DOCTRINE:

The right against self-incrimination is not self- executing or automatically operational. It must be claimed. If not claimed by or in behalf of the witness, the protection does not come into play. It follows that the right may be waived, expressly, or impliedly, as by a failure to claim it at the appropriate time.

FACTS:

Private respondent Felipe Ramos was a ticket freight clerk of the Philippine Airlines (PAL), assigned at its Baguio City station. It having allegedly come to light that he was involved in irregularities in the sales of plane tickets, the PAL management notified him of an investigation to be conducted into the matter of February 9, 1986. During the investigation, Ramos’ answers were to the effect inter alia that he had not indeed made disclosure of the tickets mentioned in the Audit Team’s findings, that the proceeds had been “misused” by him, that although he had planned on paying back the money, he had been prevented from doing so, “perhaps (by) shame,” that he was still willing to settle his obligation, and proferred a “compromise x x to pay on staggered basis, (and) the amount would be known in the next investigation.”

About two (2) months later, an information was filed against Felipe Ramos charging him with the crime of estafa. On arraignment on this charge, Felipe Ramos entered a plea of “Not Guilty,” and trial thereafter ensued. The prosecution of the case was undertaken by lawyers of PAL under the direction and supervision of the Fiscal.

The private prosecutors made a written offer of evidence which included “the (above mentioned) statement of accused Felipe J. Ramos taken on February 9, 1986 at PAL Baguio City Ticket Office,” which had been marked as Exhibit A, as well as his handwritten admission given on February 8, 1986, also marked as Exhibit K.

The respondent judge declared Exhibit A “inadmissible in evidence, it appearing that the accused was not reminded of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have counsel, and that when he waived the same and gave his statement, it was [not] with the assistance actually of a counsel.” He also declared inadmissible “Exhibit K, the handwritten admission made by accused Felipe J. Ramos, for the same reason stated in the exclusion of Exhibit ‘A’ since it does not appear that the accused was assisted by counsel when he made said admission.”

The private prosecutors filed a motion for reconsideration which was subsequently denied. Consequently, they filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition.

ISSUE:

WON respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion when it excluded the People’s Exhibits A and K.

HELD:

Yes. At the core of the controversy is Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, to which respondent Judge has given a construction that is disputed by the People. The section reads as follows:

SEC. 20. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed of such right. No force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiates the free will shall be used against him. Any confession obtained in violation of this section shall be inadmissible in evidence.

It should at once be apparent that there are two (2) rights, or sets of rights, dealt with in the section, namely:

1) the right against self-incrimination ā€” i.e., the right of a person not to be compelled to be a witness against himself ā€” set out in the first sentence, which is a verbatim reproduction of Section 18, Article III of the 1935 Constitution, and is similar to that accorded by the Fifth Amendment of the American Constitution, 12 and

2) the rights of a person in custodial interrogation, i.e., the rights of every suspect “under investigation for the commission of an offense.”

That first sentence of Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution does not impose on the judge, or other officer presiding over a trial, hearing or investigation, any affirmative obligation to advise a witness of his right against self-incrimination. It is a right that a witness knows or should know, in accordance with the well known axiom that every one is presumed to know the law, that ignorance of the law excuses no one. Furthermore, in the very nature of things, neither the judge nor the witness can be expected to know in advance the character or effect of a question to be put to the latter.

The right against self-incrimination is not self- executing or automatically operational. It must be claimed. If not claimed by or in behalf of the witness, the protection does not come into play. It follows that the right may be waived, expressly, or impliedly, as by a failure to claim it at the appropriate time.

The second sentence refers the rights of persons “under investigation for the commission of an offense,” i.e., “suspects” under investigation by police authorities; and this is what makes these rights different from that embodied in the first sentence, that against self-incrimination which, as aforestated, indiscriminately applies to any person testifying in any proceeding, civil, criminal, or administrative.

The rights above specified, to repeat, exist only in “custodial interrogations,” or “in-custody interrogation of accused persons.” And, as this Court has already stated, by custodial interrogation is meant “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.”

It is clear from the undisputed facts of this case that Felipe Ramos was not in any sense under custodial interrogation, as the term should be properly understood, prior to and during the administrative inquiry into the discovered irregularities in ticket sales in which he appeared to have had a hand. The constitutional rights of a person under custodial interrogation under Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution did not therefore come into play, were of no relevance to the inquiry. It is also clear, too, that Ramos had voluntarily answered questions posed to him on the first day of the administrative investigation, February 9, 1986 and agreed that the proceedings should be recorded, the record having thereafter been marked during the trial of the criminal action subsequently filed against him as Exhibit A, just as it is obvious that the note (later marked as Exhibit K) that he sent to his superiors on February 8,1986, the day before the investigation, offering to compromise his liability in the alleged irregularities, was a free and even spontaneous act on his part. They may not be excluded on the ground that the so-called “Miranda rights” had not been accorded to Ramos.

The writ of certiorari is granted.

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