Bail to the Chief!

Now that the wheels of justice are starting to grind in the cases against former president Joseph Estrada, people are now being exposed to certain procedural matters with regard to criminal prosecution.  Recently, history was made when warrants of arrest were issued against Erap prompting him and his lawyers to troop to the Sandiganbayan and file for bail.  In this issue of the Law Professor, we shall now examine the pertinent provisions of law regarding bail.

What is bail?  Section 1, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure defines bail, to wit:

“Bail is the security given for the release of a person in custody of the law, furnished by him or a bondsman, to guarantee his appearance before any court as required under the conditions hereinafter specified. Bail may be given in the form of corporate surety, property bond, cash deposit, or recognizance.” 

Bail as a matter of right:

All persons in custody shall be admitted to bail as a matter of right, with sufficient sureties, or released on recognizance as prescribed by law or this Rule (a)before or after conviction by the Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, or Municipal Circuit Trial Court, and (b) before conviction by the Regional Trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment. 

Bail;when discretionary:

Upon conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment, admission to bail is discretionary. The application for bail may be filed and acted upon by the trial court despite the filing of a notice of appeal, provided it has not transmitted the original record to the appellate court. However, if the decision of the trial court conviction the accused changed the nature of the offense from non-bailable to bailable, the application for bail can only be filed with and resolved by the appellate court.

Should the court grant the application, the accused may be allowed to continue on provisional liberty during the pendency of the appeal under the same bail subject to the consent of the bondsman.

If the penalty imposed by the trial court is imprisonment exceeding six (6) years, the accused shall be denied bail, or his bail shall be cancelled upon a showing by the prosecution, with notice to the accuse, of the following or other similar circumstances:

(a) That he is a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration;

(b) That he has previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification;

(c) That he committed the offense while under probation, parole, or conditional pardon;

(d) That the circumstances of his case indicate the probability of flight if released on bail; or

(e) That there is undue risk that he may commit another crime during the pendency of the appeal.

The appellate court may, motu proprio or on motion of any party, review the resolution of the Regional Trial Court after notice to the adverse party in either case. 

Bail in capital offenses:

No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless of the state of the criminal prosecution. 

Bail, where filed:

Bail in the amount fixed may be filed with the court where the case is pending, or in the absence or unavailability of the judge thereof, with any regional trial judge, metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge, or municipal circuit trial judge in the province, city or municipality. If the accused is arrested in a province, city, or municipality other than where the case is pending, bail may also be filed with any regional trial court of said place, of if no judge thereof is available, with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge, or municipal circuit trial judge therein.

(b) Where the grant of bail is a matter of discretion, or the accused seeks to be released on recognizance, the application may only be filed in the court where the case is pending, whether on preliminary investigation, trial, or appeal.

Any person in custody who is not yet charged in court may apply for bail with any court in the province, city, or municipality where he is held. 

(to be concluded)