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Pre-trial in Criminal Cases

When is pre-trial in required?

Pre-trial is mandatory in all criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, RTC, MTCs and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

When should it be conducted?

After arraignment and within 30 days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused.

What happens during pre-trial?

The following things are considered:
  1. plea bargaining
  2. stipulation of facts
  3. marking for identification of evidence of the parties
  4. waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence
  5. modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense
  6. other matters that will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the case

If the accused is absent during the pre-trial, can the prosecution present evidence ex parte?

No. The concept of presentation of evidence ex parte applies only in civil cases.

If the offended party is absent during the pre-trial, will the case be dismissed?

No, because the offended party is only a complaining witness.

What if the counsel for the accused or the prosecutor does not appear during the pre-trial?

If the counsel for the accused or the prosecutor does not appear at the pre-trial conference and does not offer an acceptable excuse for his lack of cooperation, the court may impose proper sanctions or penalties (Rule 118, Sec. 3).

The rule is intended to discourage dilatory moves or strategies as these would run counter to the purposes of pre-trial in criminal cases, more specifically those intended to protect the right of the accused to fair and speedy trial.

What is the form required for the pre-trial agreement?

Any agreement or admission entered into during the pre-trial conference should be:
  1. in writing
  2. signed by the accused
  3. signed by counsel
Otherwise, it cannot be used against the accused.

Does the rule requiring an agreement or admission made or entered during the pre-trial conference to be reduced in writing and signed by the accused and his counsel before the same may be used in evidence against the accused  equally applies to a stipulation of facts made during trial?

No. The requirement does not apply to stipulation of facts during trial. A stipulation of facts entered into by the prosecution and defense counsel during trial in open court is automatically reduced into writing and contained in the official transcript of the proceedings had in court. The conformity of the accused in the form of his signature affixed thereto is unnecessary in view of the fact that: "x x x an attorney who is employed to manage a party's conduct of a lawsuit x x x has prima facie authority to make relevant admissions by pleadings, by oral or written stipulation, x x x which unless allowed to be withdrawn are conclusive." In fact, "judicial admissions are frequently those of counsel or of the attorney of record, who is, for the purpose of the trial, the agent of his client.  When such admissions are made x x x for the  purpose of dispensing with proof of some fact, x x x they bind the client, whether made during, or even after, the trial.

The foregoing find basis in the general rule that a client is bound by the acts of his counsel who represents him. For all intents and purposes, the acts of a lawyer in the defense of a case are the acts of his client.  The rule extends even to the mistakes and negligence committed by the lawyer except only when such mistakes would result in serious injustice to the client. (People vs Hernandez, G.R. No. 108028, July 30, 1996)

What is a pre-trial order?

It is an order issued by the court after the pre-trial conference containing:
  1. a recital of the actions taken,
  2. the facts stipulated, and
  3. the evidence marked.
The pre-trial order binds the parties, limits the trial to matters not disposed of, and controls the course of the action during the trial, unless modified by the court to prevent manifest injustice.

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