Latest News

May a person charged of a non-bailable offense be freed while the case is ongoing trial other than petition for bail?

When a crime is committed, the victim [private person or government office or official – law enforcers] can directly file a case before the Office of the City Prosecutor [OCP], who will determine if there is probable cause [probability that a crime may have been committed] to charge the offended party in court.

Once a Complaint-Affidavit is filed, the OCP will conduct a preliminary investigation by issuing a subpoena requiring respondent to file a Counter-Affidavit. Thereafter, the OCP will make a decision known as Resolution depending if there is sufficient proof to charge the culprit.

If the evidence is insufficient, the OCP will dismiss the case, otherwise it will file Information in court. Within 10 days from receipt thereof, the court will determine if there is probable cause for issuance of a warrant of arrest. More often than not, the Court will issue a warrant of arrest so it can acquire jurisdiction over the person of the accused, who may post a bail for his provisional liberty.

Once he is arrested or has posted bail, the court will set a date for arraignment and pre-trial. At the pre-trial, the parties will agree on the issues to be tried and dates of trial – for the presentation of their respective evidence. After the trial, which must be terminated within 180 days, the court has 90 days to render a decision.

The problem is when accused has no money to post bail and those charged of a heinous crime, which is non-bailable where the right to bail is not a matter of right, but of discretion. In such case, they will be detained until the case is dismissed.

The common problem in litigation is delay. In criminal cases, unreasonable delay is a violation of one’s constitutional right to speedy trial. A recent Supreme Court resolution provides a legal remedy for unreasonable delay in criminal cases. The case is Atty. Reyes v. Director, G.R. No. 254838, 17January 2023, which was uploaded on 20 January 2023.

On June 5, 2014, an Information for a non-bailable plunder was filed against Atty. Jessica Reyes. On 09 July 2014, the Sandiganbayan [court] issued a Commitment Order to detain her at BJMP- Taguig City. She has been detained close to nine years without knowing when trial will end.

She filed a petition for habeas corpus [legal remedy to question the legality of one’s detention] based on alleged deprivation of liberty and delay. She argued her detention is longer than any other accused similarly charged with plunder— former President GMA was detained for 1,387 days prior to her acquittal; former senator Revilla, Jr. was detained for 1,643 days prior to his acquittal; senator Ejercito, Jr. was detained for 1,188 days and released on bail; and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile was detained for 413 days and released on bail.

The Office of the Solicitor General [lawyer for the government] argued that Atty. Reyes is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus since she was detained pursuant to a non-bailable charge of plunder and arrested based on a warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan.

Our Honorable Supreme Court ruled that a petition for habeas corpus is a procedural device to scrutinize the restraints on liberty by the executive or judicial branch of government or by a private person.

It has one objective – to inquire the cause of detention of a person. If the inquiry reveals that the detention is illegal, the court orders the release of that person. If however, the detention is proven lawful, then the proceeding in the habeas corpus is terminated. It is a remedy for violation of a constitutional right. The writ of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal detention under Section 1, Rule 102, Revised Rules of Court.

While the writ is generally not available to a person whose liberty is restrained under process issued by a court, yet when custody and delay becomes vexatious, capricious and oppressive amounting to violation of constitutional right to speedy trial, the writ of habeas corpus may be provisionally availed of. Otherwise stated, if custody of a person becomes illegal due to the grave abuse of his constitutional rights, the person deprived of liberty may avail habeas corpus.

Atty. Reyes’ confinement, though in accordance with a court order, has become oppressive in violation of her right to liberty and right to speedy trial. She was detained for nine long years when the case was filed in 2014. This ruling does not adjudge her guilt or innocence. Instead, as the Court of last resort, it just upholds the Constitution and protects it when needed.

Tags: , ,

You May Also Like

Most Read