Bermudez vs. Castillo Prec. Rec. No. 714-A July 26, 1937 64 Phil. 485 (1937)

Facts: In the course of the investigation which was being conducted by the office of the Solicitor-General against the respondent, in connection with this administrative case, said respondent filed, in addition to other evidence in support of this defense, the six letters which, for purposes of identification, were marked as Exhibits 32, 34, 35, 36 and 37. He then contended, as he now continues to contend, that said six letters are the complainant’s, but the latter denied it while she was testifying as a witness in rebuttal. she admitted, however, that the letters marked as Exhibits 38, 39 and 40 were in her own handwriting. As the respondent believed that the three letters admitted by the complainant to be hers were insufficient for purposes of comparison with those questioned in this case and as he was determined to show that said Exhibits 38, 39 and 40 were the complainant’s, he required her to copy them in her own handwriting in the presence of the investigator. The complainant, upon advice of her attorney, refused to submit to the trial to which it was desired to subject her, invoking her right not to incriminate herself and alleging that Exhibits 38, 39 and 40 and the other letters already in the respondent’s possession, were more than sufficient for what he proposed to do. The investigator, upholding the complainant, did not compel her to submit to the trial required, thereby denying the respondent’s petition. As respondent did not agree to this decision of the investigator, he instituted these proceedings praying that the investigator and the Solicitor-General in whose representation he acted, be ordered to require and compel the complainant to furnish new specimens of her handwriting by copying said Exhibits 32 to 37 for that purpose.

Issue: Whether the complainant can refuse to copy the assailed letter in her own handwriting in the presence of the investigator for comparison as evidence against her constitute a violation of the privilege against self incrimination.

Held: Yes, that the complainant is perfectly entitled to the privilege invoked by her. The privilege against self-crimination is a personal one. But the privilege is an option of refusal, not a prohibition of inquiry. The reason for the privilege appears evident the the purpose thereof is positively to avoid and prohibit thereby the repetition and recurrence of the certainly inhuman procedure of compelling a person, in a criminal or any other case, to furnish the missing evidence necessary for his conviction. If such is its purpose, then the evidence must be sought elsewhere; and if it is desired to discover evidence in the person himself, then he must be promised and assured at least absolute immunity by one authorized to do so legally, or he should be asked, one for all, to furnish such evidence voluntarily without any condition. This court is the opinion that in order that the constitutional provision under consideration may prove to be a real protection and not a dead letter, it must be given a liberal and broad interpretation favorable to the person invoking it.

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