Thursday, September 25, 2008

Case Digest: US v. Navarro

G.R. No. 1272, January 11, 1904
THE UNITED STATES, complainant-appellee, vs. BALDOMERO NAVARRO, ET AL., defendants-appellants.

The defendants, Baldomero Navarro, Marcelo de Leon, and Fidel Feliciano are convicted of the crime of illegal detention under Article 481 and of 483 of the Penal Code. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Article 481 of the Penal Code provides that a private person who shall lock up or detain another, or in any way deprive him of his liberty shall be punished with the penalty of prision mayor.

The second paragraph of article 483 provides that one who illegally detains another and fails to give information concerning his whereabouts, or does not prove that he set him at liberty, shall be punished with cadena temporal in its maximum degree to life imprisonment.

The punishment for the crime mentioned in article 483 of the Penal Code is the penalty of cadena temporal in its maximum degree to cadena perpetua, or in other words one convicted of simply depriving a person of his liberty may be imprisoned for a term of from six to twelve years and one convicted of depriving a person of his liberty and who shall not state his whereabouts or prove that he had set said person at liberty may be punished by imprisonment for a term of seventeen years four months and one day, to life, as in this case. In other words, for failure on the part of the defendant to testify regarding the whereabouts of the person deprived of his liberty, or to prove that he was set at liberty, the punishment may be increased from imprisonment for a term of six years to life imprisonment.

On appeal, counsel for the defendants argued that the provisions of the law has the effect of forcing a defendant to become a witness in his own behalf or to take a much severer punishment. The burden is put upon him of giving evidence if he desires to lessen the penalty, or, in other words, of incriminating himself, for the very statement of the whereabouts of the victim or the proof that the defendant set him at liberty amounts to a confession that the defendant unlawfully detained the person. So the evidence necessary to clear the defendant, under article 483 of the Penal Code, would have the effect of convincing him under article 481. It is claimed that such practice is illegal, since section 5 of the Philippine Bill provides that ". . . no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."

ISSUE: Whether or not the defendants' rights against self-incrimination were violated.

HELD: Yes.
The right against self-incrimination was established on the grounds of public policy and humanity - of policy, because if the party were required to testify, it would place the witness under the strongest temptation to commit the crime of perjury, and of humanity, because it would prevent the extorting of confessions by duress.

Under the present system, the information must charge the accused with acts committed by him prior to the filing of the information and which of themselves constitute an offense against the law. The Government can not charge a man with one of the necessary elements of an offense and trust to his making out the rest by availing himself of his right to leave the entire burden of prosecuting on the prosecution from beginning to end.

If the disclosure thus made would be capable of being used against him as a confession of crime, or an admission of facts tending to prove the commission of an offense, such disclosure would be an accusation against himself.

In the present case, if the defendant disclosed the whereabouts of the person taken, or shows that he was given his liberty, this disclosure may be used to obtain a conviction under article 481 of the Penal Code.

It is the duty of the prosecution, in order to convict one of a crime, to produce evidence showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and the accused can not be called upon either by express words or acts to assist in the production of such evidence; nor should his silence be taken as proof against him. He has a right to rely on the presumption of innocence until the prosecution proves him guilty of every element of the crime with which he is charged.

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