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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
The answer is no. It is not non-bailable. It is
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
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
the other hand, the Revised Rules of Court couched the provision on bail, viz:
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)
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
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.
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.
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
So you see, the rule is all offenses, including
plunder, are bailable. The popular media mouthpiece is the exception.