People v. De Los Reyes (G.R. No. 201835. August 16, 2017)


FACTS: In the afternoon of December 9, 1992, their office received a call from the NBI Special Task Force Office requesting for legal assistance for accused Noel de los Reyes and Randy Jocson and since he was available to render assistance, he proceeded to the NBI; he was met by agent Bacani and introduced to Noel de los Reyes whom he personally identified in court and Randy Jocson whom he identified through his photographs forming part of the records of this case; he introduced himself as a public defender assigned to give legal assistance in the absence of a lawyer to represent them.

He asked these two accused if they were accepting his appointment and both answered in the affirmative; he then instructed them to fill-up their Interview Form after which he interviewed the two accused who narrated to him their individual participation in these cases and their willingness to make a statement regarding the same to clear their names; he cautioned them that giving a written statement could work disadvantageous to them considering that it could be used against them in any court proceeding.

However, both accused feeling a sense of remorse for the death of the victim wanted to go on with the giving of the statement to clear their conscience; he suggested to them to execute a waiver of detention under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to which suggestion they agreed; both executed a waiver entitled Pagtalikod sa Karapatan; he told them that he would come back the following day, December 10, 1992 so that both accused would have time to think over their willingness to make a statement.

On December 10, 1992 at about past lunch time, after he requested the two accused to be brought before him, he met them at the office of the NBI Task Force; these two accused reiterated their willingness to give their statements and at that moment, he ascertained for himself that both accused knew what they were about to do by examining them physically whether they were in their right senses; after being convinced that both accused knew and were aware of what they were about to do, he told them that he was against their desire to give their statements so that he requested them to just execute a document waiving their right to counsel to which they agreed; he then called on agents Diaz, Bacani and Garcia and informed them that both accused were willing to give their statements and requested the agents to have them separated from each other.

Noel de los Reye first gave his statement, the preliminary part of it would indicate that he was apprised of his constitutional rights under custodial investigation and that he waived his right to counsel and was assisted by him in that process as evidenced by his signature appearing thereon; during the inquest proceedings on December 17, 1992, where accused Noel de los Reyes confirmed his sworn statement as evidenced by accused's signature thereof appearing on pages 1 to 5 of the said statement, he also assisted him in the aforesaid proceedings; he requested agents Diaz and Bacani that he be present during the taking of the statement of Noel de los Reyes so that he could be around just in case the said accused would later decide against giving his statement.

After taking the statement of Noel de los Reyes, agent Arnel Garcia then took the statement of Randy Jocson who also waived his right to counsel; present at that time were agents Bacani, Atty. Ali Vargas, other personnel of the Special Task Force and Civilian, likewise; before Jocson signed his statement, he again reminded him of the legal consequences of the statement he has given.

ISSUES: Was the accused assisted by an independent and competent counsel of his choice when he executed his extrajudicial confession?

HELD: Yes, the accused was assisted by an independent and competent counsel of his choice when he executed his extrajudicial confession.

First of all, the Court accords the highest respect for the factual findings of the trial court, particularly because the CA as the intermediate reviewing court has concurred in such findings. This respect derives from the direct and personal access by the trial judge to the witnesses of the State when they testified during the trial that gave the trial judge the unique opportunity of observing the demeanor of the witnesses as well as the ability to distinguish between truth-telling and prevarication.

Secondly, the insistence of the accused that he had not been assisted by an independent and competent counsel of his choice at or about the time when he executed his extrajudicial confession could not be given any weighty consideration. The records amply disclose that he had been afforded independent and competent counsel in the person of Atty. Romeo Senson of the Public Attorney's Office.

Thus, the extrajudicial confession was constitutionally admissible for having been obtained without maltreatment and intimidation, and with the assistance of independent and competent counsel. More importantly, the accused did not repudiate the extrajudicial confession at the earliest opportunity for him to do so. His repudiation only during the trial was too late, and could not but be regarded as his belated attempt to evade the consequences of his crime.

Republic Act No. 2632, which took effect on June 18, 1960, amended the Revised Penal Code and created the composite or special complex crime of rape with homicide, among others, and fixed reclusion perpetua to death as the penalty for rape with homicide. Republic Act No. 4111, effective on June 20, 1964, further amended the Revised Penal Code and punished with death the composite crimes of rape with homicide, rape resulting in the victim's insanity, and rape under certain attendant circumstances. Although the 1987 Constitution meanwhile eliminated the death penalty, Republic Act No. 7659 restored the death penalty for heinous crimes effective December 31, 1993. Among the heinous crimes for which the death penalty was restored under Republic Act No. 7659 was rape with homicide.

The two counts of rape with homicide committed by the accused happened on November 6, 1992; hence, the imposable penalty for each count was death. Yet, the intervening passage of Republic Act No. 9346, which was signed into law on June 24, 2006, has saved the accused from the supreme penalty. Section 1 of Republic Act No. 9346 provides:
Section 1. The imposition of the penalty of death is hereby prohibited. - Accordingly, Republic Act No. Eight Thousand One Hundred Seventy-Seven (R. A. No. 8177), otherwise known as the Act Designating Death by Lethal Injection, is hereby repealed. Republic Act No. Seven Thousand Six Hundred Fifty-Nine (R. A. No. 7659), otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law, and all other laws, executive orders and decrees, insofar as they impose the death penalty are hereby repealed or amended accordingly.
Nonetheless, Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 provides that the accused shall be punished with reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.Anent the civil liabilities, the CA affirmed the granting by the RTC of the following damages, to wit:
as actual or compensatory damages
for the death of AAA
for the rape of AAA by accused Noel delos Reyes
for the rape of AAA by accused Randy Jocson
as moral damages; and
for AAA's loss of earning capacity
Conformably with People v. Jugueta, the civil liabilities should be revised and granted to the heirs of the victim for each of the two counts of rape with homicide P100,000.00 as civil indemnity; P100,000.00 as moral damages; P100,000.00 as exemplary damages; affirm the amount of P134,280.00 as indemnity for loss of earning capacity; grant P50,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of actual damages for burial and funeral expenses; and impose on all such items of damages interest of 6% per annum from the finality of this resolution until full satisfaction.

The Supreme Court RESOLVED TO DISMISS the appeal for failure of the accused-appellant to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals (CA) committed any reversible error in upholding his conviction along with his co-accused Randy Jocson for two counts of rape with homicide through its assailed decision promulgated on December 15, 2011, and the imposition of reclusion perpetua for each count handed down by the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

[1] An Act Prohibiting The Imposition of Death Penalty in The Philippines, repealing Republic Act 8177 otherwise known as the Act Designating Death By Lethal Injection, Republic Act 7659 otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law and all other laws, executive orders and decrees.
[2] Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 provides: Sec. 3. Persons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua, by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended.
[3] G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016, 788 SCRA 331.