Solis, Legal Medicine, 380) (Underscoring supplied)
“This (Diphenylamine or Parrafin) test has proved extremely unreliable in use. The only thing that it can definitely establish is the presence or absence of nitrates or nitrates on the hand. It cannot be definitely established from this test alone that the source of the nitrates or nitrites was the discharge of a firearm. The person may have handled one or more of a number of substances which give the same positive reaction for nitrates or nitrites, such as explosives, fireworks, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and leguminous plants such as peas beans and alfalfa. A person who uses tobacco may also have nitrate or nitrite deposits on his hands since these substances are present in the products of combustion of tobacco. As a result, the usefulness of this test as evidence is very small, although it does have some investigative value. (citing “American Jurisprudence, Proof of Facts Annotated”, Volume 5, 119-120).(Underscoring supplied).
“In case of doubt, we have to rule in favor of the appellant and adopt the interpretation consistent with his innocence. A vital finding of fact which negates the prosecution’s insistence on the guilt of the accused is that no firearm was presented by the prosecution to corroborate its claim that Mendoza was the person who had fired the gun xxx
xxx “The trial court held that the contention of the appellant that the positive finding of the parrafin test was the result of the application of fertilizers to his corn crop and in making firecrackers hardly deserves any modicum of consideration. If it is true, the trial court said, that the powder burns found in the hands of the victim were the result of the application of fertilizers, how come the appellant’s brother-in-law, Mauricio Ilao, who also applied fertilizers on that same day, was found negative for nitrates?
“From the records we find that this expressed doubt of the trial court had been sufficiently explained. The appellant testified as follows:
“Q: What were you doing in that land of yours in the mountain while you were there?
“A: I was applying fertilizer, sir.
“Q:How about your brother-in-law, was he also applying fertilizer in his landholding?
“A:He was plowing the field, sir.
“Thus it is not surprising that only the appellant was found positive for nitrates because his brother-in-law did not apply fertilizer, but only plowed the field.”
In the reverse, in People vs. Cajumocan, G.R. No. 155023, May 28, 2004, the Supreme Court also held that a person who had fired a gun and had washed his/her hand thoroughly would have a negative paraffin test: “Paraffin tests, in general, have been rendered inconclusive by this Court. Scientific experts concur in the view that the paraffin test has proved extremely unreliable in use. It can only establish the presence or absence of nitrates or nitrites on the hand; still, the test alone cannot determine whether the source of the nitrates or nitrites was the discharge of a firearm. The presence of nitrates should be taken only as an indication of a possibility or even of a probability but not of infallibility that a person has fired a gun, since nitrates are also admittedly found in substances other than gunpowder.
“Appellant’s argument that the negative result of gunpowder nitrates from the paraffin test conducted on him the day after the crime was committed, thereby showing an absence of physical evidence that he fired a gun, is untenable. In the case of People v. Manalo,16 we stressed: x x x even if he were subjected to a paraffin test and the same yields a negative finding, it cannot be definitely concluded that he had not fired a gun as it is possible for one to fire a gun and yet be negative for the presence of nitrates as when the hands are washed before the test. The Court has even recognized the great possibility that there will be no paraffin traces on the hand if, as in the instant case, the bullet was fired from a .45 Caliber pistol.”
In People vs. Ilisan, G.R. No. 179487 November 15, 2010, the Supreme Court held: “(P)araffin tests, in general, have been rendered inconclusive by this Court. Scientific experts concur in the view that the paraffin test has proved extremely unreliable. It can only establish the presence or absence of nitrates or nitrites on the hand; still, the test alone cannot determine whether the source of the nitrates or nitrites was the discharge of a firearm. The presence of nitrates should be taken only as an indication of a possibility or even of a probability but not of infallibility that a person has fired a gun. Conversely, the absence of gunpowder nitrates on petitioners hands, the day after the incident, does not conclusively establish that he did not fire a gun; neither are the negative results yielded by the paraffin test an insurmountable proof of his innocence.”