Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Is Plunder Bailable or Non-bailable?

You must have read and heard this from the media countless of times: plunder is a non-bailable offense. And no one cared. But I guess it’s important to put the subject in proper perspective. Given media’s broad reach, clout, and influence, I won’t be surprised if the “public” has come to believe so by now.
“But isn’t it, in fact, non-bailable?” you might ask.
The answer is no. It is not non-bailable. It is bailable.
Nowhere in R.A. 7080, the law on plunder, does it say that plunder is a non-bailable offense. The reason is R.A. 7080, cannot go against the fundamental law of the land, the Constitution.
The right to bail is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, specifically under the Bill of Rights, viz:
ARTICLE III  BILL OF RIGHTS
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Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.
On the other hand, the Revised Rules of Court couched the provision on bail, viz:
RULE 114 Bail
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Section 4. Bail, a matter of right; exception. — All persons in custody shall be admitted to bail as a matter of right, with sufficient sureties, or released on recognize 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. (4a)
Section 5. 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 convicting 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.
If you notice the constitutional provision grants all, before conviction, the right to bail, and excepting only “those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong.” One need not only be charged with an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua, but that the circumstances of its commission must be such that the strength of guilt may be appreciated against the accused. Meaning, while plunder is an offense punished by life imprisonment, which is the maximum penalty for violations of special laws—what reclusion perpetua is to violations of the Revised Penal Code—the evidence of guilt has to be strong for it to be taken out of the guarantee on bail.
On the other hand, the provision of the Rules of Court on bail takes its guarantee a notch further, by adding “before or after conviction” in cases commenced and heard in, or filed before a “Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, or Municipal Circuit Trial Court,” or offenses punished by no more than six months, as one of two conditions under which the right to bail may be availed of as a matter of right. While in cases filed before the Regional Trial Court, “before conviction of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment. (4a),” in keeping with the letter of the Constitutional.
The rule on bail continues, in its section 5, to spotlight its bias for availability of the remedy of bail to the accused, by making it accessible even upon or after conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment. This time, however, it is by discretion of the court, and in cases where the penalty imposed by the court is more than six months, there are certain requirements and conditions that must be met in order to keep the accused’s provisional liberty while awaiting the outcome of the appeal, in cases where appeal is duly perfected.
Interestingly, while the Constitution speaks only of offenses punished by reclusion perpetua as offenses for which bail is conditional, the Rules stretches it to include offenses punished by life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is the maximum imprisonment penalty for crimes violating a special law, while reclusion perpetua is the maximum imprisonment penalty for crimes violating the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, also called felonies. Death penalty was outlawed by R.A. 9346.
The implication would have been, for crimes violating special laws, like plunder, bail would be available regardless of the extent of penalty. But thanks to the Court, by its rule-making power, it wisely preempted the anomalous scenario where a crime as reprehensible as one punished in the Revised Penal Code would be treated differently (lightly) simply because it is not included in its codification.

So you see, the rule is all offenses, including plunder, are bailable. The popular media mouthpiece is the exception.

1 comment:

  1. Is there jurisprudence supporting this opinion?

    ReplyDelete