Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A convict cannot be released on recognizance or bail; except on probation.

WHITE vs. BUGTAS, AM No. RTJ-02-1738, Nov. 17, 2005.

"X x x.

At the outset, it must be noted that Bagaporo was sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from four years and two months to eight years and one day.  It is not disputed that he began to serve sentence on February 9, 1996.  Counting four years and two months from said date the minimum period of Bagaporo’s sentence should have been completed on April 9, 2000.  Hence, we agree with the observation of the Investigating Justice that it is wrong for respondent to claim that Bagaporo had already served the minimum of his sentence at the time that he was granted bail on recognizance, that is, on February 16, 2000.[18]

Furthermore, it is patently erroneous for respondent to release a convict on recognizance. 

Section 24, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court is plain and clear in prohibiting the grant of bail after conviction by final judgment and after the convict has started to serve sentence.  It provides:

SEC. 24.  No bail after final judgment; exception. – An accused shall not be allowed bail after the judgment has become final, unless he has applied for probation before commencing to serve sentence, the penalty and the offense being within the purview of the Probation Law.  In case the accused has applied for probation, he may be allowed temporary liberty under his bail, but if no bail was filed or the accused is incapable of filing one, the court may allow his release on recognizance to the custody of a responsible member of the communityIn no case shall bail be allowed after the accused has commenced to serve sentence.[19]

The only exception to the above-cited provision of the Rules of Court is when the convict has applied for probation before he commences to serve sentence, provided the penalty and the offense are within the purview of the Probation Law.

In the instant case, there is no showing that Bagaporo applied for probation.  In fact at the time of his application for release on recognizance, he was already serving sentence.  When he was about to complete service of the minimum of his sentence, he filed an application for parole.  However, there is no evidence to show that the Board of Pardons and Parole approved his application.  We agree with the Investigating Justice in holding that a convict’s release from prison before he serves the full term of his sentence is either due to good conduct allowances, as provided under Act No. 1533[20] and Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code, or through the approval of the convict’s application for parole.  A good conduct allowance under Act No. 1533 and Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code may be granted by the Director of Prisons (now Director of the Bureau of Corrections), while the approval of an application for parole is sanctioned by the Board of Pardons and Parole.  In addition, a convict may be released from prison in cases where he is granted pardon by the President pursuant to the latter’s pardoning power under Section 19, Article VII of the Constitution.[21]  In the present case, aside from the fact that there is no evidence to prove that Bagaporo’s application for parole was approved by the Board of Pardons and Parole, there is neither any showing that he was extended good conduct allowances by the Director of Prisons, nor was he granted pardon by the President.  Hence, there is no basis for respondent in allowing Bagaporo to be released on recognizance.

Moreover, respondent should know that the provisions of Sections 5 and 16, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court apply only to an accused undergoing preventive imprisonment during trial or on appeal. They do not apply to a person convicted by final judgment and already serving sentence.

We have held time and again that a judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules.[22]  It is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and be aware of well-settled authoritative doctrines.[23]  He should strive for excellence exceeded only by his passion for truth, to the end that he be the personification of justice and the rule of law.[24]  When the law is sufficiently basic, a judge owes it to his office to simply apply it; anything less than that would be gross ignorance of the law.[25]  In the present case, we find respondent’s ignorance or utter disregard of the import of the provisions of Sections 5, 16 and 24, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court as tantamount to gross ignorance of the law and procedure.

As to the imposable penalty, Section 8(9), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended, classifies gross ignorance of the law or procedure as a serious charge.  Under Section 11(A) of the same Rule, the imposable penalty, in case the respondent is found culpable of a serious charge, ranges from a fine of not less than P20,000.00 but not more than P40,000.00 to dismissal from the service.

This is not the first time that respondent judge was found guilty of gross ignorance of the law and procedure.  In Docena-Caspe vs. Bugtas,[26] respondent was fined P20,000.00 for having granted bail to an accused in a murder case without conducting hearing for the purpose of determining whether the evidence of guilt is strong.  He was warned that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.  Hence, we deem it proper to impose the penalty of P40,000.00.

X x x."