See - https://lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1999/may1999/gr_130612_1999.html
G.R. No. 130612 May 11, 1999, En Banc.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
BERNARDINO DOMANTAY, @ "JUNIOR OTOT," accused-appellant.
"x x x.
First. Accused-appellant contends that his alleged confessions to SPO1 Antonio Espinoza and Celso Manuel are inadmissible in evidence because they had been obtained in violation of Art. III, § 12(1) of the Constitution and that, with these vital pieces of evidence excluded, the remaining proof of his alleged guilt, consisting of circumstantial evidence, is inadequate to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 33
Art. III, § 12 of the Constitution in part provides:
(1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.
xxx xxx xxx
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this section or section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence.
This provision applies to the stage of custodial investigation, that is, "when the investigation is no longer a general inquiry into an unsolved crime but starts to focus on a particular person as a suspect." 34 R.A. No. 7438 has extended the constitutional guarantee to situations in which an individual has not been formally arrested but has merely been "invited" for questioning. 35
Decisions 36 of this Court hold that for an extrajudicial confession to be admissible, it 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.
In the case at bar, when accused-appellant was brought to the Malasiqui police station in the evening of October 17, 1996, 37 he was already a suspect, in fact the only one, in the brutal slaying of Jennifer Domantay. He was, therefore, already under custodial investigation and the rights guaranteed in Art. III, § 12(1) of the Constitution applied to him. SPO1 Espinoza narrated what transpired during accused-appellant's interrogation: 38
[I] interrogated Bernardino Domantay, prior to the interrogation conducted to him, I informed him of his constitutional right as follows; that he has the right to remain silent; that he has the right to a competent lawyer of his own choice and if he can not afford [a counsel] then he will be provided with one, and further informed [him] that all he will say will be reduced into writing and will be used the same in the proceedings of the case, but he told me that he will cooperate even in the absence of his counsel; that he admitted to me that he killed Jennifer Domantay, and he revealed also the weapon used [and] where he gave [it] to.
But though he waived the assistance of counsel, the waiver was neither put in writing nor made in the presence of counsel. For this reason, the waiver is invalid and his confession is inadmissible. SPO1 Espinoza's testimony on the alleged confession of accused-appellant should have been excluded by the trial court. So is the bayonet inadmissible in evidence, being, as it were, the "fruit of the poisonous tree." As explained in People v. Alicando: 39
. . . According to this rule, once the primary source (the "tree") is shown to have been unlawfully obtained, any secondary or derivative evidence (the "fruit") derived from it is also inadmissible. Stated otherwise, illegally seized evidence is obtained as a direct result of the illegal act, whereas the "fruit of the poisonous tree" is at least once removed from the illegally seized evidence, but it is equally inadmissible. The rule is based the principle that evidence illegally obtained by the State should not be used to gain other evidence because the originally illegal obtained evidence taints all evidence subsequently obtained.
We agree with the Solicitor General, however, that accused-appellant's confession to the radio reporter, Celso Manuel, is admissible. In People v. Andan, 40 the accused in a rape with homicide case confessed to the crime during interviews with the media. In holding the confession admissible, despite the fact that the accused gave his answers without the assistance of counsel, this Court said: 41
[A]ppellant's [oral] confessions to the newsmen are not covered by Section 12(1) and (3) of Article III of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights does not concern itself with the relation between a private individual and another individual. It governs the relationship between the individual and the State. The prohibitions therein are primarily addressed to the State and its agents.
Accused-appellant claims, however, that the atmosphere in the jail when he was interviewed was "tense and intimidating" and was similar to that which prevails in a custodial investigation. 42 We are not persuaded. Accused-appellant was interviewed while he was inside his cell. The interviewer stayed outside the cell and the only person besides him was an uncle of the victim. Accused-appellant could have refused to be interviewed, but instead, he agreed. He answered questions freely and spontaneously. According to Celso Manuel, he said he was willing to accept the consequences of his act.
Celso Manuel admitted that there were indeed some police officers around because about two to three meters from the jail were the police station and the radio room. 43 We do not think the presence of the police officers exerted any undue pressure or influence on accused-appellant and coerced him into giving his confession.
Accused-appellant contends that "it is . . . not altogether improbable for the police investigators to ask the police reporter (Manuel) to try to elicit some incriminating information from the accused." 44 This is pure conjecture. Although he testified that he had interviewed inmates before, there is no evidence to show that Celso was a police beat reporter. Even assuming that he was, it has not been shown that, in conducting the interview in question, his purpose was to elicit incriminating information from accused-appellant. To the contrary, the media are known to take an opposite stance against the government by exposing official wrongdoings.
Indeed, there is no showing that the radio reporter was acting for the police or that the interview was conducted under circumstances where it is apparent that accused-appellant confessed to the killing our of fear. As already stated, the interview was conducted on October 23, 1996, 6 days after accused-appellant had already confessed to the killing to the police.
Accused-appellant's extrajudicial confession is corroborated by evidence of corpus delicti, namely, the fact of death of Jennifer Domantay. In addition, the circumstantial evidence furnished by the other prosecution witnesses dovetails in material points with his confession. He was seen walking toward the bamboo grove, followed by the victim. Later, he was seen standing near the bamboo grove where the child's body was found. Rule 133 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:
§3. Extrajudicial confession, not sufficient ground for conviction. — An extrajudicial confession made by an accused, shall not be sufficient ground for conviction, unless corroborated by evidence of corpus delicti.
§4. Evidence necessary in treason cases. — No person charged with treason shall be convicted unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
Accused-appellant argues that it was improbable for a brutal killing to have been committed without the children who were playing about eight to ten meters from Amparo Domantay's grove, where the crime took place, having heard any commotion. 45 The contention has no merit. Accused-appellant could have covered the young child's mouth to prevent her from making any sound. In fact, Dr. Bandonill noted a five by two inch (5" x 2") contusion on the left side of the victim's forehead, which he said could have been caused by a hard blunt instrument or by impact as her head hit the ground. 46 The blow could have rendered her unconscious, thus precluding her from shouting or crying.
x x x."