"x x x.
Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court provides:
Sec. 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.
Should the court grant the application, the accused may be allowed to continue on provisional liberty during the pendency of the appeal under the same bail subject to the consent of the bondsman.
If the penalty imposed by the trial court is imprisonment exceeding six (6) years, the accused shall be denied bail, or his bail shall be cancelled upon a showing by the prosecution, with notice to the accused, of the following or other similar circumstances:
(a) That he is a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration;
(b) That he has previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or violated the conditions of his bail without a valid justification;
(c) That he committed the offense while under probation, parole, or conditional pardon;
(d) That the circumstances of his case indicate the probability of flight if released on bail; or
(e) That there is undue risk that he may commit another crime during the pendency of the appeal.
The appellate court may, motu proprio or on motion of any party, review the resolution of the Regional Trial Court after notice to the adverse party in either case. (emphasis supplied)”
x x x
“The third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 applies to two scenarios where the penalty imposed on the appellant applying for bail is imprisonment exceeding six years. The first scenario deals with the circumstances enumerated in the said paragraph (namely, recidivism, quasi-recidivism, habitual delinquency or commission of the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration; previous escape from legal confinement, evasion of sentence or violation of the conditions of his bail without a valid justification; commission of the offense while under probation, parole or conditional pardon; circumstances indicating the probability of flight if released on bail; undue risk of committing another crime during the pendency of the appeal; or other similar circumstances) not present. The second scenario contemplates the existence of at least one of the said circumstances.
The implications of this distinction are discussed with erudition and clarity in the commentary of retired Supreme Court Justice Florenz D. Regalado, an authority in remedial law:
Under the present revised Rule 114, the availability of bail to an accused may be summarized in the following rules:
x x x x x x x x x
e. After conviction by the Regional Trial Court wherein a penalty of imprisonment exceeding 6 years but not more than 20 years is imposed, and not one of the circumstances stated in Sec. 5 or any other similar circumstance is present and proved, bail is a matter of discretion (Sec. 5);
f. After conviction by the Regional Trial Court imposing a penalty of imprisonment exceeding 6 years but not more than 20 years, and any of the circumstances stated in Sec. 5 or any other similar circumstance is present and proved, no bail shall be granted by said court (Sec. 5); x x x24 (emphasis supplied)
Retired Court of Appeals Justice Oscar M. Herrera, another authority in remedial law, is of the same thinking:
Bail is either a matter of right or of discretion. It is a matter of right when the offense charged is not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. On the other hand, upon conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, bail becomes a matter of discretion.
Similarly, if the court imposed a penalty of imprisonment exceeding six (6) years then bail is a matter of discretion, except when any of the enumerated circumstances under paragraph 3 of Section 5, Rule 114 is present then bail shall be denied. (emphasis supplied)
In the first situation, bail is a matter of sound judicial discretion. This means that, if none of the circumstances mentioned in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 is present, the appellate court has the discretion to grant or deny bail. An application for bail pending appeal may be denied even if the bail-negating circumstances in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 are absent. In other words, the appellate court’s denial of bail pending appeal where none of the said circumstances exists does not, by and of itself, constitute abuse of discretion.
On the other hand, in the second situation, the appellate court exercises a more stringent discretion, that is, to carefully ascertain whether any of the enumerated circumstances in fact exists. If it so determines, it has no other option except to deny or revoke bail pending appeal. Conversely, if the appellate court grants bail pending appeal, grave abuse of discretion will thereby be committed.
Given these two distinct scenarios, therefore, any application for bail pending appeal should be viewed from the perspective of two stages: (1) the determination of discretion stage, where the appellate court must determine whether any of the circumstances in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 is present; this will establish whether or not the appellate court will exercise sound discretion or stringent discretion in resolving the application for bail pending appeal and (2) the exercise of discretion stage where, assuming the appellant’s case falls within the first scenario allowing the exercise of sound discretion, the appellate court may consider all relevant circumstances, other than those mentioned in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114, including the demands of equity and justice; on the basis thereof, it may either allow or disallow bail.
On the other hand, if the appellant’s case falls within the second scenario, the appellate court’s stringent discretion requires that the exercise thereof be primarily focused on the determination of the proof of the presence of any of the circumstances that are prejudicial to the allowance of bail. This is so because the existence of any of those circumstances is by itself sufficient to deny or revoke bail. Nonetheless, a finding that none of the said circumstances is present will not automatically result in the grant of bail. Such finding will simply authorize the court to use the less stringent sound discretion approach.
Petitioner disregards the fine yet substantial distinction between the two different situations that are governed by the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114. Instead, petitioner insists on a simplistic treatment that unduly dilutes the import of the said provision and trivializes the established policy governing the grant of bail pending appeal.
In particular, a careful reading of petitioner’s arguments reveals that it interprets the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 to cover all situations where the penalty imposed by the trial court on the appellant is imprisonment exceeding six years. For petitioner, in such a situation, the grant of bail pending appeal is always subject to limited discretion, that is, one restricted to the determination of whether any of the five bail-negating circumstances exists. The implication of this position is that, if any such circumstance is present, then bail will be denied. Otherwise, bail will be granted pending appeal.
Petitioner’s theory therefore reduces the appellate court into a mere fact-finding body whose authority is limited to determining whether any of the five circumstances mentioned in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 exists.
This unduly constricts its “discretion” into merely filling out the checklist of circumstances in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 in all instances where the penalty imposed by the Regional Trial Court on the appellant is imprisonment exceeding six years. In short, petitioner’s interpretation severely curbs the discretion of the appellate court by requiring it to determine a singular factual issue — whether any of the five bail-negating circumstances is present.”
x x x
“The development over time of these rules reveals an orientation towards a more restrictive approach to bail pending appeal. It indicates a faithful adherence to the bedrock principle, that is, bail pending appeal should be allowed not with leniency but with grave caution and only for strong reasons.
The earliest rules on the matter made all grants of bail after conviction for a non-capital offense by the Court of First Instance (predecessor of the Regional Trial Court) discretionary. The 1988 amendments made applications for bail pending appeal favorable to the appellant-applicant. Bail before final conviction in trial courts for non-capital offenses or offenses not punishable by reclusion perpetua was a matter of right, meaning, admission to bail was a matter of right at any stage of the action where the charge was not for a capital offense or was not punished by reclusion perpetua.
The amendments introduced by Administrative Circular No. 12-94 made bail pending appeal (of a conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment) discretionary.
Thus, Administrative Circular No. 12-94 laid down more stringent rules on the matter of post-conviction grant of bail.
A.M. No. 00-5-03-SC modified Administrative Circular No. 12-94 by clearly identifying which court has authority to act on applications for bail pending appeal under certain conditions and in particular situations. More importantly, it reiterated the “tough on bail pending appeal” configuration of Administrative Circular No. 12-94. In particular, it amended Section 3 of the 1988 Rules on Criminal Procedure which entitled the accused to bail as a matter of right before final conviction. Under the present rule, bail is a matter of discretion upon conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Indeed, pursuant to the “tough on bail pending appeal” policy, the presence of bail-negating conditions mandates the denial or revocation of bail pending appeal such that those circumstances are deemed to be as grave as conviction by the trial court for an offense punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment where bail is prohibited.
Now, what is more in consonance with a stringent standards approach to bail pending appeal? What is more in conformity with an ex abundante cautelam view of bail pending appeal? Is it a rule which favors the automatic grant of bail in the absence of any of the circumstances under the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114? Or is it a rule that authorizes the denial of bail after due consideration of all relevant circumstances, even if none of the circumstances under the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 is present?
The present inclination of the rules on criminal procedure to frown on bail pending appeal parallels the approach adopted in the United States where our original constitutional and procedural provisions on bail emanated. While this is of course not to be followed blindly, it nonetheless shows that our treatment of bail pending appeal is no different from that in other democratic societies.
In our jurisdiction, the trend towards a strict attitude towards the allowance of bail pending appeal is anchored on the principle that judicial discretion — particularly with respect to extending bail — should be exercised not with laxity but with caution and only for strong reasons. In fact, it has even been pointed out that “grave caution that must attend the exercise of judicial discretion in granting bail to a convicted accused is best illustrated and exemplified in Administrative Circular No. 12-94 amending Rule 114, Section 5.”
Furthermore, this Court has been guided by the following:
The importance attached to conviction is due to the underlying principle that bail should be granted only where it is uncertain whether the accused is guilty or innocent, and therefore, where that uncertainty is removed by conviction it would, generally speaking, be absurd to admit to bail. After a person has been tried and convicted the presumption of innocence which may be relied upon in prior applications is rebutted, and the burden is upon the accused to show error in the conviction. From another point of view it may be properly argued that the probability of ultimate punishment is so enhanced by the conviction that the accused is much more likely to attempt to escape if liberated on bail than before conviction. (emphasis supplied)
As a matter of fact, endorsing the reasoning quoted above and relying thereon, the Court declared in Yap v. Court of Appeals (promulgated in 2001 when the present rules were already effective), that denial of bail pending appeal is “a matter of wise discretion.”
A Final Word
Section 13, Article II of the Constitution provides:
SEC. 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. x x x (emphasis supplied)
After conviction by the trial court, the presumption of innocence terminates and, accordingly, the constitutional right to bail ends.46 From then on, the grant of bail is subject to judicial discretion. At the risk of being repetitious, such discretion must be exercised with grave caution and only for strong reasons. Considering that the accused was in fact convicted by the trial court, allowance of bail pending appeal should be guided by a stringent-standards approach. This judicial disposition finds strong support in the history and evolution of the rules on bail and the language of Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court. It is likewise consistent with the trial court’s initial determination that the accused should be in prison. Furthermore, letting the accused out on bail despite his conviction may destroy the deterrent effect of our criminal laws. This is especially germane to bail pending appeal because long delays often separate sentencing in the trial court and appellate review. In addition, at the post-conviction stage, the accused faces a certain prison sentence and thus may be more likely to flee regardless of bail bonds or other release conditions. Finally, permitting bail too freely in spite of conviction invites frivolous and time-wasting appeals which will make a mockery of our criminal justice system and court processes.”
x x x."