People v. Gako, GR 135045, 15 December 2000
Whether Judge Gako’s grant of bail to Go was proper.
The assailed Order granting bail is legally infirm for failing to conform with the requirement that in cases when the granting of bail is not a matter of right, a hearing for that purpose must first be conducted. Section 13, Article III of the Constitution provides the instances when bail is a matter of right or discretionary, Section 7, Article 114 of the Rules of Court, as amended, reiterates that "no person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, when evidence of guilt is strong, shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution.” Based on the foregoing, bail is not a matter of right with respect to persons charged with a crime the penalty for which is reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment, or death, when the evidence of guilt is strong. Go, accused in the criminal case, was charged with murder, before the passage of RA 7659, the law that re-imposed the death penalty. Murder then was a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua. Thus, accused Go’s right to bail is merely discretionary. When bail is discretionary, a hearing, whether summary or otherwise in the discretion of the court, should first be conducted to determine the existence of strong evidence or lack of it, against the accused to enable the judge to make an intelligent assessment of the evidence presented by the parties. It is inconceivable how Judge Gako, Jr. could have appreciated the strength or weakness of the evidence of guilt of the accused when he did not even bother to hear the prosecution.
The reliance of Judge Gako, Jr. on the “voluminous records” of the case simply does not suffice. As judge, he was mandated to conduct a hearing on the petition for bail of the accused since he knew that the crime charged is one that carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua, and in that hearing, the prosecution is entitled to present its evidence. It is worth stressing that the prosecution is equally entitled to due process
Further, the order granting bail issued by Judge Gako, Jr. merely made a conclusion without a summary of the evidence, a substantive and formal defect that voids the grant of bail. Well settled is the rule that after the hearing, whether the bail is granted or denied, the presiding judge is mandated to prepare a summary of the evidence for the prosecution. The judge’s findings were based on the summary clinical report of Dr. Matiga dated 4 February 1997 while the order granting bail was issued on 10 November 1997. It could not therefore be reasonably assumed that the actual state of health of Go could still be accurately reflected by the said medical report when 9 months had already passed from the time that said medical report was prepared. It was therefore clear error for Judge Gako, Jr. to depend solely on the dated medical report in granting bail when the defense failed to present a more recent one that would convincingly raise strong grounds to apprehend that the imprisonment of the accused would endanger his life.