G.R. No. 129295. August 15, 2001
In the early evening of January 6, 1996, Edwin Morial, Leonardo Morial and Nonelito Abeñon allegedly committed robbery and to silence any witnesses, they killed the occupants of the house, Paula Bandibas and her three-year old grandson Albert. Gabriel Guilao revealed that he witnessed Paula’s killing and confirmed that the three accused were the perpetrators. At 11:00 p.m., the police arrived to investigate the killing of the Bandibases and brought the accused to the police station for the continuation of the investigation. SPO4 Fernandez testified that the investigation he conducted resulted in an admission by Leonardo Morial that he was one of those who participated in the robbery with homicide. SPO4 Fernandez asked Leonardo whether he was willing to reduce his statement into writing and to sign the same. The suspect answered positively. He also volunteered to obtain a lawyer for the suspect, to which Leonardo Morial consented.
The accused, all first-degree cousins, interposed denial and alibi as their defense. They denied being together at the time of the incident. Leonardo alleged that during the interrogation, he was gagged and forced to execute the extra-judicial confession. He was later introduced to Atty. Aguilar, his counsel. They had a short conference. Atty. Aguilar asked if he was willing to answer the questions that may be propounded by the police investigator. Leonardo said he was willing to answer the questions voluntarily. Midway into the investigation, Atty. Aguilar asked the investigator that he be given leave as he had a very important engagement. Before leaving, Atty. Aguilar asked Leonardo if he was willing to answer the questions in his absence. He also instructed the police that, after the written confession had been prepared, the accused and the document containing the confession should be brought to his office for “further examination.” During and despite Atty. Aguilar’s absence, SPO4 Fernandez continued with the investigation and propounded several more questions to Leonardo, which the latter answered.
The RTC rendered a decision convicting all the three accused of the crime of Robbery with Homicide
(1) Whether or not Leonardo Mortal’s extra-judicial confession is invalid since he was effectively deprived of his right to counsel during the custodial investigation.
(2) Whether or not the consent of the accused to Atty. Aguilar’s departure during the investigation and to answer questions during the lawyer’s absence was an invalid waiver of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent.
(3) Whether or not the accused are guilty beyond reasonable doubt
(1) Yes. The Court has stressed that an accused under custodial interrogation must continuously have a counsel assisting him from the very start thereof. For even as the person under custodial investigation enjoys the right to counsel from its inception, so does he enjoy such right until its termination—in-deed, “in every phase of the investigation.” An effective and vigilant counsel “necessarily and logically requires that the lawyer be present and able to advise and assist his client from the time the confessant answers the first question asked by the investigating officer until the signing of the extrajudicial confession.”
The right of appellant to counsel was therefore completely negated by the precipitate departure of Atty. Tobias before the termination of the custodial investigation.
(2) YES. Under Section 12 (3), Article III of the Constitution, these rights cannot be waived unless the same is made in writing and in the presence of counsel. No such written and counseled waiver of these rights was offered in evidence. That the extra-judicial confession was subsequently signed in the presence of counsel did not cure its constitutional defects. As appellant Leonardo Morial was effectively deprived of his right to counsel during custodial investigation, his extra-judicial confession is inadmissible in evidence against him. The confession is also inadmissible against appellant Leonardo Morial’s co-accused, Nonelito Abiñon and Edwin Morial. The rule on res inter alios acta provides that the rights of a party cannot be prejudiced by an act, declaration, or omission of another.
(3) Yes. Notwithstanding the inadmissibility of the extrajudicial confession executed by Leonardo Morial, the conviction of appellants is fully supported by the other pieces of evidence adduced by the prosecution. It is well settled that where there is independent evidence, apart from the accused’s alleged uncounseled confession, that the accused is truly guilty, the latter nevertheless faces a conviction.
The weight of testimony of a witness is not impaired or in any way affected by his relationship to the victim when there is no showing of improper motive on the part of the witness.
The accused have no other excuse other than alibi. The Court noted that none of the accused even presented any of their supposed home companions to prove that they were at home when the killings took place. In addition, it was not established that it would have been physically impossible for them to be at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. The trial court correctly ruled when it found the accused guilty of robbery with homicide. It was established that all the elements of the crime were present; i.e., (1) the taking of personal property perpetrated by means of violence or intimidation against a person; (2) the property taken belongs to another; (3) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; and (4) on the occasion of the robbery or by reason thereof, the crime of homicide was committed.
WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of “Robbery with Homicide,” with the aggravating circumstance of dwelling, Leonardo Morial and Nonelito Abiñon are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection, while Edwin Morial, on account of his minority, is hereby sentenced to the indeterminate penalty of from ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum, to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum. The accused are likewise sentenced, jointly and severally, to:
(1)indemnify the heirs of Paula Bandibas in the amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as death indemnity;
(2)indemnify the heirs of Albert Bandibas in the amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos as death indemnity;
(3)indemnify the heirs of Paula Bandibas and Albert Bandibas in the amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos for each death as moral damages;
(4)indemnify Benjamin Morial in the amount of Twenty Thousand Five Hundred Forty-Six (P20,546.00) pesos as actual damages for the funeral, burial and wake expenses;
(5)restitute Benjamin Morial the amount of Eleven Thousand (P11,000.00) Pesos representing the stolen money.
Costs against accused-appellants.
A custodial investigation is understood to mean as “any questioning initiated by law enforcement authorities after a person is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant manner.” A person under custodial investigation is guaranteed certain rights, which attach upon the commencement thereof. These are the rights (1) to remain silent, (2) to competent and independent counsel, preferably of his own choice, and (3) to be informed of the two other rights. The prosecution must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the accused was accorded said rights before he extra-judicially admitted his guilt to the authorities.
An accused under custodial investigation must continuously have a counsel assisting him from the very start thereof.
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