Bail vis-à-vis Presumption of Innocence

August 20, 2015 at 11:27 am (Legal Articles) (, , )

WITH DUE RESPECT: JPE’s novel bid for bail
By: Artemio V. Panganiban
November 16th, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Novel and unusual is the petition for certiorari filed by detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE) in the Supreme Court to obtain his freedom from detention while awaiting his trial in connection with the charge of plunder and graft filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman (OOO) for his alleged complicity in the pork barrel scam.

Long-standing procedure. After conducting a preliminary investigation (PI), the OOO filed last June 5 an information (or charge sheet) indicting JPE (and several others) with plunder and graft. Having “independently” determined the existence of “probable cause” from the information and its attached evidence, the Sandiganbayan (SBN) ordered JPE’s arrest and detention without bail.

Unquestionably, the SBN followed the long-standing and accepted procedure observed by all Philippine courts of ordering the arrest and detention without bail of those charged with capital offenses (like plunder, rape, murder and syndicated estafa).

Pursuant to this procedure, “bail hearings” are then immediately conducted, in which the prosecution is required to present evidence showing that the evidence of guilt is “strong.” If the prosecution’s evidence is judged to be “strong,” then the accused shall remain in detention without bail for the remainder of the trial (and during the appeal, in case of a “guilty” verdict).

On the other hand, if the court finds the evidence to be “not strong,” then the accused is released on bail while trial “on the merits” continues to determine guilt (or innocence), and the appropriate penalty, if the accused is eventually found guilty.

This procedure is used in the prosecution of all capital offenses, like those of former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, as well as the Ampatuan family members (in the Maguindanao massacre), who were all similarly detained without bail after their arrest (or surrender).

(Parenthetically, when the crime is not capital in nature, the accused is ordered arrested but released upon posting of bail in the amount stated in the arrest order.)

General rule. Through his counsels Estelito P. Mendoza and Eleazar B. Reyes, JPE however claims that this long-standing and long-revered procedure is unconstitutional and wrong.

JPE reasons that under the Constitution, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved,” or until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Also, the Charter guarantees that “[a]ll persons, except those charged with [capital] offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when the evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable…”

Citing jurisprudence, he adds that bail is denied in capital offenses because an accused who faces a probable life sentence “has a particularly strong temptation to flee.”

Analyzing these constitutional provisions and the jurisprudential reason for the denial for bail in capital offenses, JPE explains that every person accused of any crime is constitutionally entitled to bail as a general rule.

Exception to rule. As an exception, however, bail is denied when two conditions are present: (1) the evidence of guilt is strong, and (2) the penalty prescribed for the offense is punishable by reclusion perpetua (or life imprisonment).

The first condition, he avers, can be determined only after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence during the bail hearings and after the court has adjudged such evidence to be “strong.” Unconstitutional, illogical and wrong, therefore, he argues, is the present procedure of detaining the accused without bail prior to the court’s ruling that the evidence is indeed “strong.”

This long-standing practice, he adds, puts “the cart before the horse” and violates the constitutional presumption of innocence.

If the Supreme Court agrees with and frees him on bail, then for the same reason, all those currently accused of capital offenses, like former president Arroyo and the Ampatuan family as well as Senators Revilla and Estrada, should also be freed and granted bail while awaiting the ruling of the trial courts on whether the evidence of guilt in their respective cases is “strong.”

On the second condition, JPE asserts that in his particular case, the penalty to be imposed would not be reclusion perpetua even if he is found guilty, because he should be credited with the mitigating circumstances of (1) old age for being over 70 years (in fact, he is over 90) and (2) voluntary surrender. These two circumstances are uncontested. (Without waiting to be actually arrested, JPE surrendered to the authorities.)

Finally, JPE avers that the jurisprudential reason for detaining the accused in capital offenses is the probability of flight. In his case, flight is most improbable because of (1) his very old age and frail health, (2) his track record (in previous cases filed against him, he did not flee), and (3) his “official and social standing” (as a senator, Cabinet member and other high government positions he held from 1966 up to the present), which allegedly “shows his high respect for the law.”

Since JPE’s petition and those of Senators Estrada and Revilla are pending in the Supreme Court and therefore sub judice, I will refrain from making an extended legal opinion. However, as a concerned citizen, I will continue to monitor and report on high-profile cases especially as they relate to President Aquino’s daang matuwid program.

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Plea Bargaining 101

August 11, 2015 at 9:59 am (Legal Articles) (, , , )

Plea Bargain
MY FOUR CENTAVOS By Dean Andy Bautista
The Philippine Star January 22, 2011

Given the continuing interest on the General Garcia plunder case, it may be worthwhile to discuss the concept of a plea bargain. This is essentially an agreement in a criminal case where the prosecution and the defense agree that the accused will plead guilty to a lesser charge than what is contained in the information. The equivalent of a plea bargain in a civil case is a compromise settlement.

Parties enter into a plea bargain for several reasons. Aside from escaping the rigors of a full blown trial, the accused may wish to avoid the risk of conviction to the original, more serious charge. As far as the prosecution is concerned, a plea bargain should mean reduced costs and the ability to focus more on other cases.

In the United States, a plea bargain can be one of several types. Charge bargaining occurs when an accused pleads guilty to a less serious crime (as in the Garcia case). In count bargaining, the accused pleads guilty to a subset of multiple original charges. In sentence bargaining, an accused knows in advance what sentence will be given. In fact bargaining, the prosecution and defense agree to a certain stipulation of facts which will affect what the penalty will be in accordance with the sentencing guidelines. Interestingly, in the US, plea bargaining has become the rule rather than the exception in criminal cases.

In the Philippines, the pertinent rule on plea bargaining is found in Rule 116, Section 2 of the Rules of Court which provides:

Plea of guilty to a lesser offense — At arraignment, the accused, with the consent of the offended party and prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not guilty. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary.”

In the Garcia case, the original charge was that of plunder which is a capital crime punished under Republic Act 7080. The lesser offense that he subsequently pleaded guilty to was direct bribery which is punished under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code and facilitating money laundering covered under Republic Act 9160. Query as to whether the crime of direct bribery and money laundering are “necessarily included” in the offense of plunder? Note that both crimes are punished by different laws.

Note as well the requirement of obtaining the consent of the offended party before the trial court will allow the downgrading of the original offense charged. In this instance, who is the offended party? Is it the Armed Forces of the Philippines since the money seems to have been taken from its coffers or the Republic since public money is involved. In any event, if we follow the news reports, it would seem that neither of their consents was secured.

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CD: Philippine Airlines v. Court of Appeals

September 23, 2010 at 2:03 pm (1990, Case Digests) (, , , , , , )

G.R. No. L-49188 January 30, 1990
Gutierrez, Jr., J.

• The payment to the absconding sheriff by check in his name does not operate as a satisfaction of the judgment debt.

• Since a negotiable instrument is only a substitute for money and not money, the delivery of such an instrument does not, by itself, operate as payment.

• A check, whether a manager’s check or ordinary cheek, is not legal tender, and an offer of a check in payment of a debt is not a valid tender of payment and may be refused receipt by the obligee or creditor. The obligation is not extinguished and remains suspended until the payment by commercial document is actually realized.

• As between two innocent persons, one of whom must suffer the consequence of a breach of trust, the one who made it possible by his act of confidence must bear the loss.

• Execution is for the sheriff to accomplish while satisfaction of the judgment is for the creditor to achieve the implementing officer’s duty should not stop at his receipt of payments but must continue until payment is delivered to the obligor or creditor.

• Laws are to be interpreted by the spirit which vivifies and not by the letter which killeth. Logic has its limits in decision making. We should not follow rulings to their logical extremes if in doing so we arrive at unjust or absurd results.

Amelia Tan filed a complaint for damages against petitioner. The Lower Court ruled in her favor. Upon appeal, the CA upheld the decision of the Lower Court with only minor modifications as to the damages to be awarded to Amelia Tan. The corresponding writ of execution was duly referred to Deputy Sheriff Emilio Z. Reyes for enforcement. Checks were in the name of Sheriff Reyes.

Four months later, Amelia Tan moved for the issuance of an alias writ of execution stating that the judgment rendered by the lower court, and affirmed with modification by the Court of Appeals, remained unsatisfied.

Petitioner answered that it has already satisfied its obligation, as evidenced by check vouchers signed and received by Sheriff Reyes. The Court has summoned the sheriff to explain the delay but apparently he absconded or disappeared.

1. Whether or not the payment made to the absconding sheriff by check in his name operate to satisfy the judgment debt
2. Whether or not the judgment debtor shall bear the loss for the amount encashed by the absconding sheriff
3. Whether or not execution is the same as satisfaction of judgment

1. No. In general, a payment, in order to be effective to discharge an obligation, must be made to the proper person. Article 1240 of the Civil Code provides:

Payment shall be made to the person in whose favor the obligation has been constituted, or his successor in interest, or any person authorized to receive it. (Emphasis supplied)

Under ordinary circumstances, payment by the judgment debtor to the sheriff should be valid payment to extinguish the judgment debt. There are circumstances, however, which compel a different conclusion such as when the payment made by the petitioner to the absconding sheriff was not in cash or legal tender but in checks.

Article 1249 of the Civil Code provides:

The payment of debts in money shall be made in the currency stipulated, and if it is not possible to deliver such currency, then in the currency which is legal tender in the Philippines.

The delivery of promissory notes payable to order, or bills of exchange or other mercantile documents shall produce the effect of payment only when they have been cashed, or when through the fault of the creditor they have been impaired.

In the meantime, the action derived from the original obligation shall be held in abeyance.

Consequently, unless authorized to do so by law or by consent of the obligee a public officer has no authority to accept anything other than money in payment of an obligation under a judgment being executed. Strictly speaking, the acceptance by the sheriff of the petitioner’s checks, in the case at bar, does not, per se, operate as a discharge of the judgment debt.

Since a negotiable instrument is only a substitute for money and not money, the delivery of such an instrument does not, by itself, operate as payment (See. 189, Act 2031 on Negs. Insts.; Art. 1249, Civil Code; Bryan Landon Co. v. American Bank, 7 Phil. 255; Tan Sunco v. Santos, 9 Phil. 44; 21 R.C.L. 60, 61). A check, whether a manager’s check or ordinary cheek, is not legal tender, and an offer of a check in payment of a debt is not a valid tender of payment and may be refused receipt by the obligee or creditor. Mere delivery of checks does not discharge the obligation under a judgment. The obligation is not extinguished and remains suspended until the payment by commercial document is actually realized (Art. 1249, Civil Code, par. 3).

2. Yes. PAL created a situation which permitted the said Sheriff to personally encash said checks and misappropriate the proceeds thereof to his exclusive personal benefit. For the prejudice that resulted, the petitioner himself must bear the fault. As between two innocent persons, one of whom must suffer the consequence of a breach of trust, the one who made it possible by his act of confidence must bear the loss. (Blondeau, et al. v. Nano, et al., L-41377, July 26, 1935, 61 Phil. 625).

3. No. Section 15, Rule 39, provides:

Section 15. Execution of money judgments. — The officer must enforce an execution of a money judgment by levying on all the property, real and personal of every name and nature whatsoever, and which may be disposed of for value, of the judgment debtor not exempt from execution, or on a sufficient amount of such property, if they be sufficient, and selling the same, and paying to the judgment creditor, or his attorney, so much of the proceeds as will satisfy the judgment. …

Strictly speaking execution cannot be equated with satisfaction of a judgment.

Execution is for the sheriff to accomplish while satisfaction of the judgment is for the creditor to achieve. Section 15, Rule 39 merely provides the sheriff with his duties as executing officer including delivery of the proceeds of his levy on the debtor’s property to satisfy the judgment debt. It is but to stress that the implementing officer’s duty should not stop at his receipt of payments but must continue until payment is delivered to the obligor or creditor.

Dissenting Opinions:
Narvasa, J.
• If payment had been in cash, no question about its validity or of the authority and duty of the sheriff to accept it in settlement of PAL’s judgment obligation would even have arisen. Simply because it was made by checks issued in the sheriff s name does not warrant reaching any different conclusion.

• As payment to the court discharges the judgment debtor from his responsibility on the judgment, so too must payment to the person designated by such court and authorized to act in its behalf, operate to produce the same effect.

Feliciano, J.
• The failure of a sheriff to effect turnover and his conversion of the funds (or goods) held by him to his own uses, do not have the effect of frustrating payment by and consequent discharge of the judgment debtor.

• A judgment debtor who turns over funds or property to the sheriff can not reasonably be made an insurer of the honesty and integrity of the sheriff.

• It requires no particularly acute mind to note that a dishonest sheriff could easily convert the money and abscond. The fact that the sheriff in the instant case required, not cash to be delivered to him, but rather a check made out in his name, does not change the legal situation. PAL did not thereby become negligent; it did not make the loss anymore possible or probable than if it had instead delivered plain cash to the sheriffs.

• Risk is most appropriately borne not by the judgment debtor, nor indeed by the judgment creditor, but by the State itself.

Padilla, J.
• PAL had every right to assume that, as an officer of the law, Sheriff Reyes would perform his duties as enjoined by law. If a judgment debtor cannot rely on and trust an officer of the law, as the Sheriff, whom else can he trust?

• The duty of the sheriff to pay the cash to the judgment creditor would be a matter separate the distinct from the fact that PAL would have satisfied its judgment obligation to Amelia Tan, the judgment creditor, by delivering the cash amount due under the judgment to Sheriff Reyes.

• When Sheriff Reyes encashed the checks, the encashment was in fact a payment by PAL to Amelia Tan through Sheriff Reyes, an officer of the law authorized to receive payment, and such payment discharged PAL’S obligation under the executed judgment.

• If the PAL cheeks in question had not been encashed by Sheriff Reyes, there would be no payment by PAL.

• The payment of money to the sheriff having an execution satisfies it, and, if the plaintiff fails to receive it, his only remedy is against the officer (Henderson v. Planters’ and Merchants Bank, 59 SO 493, 178 Ala. 420).

• Payment of an execution satisfies it without regard to whether the officer pays it over to the creditor or misapplies it (340, 33 C.J.S. 644, citing Elliot v. Higgins, 83 N.C. 459). If defendant consents to the Sheriff s misapplication of the money, however, defendant is estopped to claim that the debt is satisfied (340, 33 C.J.S. 644, citing Heptinstall v. Medlin 83 N.C. 16).

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