Arsenio Pascual, Jr., petitioner-appellee, filed on February 1, 1965 with the Court of First Instance of Manila an action for prohibition with prayer for preliminary injunction against the Board of Medical Examiners, now respondent-appellant. It was alleged therein that at the initial hearing of an administrative case7 for alleged immorality, counsel for complainants announced that he would present as his first witness herein petitioner-appellee, who was the respondent in such malpractice charge. Thereupon, petitioner-appellee, through counsel, made of record his objection, relying on the constitutional right to be exempt from being a witness against himself. Respondent-appellant, the Board of Examiners, took note of such a plea, at the same time stating that at the next scheduled hearing, on February 12, 1965, petitioner-appellee would be called upon to testify as such witness, unless in the meantime he could secure a restraining order from a competent authority. the lower court ordered that a writ of preliminary injunction issue against the respondent Board commanding it to refrain from hearing or further proceeding with such an administrative case, to await the judicial disposition of the matter. The answer of respondent Board, while admitting the facts stressed that it could call petitioner-appellee to the witness stand and interrogate him, the right against self-incrimination being available only when a question calling for an incriminating answer is asked of a witness. It further elaborated the matter in the affirmative defenses interposed, stating that petitioner-appellee’s remedy is to object once he is in the witness stand, for respondent “a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law,” precluding the issuance of the relief sought. Respondent Board, therefore, denied that it acted with grave abuse of discretion. A decision was rendered by the lower court in favor of the petitioner-appellee. Hence this case.
Whether the petitioner-appellee can invoke his right against self-incrimination and refuse to take the witness stand in an administrative case.
Yes, the SC affirm the decision of the lower court. The appeal apparently proceeds on the mistaken assumption by respondent Board and intervenors-appellants that the constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination should be limited to allowing a witness to object to questions the answers to which could lead to a penal liability being subsequently incurred. It is true that one aspect of such a right is the protection against “any disclosures which the witness may reasonably apprehend could be used in a criminal prosecution or which could lead to other evidence that might be so used.” If that were all there is then it becomes diluted. The constitutional guarantee, along with other rights granted an accused, stands for a belief that while crime should not go unpunished and that the truth must be revealed, such desirable objectives should not be accomplished according to means or methods offensive to the high sense of respect accorded the human personality. More and more in line with the democratic creed, the deference accorded an individual even those suspected of the most heinous crimes is given due weight.