LAWYERS of the Philippine National Police-Legal Service used to sing a different song in regard to voluntary surrender and extra-judicial confession of suspects in crime. Their stern warning to policemen was: Respect the rights of the accused, know, follow the law.
In April 2012, the PNP Legal Service issued a “Legal Advisory” on the matter of “Voluntary Surrender and Extra-Judicial Confessions During Custodial Investigation,” which was replete with citations of the relevant provisions of the Constitution, the statutes, and jurisprudence.
It is explicit and clear in what it says are “the DOs and DONTs to be observed by our police officers in appreciating the voluntary surrender of a person claiming to be the perpetrator of a crime and in taking or accepting extra-judicial confessions of suspects during custodial investigation.”
The PNP Legal Service was at the time composed of Chief Supt, Francisco A Uyami Jr.as director, Senior Supt. Ulysses J Abellera as deputy director, and the following personnel: Senior Supt. Bartolome C Tobias, Supt. George L Almaden, Supt. Arthur Llamas, Supt. Roman E Loreto, Chief Insp. Lyra Stella C Valera, and Senior Insp. Garry Franco C Puaso
Verbatim excerpts from the PNP Legal Service advisory follow:
Q. What is the value of voluntary surrender in the prosecution of a crime?
A. It is a mitigating circumstance under the Revised Penal Code. If it can be established during trial “that the offender had voluntarily surrendered himself to a person in authority or his agents” (Article 13, paragraph 7, RPC) and such circumstance is appreciated by the court as mitigating, the imprisonment penalty imposed by the law for the crime committed may be reduced by the court.
Q. What is the value of voluntary surrender from the perspective of law enforcement?
A. The voluntary surrender of a suspect, if established by convincing evidence, will generally negate questions regarding the legality of his detention.
Q. What are the requisites of voluntary surrender?
A. The requisites of voluntary surrender are as follows:
a. That the offender had not been actually arrested;
b. That the offender surrendered himself to a person in authority or to the latter’s agent; and
c. That the surrender was voluntary (Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, 2006 Ed., p. 298)
Q. In the course of investigating a crime, if a person comes to the station and voluntarily surrenders himself claiming to be the perpetrator, what should police officers do?
A. It is advisable for our police officers to immediately enter the fact of his voluntary surrender into the blotter. By doing so, the blotter becomes an admissible documentary evidence to prove that the police did not effect any arrest but, on the contrary, it was the suspect who walked into the station. The entries in the blotter should include the reasons (e.g. guilty feelings, bothered by conscience, avoiding shame of being arrested, to insure personal security, or persuaded by family) given by such person, which impelled him to voluntarily surrender.
Moreover, the police officer who recorded such entry into the blotter may likewise execute an affidavit which may later be introduced in evidence to serve as basis of his testimony in court.
Q. When is surrender voluntary?
A. To be considered voluntary, the surrender must be spontaneous, showing the intent of a person to submit himself unconditionally to authorities, either because:
(a) He acknowledges his guilt, or
(b) He wishes to spare the authorities from the trouble and expenses necessarily incurred in his search and capture (People of the Philippines vs. Lagrana, No. -68790, January 23, 1987)
Q: May police officers take custody of a person who voluntarily surrendered himself and detain him?
A. No, if the corpus delicti of the crime is not established.
Q. What is the test of spontaneity?
A. The word “spontaneous” emphasizes the idea of an inner impulse, acting without external stimulus. The conduct of the accused, and not his intention alone, after the commission of the offense, determines the spontaneity of the surrender. (Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, 2006 Ed., p. 308)
EXTRA-JUDICIAL CONFESSIONS DURING CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION
Q. What is extra-judicial confession?
A. It is a declaration of a person, given outside of court, acknowledging his guilt of the offense charged, or of any offense necessarily included therein, which may be used as evidence against him. (lifted from Section 33, Rule 130, Evidence)
Taking or accepting extrajudicial confessions from suspects during custodial investigation is governed by Constitutional provisions on the Bill of Rights and by the provisions of RA No. 7438.
Q. What is custodial investigation?
A. As an investigative process, custodial investigation can be traced to American jurisprudence, the landmark case of Miranda vs Arizona, where the US Supreme Court elaborated that, custodial interrogation means “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” (Miranda vs Arizona, 384 U.S. 436)
Custodial investigation “presupposes that he is suspected of having committed a crime and that the investigator is trying to elicit information or a confession from him. The rule begins to operate at once as soon as the investigation ceases to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime, and direction is aimed at suspect who has been taken into custody and to whom the police would then direct interrogatory questions which tend to elicit incriminating statements.”
In Philippine jurisdiction, custodial investigation “includes the practice of issuing an invitation to a person who is being investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed”. (Section 2, last paragraph, RA No. 7438)
Q. What are the essential requisites to fall within the meaning of custodial investigation?
A. There is custodial investigation when:
a. A person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way;
b. A law enforce took the said person into custody or deprived him of his freedom of action; and
c. A law enforcement officer initiated questioning such person in connection with the commission of an offense.
Q. Should a police officer take or accept an oral extra-judicial confession during custodial investigation?
A. No, this is not advisable. An oral extra-judicial confession only relayed to
a police officer has limited evidentiary value during trial.
RA No. 7438 provides that “any extra-judicial confession made by a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall be in writing and signed by such person in the presence of his counsel or in the latter’s absence, upon a valid waiver, and in the presence of any of the parents, elder brotFhaexrNsoa.:n33d5s-0is30te8rs, his spouse, the municipal mayor, the municipal judge, district school supervisor, or priest or minister of the gospel as chosen by him.” (Section 2[d])
Q. A person came to the station and told the police officer that he wants to give a statement about his commission of a crime. He had no counsel and explained that he cannot afford one. The police officer also had no means to provide him with a counsel. Is it proper for the police officer to take the statement of said person?
A. No. Such statement is in the nature of an extra-judicial confession. RA No. 7438 provides that, when giving a statement about his commission of a crime, such person has the right to be assisted by counsel. This right should be explained to him by the police officer. The police officer must make sure such person understands this right. The law also requires such person to sign his extra-judicial confession in the presence of his counsel. Otherwise, such extra-judicial confession shall be inadmissible as evidence in any proceeding. (Section 2[d])
TIPS TO POLICE OFFICERS WHEN TAKING DOWN EXTRA-JUDICIAL CONFESSIONS
1. In taking down extra-judicial confessions, police officers should quiz the suspect by asking several clear questions broken down into short inquiries.
2. “A long question followed by a monosyllabic answer does not satisfy the requirements of the law that the accused be informed of his rights under the Constitution and our laws.” (People of the Philippines vs. Galit, 135 SCRA 473).
“An extrajudicial confession made by an accused shall not be sufficient ground for conviction, unless corroborated by evidence of corpus delicti.” (Section 3, Rule 133, Evidence)
“Corpus Delicti” means the body or substance of the crime. In a primary meaning, it is the fact that a crime has been actually committed. In a secondary meaning, it is the subject of the crime and its visible effect. (Sadili & Peňa, Comprehensive Criminal Investigation Procedure, 1998 Ed. p. 297)— PCIJ, September 2016