Lessons from The Mark Jimenez Case

As the recent decision made by the Supreme Court on the extradition case of Mark Jimenez has stirred a hornet’s nest and has triggered a spate of debates we would like to highlight and elucidate the lessons and doctrines enunciated in the case. It is also worthy to note that the issues in the case are novel and should have a great impact on future extradition cases. 

On the issue whether Mark Jimenez is entitled to notice and hearing before a warrant for his arrest can be issued, the Supreme Court stated that an extraditee is not entitled to such privilege and gave the proper procedure that should be followed in extradition cases, to wit:

“Since this is a matter of first impression, we deem it wise to restate the proper procedure: 

Upon receipt of a petition for extradition and its supporting documents, the judge must study them and make, as soon as possible, a prima facie finding whether (a) they are sufficient in form and substance, (b) they show compliance with the Extradition Treaty and Law, and (c) the person sought is extraditable.  At his discretion, the judge may require the submission of further documentation or may personally examine the affiants and witnesses of the petitioner.  If, in spite of this study and examination, no prima facie finding is possible, the petition may be dismissed at the discretion of the judge.

On the other hand, if the presence of a prima facie case is determined, then the magistrate must immediately issue a warrant for the arrest of the extraditee, who is at the same time summoned to answer the petition and to appear at scheduled summary hearings.  Prior to the issuance of the warrant, the judge must not inform or notify the potential extraditee of the pendency of the petition, lest the latter be given the opportunity to escape and frustrate the proceedings.  In our opinion, the foregoing procedure will _best serve the ends of justice_ in extradition cases.”

On the issue whether Mark Jimenez is entitled to bail and to provisional liberty while the extradition proceedings are pending, the Court held that: 

“As suggested by the use of the word _conviction,_ the constitutional provision on bail quoted above, as well as Section 4 of Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, applies only when a person has been arrested and detained for violation of Philippine criminal laws.  It does not apply to extradition proceedings, because extradition courts do not render judgments of conviction or acquittal. 

Moreover, the constitutional right to bail _flows from the presumption of innocence in favor of every accused who should not be subjected to the loss of freedom as thereafter he would be entitled to acquittal, unless his guilt be proved beyond reasonable doubt._ It follows that the constitutional provision on bail will not apply to a case like extradition, where the presumption of innocence is not at issue.”

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That the offenses for which Jimenez is sought to be extradited are bailable in the United States is not an argument to grant him one in the present case.  To stress, extradition proceedings are separate and distinct from the trial for the offenses for which he is charged.  He should apply for bail before the courts trying the criminal cases against him, not before the extradition court.

On the issue of denial of due process as claimed by Jimenez, the Court declared that:

“Contrary to his contention, his detention prior to the conclusion of the extradition proceedings does not amount to a violation of his right to due process. We reiterate the familiar doctrine that the essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard but, at the same time, point out that the doctrine does not always call for a prior opportunity to be heard. Where the circumstances — such as those present in an extradition case —  call for it, a subsequent opportunity to be heard is enough. In the present case, respondent will be given full opportunity to be heard subsequently, when the extradition court hears the Petition for Extradition.  Hence, there is no violation of his right to due process and fundamental fairness.

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It is also worth noting that before the US government requested the extradition of respondent, proceedings had already been conducted in that country.  But  because he left the jurisdiction of the requesting state before those proceedings could be completed, it was hindered from continuing with the due processes prescribed under its laws.  His invocation of due process now has thus become hollow.  He already had that opportunity in the requesting state; yet, instead of taking it, he ran away. 

In denying his right to bail, the Court also took notice of the fact that the government has to fulfill its treaty obligations and that the country cannot be a haven for those who seek to avoid extradition, thus:

In this light, would it be proper and just for the government to increase the risk of violating its treaty obligations in order to accord Respondent Jimenez his personal liberty in the span of time that it takes to resolve the Petition for Extradition?  His supposed immediate deprivation of liberty without the due process that he had previously shunned pales against the government_s interest in fulfilling its Extradition Treaty obligations and in cooperating with the world community in the suppression of crime.   Indeed, _[c]onstitutional liberties do not exist in a vacuum; the due process rights accorded to individuals must be carefully balanced against exigent and palpable government interests._

Too, we cannot allow our country to be a haven for fugitives, cowards and weaklings who, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, choose to run and hide.  Hence, it would not be good policy to increase the risk of violating our treaty obligations if, through overprotection or excessively liberal treatment, persons sought to be extradited are able to evade arrest or escape from our custody.  In the absence of any provision — in the Constitution, the law or the treaty — expressly guaranteeing the right to bail in extradition proceedings, adopting the practice of not granting them bail, as a general rule, would be a step towards deterring fugitives from coming to the Philippines to hide from or evade their prosecutors.