Hearsay in Administrative Proceedings

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo

     Does substantial evidence mean that the hearing officer or tribunal can disregard basic rules of evidence, such as the inadmissibility of hearsay statements, considering that its own rules of procedure says that it is not bound by the technical rules of evidence in resolving its cases?

     In a Napolcom disciplinary case that we are handling, a statement that is, to our opinion, double hearsay, was admitted. The statement was that our client supposedly told somebody (not named at all) that our client had planned to kill the victim because of an altercation that they had a long time ago.

     The first hearsay took place when the unnamed source allegedly heard our client utter the remarks; the second was when the complainant made the statement to the hearing officer that the unnamed source supposedly told him about the alleged remarks by our client (I’m not confusing you -  that’s what the complainant said.).

      Obviously, the statement is material because it goes to motive.

      We conceded that it can be admitted since the hearsay rule is undoubtedly a technical rule of evidence. However, we maintained that there is no probative value in the statement at all. Admissibility is admittedly one thing, while probative value is another, and one can be had without the other, but, because of the highly suggestive nature of the hearsay statement, it is reasonable that it should not be admitted at all and should not form part of the evidence against the client. In other words, our position was that the highly prejudicial nature of the evidence far outweighs its supposed value, assuming there’s any at all.

      It’s significant that there’s only one witness to the alleged offense. However, his and his story’s credibility are both highly suspect, so our apprehension in the admission of this statement should be understandable. Without this statement, our opinion is that there’s no case at all against the client.

      Bottom-line is, if there's no probative value anyway, why admit at all?