He confessed in the police station but SC acquits him

In Marvin Porteria v. People (G.R. No. 233777, March 20, 2019), the Supreme Court held that Marvin's alleged admissions of guilt do not suffice to convict him for carnapping.

Section 12, Article III of the 1987 Constitution states that persons under investigation for the commission of an offense should be informed of their right to remain silent, and their right to counsel. These rights may not be waived, except in writing and in the presence of a counsel. Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this provision is inadmissible as evidence against the accused.[1]

This principle is further reiterated in Section 2 of R.A. No. 7438.[2] Under this statute, extrajudicial confessions made by a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation must fulfill the following requirements:
(d) Any extrajudicial confession made by a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall be in writing and signed by such person in the presence of his counsel or in the latter's absence, upon a valid waiver, and in the presence of any of the parents, elder brothers and sisters, his spouse, the municipal mayor, the municipal judge, district school supervisor, or priest or minister of the gospel as chosen by him; otherwise, such extrajudicial confession shall be inadmissible as evidence in any proceeding.
These safeguards are intended to prevent the practice of extracting coerced confessions, no matter how slight, which could lead the accused to make false admissions. They are meant to insulate the accused from "coercive psychological, if not physical, atmosphere of a custodial investigation."[3]

The trial court, in convicting Marvin for the crime of carnapping, relied on several circumstantial pieces of evidence. There include his supposed voluntary admission to P/Insp. Villamer that the motorcycle is in the possession of a certain Felix.[4] This admission, as shown in he following testimony of P/Insp. Villamer, was given after Marvin was arrested and taken to the police station for further investigation:
[Direct examination of P/Insp. Villamer by Prosecutor Alan Fernando]
Q:Could you tell us your Memorandum with respect to the accused, [Marvin], explain to us (sic)?
A:This was addressed to the Chief of Police of Sta[.] Rosa City because on February 1, 2011[,] we apprehended [Marvin].
Q:For what crime?
A:For Illegal Possession of Firearms.
Q:Then what happened?
A:Upon verification and inspection to him (sic) we found out several registration of motorcycle and it so happened that during the inventory, one of my investigators found out the registration of the motorcycle of [Christian].
x x x x
Q:Please tell us your investigation on [Marvin]?
A:When we asked him regarding the registration of motorcycle of Mr. Mien, he told us voluntarily that the motorcycle subject matter of this case was in the possession of [Felix] of Olivia [Subdivision,] Sta. Rosa City.
x x x x
Q:And according to you, [Marvin] told the investigators that the motorcycle is in the possession of [Felix] and because of this information given to the office of [Marvin] (sic), you sent this Memorandum addressed to the Chief of Police of Sta. Rosa City.
A:Yes, Sir.[5]
At that time, Marvin was already under custodial investigation, having been placed in the custody of the police, or deprived of his freedom of action in a significant manner.[6] Thus, when the police officers asked Marvin regarding the discovery of the motorcycle's registration documents in his possession, Marvin's right to counsel automatically attached. Furthermore, his answer constitutes an implied admission of guilt, which should have been done in writing, with the assistance of his counsel, or after a valid waiver of these rights.

Remarkably, neither P/Insp. Villamer nor SPO4 Pequiras testified that Marvin was informed of his rights, much less granted the opportunity to obtain a counsel of his own choice. Marvin, on the.other hand, narrated in his direct examination that he was not informed of his rights:
[Direct examination of the petitioner by Atty. Jopito Agualada]
Q:The policemen presented to you the Original PLeceipt and the Certificate of Registration of the motorcycle of [Christian] yet you said that you do not know from where they recovered the same. And you also said that after that you were put under detention. Did they inform you Mr. witness the grounds of putting you under detention?
A:No, Sir.
Q:Did they inform you that they were able to recover a gun inside the bag of Francis Aguilar?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:And upon being informed that a gun was found inside the bag of Francis Aguilar, what did they do to you?
A:I was put me (sic) inside the detention cell, Sir.
Q:Did they tell you that they are arresting you because of a gun that was found inside the bag of Francis Aguilar?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:Did they show you the gun?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:Where did they show you the gun?
A:I was moved-out of the detention cell and I returned to the office of the Chief, Sir.
Q:The Chief you are referring to the Chief of Police of Ocampo, Camarines Sur?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:And that Office of the Chief of Police of Ocampo is at the Municipal Police Station of Ocampo, Camarines Sur?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:Q: When they show[ed] you a gun at [the] Municipal Police Station of Ocampo, Camarines Sur[,] was that the first time that you saw that gun that they allegedly recovered from the bag of Francis Aguilar?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:Now, because of that, they incarcerated you because they found the gun inside the bag of Francis Aguilar?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:They did not detain you because of their discovery of the [Official] Receipt and Certificate of Registration of the motorcycle of [Christian]?
A:No, Sir.
x x x x
Q:At the Police Station, did they inform you that they are putting you under arrest because of the recovered gun inside the bag of Francis Aguilar?
A:Yes, Sir.
Q:Did they inform you that you have a right to a lawyer?
A:No, Sir.
Q:Did they inform you that you have the right to remain silent?
A:No, Sir.
Q:But you are sure that it was at the Police Station that they arrested you?
A:Yes, Sir.[7]
At this point, it bears reiterating that when the police officers of Ocampo, Camarines Sur began questioning Marvin about the items found in his possession, there should have been a counsel present to assist Marvin. Without the assistance of a counsel, and in the absence of a valid waiver of this right, Marvin's "voluntary" answer to P/Insp. Villamer is inadmissible as evidence of his guilt.

Another circumstantial evidence considered by the trial court is the alleged confession of Marvin to Virgie, the mother of the complainant. Unlike Marvin's admission to P/Insp. Villamer, the confession to Virgie, a private party, is not within the scope of the constitutional and statutory limitations on extrajudicial confessions.[8]

This notwithstanding, the Court should still inquire upon the voluntariness of the confession. The prosecution must establish that the accused spoke freely, without inducement of any kind, and fully aware of the consequences of the confession. This may be inferred from the language of the confession, as when the accused provided details known only to him or her.[9]

In the case of Marvin Porteria, the Court cannot determine the voluntariness of Marvin's supposed confession to Virgie because it was not reduced into writing or recorded in another manner. The Court can only rely on the testimony of Virgie as to the substance of Marvin's confession. Aside from her testimony, there is no independent evidence that establishes the voluntariness and substance of Marvin's alleged extrajudicial confession.[10]

The testimony of Virgie as to the supposed confession of Marvin may, nonetheless, be admitted as an independently relevant statement, which proves only the fact that such statement was made. The admission of this testimony does not necessarily mean that the Court is persuaded. Virgie is competent to testify only as to the substance of what she heard—not the truth thereof. Her testimony, by itself, is not sufficient proof of its veracity.[11] As the Court explained in People v. Satorre:[12]
At any rate, an extrajudicial confession forms but a prima facie case against the party by whom it is made. Such confessions are not conclusive proof of that which they state; it may be proved that they were uttered in ignorance, or levity, or mistake; and hence, they are, at best, to be regarded as only cumulative proof which affords but a precarious support and on which, when uncorroborated, a verdict cannot be permitted to rest.

Main prosecution witness Castañares testified that after appellant's alleged oral confession, she brought the latter to the office of the police at the Municipal Hall of Carcar, Cebu. At the police station, Castañares was investigated, after which she executed her sworn statement. Also at the police station, appellant allegedly admitted before policemen that he killed Pantilgan. His statement was not taken nor was his confession reduced into writing. This circumstance alone casts some doubt on the prosecution's account that appellant freely and voluntarily confessed killing Pantilgan. It raises questions not only as to the voluntariness of the alleged confession, but also on whether appellant indeed made an oral confession.[13]
The Court emphasizes that an extrajudicial confession is not a sufficient ground for conviction, unless it is corroborated by either direct or circumstantial evidence.[14] If it is the latter, the accused may be convicted when: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived and proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.[15]

Unfortunately for the prosecution, most of the circumstantial pieces of evidence are inadmissible as evidence against Marvin. The only remaining circumstance is the recovery of the stolen motorcycle in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Yet notably, the police officers did not recover the motorcycle through the information Marvin allegedly provided to either P/Supt. Villamer or Virgie. It was neither found in the possession of a certain Felix as Marvin supposedly told P/Supt. Villamer, or with "Insan Joy," in the address given to Vergie.[16] Rather, the police officers of the Sta. Rosa City Police Station chanced upon the stolen motorcycle when they set-up a checkpoint at the Barangay Road of Kaingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The driver of the stolen motorcycle was Albert, not the petitioner in this case.[17] Marvin was not even present at the time Albert was driving the motorcycle.

For these reasons, the totality of the evidence does not corroborate the extrajudicial confession of Marvin. His conviction rests on tenuous grounds—the official receipt (OR) and the certificate of registration (CR) were products of an illegal search, the admission to P/Supt. Villamer was in violation of his right to counsel, and the Court cannot determine the voluntariness and veracity of Marvin's oral confession of guilt to Virgie. The doubts as to the guilt of Marvin are, therefore, more than reasonable, which warrants his acquittal.[18]

[1] See People v. Cabanada, G.R. No. 221424, July 19, 2017, 831 SCRA 485, 493; People v. Cabintoy, 317 Phil. 528, 540 (1995); People v. Basay, 292 Phil. 413, 430 (1993); and People v. Javar, 297 Phil. 111, 117 (1993).

[2] AN ACT DEFINING CERTAIN RIGHTS OF PERSON ARRESTED, DETAINED OR UNDER CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION AS WELL AS THE DUTIES OF THE ARRESTING, DETAINING AND INVESTIGATING OFFICERS, AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF (Approved on April 27, 1992).

[3] People v. Janson, 448 Phil. 726, 746 (2003).

[4] Rollo, p. 61.

[5] TSN, September 26, 2012, pp. 5-8.

[6] People v. De La Cruz, 344 Phil. 653, 660-661 (1997).

[7] TSN, February 4, 2014, pp. 3-6.

[8] People v. Ochoa, 511 Phil. 682, 695 (2005).

[9] People v. Satorre, 456 Phil. 98, 107 (2003).

[10] Id. at 106.

[11] People v. Silvano, 431 Phil. 351, 363 (2002).

[12] 456 Phil. 98 (2003).

[13] Id. at 108-109.

[14] RULES of Court, Rule 133, Section 3.

[15] People v. Quitola, 790 Phil. 75, 87-88 (2016).

[16] See TSN, February 28, 2012, pp. 20-22.

[17] TSN, November 20, 2012, pp. 3-8.

[18] Marvin Porteria v. People, G.R. No. 233777, March 20, 2019.

Popular Posts