Supreme Court allows reduced bail for poor prisoners
MANILA, Philippines – In response to the coronavirus threat in congested Philippine jails, the Supreme Court announced on Thursday, April 30, that it will allow reduced bail and recognizance for poor prisoners.
Prisoners who are considered indigent and whose cases are bailable will be able to file for temporary release by paying reduced amounts. For minor offenders, they will be released on recognizance, meaning they don't have to pay to seek temporary liberty.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta signed and released Administrative Circular No. 38 on Thursday as one of the Court's responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Upon consultation with the members of the Court, considering the urgent need to further decongest our detention facilities, especially during this time of public health emergency, to promote social and restorative justice, bail and regonizance for indigent Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) shall be granted pending the continuation of the criminal proceedings and resolution of cases against them," Peralta said.
Peralta also said the High Court's guidelines are without prejudice to the courts' discretion of denying the application for bail or recognizance if there are reasonable grounds.
The guidelines are as follows:
- For those charged with a crime punishable with the maximum period of reclusion temporal or 12 years and 1 day to 20 years, the bail shall be computed by getting the medium period multiplied by P3,000 for every year of imprisonment
- For those charged with a crime punishable with the maximum period of prision mayor or 6 years and 1 day to 12 years, the bail shall be computed by getting the medium period multiplied by P2,000 for every year of imprisonment
- For those charged with a crime punishable with the maximum period of prision correccional or 6 months and 1 day to 6 years, the bail shall be computed by getting the medium period multiplied by P1,000.00 for every year of imprisonment
- For those charged with a crime punishable by arresto mayor or 1 month and 1 day to 6 months, and arresto menor or 1 day to 30 days, they may be released on their own recognizance
"For indigent Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) who have not yet been arraigned, they must first be arraigned before being granted bail or recognizance, which arraignment and release on bail or recognizance may be conducted through videoconferencing," said Peralta.
READ: Administrative Circular No 38-2020 addressed to all justices, judges, prosecutors, public attorneys and members of the bar on reduced bail and recognizance as modes for releasing indigent PDLs during this period of public health emergency, pending resolution of their cases pic.twitter.com/LSB7bCj4Dw— Supreme Court Public Information Office (PIO) (@SCPh_PIO) April 30, 2020
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The High Court has not yet ruled on the petition filed by human rights lawyers to release sick, elderly, and low-risk prisoners on humanitarian grounds. The petition was filed on behalf of political prisoners whose cases are non-bailable.
Earlier, the Supreme Court ordered the urgent release of prisoners who qualify under a 2014 guideline, or prisoners who have been in jail longer than the minimum penalty, and prisoners whose cases are not moving because of there were no available witnesses.
As for convicts, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has relaxed the process of applying for parole and clemency.