People v. Gomez G.R. No. 101817, March 26, 1997 270 SCRA 432 (1997)

Facts: A former shuttle bus driver for six years, accused said he was hired by David to be a “stay-in driver” with a monthly salary of P2,000.00. He would at times be asked to likewise do some special errands for David. On 27 February 1990, David sent Accused to Bangkok to canvass prices of ready-to-wear clothes. Accused stayed at the Asia Hotel for four days. On the fourth day of his stay, Accused called David to inform him that he was running out of cash. David instructed Accused to wait for him in Bangkok and to meanwhile stay with Lito Tuazon in the latter’s apartment. David and Gomez left for Thailand on 04 March 1990 bringing with them a golf set each. Accused fetched the two at the Bangkok Airport and brought them to the Union Towers Hotel where they stayed for two days. The following day, Gomez was told by Accused to pick up the golfbags from Lito Tuazon’s apartment. On 14 March 1990, Gomez picked up the golfbags. He noticed that the golfbags were heavier than usual. Tuazon explained casually to Gomez that there were pieces of jewelry and precious stones inside the golfbags. At the Bangkok Airport, Tuazon checked-in the golfbags for Gomez. Accused and Yupangco took the same flight. Gomez was met at the NAIA lobby by David. On 22 March 1990, David and Accused left for Hongkong reportedly to get some spare parts for David’s Mercedes Benz car. In Hongkong, after buying the car spare parts, David and Accused went to the U.S. Department of Justice in Hongkong. While waiting for David, Accused was confronted by a group of people, who turned out to be from the Hongkong Immigration office, requesting for his travel papers. Accused was brought in for investigation because of an expired visa, then turned over to the police authorities and finally to the court which decreed his imprisonment. In the Hongkong prison, Accused was visited by NBI agents for his implication in the “heroin” case. He denied the accusation. Later, he agreed, without the assistance of counsel, to execute a sworn statement at the Stanley Prison. After his prison term, Accused was deported to Manila. According to the NBI, when Accused was apprehended by the Hongkong immigration authorities, he and David were preparing to leave for Mexico. The trial court found Gomez and Accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. In his appeal, Accused insists that the trial court has erred in including him in the drug conspiracy and in admitting in evidence his sworn statement taken, without the assistance of counsel, by an NBI agent at the Stanley Prison in Hongkong.

Issue: Whether the Sworn Statement executed by the accused and his waiver of his constitutional rights without any assistance of a competent and independent counsel can be admitted as evidence in court.

Held: No, While the sworn statement taken from appellant by an NBI agent in Hongkong during his incarceration was not made the basis for Accused’s conviction by the court a quo, a word could be said about the manner in which it was procured. It would seem that appellant was merely apprised in general terms of his constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent. He then was asked if he would be willing to give a statement. Having answered in the affirmative, the NBI investigating agent asked him whether he needed a lawyer which he answered “Sa ngayon po ay hindi na at totoo lang naman ang aking sasabihin. Kung mayroon po kayong tanong na hindi ko masasagot ay sasabihin ko na lang po sa inyo” which after that response, the investigation forthwith proceeded. This procedure hardly was in compliance with Section 12(1), Article III, of the Constitution which requires the assistance of counsel to a person under custody even when he waives the right to counsel. It is immaterial that the sworn statement was executed in a foreign land. Appellant, a Filipino citizen, should enjoy these constitutional rights, like anyone else, even when abroad.

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