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Marcelo vs. Sandiganbayan, 302 SCRA 102 (1999)
On February 10, 1989, Merete, a letter carrier in the Makati Central Post Office, disclosed to his chief, Tumagan, the existence of a group responsible for the pilferage of mail matter in the post office. Among those mentioned by Merete were Arnold Pasicolan, an emergency laborer assigned as a bag opener in the Printed Matters Section, and Redentor Aguinaldo, a mail sorter of the Makati Post Office. For this reason, Tumagan sought the aid of the National Bureau of Investigation in apprehending the group responsible for mail pilferage in the Makati Post Office.
On February 17, 1989, NBI Director Ranin dispatched NBI agents to Legaspi Village following a report that the group would stage a theft of mail matter on that day. Tumagan accompanied a team of NBI agents composed of Senior Agent Arles Vela and two other agents in a private car.
At 2:00 p.m., a postal delivery jeep, driven by one Henry Orindai, was parked in front of the Esguerra Building on Adelantado Street. Pasicolan alighted from the jeep bringing with him a mail bag. Upon reaching Amorsolo St., Pasicolan gave the mail bag to two persons, who were later identified as Ronnie Romero and petitioner Lito Marcelo. The latter transferred the contents of the mail bag to a travelling bag. Meanwhile, the NBI team led by agent Vela, upon seeing Pasicolan going towards Amorsolo St., moved their car and started towards Amorsolo St. They were just in time to see Pasicolan handing over the mail bag to Marcelo and Romero. At that point, Atty. Sacaguing and Arles Vela arrested the two accused. The NBI agents followed the postal delivery jeep, overtook it, and arrested Pasicolan.
The NBI agents brought Pasicolan, Marcelo, and Romero to their headquarters. Romero, Marcelo, and Pasicolan were asked to affix their signatures on the envelopes of the letters. They did so in the presence of the members of the NBI Administrative and Investigative Staff and the people transacting business with the NBI at that time. According to Director Ranin, they required the accused to do this in order to identify the letters as the very same letters confiscated from them.
A case for qualified theft was filed before the Sandiganbayan wherein the accused were declared guilty.
Whether or not the letters signed by the petitioner were inadmissible as evidence and not violates his rights to be witness against himself.
The Supreme Court held that the letters were valid evidence. It is known that during custodial investigation, a person has the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Any admission or confession made in the absence of counsel is inadmissible as evidence. Furthermore, no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. In the instant case, even though the petitioner was asked to sign the letters, the letters are still admissible as evidence because the accused was convicted not only by means of these letters but also by testimonies made by the NBI agents. Moreover, the Supreme Court held that the letters were validly seized as an incident of a valid arrest and therefore can stand on their own. The decision of the Sandiganbayan is affirmed.
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