Saturday, April 4, 2015

BENCH WARRANT - A.M. No. RTJ-12-2336

See -  A.M. No. RTJ-12-2336

A.M. No. RTJ-12-2336               November 12, 2014
(Formerly A.M. OCA-IPl No. 11-3695-RTJ)

ESTHER P. MAGLEO, Complainant,

"x x x.

It must be noted that complainant was only granted provisional liberty when she applied for bail. Such provisional liberty could be taken away if she would violate any of the undertakings stated therein. One of the conditions for bail is that the accused shall appear before the proper court whenever required by the court or the Rules of Court.35

As a consequence of failing to attend the trial when so required, a bench warrant was issued against complainant.1âwphi1

A bench warrant is defined as a writ issued directly by a judge toa law-enforcement officer, especially for the arrest of a person who has been held in contempt, has disobeyed a subpoena, or has to appear for a hearing or trial.36 The provision on bench warrant is expressed under Section 9, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court which states that "[w]hen a respondent released on bail fails to appear on the day fixed for the hearing, the court may issue another order of arrest or may order the bond for his appearance to be forfeited and confiscated, or both." (Underscoring supplied)

Jurisprudence dictates that the primary requisite before a bench warrant shall be issued is that the absent-party was duly informed of the hearing date but unjustifiably failed to attend so.37 As stated above, complainant was undeniably notified of the June 8, 2011 hearing but she failed to attend.

Complainant also averred that respondent judge committed erroneous conduct (1) when she issued a bench warrant without specifically stating the amount of bail bond and (2) for not motu proprio lifting the bail bond when complainant’s son and lawyer showed their willingness to apply for bail.

According to respondent judge, the June 9, 2011 order of arrest failed to state a bail bond because complainant jumped bail by failing to appear in court for hearing on June 8, 2011. The Court finds this acceptable because when an accused fails to appear in person as required, the bond shall be declared forfeited.38 Also, it is not required by the Rules of Court that the amount of new bail bond be stated in the bench warrant. The Court cannot chastise respondent judge for an act notrequired by the Rules. Absent any abuse of discretion, it is sufficient that the bail bond was fixed after complainant was arrested. Such would bethe proper time for the judge to consider whether to increase, decrease or retain the amount of bail based on the guidelines.39

Moreover, there is nothing in the Rules which mandates a judge to motu proprio lift the bench warrant once the accused expresses his intent to be released on bail. Without any provision to the contrary, Section 1, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court40 governs such that a motion must be filed to seek affirmative relief. In the present case, respondent judge acted within the scope of her authority when she required complainant’s son and lawyer to file an ex parte motion to lift the order of arrest. When the motion was filed and the prosecutor did not express any objection, respondent judge deemed it fit to impose the same amount of bail at P40,000.00. Respondent judge immediately entertained complainant’s son and lawyer when they came to her branch despite her scheduled hearing and as a result, complainant was released on that same day.

In the absence of a showing that the acts complained of were done with malice or intention to violate the law or disregard the Rules of Court or for some corrupt motive, they would, at best, constitute errors of judgment which do not amount to serious misconduct.41

x x x."