[OPINION DEEP DIVE] The fruit of the poisonous interview
Disclosure: The author is a member, and currently the Regional Coordinator for Metro Manila, of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) which acts as counsel for Mr Ronnel Mas. He was also the counsel for the late Mr Pablito Andan, the accused subject of one of the cases cited below, before the Supreme Court in a separate petition to question the constitutionality of the death penalty imposed on Mr Andan.
Mr Ronnel Mas, a teacher, was arrested without a warrant initially for cyber libel for posting on social media that he was offering a reward for the death of the President. He was brought from Zambales, where he was arrested, to Manila and later presented to the media. He was not assisted by counsel during his presentation to the media and during interviews. In the course of his interaction with media, Mr Mas made an admission that he made the post, again without benefit of counsel.
Because he was arrested without a warrant, an inquest was conducted, with the inquest prosecutor holding categorically that Mr Mas’s warrantless arrest was unwarranted for not falling within the permissible exceptions under Rule 113, section 5 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. However, the Inquest Resolution also made the curious finding that “….the defect of Mas’s warrantless arrest was ultimately cured when Mas extrajudicially admitted to the media that he indeed personally posted the provocative text in his own Twitter account.”
This week’s Deep Dive looks into the admissibility of Mr Mas’ admission based on case law as well as the finding of the DOJ that his admission “cured” the illegal arrest.
The fruit of the poisonous interview
In 3 cases, the Supreme Court has ruled on the admissibility of uncounseled media interviews of suspects. The Court applied the general principle that the protection of the Bill of Rights does not cover relations between private individuals, as it governs the relations between a private individual and the State. For this reason, the constitutional guarantee of protection to suspects during custodial investigations contained in Article III, sec. 12  in relation to Article III, sec. 17  cannot be invoked against acts of private individuals.
In People v. Andan , the Court ruled that:
"...(V)erbal confessions to...newsmen (sic) are not covered by Section 12 (1) and (3) of Article III of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights does not concern itself with the relation between a private individual and another individual. It governs the relationship between the individual and the State. The prohibitions therein are primarily addressed to the State and its agents.”
The Court would repeat this ruling in People v. Domantay . The Andan and Domantay confessions were held to be admissible primarily because the Court appreciated the atmosphere to be free of coercion. But the Andan ruling itself is not without limitations.
The ponente of Domantay himself would later clarify in People v. Morada  that the Andan ruling “does not…authorize the police to obtain confessions they cannot otherwise obtain through media reporters who are actually acting for the police.” The Court in Domantay reminded that the Andan ruling is qualified by the following factors: (a) freedom from undue influence from police; (b) media were acting as media, not as agents of law enforcement under the direction and control of the latter; (c) media did not force the suspect to grant an interview.
These rulings must be weighed against the 54-year-old chestnut called Miranda v. Arizona , where the US Supreme Court set forth what is now called the "Miranda Warnings." The extensive discussion of custodial investigation and the inherently coercive atmosphere of the environment at the police station are instructive. The coercive atmosphere per se was key to SCOTUS' formulation of the warnings as a preemptive measure to precisely such confessions. In the words of the Supreme Court of the United States in Miranda.
“From these representative samples of interrogation techniques, the setting prescribed by the manuals and observed in practice becomes clear. In essence, it is this: To be alone with the subject is essential to prevent distraction and to deprive him of any outside support. The aura of confidence in his guilt undermines his will to resist. He merely confirms the preconceived story the police seek to have him describe. Patience and persistence, at times relentless questioning are employed. To obtain a confession, the interrogator must “patiently maneuver himself or his quarry into position from which the desired objective may be attained.” When normal procedures fail to produce the needed result, the police may resort to deceptive stratagems such as giving false legal advise. It is important to keep the subject off balance by trading on his insecurity about himself or his surroundings. ***Even without employing brutality, the “third degree” or the specific stratagems described above, the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals.” 
“…In each of these cases (Miranda, et al.), the defendant was thrust into an unfamiliar atmosphere and run through menacing police interrogation procedures.  ***It is obvious that such an interrogation environment is created for no purpose other than to subjugate the will of the individual to the will of his examiner.” 
The environment of the in-precinct custodial investigation was clearly the basis for what would later become famous as the “Miranda warnings.”
It is that environment that was considered in Morada when the Court did not allow the uncounseled extrajudicial confession because it did not appear to be voluntary. The Court, in Morada, reminded that Andan was not license for “the police to obtain confessions they cannot otherwise obtain through media reporters who are actually acting for the police.”
The DOJ’s invocation of Mr Ras’ admission as the basis for the charge it recommended to be filed brings to the fore a dilemma for media covering the “presentation of suspects” (in American slang, a “perp walk”) – a practice that itself ought to be stopped.
With the knowledge that law enforcement cannot legally question a suspect without affording the rights to counsel, a “perp walk” might be a strategy to obtain an extrajudicial confession without counsel, which law enforcement would otherwise not be able to obtain – which the Court in Morada warned about.
This being said, the alleged "voluntariness" and consequent admissibility of an uncounselled extrajudicial admission to media while captive have no effect on a clearly unwarranted warrantless arrest.
Such an admission cannot "cure" a defective warrantless arrest.
This language tracks the thinking of the Court in the Marcos-vintage Ilagan v. Ponce Enrile, where the Court considered a petition for habeas corpus for the three lawyers detained by virtue of an executive warrant of arrest mooted because of the issuance by a court of a warrant of arrest. The “curative” nature of the warrant of arrest in Ilagan was in relation to the legality of the detention being questioned by the habeas corpus petition because Rule 102, sec. 4 expressly provided that a detention by reason of a judicial order is beyond the purview of habeas corpus.
In Mr Mas’s case. the arrest remains defective and cannot be cured by an admission. This syllogism is dangerous not only because it is legally a non sequitur but also because it effectively clears the arresting officers of liability because of the supposedly curative nature of the uncounseled extrajudicial confession.
Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code makes any public officer who, without legal grounds, detains a person criminally liable. The penalties imposable vary in duration depending on the length of detention of the person illegally arrested.
Notably, the finding of the prosecutor that the arrest was unreasonable for lack of grounds under Rule 113, section 5 may be considered a violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights under Article III, section 2 – where an arrest is considered presumptively unreasonable unless done with a warrant. The Supreme Court has ruled, in Gumabon v. Director of Prisons and other subsequent cases, that "(o)nce a deprivation of a constitutional right is shown to exist, the court that rendered the judgment is deemed ousted of jurisdiction."
Perhaps, the DOJ ought not to have proceeded further at inquest than the unwarranted warrantless arrest. – Rappler.com
 People v. Marti, G.R. No. 81561. January 18, 1991.
 Sec. 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.
 Sec. 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
 G.R. No. 116437, March 3, 1997.
 G.R. No. 130612. May 11, 1999.
 G.R. No. 129723, May 19, 1999.
 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
 384 U.S. at 455.
 Id. at 457.