Constitutional Law, Remedial Law

People vs. Plaza G.R. No 176933 Oct. 2, 2009 Right to Bail

 

FACTS:

Raising only questions of law, the People’s petition for review on certiorari assails the Decision of the CA which affirmed the Order of the RTC fixing bail for the temporary liberty of Luis Bucalon Plaza who was indicted for Murder.

The defense contended that in view of Judge Buyser’s ruling that the prosecution evidence is sufficient to prove only Homicide, he could be released on bail. He thus prayed that the bail bond for his temporary liberty be fixed at P40,000.00 which he claimed was the usual bond for Homicide in the RTC of Surigao City and Surigao del Norte.

In its Opposition to Motion to Fix Amount of Bail Bond, the prosecution contended that the case being for Murder, it is non-bailable as the imposable penalty is reclusion temporal to death; that it is the public prosecutor who has exclusive jurisdiction to determine what crime the accused should be charged with; that the accused should have filed a motion/application to bail and not just a motion to fix the amount of the bail bond; that the accused had already waived his right to apply for bail at that stage of the proceedings; that Judge Buyser’s March 14, 2002 Order, being a mere opinion and not a ruling or a dispositive part thereof, produced no legal effect inasmuch as it had no jurisdiction to rule on a matter outside the Demurrer; and that under the Rules, the prosecution could still prove the existence of treachery on rebuttal after the defense has rested its case.

 

ISSUE:

Is bail available to an accused charged of a capital offense before conviction?

How about after conviction, but while pending appeal?

 

RULING:

Section 4 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, provides that all persons in custody shall, before conviction by a regional trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, be admitted to bail as a matter of right.

The exercise by the trial court of its discretionary power to grant bail to an accused charged with a capital offense thus depends on whether the evidence of guilt is strong. “[W]hen bail is discretionary, a hearing, whether summary or otherwise in the discretion of the court, should first be conducted to determine the existence of strong evidence or lack of it, against the accused to enable the judge to make an intelligent assessment of the evidence presented by the parties. A summary hearing is defined as “such brief and speedy method of receiving and considering the evidence of guilt as is practicable and consistent with the purpose of hearing which is merely to determine the weight of evidence for the purposes of bail.

The People’s recourse to Section 5, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure to support its contention that respondent should be denied bail is unavailing, for said Section clearly speaks of an application for bail filed by the accused after a judgment of conviction has already been handed down by the trial court.

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