People vs. Ayson (G.R. No. 85215)

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In fine, a person suspected of having committed a crime and subsequently charged with its commission in court, has the following rights in the matter of his testifying or producing evidence, to wit:

1) BEFORE THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT (or with the public prosecutor, for preliminary investigation), but after having been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his liberty in some significant way, and on being interrogated by the police: the continuing right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed thereof, not to be subjected to force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiates the free will; and to have evidence obtained in violation of these rights rejected; and

2) AFTER THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT — 37

a) to refuse to be a witness;

b) not to have any prejudice whatsoever result to him by such refusal;

c) to testify in his own behalf, subject to cross-examination by the prosecution;

d) WHILE TESTIFYING, to refuse to answer a specific question which tends to incriminate him for some crime other than that for which he is then prosecuted.

 

FACTS:

Felipe Ramos (Ramos) was a ticket freight clerk of the Philippine Airlines (PAL), assigned at its Baguio City station. PAL notified him of an upcoming investigation on irregularities in its ticket sales, to which he is allegedly involved. A day prior to such investigation, Ramos gave a handwritten note that states his willingness to settle the irregularities charged against him, involving an amount of Php 76,000.00.

During the investigation, Ramos stated, to the effect, that: 1) he had not indeed made disclosure of the tickets mentioned in the Audit Team’s findings; 2) that the proceeds had been “misused” by him; 3) that although he had planned on paying back the money, he had been prevented from doing so, “perhaps (by) shame”; 4) that he was still willing to settle his obligation, and proferred a “compromise x x to pay on staggered basis (the amount would be known in the next investigation”; 5) that he desired the next investigation to be at the same place, “Baguio CTO,” and 6) that he should be represented therein by “Shop stewardees ITR Nieves Blanco;” and that he was willing to sign his statement (as he in fact afterwards did). These were all reduced to writing.

Two (2) months later, PAL filed a criminal case for Estafa against Ramos. Here, the private prosecutor offered as evidence the abovementioned written statements and Ramos’ handwritten notes, marked as Exhibit A and Exhibit K, respectively. However, Judge Ayson rejected said documents and considered them inadmissible as they were violative of Ramos’ right to remain silent and right to have counsel in custodial investigations, pursuant to Sec. 20 of Article III of the 1973 Philippine Constitution. Accordingly, he declared that Exhibit A was taken even though it does not appear on records that PAL reminded Ramos of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have counsel. Likewise, he found Ramos’ handwritten note inadmissible on the ground that the same was made without the assistance of a counsel.

The prosecution filed a Motion for Reconsideration against Judge Ayson’s order. However, the latter denied said motion. Hence, the private prosecutors filed the present petition for certiorari in the name of the People of the Philippines.

ISSUE:

Was there a violation of Ramos’ right to remain silent and right to counsel that would render the inadmissibility of Exhibits A and K?

RULING:

None. This is because the proceeding in which Ramos’ statement’s (Exhibit A) and handwritten note (Exhibit K) were taken is not a custodial investigation that would warrant the application of Sec. 20, Article III of the 1973 Constitution. Therefore, they should have been admitted by Judge Ayson as in evidence.

The Supreme Court ruled, thus:

In fine, a person suspected of having committed a crime and subsequently charged with its commission in court, has the following rights in the matter of his testifying or producing evidence, to wit:

1) BEFORE THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT (or with the public prosecutor, for preliminary investigation), but after having been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his liberty in some significant way, and on being interrogated by the police: the continuing right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed thereof, not to be subjected to force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiates the free will; and to have evidence obtained in violation of these rights rejected; and

2) AFTER THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT — 37

a) to refuse to be a witness;

b) not to have any prejudice whatsoever result to him by such refusal;

c) to testify in his own behalf, subject to cross-examination by the prosecution;

d) WHILE TESTIFYING, to refuse to answer a specific question which tends to incriminate him for some crime other than that for which he is then prosecuted.

It should by now be abundantly apparent that respondent Judge has misapprehended the nature and import of the disparate rights set forth in Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution. He has taken them as applying to the same juridical situation, equating one with the other. In so doing, he has grossly erred. To be sure, His Honor sought to substantiate his thesis by arguments he took to be cogent and logical. The thesis was however so far divorced from the actual and correct state of the constitutional and legal principles involved as to make application of said thesis to the case before him tantamount to totally unfounded, whimsical or capricious exercise of power. His Orders were thus rendered with grave abuse of discretion. They should be as they are hereby, annulled and set aside.

It is clear from the undisputed facts of this case that Felipe Ramos was not in any sense under custodial interrogation, as the term should be properly understood, prior to and during the administrative inquiry into the discovered irregularities in ticket sales in which he appeared to have had a hand. The constitutional rights of a person under custodial interrogation under Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution did not therefore come into play, were of no relevance to the inquiry. It is also clear, too, that Ramos had voluntarily answered questions posed to him on the first day of the administrative investigation, February 9, 1986 and agreed that the proceedings should be recorded, the record having thereafter been marked during the trial of the criminal action subsequently filed against him as Exhibit A, just as it is obvious that the note (later marked as Exhibit K) that he sent to his superiors on February 8,1986, the day before the investigation, offering to compromise his liability in the alleged irregularities, was a free and even spontaneous act on his part. They may not be excluded on the ground that the so-called “Miranda rights” had not been accorded to Ramos.

WHEREFORE, the writ of certiorari is granted annulling and setting aside the Orders of the respondent Judge in Criminal Case No. 3488-R, dated August 9, 1988 and September 14, 1988, and he is hereby ordered to admit in evidence Exhibits “A” and “K” of the prosecution in said Criminal Case No. 3488-R, and thereafter proceed with the trial and adjudgment thereof. The temporary restraining order of October 26, 1988 having become functus officio, is now declared of no further force and effect.

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