Elizar Tomaquin was found by the lower Court to be guilty of the crime of murder of Jaquelyn Tatoy beyond reasonable doubt. Petitioner avers that the trial Court erred when it convicted him on the basis of his uncounselled confession. The Court is confronted with the issue of the admissibility of an extrajudicial confession. This appeal particularly involves the question of whether a barangay captain who is a lawyer can be considered an independent counsel within the purview of Section 12, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
Is a lawyer at the same time barangay captain competent and independent?
No, in this case, considering that Atty. Parawan’s role as a barangay captain, was a peacekeeping officer of his barangay and therefore in direct conflict with the role of providing competent legal assistance to appellant who was accused of committing a crime in his jurisdiction, Atty. Parawan could not be considered as an independent counsel of appellant, when the latter executed his extrajudicial confession. What the Constitution requires is the presence of an independent and competent counsel, one who will effectively undertake his client’s defense without any intervening conflict of interest. Neither does Atty. Parawan qualify as a competent counsel, i.e., an effective and vigilant counsel. An “effective and vigilant counsel” necessarily and logically requires that the lawyer be present and able to advise and assist his client from the time the confessant answers the first question asked by the investigating officer until the signing of the extrajudicial confession. The Court cannot imagine how Atty. Parawan could have effectively safeguarded appellant’s rights as an accused during the investigation when he himself entertained the suspicion that appellant is guilty of the crime charged, and naturally, he would want appellant to admit having committed it.