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ENRILE vs.

SANDIGANBAYAN
(767 SCRA 282, August 18, 2015)

CASE DOCTRINES: Primary objective of bail The strength of the Prosecution's case, albeit
a good measure of the accused's propensity for flight or for causing harm to the public, is
subsidiary to the primary objective of bail, which is to ensure that the accused appears at
trial.

Bail is a right and a matter of discretion Right to bail is afforded in Sec. 13, Art III of the
1987 Constitution and repeted in Sec. 7, Rule 114 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure to wit:
No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or
life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless of
the stage of the criminal prosecution.

FACTS: On June 5, 2014, Petitioner Juan Ponce Enrile was charged with plunder in the
Sandiganbayan on the basis of his purported involvement in the Priority Development
Assistance Fund (PDAF) Scam. Initially, Enrile in an Omnibus Motion requested to post bail,
which the Sandiganbayan denied. On July 3, 2014, a warrant for Enrile's arrest was issued,
leading to Petitioner's voluntary surrender.

Petitioner again asked the Sandiganbayan in a Motion to Fix Bail which was heard by the
Sandiganbayan. Petitioner argued that: (a) Prosecution had not yet established that the
evidence of his guilt was strong; (b) that, because of his advanced age and voluntary
surrender, the penalty would only be reclusion temporal, thus allowing for bail and; (c) he is
not a flight risk due to his age and physical condition. Sandiganbayan denied this in its
assailed resolution. Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied.

ISSUES:
1) Whether or not bail may be granted as a matter of right unless the crime charged is
punishable by reclusion perpetua where the evidence of guilt is strong.

a. Whether or not prosecution failed to show that if ever petitioner would be


convicted, he will be punishable by reclusion perpetua.

b. Whether or not prosecution failed to show that petitioner's guilt is strong.

2) Whether or not petitioner is bailable because he is not a flight risk.

RULING 1: YES.

Bail as a matter of right due process and presumption of innocence. Article III, Sec. 14 (2)
of the 1987 Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be
presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. This right is safeguarded by the
constitutional right to be released on bail. The purpose of bail is to guarantee the
appearance of the accused at trial and so the amount of bail should be high enough to
assure the presence of the accused when so required, but no higher than what may be
reasonably calculated to fulfill this purpose.

Bail as a matter of discretion. Right to bail is afforded in Sec. 13, Art III of the 1987
Constitution and repeted in Sec. 7, Rule 114 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure to wit:

Capital offense of an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, not


bailable. No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion
perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong,
regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution.

The general rule: Any person, before conviction of any criminal offense, shall be bailable.

Exception: Unless he is charged with an offense punishable with reclusion perpetua [or life
imprisonment] and the evidence of his guilt is strong.

Thus, denial of bail should only follow once it has been established that the evidence of guilt
is strong.Where evidence of guilt is not strong, bail may be granted according to the
discretion of the court.

Thus, Sec. 5 of Rule 114 also provides: 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 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, reviews the resolution of
the Regional Trial Court after notice to the adverse party in either case.

Thus, admission to bail in offenses punished by death, or life imprisonment, or reclusion


perpetua subject to judicial discretion. In Concerned Citizens vs. Elma, the court held:
[S]uch discretion may be exercised only after the hearing called to ascertain the degree of
guilt of the accused for the purpose of whether or not he should be granted provisional
liberty. Bail hearing with notice is indispensable (Aguirre vs. Belmonte). The hearing should
primarily determine whether the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong.

The procedure for discretionary bail is described in Cortes vs. Catral:

1. In all cases, whether bail is a matter of right or of discretion, notify the prosecutor
of the hearing of the application for bail or require him to submit his recommendation
(Section 18, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court as amended);
2. Where bail is a matter of discretion, conduct a hearing of the application for bail
regardless of whether or not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to show that
the guilt of the accused is strong for the purpose of enabling the court to exercise its
sound discretion; (Section 7 and 8, supra)
3. Decide whether the guilt of the accused is strong based on the summary of
evidence of the prosecution;
4. If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon the approval
of the bailbond (Section 19, supra) Otherwise petition should be denied.

RULING 2: YES. Petitioner's poor health justifies his admission to bail. The Supreme Court
took note of the Philippine's responsibility to the international community arising from its
commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We therefore have the
responsibility of protecting and promoting the right of every person to liberty and due
process and for detainees to avail of such remedies which safeguard their fundamental right
to liberty. Quoting from Government of Hong Kong SAR vs. Olalia, the SC emphasized:

x x x uphold the fundamental human rights as well as value the worth and dignity of every
person. This commitment is enshrined in Section II, Article II of our Constitution which
provides: The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect
for human rights. The Philippines, therefore, has the responsibility of protecting and
promoting the right of every person to liberty and due process, ensuring that those detained
or arrested can participate in the proceedings before a court, to enable it to decide without
delay on the legality of the detention and order their release if justified. In other words, the
Philippine authorities are under obligation to make available to every person under
detention such remedies which safeguards their fundamental right to liberty. These remedies
include the right to be admitted to bail. (Emphasis in decision)

Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion. Sandiganbayan arbitrarily ignored the


objective of bail to ensure the appearance of the accused during the trial and unwarrantedly
disregarded the clear showing of the fragile health and advanced age of Petitioner. As such
the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying the Motion to Fix Bail.It acted
whimsically and capriciously and was so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a
positive duty [to allow petitioner to post bail].

DISSENTING OPINION OF JUSTICE LEONEN

Justice Leonen criticized the decision for having a very weak legal basis the grant of bail
over mere humanitarian grounds. He also claims that the court has no authority to use
humanitarian grounds. Leonen argues that [Petitioner's] release for medical or
humanitarian reasons was not the basis for his prayer in his Motion to Fix Bail before the
Sandiganbayan, nor were these grounds raised in the petition in the Supreme Court.

Bail for humanitarian considerations is neither presently provided in our Rules of Court nor
found in any statute or provision of the Constitution.

Leonen theorized that the Supreme Court only granted bail as a special accomodation for
the petitioner and he goes on to criticize the decision to wit:

[This decision] will usher in an era of truly selective justice not based on their legal
provisions, but one that is unpredictable, partial and solely grounded on the presence or
absence of human compassion.

x x x. Worse, it puts pressure on all trial courts and the Sandiganbayan that will predictably
be deluged with motions to fix bail on the basis of humanitarian considerations. The lower
courts will have to decide, without guidance, whether bail should be granted because of
advanced age, hypertension, pneumonia, or dreaded diseases. They will have to decide
whether this is applicable only to Senators and former Presidents charged with plunder and
not to those accused of drug trafficking, multiple incestuous rape, and other crimes
punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. x x x

Procedure for granting bail. Leonen's dissent also examines the procedure outlined for the
lower courts in bail cases in order to demonstrate that the Sandiganbayan did not err in
denying Petitioner's Motion to Fix Bail. In Cortes vs. Catral the Supreme Court held:

It is indeed surprising, not to say, alarming, that the Court should be besieged with a
number of administrative cases filed against erring judges involving bail. After all, there is no
dearth of jurisprudence on the basic principles involving bail. As a matter of fact, the Court
itself, through its Philippine Judicial Academy, has been including lectures on the subject in
the regular seminars conducted for judges. Be that as it may, we reiterate the following
duties of the trial judge in case an application for bail is filed:

1. In all cases, whether bail is a matter of right or of discretion, notify the prosecutor
of the hearing of the application for bail or require him to submit his recommendation
(Section 18, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court as amended);

2. Where bail is a matter of discretion, conduct a hearing of the application for bail
regardless of whether or not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to show that
the guilt of the accused is strong for the purpose of enabling the court to exercise its
sound discretion; (Section 7 and 8, supra)

3. Decide whether the guilt of the accused is strong based on the summary of
evidence of the prosecution;

4. If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon the approval
of the bailbond (Section 19, supra) Otherwise petition should be denied.

With such succinct but clear rules now incorporated in the Rules of Court, trial judges are
enjoined to study them as well and be guided accordingly. Admittedly, judges cannot be held
to account for an erroneous decision rendered in good faith, but this defense is much too
frequently cited even if not applicable. A number of cases on bail having already been
decided, this Court justifiably expect judges to discharge their duties assiduously. For judge
is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural
rules; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles. Faith in the
administration of justice can only be engendered if litigants are convinced that the members
of the Bench cannot justly be charge with a deficiency in their grasp of legal principles.

Petitioner in this case, insisted that the Sandiganbayan grant his bail without any hearing for
the purpose of determining whether the evidence of guilt is strong. At the Motion to Fix Bail,
the prosecution had no opportunity to present any evidence because of the prematurity of
Petitioner's Motion [to Fix Bail]. Thus, the dissent asserts that the Sandiganbayan was
correct in denying the Motion based on prematurity.

Medical or humanitarian grounds inappropriate


Petitioner did not ask for bail to be granted based on humanitarian reasons at the
Sandiganbayan. Neither petitioner nor the prosecution were able to develop their arguments
as to this point to establish legal and factual basis for this kind of bail.

The dissent argues that it was inappropriate for the court to grant bail merely on the basis of
the certification of the attending physician, Dr. Gonzales, stating that the Petitioner was
suffering from numerous debilitating conditions. The dissent states that:
Nowhere in the rules of procedure do we allow the grant of bail based on judicial notice of a
doctor's certification. In doing so, we effectively suspend our rules on evidence by doing
away with cross-examination and authentication of Dr. Gonzales' findings on petitioner's
health in a hearing whose main purpose is to determine whether no kind of alternative
detention is possible.

x x x The better part of prudence is that we follow strictly our well-entrenched, long-
standing, and canonical procedures for bail. Doctrinally, the matter to determine is whether
the evidence of guilt is strong. This is to be examined when a hearing is granted as a
mandatory manner after petition for bail is filed by accused. The medical condition of the
accused, if any, should be pleaded and heard. x x x

Version of the decision submitted by Ponente was not the version deliberated upon, This
section of the dissent reveals that the Justices voted to grant bail based on a substantially
different version of the opinion, one which did not use humanitarian considerations as a
ground for the granting of bail. The dissent explains that the Justices voted 8-4 solely on the
issue of whether or not bail is a matter of right and reveals that the copy offered for
signature was substantially similar to an earlier draft which used humanitarian
considerations as the basis for the granting of bail. The dissent makes it clear that this was
an irregularity.

The majority opinion offers no guidance. The dissent argues that the main opinion is
unclear whether the privilege (humanitarian considerations, right to bail, etc.) will apply to
those who have similar conditions. Whether or not this privilege will only apply to those
undergoing trial for plunder or whether or not this privilege can be granted to those of
advanced age only. The majority has perilously set an unstated if not ambiguous standard
for the special grant of bail on the ground of medical conditions.

There is also no guidance to the Sandiganbayan as to if, when and how bail can then be
canceled.

Reliance on HK vs Olalia misplaced. The reliance of the majority on the case of Government
of Hong Kong SAR vs. Olalia is misplaced because this case referred to extradition cases,
hence its increased emphasis on international law. As applied to crimes charged under
Philippine law, the remedies under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be
qualified by the Constitution's rules regarding bail.

Furthermore, in the above case, the SC disposed of it by remanding the case back to the
lower court for factual determination of whether or not the accused was a flight risk.