Friday, September 19, 2008

Case Digest: People v. Tampus

G.R. No. L-44690 March 28, 1980

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JOSE TAMPUS Y PONCE, accused whose death sentence is under review.

At around ten o'clock in the morning of January 14, 1976, Celso Saminado, a prisoner in the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa, went to the toilet to answer a call of nature and to fetch water.

The accused, Jose Tampus and Rodolfo Avila, prisoners in the same penal institution, followed Saminado to the toilet and, by means of their bladed weapons, assaulted him. Saminado died upon arrival in the prison hospital. After emerging from the toilet, Tampus and Avila surrendered to a prison guard with their knives. They told the guard: "Surrender po kami, sir. Gumanti lang po kami."

The officer of the day investigated the incident right away. In his written report submitted on the same day when the tragic occurrence transpired, he stated that, according to his on-the-spot investigation, Avila stabbed Saminado when the latter was armed in the comfort room and his back was turned to Avila, while Tampus stabbed the victim on the chest and neck

Two days after the killing, or on January 16, another prison guard investigated Tampus and Avila and obtained their extrajudicial confessions wherein they admitted that they assaulted Saminado.

The trial was held at the state penitentiary at the insistence of the Avila. The court found Tampus and Avila guilty for the murder of Saminado.

In this review of the death sentence, the counsel de oficio of appellant raises the following issues:

1. Whether or not the confession of Tampus was taken in violation of Section 20, Article IV of the Constitution (now Sec. 12, Art. IV of the 1987 Const)
2. W/N the trial court should have advised defendant Tampus of his right to remain silent after the fiscal had presented the prosecution's evidence and when counsel de oficio called upon Tampus to testify
3. W/N defendant Tampus was denied to his right to public trial because the arraignment and hearing were held at the state penitentiary

1. No. Even before the investigation for the killing was inititated, Tampus and Avila had already admitted it when, after coming out of the scene of the crime, they surrendered to the first guard whom they encountered, and they revealed to him that they had committed an act of revenge. That spontaneous statement, elicited without any interrogation, was part of the res gestae and at the same time was a voluntary confession of guilt.
Not only that. The two accused, by means of that statement given freely on the spur of the moment without any urging or suggestion, waived their right to remain silent and to have the right to counsel. That admission was confirmed by their extrajudicial confession, plea of guilty and testimony in court.

Under the circumstances, it is not appropriate for counsel de oficio to rely on the rulings in Escobedo vs. Illinois and Miranda vs. Arizona regarding the rights of the accused to be assisted by counsel and to remain silent during custodial interrogation.

It should be stressed that, even without taking into account Tampus' admission of guilt, confession, plea of guilty and testimony, the crime was proven beyond reasonable doubt by the evidence of the prosecution.

2. No, considering that Tampus pleaded guilty and had executed an extrajudicial confession.
The court during the trial is not duty-bound to apprise the accused that he has the right to remain silent. It is his counsel who should claim that right for him. If he does not claim it and he calls the accused to the witness stand, then he waives that right

3. No. The record does not show that the public was actually excluded from the place where the trial was held or that the accused was prejudiced by the holding of the trial in the national penitentiary.

Besides, there is a ruling that the fact that for the convenience of the witnesses a case is tried in Bilibid Prison without any objection on the part of the accused is not a ground for reversal of the judgment of conviction (U.S. vs. Mercado, 4 Phil. 304).

The accused may waive his right to have a public trial as shown in the rule that the trial court may motu propio exclude the public from the courtroom when the evidence to be offered is offensive to decency or public morals. The court may also, upon request of the defendant, exclude from the trial every person except the officers of the court and the attorneys for the prosecution and defense.

TEEHANKEE, J., dissenting:

The extra-judicial confession of the accused is manifestly barred from admission under the Bill of Rights.

I have grave doubts as to the alleged waiver by the accused of his constitutional right to counsel and to remain silent given in the middle of his "voluntary" extrajudicial confession during his custodial interrogation by the prison investigator, who at such late stage (in propounding question No. 6, not at the beginning of the interrogation) purportedly took time out to admonish and inform the accused of his rights to counsel and to silence. The fundamental rights of such unfortunate disadvantaged persons as the accused should all the more be clearly protected and observed. At the very least, such alleged waiver must be witnessed by a responsible official of the penitentiary, if not by the municipal judge of the locality.
Counsel for the accused's second assigned error is also well taken. After the prosecutor had presented the State's evidence at the hearing for the purpose, and when counsel de oficio then called upon the accused to testify, it became the trial court's duty (contrary to the majority's ruling) to apprise and admonish him of his constitutional rights to remain silent and against self-incrimination, i.e. the right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself.
Under the above-cited section 20 of the Bill of Rights, any confession or incriminatory statement obtained in violation thereof is expressly declared "inadmissible in evidence."

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