Speedy trial guidelines

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Friday, May 2, 2014


THE Supreme Court has come up with new guidelines aimed at decongesting jail facilities by enforcing the right of the accused persons to bail and to speedy trial.

In an en banc decision, the High Tribunal said that the guidelines shall also apply to persons currently under detention and awaiting trial.

The justices recognized the need to effectively implement existing policies enshrined in our Constitution in the context of decongesting our detention facilities and humanizing the condition of detained persons pending the hearing of their cases.

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Under the guidelines, an accused may move to have his or her bail amount set immediately and the executive judge must swiftly raffle off the case to a regular court. A motion by an accused seeking reduced bail shall be prioritized. A court order fixing the amount of bail would not be subject to appeal. For serious crimes, judges have 48 hours to set bail after hearing witnesses for both the prosecution and defense.

The SC also added new time limits to the provisions of Republic Act No. 8493 or the Speedy Trial Act of 1998. The guidelines require that a case be raffled off to a trial court three days after the filing of the criminal information. The arraignment must take place within 10 days from the date of the raffle. The trial must take place within 30 days after the pretrial conference.

Regular trials must be completed in 180 days while trial on judicial affidavits must be resolved after 60 days. The case against an accused may be dismissed for denial of the right to a speedy trial in the event the time limit is not observed.

Okay, first thing first.

On the right of the accused to post bail: I think this is good move especially for the purpose of decongesting our jails. There are many detainees with the capability to post bail but are denied such because of the nature of their cases. However, there are crimes that are not supposed to be bailable but the court grants the accused bail because the evidence of guilt is weak.

But judges should be prudent in granting bail to those charged with heinous crimes because of the possibility that they might escape. Look at what happened to Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr. The court granted him bail for health reasons but he is now nowhere to be found after he was convicted of parricide for killing his wife Alona.

On speedy trial: Such right is an advantage to both the accused and to the aggrieved party. If the accused is convicted immediately, at least he or she knows his/her sentence and is prepared to serve it. On the other hand, the aggrieved party can also achieve swift justice.

But there are so many factors why a case takes long to be resolved. One cause of delay is the dilatory tactics of the accused, especially if he is really guilty. His lawyers will move heaven and earth to drag the case for several years through legal maneuvers.

Aside from the dilatory tactics, we have to consider also the human factor. Judges are not robots or machines that they have to devote all their time to their work. They need to relax and spend time for themselves and their family.

Besides, some judges have sideline, like teaching in law schools. Others are handling two courts because of vacancies. The High Tribunal failed to address this problem by immediately appointing judges for vacant salas.

So this speedy trial order is baloney. If we are going to strictly follow this, many judges would be penalized. The case of Ecleo took eight years before it was finally resolved.

Even the SC has violated this law. How many certiorari, motions and petitions for review that the SC has left unacted? Worse, justices would sometimes flip-flop in their decisions. Remember the cityhood case of 16 municipalities? The SC flip-flopped five times. This is not to mention the corruption that has also penetrated our judicial system.

Okey lang kung mangurakot ang taga Customs, BIR ug taga-DPWH kay ang gobyerno ray maalkanse. Apan kung ang taga judiciary na gani ang mangurakot, mapagan ang hustisya.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 03, 2014.

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