People vs. Gallarde G.R. No. 133025, February 17, 2000

Facts: In the evening of May 26, 1997, at the house of spouses, their neighbors converged. Among them were appellant and others. Idling by was Editha, 10 year old daughter of spouses Talan. A fluorescent lamp illuminated them as they partook beer. Thereafter, Editha entered the kitchen and took hold of a kerosene lamp. Jaime followed her and asked where she was going. Editha answered that she would look for appellant. Soon Editha left enroute to where appellant. Moments later, Roger arrived and informed them that Editha was missing. Roger asked the group to help look for her. The searchers found appellant squatting with his short pants. His hands and knees were covered with soil. Asked where Editha was, appellant replied: “I do not know, I did not do anything to her.” The searchers, thereafter, noticed disheveled grasses. Along the way, they saw a wide hole among the disheveled grass. They found the dead body of the victim. Mindful of appellant’s safety, Brgy. Captain Mendoza decided to bring appellant to the municipal building. On their way though, they met policemen on board a vehicle. He flagged them down and turned over the person of appellant, saying that he is the suspect in the disappearance of the little girl. The policemen together with appellant proceeded to where the people found Editha. One of the policemen shoved more soil aside. The lifeless Editha was completely naked when she was recovered. The cause of Editha’s death as revealed in the post-mortem examination showed “suffocation of the lungs as a result from powerful covering of the nose and mouth, associated with laceration of the vagina and raptured hymen. The trial court found the appelant guilty of homicide. Hence the appeal.

Issue: Whether the photographs taken of the accused immediately after the incident is inadmissible as evidence in court on the ground that “the same were taken while the accused was already under the mercy of the police.” and the taking of pictures of an accused even without the assistance of counsel is a violation of his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Held: No, The taking of pictures of an accused even without the assistance of counsel, being a purely mechanical act, is not a violation of his constitutional right against self-incrimination. The constitutional right of an accused against self-incrimination proscribes the use of physical or moral compulsion to extort communications from the accused and not the inclusion of his body in evidence when it may be material. Purely mechanical acts are not included in the prohibition as the accused does not thereby speak his guilt, hence the assistance and guiding hand of counsel is not required. The essence of the right against self-incrimination is testimonial compulsion, that is, the giving of evidence against himself through a testimonial act. Hence, it has been held that a woman charged with adultery may be compelled to submit to physical examination to determine her pregnancy; and an accused may be compelled to submit to physical examination and to have a substance taken from his body for medical determination as to whether he was suffering from gonorrhea which was contracted by his victim; to expel morphine from his mouth; to have the outline of his foot traced to determine its identity with bloody footprints; and to be photographed or measured, or his garments or shoes removed or replaced, or to move his body to enable the foregoing things to be done.

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