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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 10198. March 31, 1915. ]

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CIPRIANO AGCAOILI, Defendant-Appellant.

Felix Socias for Appellant.

Solicitor-General Corpus for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. MURDER; REVERSAL OF JUDGMENT; FAILURE TO TAKE EVIDENCE ON PLEA OF GUILTY. — A judgment convicting the defendant and sentencing him to death, brought here for review en consulta, reversed and new trial granted, the judgment of conviction having been entered upon the defendant’s plea of "guilty" on arraignment, and without the taking of evidence, on the ground that a review of the whole record raises a reasonable doubt as to whether the accused fully understood the precise nature and effect of his plea.

2. ID.; SENTENCE ON PLEA OF GUILTY; TAKING OF EVIDENCE. — While it is true that a judgment convicting and sentencing a defendant may lawfully be pronounced upon a solemn plea of "guilty" in open court and on arraignment, entered by the accused with full knowledge of the meaning and effect of his plea, nevertheless, where the complaint charges a capital offense, the possibility of misunderstanding or mistake in so grave a matter justifies and in most instances requires the taking of such available evidence in support of the allegations of the information as the trial judge may deem necessary to remove al; reasonable possibility that the accused might have entered his plea of "guilty" improvidently, or without a clear and precise understanding of its meaning and effect.


D E C I S I O N


CARSON, J.:


The accused in this case was convicted of the crime of assassination upon his formal plea of "guilty" when arraigned in the court below, and sentenced to death. The record is now before us en consulta.

No evidence was taken at the trial and after a careful examination of the whole record we cannot rid our minds of a reasonable doubt as to whether the accused did or did not thoroughly understand the precise nature and effect of his plea upon arraignment. We are not wholly satisfied that he understood that in pleading "guilty" of the crime charged in the information, he pleaded guilty to its commission marked with all the aggravating circumstances alleged therein, and that the penalty prescribed for the commission of the crime charged in the information, in the manner and form in which it is there charged, is death.

In response to a suggestion by the trial judge that he might withdraw his plea of guilty and substitute therefor a plea of not guilty, the accused said that he did not desire to do so because "he was responsible for the death of the two persons mentioned in the information."cralaw virtua1aw library

We are inclined to think that while he undoubtedly in- tended on that occasion, as also when he entered his plea of guilty, to confess and admit that he took the lives of the persons mentioned in the information, he did not intend to admit that he committed the offense with the aggravating circumstances mentioned therein. We conclude therefore that the judgment convicting and sentencing the accused should be reversed, without costs in this instance, and the record remanded to the court below for a new trial.

In this connection we deem it proper to invite attention to the rule of practice recommended in the cases of United States v. Talbanos (6 Phil. Rep., 541), and United States v. Rota (9 Phil. Rep., 426). In the latter case we said:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"There is no provision of law which prohibits the taking of testimony where the accused enters a plea of ’guilty,’ and that procedure is the proper and prudent course, especially in cases where grave crimes are charged, and where the court is required to exercise its discretion in imposing a more or less severe penalty in view of all the circumstances attending the commission of the crime. In discussing this question in the case of the United States v. Talbanos (6 Phil. Rep., 541), it was said (p. 543):jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"‘The procedure for the trial of criminal causes makes no specific provision for the trial of a cause when the defendant pleads guilty. We are of the opinion, and so hold, that the Courts of First Instance may sentence defendants in criminal causes who plead guilty to the offense charged in the complaint, without the necessity of taking testimony. However, in all cases, and especially in cases where the punishment to be inflicted is severe, the court should be sure that the defendant fully understands the nature of the charges preferred against him and the character of the punishment to be imposed before sentencing him. While there is no law requiring it, yet in every case under the plea of guilty where the penalty may be death it is advisable for the court to call witnesses for the purpose of establishing the guilt and the degree of culpability of the defendant. This, however, must be left to the discretion of the trial court. Nevertheless, if the trial court shall deem it necessary and advisable to examine witnesses in any case where the defendant pleads guilty, he should comply in the taking of said testimony with said section 32 of General Orders No. 58.’"

While it is true that a judgment convicting and sentencing a defendant may lawfully be pronounced upon a solemn plea of "guilty" in open court and on arraignment, entered by the accused with full knowledge of the meaning and effect of his plea, nevertheless, where the complaint charges a capital offense, the possibility of misunderstanding or mistake in so grave a matter, justifies and in most instances requires the taking of such available evidence in support of the allegations of the information as the trial judge may deem necessary to remove all reasonable possibility that the accused might have entered his plea of "guilty" improvidently, or without a clear and precise understanding of its meaning and effect. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson, Moreland, Trent and Araullo, JJ., concur.

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