Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bail in non-bailable offenses - A.M. No. RTJ-14-2376, March 5, 2014.

"x x x.

Here, what is appalling is not only did respondent judge deviate from the requirement of a hearing where there is an application for bail, respondent judge granted bail to Miralles without neither conducting a hearing nor a motion for application for bail. Respondent judge's justification that he granted bail, because he found the evidence of the prosecution weak, cannot be sustained because the records show that no such hearing for that purpose transpired. What the records show is a hearing to determine the existence of probable cause, not a hearing for a petition for bail. The hearing for bail is different from the determination of the existence of probable cause. The latter takes place prior to all proceedings, so that if the court is not satisfied with the existence of a probable cause, it may either dismiss the case or deny the issuance of the warrant of arrest or conduct a hearing to satisfy itself of the existence of probable cause. If the court finds the existence of probable cause, the court is mandated to issue a warrant of arrest or commitment order if the accused is already under custody, as when he was validly arrested without a warrant. It is only after this proceeding that the court can entertain a petition for bail where a subsequent hearing is conducted to determine if the evidence of guilt is weak or not. Hence, in granting bail and fixing it at P20,000.00 motu proprio, without allowing the prosecution to present its evidence, respondent judge denied the prosecution of due process. This Court had said so in many cases and had imposed sanctions on judges who granted applications for bail in capital offenses and in offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment, without giving the prosecution the opportunity to prove that the evidence of guilt is strong.21

Clearly, in the instant case, respondent judge's act of fixing the accused's bail and reducing the same motu proprio is not mere deficiency in prudence, discretion and judgment on the part of respondent judge, but a patent disregard of well-known rules. When an error is so gross and patent, such error produces an inference of bad faith, making the judge liable for gross ignorance of the law.22

x x x."