Political Law

People of the Philippines vs Herson Tan

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G.R. No. 117321 – 349 Phil. 874 – 286 SCRA 207 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Extra-Judicial Admission – Right to Counsel – Custodial Investigation

In 1988, a tricycle driver was found dead and his trike was also missing. Herson Tan was among the two persons whom the trike driver was last seen with. Police Officer Carlos Santos of the Lucena City PNP then invited Herson Tan to the police station. At the police station, Santos informed Tan that he was a suspect not only in the case of the trike driver but for two other incidents of robbery in Lucena. Santos did not inform Tan any of his constitutional rights as Santos believed that he was merely having a conversation with Tan. In the course of their conversation, Tan allegedly admitted that he and a certain Lito Amido robbed and killed the trike driver.

In 1994, Tan was convicted.

ISSUE: Whether or not the admission made by Tan to Santos is admissible in evidence.

HELD: No. Sec. 12, Art. III of the 1987 Constitution provides that “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.” And, “Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible against him.”

Here, Santos never informed Tan of his rights. Tan’s confession was made without his counsel and it was not even reduced into writing.

These rights are likewise guaranteed to persons under custodial investigation. Custodial investigation shall include the practice of issuing an “invitation” to a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without prejudice to the liability of the “inviting” officer for any violation of law. Custodial investigation involves 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. The rules on custodial investigation begin to operate as soon as the investigation ceases to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime and begins to focus a particular suspect, the suspect is taken into custody, and the police carries out a process of interrogations that tends itself to eliciting incriminating statements that the rule begins to operate.

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