People of the Philippines vs. Jaynard Agustin; G.R. No. 247718, March 03, 2021
Agustin was indicted for the crime of Rape with Homicide of a 12 year-old minor, AAA. Based on the post-mortem examination, the cause of the victim’s death is asphyxia by strangulation. There were also prominent injuries in the genitalia of AAA. Agustin was brought to the police station; the police officers requested Atty. Donato, Jr. to render assistance to Agustin who wants to give a confession relative to the commission of a crime. Atty. Donato, Jr. claimed that he was with Agustin during the entire time of the investigation and apprised Agustin of his rights. He also reminded Agustin that whatever statement he will give can be used against him. However, accused was insistent and later, he confessed to the rape and killing of AAA during the investigation. After thoroughly reading the printed copy of Agustin’s extrajudicial confession, he affixed his signature thereon to prove that he assisted the accused while the latter was giving his confession.
During the hearing, the prosecution offered as evidence the extrajudicial confession of Jaynard taken by PO3 Mora in the presence of and with the assistance of Atty. Luis Donato. It was stated therein the exactly the same narration of raping and killing of AAA. The extrajudicial confession bore the thumb mark purportedly of the said accused which was placed above the printed name “JAYNARD P. AGUSTIN.”
On defense, Agustin denied any involvement in the commission of rape with homicide against AAA. He denied placing his thumbprint on the extrajudicial confession at the police station. He denied having known Atty. Donato, Jr. He denied affixing his thumb mark on another document when he was brought by the police officers to Tuguegarao City. He alleged that he never went to school and hence, does not know how to read and write. He maintains that although the extrajudicial confession states that he was informed of his constitutional rights under custodial investigation, there was no showing that said rights were explained to him in a way that an uneducated person like him could understand.
The RTC found the accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide. It found Agustin’s extrajudicial confession as sufficient to hold him liable for the crime charged.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Agustin, but modified the amounts of damages to be awarded.
Whether the extrajudicial confession shall be admitted as evidence and sufficient to sustain Agustin’s guilt.
NO. Agustin’s written extrajudicial confession is inadmissible and must perforce be discarded for having been obtained in clear violation of his rights enshrined in the Constitution. The remaining evidence proffered by the prosecution, on the other hand, is sorely insufficient to sustain a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt
To be acceptable, extrajudicial confession must conform to the constitutional requirements. An extrajudicial confession is not valid and inadmissible in evidence when the same is obtained in violation of any of the following rights of an accused during custodial investigation: (1) to remain silent, (2) to have an independent and competent counsel preferably of his choice, (3) to be provided with such counsel, if unable to secure one, (4) to be assisted by one in case of waiver, which should be in writing, of the foregoing, and (5) to be informed of all such rights and of the fact that anything he says can and will be used against him. An extrajudicial confession must meet the foregoing requirements. Otherwise, it is disregarded in accordance with the cold objectivity of the exclusionary rule. Its purpose is not to discourage the accused from confessing guilt, if he voluntarily and intelligently so desires, but to preclude the slightest coercion as would lead the accused to admit something false.
(a) Agustin’s right to be informed of his rights under custodial investigation is flagrantly violated. The extrajudicial confession itself shows that in the course of the custodial investigation, Agustin was not adequately informed of his constitutional rights. Appellant was supposedly apprised of these rights through a kilometric sentence punctuated by a terse answer of “Yes, sir” initiated by him. It did not satisfy the strict requirements mandated by the Constitution. Too, it was not demonstrated that Agustin understood his constitutional rights. Thus, there was only a perfunctory, superficial and ceremonial reading of his rights without the slightest consideration of whether the same would result in an understanding by Agustin of what was conveyed to him.
In order to comply with the constitutional mandates, there should be meaningful communication to and understanding of his rights by the appellant, as opposed to a routine, peremptory and meaningless recital thereof. Since comprehension is the objective, the degree of explanation required will necessarily depend on the education, intelligence, and other relevant personal circumstances of the person undergoing investigation. It was undisputed that Agustin is an illiterate at the time of the investigation and could only speak and understand Ilocano. This fact should engender a higher degree of scrutiny in determining whether he understood his rights as allegedly communicated to him.
(b) Atty. Donato, Jr. failed to act as the competent and independent counsel envisioned by the Constitution. To be a competent and independent counsel in a custodial investigation, the lawyer so engaged should be present at all stages of the interview, counselling or advising caution reasonably at every turn of the investigation, and stopping the interrogation once in a while either to give advice to the accused that he may either continue, choose to remain silent or terminate the interview. It has been made clear that counsel should be present and able to advise and assist his client from the time the confessant answers the first question until the signing of the extrajudicial confession. Moreover, the lawyer should ascertain that the confession is made voluntarily and that the person under investigation fully understands the nature and the consequence of his extrajudicial confession in relation to his constitutional rights. A contrary rule would undoubtedly be antagonistic to the constitutional rights to remain silent, to counsel and to be presumed innocent
A perusal of the records disclosed that Atty. Donato, Jr. was merely picked out and provided by the police officers, thus putting into serious doubt his independence and competence in assisting Agustin during the investigation. Atty. Donato, Jr. merely observed the entire investigation and from a reading of the subject extrajudicial confession, there was no indication that he constantly advised Agustin from the time the latter answered the first question until he placed his thumb mark thereon. It appears that said lawyer’s role was reduced to a mere witness to the affixing of the thumbprint by Agustin. Such token participation is not the kind of legal assistance that should be accorded to appellant in legal contemplation.
(c) Agustin allegedly made an express waiver of his constitutional rights through the Certification portion of the extrajudicial confession which provides that the investigator had fully explained his constitutional right and he fully understood and hereby waive such right.
The waiver failed to show Agustin’s understanding of his rights, his waiver of those rights, and the implications of his waiver. The waiver was not couched in a manner clearly manifesting his desire to do so. Noteworthy is the part of the confession in which the appellant allegedly waived his rights referred to them as “the aforestated right as provided by Article III, section 12 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.” As presented, the prosecution would have us refer to the first part of the extrajudicial confession for guidance, as if it were a footnote saying “please see first part.”
There is no basis for declaring that Agustin knowingly and intelligently waived his constitutional right, because as we discussed earlier, such rights were not properly and effectively imparted to and understood by him. It cannot be said the waiver of his rights is an informed one in all aspects. Verily, the waiver itself is lamentably insufficient to constitute a waiver of his rights cherished and enshrined in our fundamental law.
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