Monday, September 22, 2008

Case Digest: People v. Tan

G.R. No. 117321 February 11, 1998
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. HERSON TAN y VERZO, accused-appellant.

Tricycle driver Freddie Saavedra went to see his wife, Delfa, a to inform her that he will drive Lito Amido and appellant Herson Tan to Barangay Maligaya. It was the last time that Freddie was seen alive. His body was later found sprawled on a diversion road with fourteen stab wounds.

Subsequently, Lt. Santos, Cpl. Numeriano Aguilar and Pat. Rolando Alandy invited appellant in connection with the instant case and with respect to two other robbery cases reported in Lucena City. During their conversation, appellant allegedly gave an explicit account of what actually transpired in the case at bar. He narrated that he and co-accused Amido were responsible for the loss of the motorcycle and the consequent death of Saavedra. Moreover, he averred that they sold the motorcycle to a certain Danny Teves of Barrio Summit, Muntinlupa. With the help of appellant as a guide, the Lucena PNP immediately dispatched a team to retrieve the same.

Tan and Amido were charged with the crime of highway robbery with murder

Lt. Carlos, on cross-examination, testified that when he invited appellant to their headquarters, he had no warrant for his arrest. In the course thereof, he informed the latter that he was a suspect, not only in the instant case, but also in two other robbery cases allegedly committed in Lucena City. In the belief that they were merely conversing inside the police station, he admitted that he did not inform appellant of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to the assistance of counsel; nor did he reduce the supposed confession to writing.

In a decision dated April 21, 1994, the trial court convicted appellant.

ISSUE: Whether or not the confession of the appellant, given before a police investigator upon invitation and without the benefit of counsel, is admissible in evidence against him.


It is well-settled that the Constitution abhors an uncounselled confession or admission and whatever information is derived therefrom shall be regarded as inadmissible in evidence against the confessant. R.A. No. 7438 reenforced the constitutional mandate protecting the rights of persons under custodial investigation, a pertinent provision of which reads:
As used in this Act, "custodial investigation" shall include the practice of issuing an "invitation" to a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without prejudice to the liability of the "inviting" officer for any violation of law.
Custodial investigation involves any questioning initiated by law enforcement authorities after a person is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant manner. The rules on custodial investigation begin to operate as soon as the investigation ceases to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime and begins to focus a particular suspect, the suspect is taken into custody, and the police carries out a process of interrogations that tends itself to eliciting incriminating statements that the rule begins to operate.

Furthermore, not only does the fundamental law impose, as a requisite function of the investigating officer, the duty to explain those rights to the accused but also that there must correspondingly be a meaningful communication to and understanding thereof by the accused. A mere perfunctory reading by the constable of such rights to the accused would thus not suffice.
Under the Constitution and existing law and jurisprudence, a confession to be admissible must satisfy the following requirements: (1) it must be voluntary; (2) it must be made with the assistance of competent and independent counsel; (3) it must be express; and (4) it must be in writing.

While the Constitution sanctions the waiver of the right to counsel, it must, however, be "voluntary, knowing and intelligent, and must be made in the presence and with the assistance of counsel."

Any statement obtained in violation of the constitution, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, in whole or in part, shall be inadmissible in evidence. Even if the confession contains a grain of truth, if it was made without the assistance of counsel, it becomes inadmissible in evidence, regardless of the absence of coercion or even if it had been voluntarily given. The evidence for the prosecution shows that when appellant was invited for questioning at the police headquarters, he allegedly admitted his participation in the crime. This will not suffice to convict him, however, of said crime. The constitutional rights of appellant, particularly the right to remain silent and to counsel, are impregnable from the moment he is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, even if the same be initiated by mere invitation. "This Court values liberty and will always insist on the observance of basic constitutional rights as a condition sine qua non against the awesome investigative and prosecutory powers of government."

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