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People vs. Bagnate, GRs 133685-68, 20 May 2004
Accused-appellant, Amado Bagnate, appealed the Joint Judgment rendered by the Regional Trial Court Branch 15 of Tabaco, Albay, finding appellant Bagnate guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Murder in Criminal Case No. T-2874 for killing his grandmother, Aurea Broña and of Rape with Homicide in Criminal Case No. T-2875 for killing and raping his niece, Rosalie Rayala.
Appellant was turned over to SPO2 Junwel Ambion for custodial investigation. SPO2 Ambion informed him in the Bicol dialect of his constitutional rights. The accused acknowledged that he clearly understood it. When appellant told SPO2 Ambion that he is willing to confess, SPO2 Ambion again informed appellant of his rights, and asked him further if he wants to be assisted by counsel but appellant said that his counsel was in Manila. He availed his Constitutional right of being assisted by a competent counsel. Since he does not have his own counsel, he was provided with one in the person of Atty. Paterno Brotamonte whom the appellant accepted.
Before proceeding with the investigation, Atty. Brotamonte asked the policemen to leave the investigation room and conferred with appellant. He introduced himself to appellant and informed him of his rights. He also asked and examined appellant to see if he was physically harmed by the policemen and found none.
Appellant told Atty. Brotamonte that he is willing to give a statement. The investigation was then conducted in the Bicol dialect, with SPO2 Ambion asking the questions. The accused confessed on killing his grandmother and so as raping and killing his niece. After typing the first page of the confession, Atty. Brotamonte translated and explained the contents thereof to appellant, then Atty. Brotamonte and appellant signed thereon.
The next day, appellant was brought before Judge Arsenio Base, Jr. of the Municipal Trial Court of Tabaco, Albay. Judge Base requested the presence of Atty. Brotamonte and subsequently examined the voluntariness and veracity of the confession as well as the authenticity of the signatures of appellant and Atty. Brotamonte. He also explained to appellant the consequences of his confession to the crimes charged and asked him if he was coerced into admitting them. Judge Base inspected appellant’s body and asked him if he was forced or coerced. Judge Base then asked appellant if he was still willing to sign it again and appellant answered in the affirmative saying that his conscience bothered him. Judge Base asked him to sign the confession again in the presence of Atty. Brotamonte, after which appellant affixed his signature.
Accused was convicted on the strength of his extra- judicial confession during custodial investigation.
Appellant raised that the trial court erred in admitting in evidence the extrajudicial confession of the accused-appellant. Appellant assailed its admissibility alleging that it was executed in violation of his constitutional rights, particularly his right to a competent and independent counsel of his own choice and that he was not fully apprised of the consequences of his confession.
Whether the constitutional right of the appellant to have a competent and independent counsel was violated thereby rendering his extra judicial confession inadmissible.
No, the failure of Atty. Brotamonte to apprise appellant of the imposable penalty of the crimes he was to admit is not a sufficient ground to strike down appellant’s extrajudicial confession.
What the Constitution regards as inadmissible in evidence is confession given by an accused without having been informed of his right to remain silent, or, without having been given competent and independent counsel, preferably his own choice, or if he cannot afford the services of counsel, he was not provided with one; or the waiver of his rights was not in writing and not in the presence of counsel; or, that he was tortured, forced, threatened, intimidated, by violence or any other means that vitiated his free will. There is nothing in the Constitution that mandates a counsel to inform an accused of the possible penalty for the crime he committed. Neither would a presumption arise that the counsel is incompetent or not independent just because he failed to apprise the accused that the imposable penalty for the crime he was about to admit is death. After all, the imposable penalty is totally immaterial to the resolve of an accused to admit his guilt in the commission of a crime.
The modifier "competent and independent" stresses the need to assure the accused under the uniquely stressful conditions of a custodial investigation, an informed judgment on the choices explained to him by a diligent and capable lawyer. To be "competent" and "independent" it is only required for a lawyer to be: (1) Willing to fully safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused, as distinguished from one who would merely be giving a routine, peremptory and meaningless recital of the individual's constitutional rights.
The decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 15 of Tabaco, Albay, in Criminal Case No. T-2874 finding appellant Amado Bagnate guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and sentencing him to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS as to damages.
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