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People vs. Bandula, 232 SCRA 566 (1994)
Six (6) armed men barged into the compound of a Polo Coconut Plantation who were identified as Bandula, Dionanao, Ejan and Sedigo while the two others who wore masks were simply referred to as "Boy Tall" and "Boy Short." At gunpoint, the two (2) masked men held the security guard of the plantation, Antonio Salva, who was manning his post, disarmed him of his shotgun and tied his hands behind his back. They then went up to the house of Leoncio Pastrano, Chief of Security and General Foreman of the plantation, hog-tied him, and divested him of his driver's license, goggles, wristwatch and .38 caliber snubnose revolver. From there, the 6 armed men with Salva and Pastrano in tow proceeded to the house of Atty. Juanito Garay, Manager of the Polo Coconut Plantation. Dionanao, Ejan and Sedigo stayed downstairs while Bandula and the two masked men with Salva and Pastrano went up to the house of Atty. Garay. After forcing their way into the house, the masked men and Bandula ransacked the place and took with them money and other valuables. Thereafter, the hooded men who were bringing with them Atty. Garay locked Pastrano inside his house together with Salva. A few minutes later, Pastrano and Salva heard gunshots coming from the direction of the gate of the compound. After succeeding in untying themselves, Pastrano and Salva went to report the matter to the police. On their way, they found outside the gate the lifeless body of Atty. Garay, dead with 3 gunshot wounds.
Dionanao was "picked-up for investigation" and interrogated by Cpl. Ephraim Valles inside the Police Station in Tanjay where he implicated accused Sedigo. The following day, he was brought to the Office of the Municipal Attorney of Tanjay, Atty. Ruben Zerna, where he supposedly executed his extrajudicial confession in the presence of the latter. Upon the suggestion of another investigator, Cpl. Valles took the Supplementary Sworn Statement of Dionanao, again in the presence of Atty. Zerna. In his Sworn Statement, Dionanao supposedly admitted that he was with Bandula when the latter, together with "Boy Short'' and "Boy Tall," shot Atty. Garay. He added that he was going to be killed if he did not join the group. He also said that Sedigo and Ejan were with them that evening. Then, in his Supplementary Sworn Statement, he implicated 3 more persons but they were not thereafter included in the Information. On the other hand, Bandula was arrested and brought to the Tanjay Police Station and interrogated there. He was investigated by Cpl. Borromeo, Cpl. Esparicia, Cpl. Ebarso, Pat. Moso and Pat. Baldejera. In that investigation, Bandula allegedly admitted that he together with 2 others shot Atty. Garay with a .38 cal. revolver. At that time, there was no counsel present "because that (investigation) was not yet in writing." Two weeks after his arrest, Bandula allegedly gave a sworn statement in the presence of Atty. Zerna admitting his participation in the killing of Atty. Garay. In that statement, Bandula narrated that after "Boy Short'' and "Boy Tall" shot Atty. Garay, he (Bandula) was ordered likewise to shoot the latter which he did. Bandula, Sedigo, Dionanao and Ejan were charged for robbery with homicide. After hearing 12 prosecution and 9 defense witnesses, the trial court rendered judgment finding Bandula guilty of the crime charged. However, his 3 co-accused were acquitted "for insufficiency of evidence."
Whether or not the admissions obtained during custodial interrogations requires independent counsel present.
Bandula and Dionanao were investigated immediately after their arrest, they had no counsel present. If at all, counsel came in only a day after the custodial investigation with respect to Dionanao, and two weeks later with respect to Bandula. And, the counsel who supposedly assisted both accused was Atty. Zerna, the Municipal Attorney of Tanjay.
The Constitution mandates in Section 12, Art. III, that (1) 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.
The Constitution also requires that counsel be independent. Obviously, he cannot be a special counsel, public or private prosecutor, counsel of the police, or a municipal attorney whose interest is admittedly adverse to the accused. Granting that Atty. Zerna assisted Dionanao and Bandula when they executed their respective extrajudicial confessions, still their confessions are inadmissible in evidence considering that Atty. Zerna does not qualify as an independent counsel. As a legal officer of the municipality, he provides legal assistance and support to the mayor and the municipality in carrying out the delivery of basic services to the people, including the maintenance of peace and order. It is thus seriously doubted whether he can effectively undertake the defense of the accused without running into conflict of interests. He is no better than a fiscal or prosecutor who cannot represent the accused during custodial investigations.