Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Probation; multiple offenses in one decision.


“X x x.

Second. At the outset, the penalties imposed by the MeTC were already probationable. Hence, there was no need to appeal if only to reduce the penalties to within the probationable period. Multiple prison terms imposed against an accused found guilty of several offenses in one decision are not, and should not be, added up. And, the sum of the multiple prison terms imposed against an applicant should not be determinative of his eligibility for, nay his disqualification from, probation. The multiple prison terms are distinct from each other, and if none of the terms exceeds the limit set out in the Probation Law,i.e., not more than six (6) years, then he is entitled to probation, unless he is otherwise specifically disqualified. The number of offenses is immaterial as long as all the penalties imposed, taken separately, are within the probationable period. For, Sec. 9, par. (a), P.D. 968, as amended, uses the word maximum not total when it says that "[t]he benefits of this Decree shall not be extended to those . . . . sentenced to serve a maximum term of imprisonment of more than six years." Evidently, the law does not intend to sum up the penalties imposed but to take each penalty separately and distinctly with the others. Consequently, even if petitioner was supposed to have served his prison term of one (1) year and one (1) day to one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional sixteen (16) times as he was sentenced to serve the prison term for "each crime committed on each date of each case, as alleged in the information(s)," and in each of the four (4) informations, he was charged with.having defamed the four (4) private complainants on four (4) different, separate days, he was still·eligible for probation, as each prison term imposed on petitioner was probationable.

Fixing the cut-off point at a maximum term of six (6) years imprisonment for probation is based on the assumption that those sentenced to higher penalties pose too great a risk to society, not just because of their demonstrated capability for serious wrong doing but because of the gravity and serious consequences of the offense they might further commit. 14 The Probation Law, as amended, disqualifies only those who have been convicted of grave felonies as defined in Art. 9 in relation to Art. 25 of The Revised Penal Code, 15 and not necessarily those who have been convicted of multiple offenses in a single proceeding who are deemed to be less perverse. Hence, the basis of the disqualification is principally the gravity of the offense committed and the concomitant degree of penalty imposed. Those sentenced to a maximum term not exceeding six (6) years are not generally considered callous, hard core criminals, and thus may avail of probation.

X x x.

In fine, considering that the multiple prison terms should not be summed up but taken separately as the totality of all the penalties is not the test, petitioner should have immediately filed an application for probation as he was already qualified after being convicted by the MeTC, if indeed thereafter he felt humbled, was ready to unconditionally accept the verdict of the court and admit his liability. Consequently, in appealing the Decision of the MeTC to the RTC, petitioner lost his right to probation. For, plainly, the law considers appeal and probation mutually exclusive remedies. 17

X x x.”