Thursday, April 05, 2012

People vs. Tomaquin [G.R. No. 133188 July 23, 2004]

Facts: The accused-appelant was charged with murder. On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded “not guilty” to the charge, and trial thereafter ensued. After trial, accused was found guilty 

There were no eyewitnesses to the incident, and the prosecution’s evidence, aside from appellant’s extrajudicial confession, was mainly circumstantial. 

Said extrajudicial confession was given in the presence of a barangay captain who is also a lawyer. Appellant questions the admissibility of the extrajudicial confession because it was an uncounselled confession. Accused-appellant contends that the barangay captain, although a lawyer, may not be considered an independent counsel within the purview of Section 12, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. 

Issue: Whether or not the extrajudicial confession executed by appellant, with the assistance of a barangay captain, is admissible in evidence against him. 

Held: No. Section 12, Article III of the 1987 Constitution 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. 

The words “competent and independent counsel” in the constitutional provision is not an empty rhetoric. It stresses the need to accord the accused, under the uniquely stressful conditions of a custodial investigation, an informed judgment on the choices explained to him by a diligent and capable lawyer. 

A barangay captain is called upon to enforce the law and ordinances in his barangay and ensure peace and order at all times. 

In fact, a barangay captain is deemed a person in authority under Article 152 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit: 

ART. 152. Persons in authority and agents of persons in authority. – Who shall be deemed as such. – In applying the provisions of the preceding and other articles of this Code, any person directly vested with jurisdiction, whether as an individual or as a member of some court or government corporation, board, or commission, shall be deemed a person in authority. A barrio captain and a barangay chairman shall also be deemed a person in authority. 

On these bases, it is not legally possible to consider the barangay captain as an independent counsel of appellant. 

In this case the role of the barangay captain, was a peacekeeping officer of his barangay and therefore in direct conflict with the role of providing competent legal assistance to appellant who was accused of committing a crime in his jurisdiction, the barangay captain could not be considered as an independent counsel of appellant, when the latter executed his extrajudicial confession. What the Constitution requires is the presence of an independent and competent counsel, one who will effectively undertake his client’s defense without any intervening conflict of interest. 

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