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Cabal vs Kapunan
G.R. No. L-19052, 29 December 1962
Col. Jose C. Maristela of the Philippine Army filed with the Secretary of National Defense a letter-complaint charging petitioner Manuel Cabal, then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with graft, corrupt practices, unexplained wealth, conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman dictatorial tendencies, giving false statements of his assets and liabilities in 1958 and other equally reprehensible acts. The President of the Philippines on September 6, 1961, created a committee of 5 members to investigate the charged unexplained wealth contained in the said letter complaint. The Committee ordered Cabal to take the witness stand in the administrative proceeding and be sworn to as witness for Col. Maristela. Cabal objected the said order of the Committee and invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. The Committee insisted that Cabal take the witness stand and be sworn to, subject to his right to refuse to answer such questions as may be incriminatory. Cabal respectfully refused to be sworn to as a witness to take the witness stand.
The Committee then referred the matter to the Fiscal of Manila, for such action as he may deem proper. The City Fiscal filed with the CFI a charge for failure and refusal to obey the order of the Committee to take the witness stand, be sworn and testify as witness in said investigation, in utter disregard of the lawful authority of the Committee and thereby obstructing and degrading the proceedings before said body. The said charge was assigned to the sala of respondent Judge Kapunan.
Petitioner filed a motion to quash and said motion was denied.
Whether or not the Committee's ordering petitioner to take the witness stand violates his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
It should be noted that, although said Committee was created to investigate the administrative charge of unexplained wealth, there seems to be no question that Col. Maristela does not seek the removal of petitioner herein as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. As a matter of fact he no longer holds such office. It seems, likewise conceded that the purpose of the charge against petitioner is to apply the provisions of Republic Act No. 1379 or the Anti-Graft Law, which authorizes the forfeiture to the State of property of a public officer or employee which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer or employee and his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property. Such for forfeiture has been held, however, to partake of the nature of a penalty. As a consequence, proceedings for forfeiture of proper are deemed criminal or penal, and, hence, the exemption of defendants in criminal case from the obligation to be witnesses against themselves are applicable thereto.
The Court said that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This prohibition against compelling a person to take the stand as a witness against himself applies to criminal, quasi-criminal, and penal proceedings, including a proceeding civil in form for forfeiture of property by reason of the commission of an offense, but not a proceeding in which the penalty recoverable is civil or remedial in nature.
The privilege of a witness not to incriminate himself is not infringed by merely asking the witness a question which he refuses to answer. The privilege is simply an option of refusal, and not a prohibition of inquiry. A question is not improper merely because the answer may tend to incriminate but, where a witness exercises his constitutional right not to answer, a question by counsel as to whether the reason for refusing to answer is because the answer may tend to incriminate the witness is improper.