Jailhouse rock

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

In Elvis Presley’s song “Jailhouse Rock,” the message is to defy conventionality and embrace one’s individuality.

Today’s column discusses two cases that involve jail detention and what the concerned individual can do not to defy the law but to go against conventionality.

The long holidays during Christmas season would be a bad time to run afoul with the law. Lawyers would be on holiday break and courts would mostly be closed.

The worst thing that could happen is if a person gets detained without a warrant. Pursuant to Rule 112 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, when a warrantless arrest is made on a suspect, the latter can insist that a preliminary investigation be conducted. But he/she must file a waiver of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for the limited hours that a person arrested without a warrant can remain in detention.

Nonetheless, the law enforcement officers who are holding the suspect in custody, must immediately forward the request for preliminary investigation of the suspect/arrested person to the public prosecutor.

In Syrus J. Aluzan, Jose Henry L. Arellano and Ferdinand M. Lavin v. Eddie Fortunado, G.R. No. 249274, which came down on August 30, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that once the suspect/arrested person requests for a preliminary investigation to be conducted, the law enforcement officers must “promptly forward the request” to the investigating prosecutor pursuant to Section 6, Rule 112 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. Failing in which, the law enforcement officers can be held administratively liable for simple neglect of duty.

While in People of the Philippines v. Rommel Jimenez y Decena, G.R. No. 263278, October 11, 2023, the Supreme Court cautioned against a hasty identification of a suspect by one who is not in a good position to really observe the suspect. Thus:

“The Court, in the case at bar, reiterates that great care should be taken in considering the identification of an accused, especially when this identification is made by a sole witness, and the judgment in the case totally depends on the reliability of the identification. Without a doubt, the constitutional presumption of innocence that an accused enjoys is not demolished by an identification that is full of uncertainties.”

For the longest time, trial courts had seemed to rely too much on eyewitness identification without factoring in the “danger signals” that could affect the said witness’ keen sense of observation. Some of the matters that should be considered are: (1) Was the witness aware that a crime just happened such that he/she instinctively must look for the suspect? (2) Were other witnesses able to identify the same person as the suspect? (3) Was the witness given ample opportunity to see the suspect? and (4)Is the witness able to describe the distinctive physical features of the suspect?

                 A person who is placed in detention is definitely not a rock star. Especially during the Christmas holidays when one must be in the company of his/her loved ones, spending it in jail instead could be a terrible thing.

One must know what to do when he/she finds himself/herself under a jailhouse rock.

                (The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor, MCLE lecturer, bar reviewer and a book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).