FRANCISCO BELTRAN, petitioner, vs. FELIX SAMSON, Judge of the Second Judicial District, and FRANCISCO JOSE, Provincial Fiscal of Isabela, respondents.
This is a petition for a writ of prohibition, wherein the petitioner complains that the respondent judge ordered him to appear before the provincial fiscal to take dictation in his own handwriting from the latter.
The order was given upon petition of said fiscal for the purpose of comparing the petitioner's handwriting and determining whether or not it is he who wrote certain documents supposed to be falsified.
ISSUE: Whether or not the order violates the petitioner's right against self-incrimination.
The constitutional inhibition is directed not merely in giving of oral testimony, but embraces as well the furnishing of evidence by other means than by word of mouth, the divulging, in short, of any fact which the accused has a right to hold secret.
Writing is something more than moving the body, or the hands, or the fingers; writing is not a purely mechanical act, because it requires the application of intelligence and attention; and in the case at bar writing means that the petitioner herein is to furnish a means to determine whether or not he is the falsifier.
For the purposes of the constitutional privilege, there is a similarity between one who is compelled to produce a document, and one who is compelled to furnish a specimen of his handwriting, for in both cases, the witness is required to furnish evidence against himself. The present case is more serious than that of compelling the production of documents or chattels, because here the witness is compelled to write and create, by means of the act of writing, evidence which does not exist, and which may identify him as the falsifier.
It cannot be contended in the present case that if permission to obtain a specimen of the petitioner's handwriting is not granted, the crime would go unpunished. Considering the circumstance that the petitioner is a municipal treasurer, according to Exhibit A, it should not be a difficult matter for the fiscal to obtained genuine specimens of his handwriting. But even supposing it is impossible to obtain specimen or specimens without resorting to the means complained herein, that is no reason for trampling upon a personal right guaranteed by the constitution. It might be true that in some cases criminals may succeed in evading the hand of justice, but such cases are accidental and do not constitute the raison d' etre of the privilege. This constitutional privilege exists for the protection of innocent persons.
Note: Measuring or photographing the party is not within the privilege. Nor is the removal or replacement of his garments or shoes.