Villaflor vs. Summers G.R. No. 16444, September 8, 1920 41 Phil. 62 (1920)

Facts: The facts are not dispute. In a criminal case pending before the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila, Emeteria Villaflor and Florentino Souingco are charged with the crime of adultery. On this case coming on for trial before the Hon. Pedro Concepcion, Judge of First Instance, upon the petitioner of the assistant fiscal for the city of Manila, the court ordered the defendant Emeteria Villaflor, nor become the petitioner herein, to submit her body to the examination of one or two competent doctors to determine if she was pregnant or not. The accused refused to obey the order on the ground that such examination of her person was a violation of the constitutional provision relating to self-incrimination. Thereupon she was found in contempt of court and was ordered to be committed to Bilibid Prison until she should permit the medical examination required by the court.

Issue: Whether the order to the accused to submit her body to the examination of one or two competent doctors to determine if she was pregnant is a violation of her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Held: No, The rule that the constitutional guaranty, that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, is limited to a prohibition against compulsory testimonial self-incrimination. The corollary to the proposition is that, an ocular inspection of the body of the accused is permissible. It is a reasonable presumption that in an examination by reputable and disinterested physicians due care will be taken not to use violence and not to embarass the patient any more than is absolutely necessary. Indeed, no objection to the physical examination being made by the family doctor of the accused or by doctor of the same sex can be seen.

As we view it, the object of having criminal laws is to purge the community of persons who violate the laws to the great prejudice of their fellow men. Criminal procedure, the rules of evidence, and constitutional provisions, are then provided, not to protect the guilty but to protect the innocent. No rule is intemended to be so rigid as to embarrass the administration of justice in its endeavor to ascertain the truth. No accused person should be afraid of the use of any method which will tend to establish the truth.

Obviously a stirring plea can be made showing that under the due process of law cause of the Constitution every person has a natural and inherent right to the possession and control of his own body. It is extremely abhorrent to one’s sense of decency and propriety to have the decide that such inviolability of the person, particularly of a woman, can be invaded by exposure to another’s gaze. “To compel any one, and especially a woman, to lay bare the body, or to submit to the touch of a stranger, without lawful authority, is an indignity, an assault, and a trespass.” Conceded, and yet, as well suggested by the same court, even superior to the complete immunity of a person to be let alone is the inherent which the public has in the orderly administration of justice. Unfortunately, all too frequently the modesty of witnesses is shocked by forcing them to answer, without any mental evasion, questions which are put to them; and such a tendency to degrade the witness in public estimation does not exempt him from the duty of disclosure. Between a sacrifice of the ascertainment of truth to personal considerations, between a disregard of the public welfare for refined notions of delicacy, law and justice cannot hesitate.

2 thoughts on “Villaflor vs. Summers G.R. No. 16444, September 8, 1920 41 Phil. 62 (1920)

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