SC ruling points out convicts no longer have right to bail

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


IS HOMICIDE convict SPO1 Adonis Dumpit allowed to post bail? What does the Supreme Court (SC) say about the granting of bail to those convicted by the trial court?

The Constitution guarantees every accused the right to bail, said retired judge Meinrado Paredes.

Even if the accused committed a non-bailable offense, he can still apply for and may be granted bail by the court if the evidence of guilt against him is not strong, said Paredes, a law professor and former executive judge of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court.

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He stressed that the accused is presumed innocent before conviction.

But the situation is different for those convicted of crime.

End

“After conviction by the trial court, the presumption of innocence terminates and, accordingly, the constitutional right to bail ends,” the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Jose Antonio Leviste versus the Court of Appeals and People.

In its March 17, 2010 decision, the high court ruled that the granting of bail is subject to judicial discretion and “must be exercised with grave caution and only for strong reasons.”

Leviste, the former Batangas governor, was charged with the murder of Rafael delas Alas. The Makati City Regional Trial Court convicted him of homicide and sentenced him to a prison term of six to 12 years.

Leviste appealed his conviction before the Court of Appeals (CA) and applied for admission to bail pending appeal, citing his old age and health condition.

Caution

But the appeals court denied Leviste's application for bail. The CA stated that the discretion to extend bail pending appeal should be exercised “with grave caution and only for strong reasons.”

Leviste elevated his petition to the SC, arguing that an application for bail by an appellant sentenced by the trial court to a penalty of more than six years’
imprisonment should automatically be granted.

In the decision penned by dismissed chief justice Renato Corona, the high court pointed out that rules authorize the proper courts to exercise discretion in the grant of bail pending appeal to those convicted by the trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

Citing jurisprudence, it ruled that bail is “not a sick pass for an ailing or aged detainee or a prisoner needing medical care outside the prison facility.”

‘Mockery’

“In our jurisdiction, the trend towards a strict attitude towards the allowance of bail pending appeal is anchored on the principle that judicial discretion, particularly with respect to extending bail, should be exercised not with laxity but with caution and only for strong reasons,” the SC ruled.

It said that allowing a convict to post bail would cause “frivolous and time-wasting appeals, which will make a mockery of our criminal justice system and court processes.”

Letting a convict post bail may destroy the deterrent effect of criminal laws, the high court said.

It said that in granting bail, it has to consider the “delicate balance between the interests of society and those of the accused.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 07, 2014.

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