“An enabling law long denied to the people”


Bayan Muna files landmark bill for release on recognizance

Just before 14th Congress went into its first sine die adjournment, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and 20 other legislators filed a landmark bill “to correct one of the long-standing gray areas in the country’s criminal justice system – an enabling law on the Constitutional right to be released on recognizance. ”

Article III, Section 13 of the Constitution allows two modes by which a person under arrest may be released temporarily from detention before conviction of the offense charged: (1) by bail, and (2) by release on recognizance as may be provided by law.

“After more than two decades, we realized that there is still no enabling law on release on recognizance. House Bill 4369 or the proposed Recognizance Act of 2008 will extend the frontiers of the criminal justice system in the spirit of restorative justice,” Casiño, the bill’s principal author, said.

Explained Casiño: “It is easy for rich litigants to post bail and be free while the trial goes on. But most poor litigants simply can’t afford to post bail, much more hire competent lawyers. For them, release on recognizance is the only option to ensure that their rights as accused are respected even as they are being tried by the courts.”

Under the present state of the law, release on recognizance is implemented in a very limited scope under the Rules of Criminal Procedure and is based solely on the discretion of the court. In contrast, House Bill 4369 will promulgate the rules for the full implementation of release on recognizance, including its procedures, mechanisms and support programs down to the barangay level.

Under HB 4369, applicants for recognizance need the recommendation of two persons of good repute and probity in the baranggay where they reside and who shall guarantee their appearance in court. Such application should be endorsed by a recognizance field officer before it is approved by the appropriate regional trial court. Applications for recognizance can be contested by the prosecution.

The two recommending persons and the recognizance field office, as well as baranggay officials and community organizations, shall have roles in monitoring the applicant, ensuring his attendance in court and that he/she does not engage in any illegal activities.

The bill sets strict qualification and disqualification requirements for those who can apply for release on recognizance in Sections 4 and 5.

“The Constitutional right to recognizance is limited to Filipino citizen who have resided in the country for at least 6 months prior to the filing of his/her application; the alleged offenses committed by applicants are not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment; he/she has no sufficient means to post bail; and more than five years have elapsed since his last conviction or release from imprisonment after conviction for an offense, if any, and that he has shown good behavior during the said period,” Casiño said.

An applicant is disqualified for release on recognizance if he/she is: a danger to the community; the circumstances of his/her case indicate the probability of flight if released on recognizance; he/she is a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has been previously convicted of a crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration; he/she has previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or violated the conditions of his/her previous bail or release on recognizance, if any, without valid justification; he/she has previously committed a crime while under probation, parole, or conditional pardon; or that there is undue risk that he/she may commit another crime if released on recognizance.

“This measure will promote the principle of restorative justice especially among poor litigants. Bayan Muna and the bill’s co-authors hope that this would give the members of a community a bigger and more proactive role in reforming suspected offenders and upholding a fair system of justice,” Casiño said.

“This proposed law is also one way to address other problems confronting the criminal justice system such as protracted trials, the prolonged resolution of cases, the lack of legal representation, lack of judges, congestion in jails, and lack of opportunity to reform and rehabilitate the offenders,” Casiño said.

As of end 2007, the BJMP says that at least 11,563 inmates are qualified to post bail but cannot do so in the National Capital Region alone. Release on recognizance could be a valid option to them and thousands more. We hope that this will become a priority legislation of the House. We will also work to get a formidable Senate counterpart, ” he said.

House Bill 4369 has authors with various party affiliations and span a considerable area of the country: Partylist Reps. Casiño and Satur Ocampo [Bayan Muna], Rafael Mariano [Anakpawis], Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan [Gabriela], and District Reps. Antonio Cerilles [Zamboanga del Sur], Roman Romulo [Pasig City], Rufus Rodriguez [Cagayan De Oro City], Teofisto Guingona III [Bukidnon], Fred Castro [Capiz], Jesus Crispin Remulla [3d, Cavite], Eduardo Nonato Joson [Nueva Ecija], Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. [2d, Cavite], Liwayway Vinzons-Chato [Camarines Norte], Luis Villafuerte [Camarines Sur], Ferdinand Martin Romualdez [Leyte], Vincent Crisologo [1d, Quezon City], Marcelino Teodoro [Marikina City], Niel Tupas, Jr. [Iloilo], Carlos Padilla [Nueva Vizcaya], Joseph Emilio A. Abaya [1d, Cavite], Rodolfo Albano III [Isabela], and Maria Laarni Cayetano [Taguig City-Pateros] . #

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