Burden on the prosecution to deny GMA bail

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Despite electoral sabotage charge, GMA may post bail if prosecution fails to present strong evidence of guilt

HOSPITAL ARREST. Detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may post bail if prosecutors fail to show strong evidence of guilt. Graphics by Analette Abesamis

MANILA, Philippines – The Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Thursday, March 15, began to hear former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s petition to post bail for electoral sabotage, which is keeping her in hospital detention.

The first of four hearings set by the Pasay RTC, it was an opportunity for prosecutors from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to establish there is strong evidence of guilt on the part of Arroyo in connection with electoral sabotage charges.

Electoral sabotage, a special election offense, is punishable with life imprisonment – a condition that makes it extra difficult for an accused to post bail.

However, Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure say that bail is the right of an accused subject to certain exceptions.

“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,” says Section 7 under Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

This means Comelec prosecutors who filed the complaint against Arroyo, will need to prove that evidence against Arroyo is strong.

Burden on prosecutors

The bail hearing is the venue for the prosecution to do this. At a bail hearing, the prosecution “has the burden of proof showing that evidence of guilt is strong.”

“The evidence presented during the bail hearing shall be considered automatically reproduced at the trial but, upon motion of either party, the court may recall any witness for additional examination unless the latter is dead, outside the Philippines, or otherwise unable to testify,” states Section 8 under Rule 114.

BAIL HEARING. On the first day of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's bail hearing, lawyers mark evidence related to her case.

The day’s hearing, which began at 9 am, was adjourned around 40 minutes later. Lawyers then began marking documentary evidence.

The bail hearing includes the petition of Arroyo’s co-accused, former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, in the same electoral sabotage charge. Both Arroyo and Bedol have entered a plea of “not guilty.”

The charge has led to Arroyo’s detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, which has incurred a cost enough to feed 21 Filipinos a day.

The Pasay RTC set the next bail hearings on March 22, March 27, and April 12. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com