GET OUT OF JAIL FREE | Senate OKs bill allowing indigents to post bail without paying fees
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The Philippine Senate on Monday approved on final reading a bill allowing indigent persons facing criminal offenses to gain temporary liberty without paying bail.
Earlier, the Senate approved House Bill No. 5395, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 2494 authored by Senators Bong Revilla and Chiz Escudero. The same measure was placed under reconsideration after Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ping Lacson proposed individual amendments.
The proposed legislation, which is in consonance with the principle of presumption of innocence, seeks to allow indigents to be equal with all others in terms of enjoying liberty while the State proves their guilt in the commission of an offense.
Under the proposed measure, authored by Escudero, the accused can be released if his offense is not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment.
After granting the accused temporary liberty, the court will then release him/her to the custody of a qualified member of the barangay, city, or municipality where s/he resides. An amendment introduced by Santiago will allow the court to use their discretion in determining whether an accused is indigent and is qualified to post bail without paying the corresponding fee.
"In determining who are indigent persons under the bill, the factors to be considered should not just be the salary and property of the accused but also others that in the judgment of the court are relevant and that the capacity of the accused to support not just himself, but also his family or other people who are dependent on him for support and subsistence, may also be taken into consideration," Santiago said.
She also proposed additional mechanisms to assure that the accused will appear in court whenever necessary.
"Since indigent persons do not need to post cash or provide surety property bond, there is less assurance that the accused will appear when required by the Court. There is no incentive for the custodian to ensure the presence of the accused at the trial since the present bill is devoid of any provisions which penalizes the custodian in such instances," Santiago explained.
Santiago introduced another amendment that will allow children to be released to the custody of his or her parents, as provided in Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, instead of a custodian who is not his or her relative.
For his part, Lacson said the Sanggunian shall include in its resolution a list of recommended organizations from whose members the court may appoint a custodian.
He said the custodian will guarantee the appearance of the accused whenever required by the court. A penalty of six months to two years shall be imposed on the custodian who will fail to produce the accused before the court upon due notice, without justifiable reason.
Meanwhile, the Senate also approved the creation of additional courts in Tarlac and Capas, Tarlac.
Escudero, who authored and sponsored Senate Bills 3044 and 3055, said the creation of the new courts is necessary for a speedy trial of the accused.
"Because of the increase in our population and the increase in the volume of cases filed, our court dockets have been clogged and this has resulted in the delay in the resolution of cases,” Escudero said, adding. "In order to improve the disposition and administration of justice and to ensure the right to a speedy trial, the number of courts must necessarily be increased."