by John Lloyd Macunat

EMETERIA VILLAFLOR v. RICARDO SUMMERS, GR No. 16444, 1920-09-08

Facts:

petitioner prays that a writ of habeas corpus issue to restore her to her liberty

Villaflor... charged with the crime of adultery.

On this case coming on for trial... upon the petition of the assistant fiscal for the city of Manila... the court ordered... to submit her body to the examination of one or two competent doctors to determine if she was pregnant... or not.

accused refused to obey the order on the ground that such examination of her  person was a violation of the constitutional provision relating to self-incrimination.

Thereupon she was found in contempt of court and was ordered to be committed to

Bilibid Prison until she should permit the medical examination required by the court.

Issues:

whether the compelling of a woman to permit her body to be examined by physicians to determine if she is pregnant, violates... no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

Ruling:

The Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands, in two decisions, has seemed to limit the protection to a prohibition against compulsory testimonial self-incrimination.

The constitutional limitation was said to be "simply a... prohibition against legal process to extract from the defendant's own lips, against his will, an admission of his guilt."

Fully conscious that we are resolving a most extreme case in a sense,  which on first impression is a shock to one's sensibilities, we must nevertheless enforce the constitutional provision in this jurisdiction in accord with the policy and reason thereof, undeterred by... merely sentimental influences.

nce again we lay down the rule that the constitutional guaranty, that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, is limited to a prohibition against compulsory testimonial self-incrimination.  The... corollary to the proposition is that, on a proper showing and under an order of the trial court, an ocular inspection of the body of the accused is permissible.

It is a reasonable presumption that in an examination by reputable and disinterested physicians due care will be taken not to use violence and not to embarrass the patient any more than is absolutely necessary.

Principles:

Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands could permit substances... taken from the person of an accused to be offered in evidence, none of these even approach in apparent harshness an  order to make a woman, possibly innocent, to disclose her  body in all of its sanctity to the gaze of strangers.  We can only consistently consent... to the retention of a principle which would permit of such a result by adhering steadfastly to the proposition that the purpose of the constitutional provision was and is merely to prohibit testimonial compulsion.

No rule is intended to be so rigid as to embarrass the administration... of justice in its endeavor to ascertain the truth.  No accused person should be afraid of the use of any method which will tend to establish the truth.

no evidence of physical facts can for any substantial reason be held to be detrimental to the accused except in so far as the truth is to be avoided in order to acquit a guilty person.

Fully conscious that we are resolving a most extreme case in a sense,  which on first impression is a shock to one's sensibilities, we must nevertheless enforce the constitutional provision in this jurisdiction in accord with the policy and reason thereof, undeterred by... merely sentimental influences.

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