THE Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petition for bail filed by former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste, who was convicted by the Makati regional trial court (RTC) for homicide charges.
Voting 3-2, the SC’s Third Division through Associate Justice Renato Corona affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) denying Leviste’s application for bail even while it is hearing the merits of the case.
In his decision, Corona said the CA did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it denied bail to Leviste on account of his conviction by the Makati RTC, which made him a flight risk.
The SC said the CA was correct in invoking a principle in the matter of bail pending appeal, that the discretion to extend bail during the course of appeal should be exercised “with grave caution and only for strong reasons.”
“After conviction by the trial court, the presumption of innocence terminates and accordingly, the constitutional right to bail ends. From then on, the grant of bail is subject to judicial discretion,” said the Court.
The Court further cited Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, which provides that “upon conviction by the RTC of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment, admission to bail is discretionary.”
The SC held that “bail is not a sick pass for an ailing or aged detainee or a prisoner needing medical care outside the prison facility.”
It said that at the post-conviction state, “the accused faces a certain prison sentence and thus may be more likely to flee regardless of bail bonds or other release conditions.”
Concurring with Corona were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Antonio Eduardo Nachura.
Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Jose Catral-Mendoza dissented.
Leviste is originally charged by DOJ prosecutors with murder for shooting his longtime friend and assistant Rafael de las Alas in January 2007.
The case, however, was downgraded to homicide, for which he was found guilty and subsequently convicted to 12 years in jail.
The former governor, who owed up to the killing but claimed it was self-defense, was originally charged with the murder.
While his appeal is pending before the CA, the 70-year-old Leviste asked that he be granted bail, citing his advanced age and health condition.
But the appellate court ruled that petitioner “failed to show that he suffers from ailment of such gravity that his continued confinement during trial will permanently impair his health or put his life in danger.” (ECV/Sunnex)