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Bravo vs. Borja Case Digest


The capital nature of an offense is determined by the penalty prescribed by law, not by the penalty to be actually imposed in view of the attendant circumstances. To allow bail on the basis of the penalty to be actually imposed would require a consideration not only of the evidence of the commission of the crime but also evidence of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. There would then be a need for a complete trial, after which the judge would be just about ready to render a decision in the case. Such procedure would defeat the purpose of bail, which is to entitle the accused to provisional liberty pending trial.

Nevertheless, where it has been established without objection that the accused is only 16 years old, it follows that, if convicted, he would be given "the penalty next lower than that prescribed by law," which effectively rules out the death penalty. It results that petitioner is entitled to bail as a matter of right.

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Facts:

Bravo is charged with murder for the killing of one Ramon Abiog. He filed a motion for bail based on two reasons: (a) that the evidence against him is not strong in view of the retraction by Ferdinand del Rosario, one of the prosecution witnesses, of his previous statement naming him as the assailant; and (b) that he is a minor of 16 years, entitled as such to a privileged mitigating circumstance under Article 68 of the Revised Penal Code which would make the murder charge against him non-capital. Judge Borja, however, denied the motion for bail on the finding that the evidence of petitioner's guilt is strong and his minority was not proved.

Bravo then filed a motion for reconsideration stating that his minority had been proved by his birth certificate and that the offense charged is not capital because even if convicted, he could not be sentenced to death because of his minority. But such was denied by the respondent Judge.

A motion praying that he be placed in the care and custody of the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) pursuant to Article 191 Child and Youth Welfare Code was also denied.

NBI Regional Office at Naga City submitted its report declaring that it was the prosecution witness, Ferdinand del Rosario, and not the petitioner, who killed the deceased Abiog. When the murder case was next called for hearing, the defense unilaterally moved orally that the trial of petitioner be reset in order to give the City Fiscal more time to study the NBI report, but the motion was denied as dilatory.

Hence the instant petition for certiorari and mandamus, with two supplementary petitions, seeking the release of petitioner on bail or his transfer to the custody of the MSSD


Issue:

Whether or not petitioner is entitled to bail as a matter of right


Held:

Under the Constitution, "all persons, except those charged with capital offenses when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties." (Article IV, Section 18.) Generally, therefore, bail is a matter of right before conviction, unless the accused is charged with a capital offense and the evidence of guilt is strong.

The charge against petitioner is murder qualified by treachery and attended by two aggravating circumstances: evident premeditation and nocturnity. Punishable by reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death, the crime is therefore a capital offense.

The petitioner however submits that even assuming that the evidence of guilt against him is strong, the charge of murder, as to him who is only 16 years old, cannot be capital because the death penalty cannot be imposed on account of his minority which entitles him to a penalty reduction of one degree.

In effect, under petitioner's submission, the test to determine whether the offense charged is capital, is the penalty to be actually imposed on him in view of the attendant circumstances.

Petitioner's posture hardly finds support in the law. Under Section 5 of Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, a capital offense is "an offense which, under the law existing at the time of its commission, and at the time of the application to be admitted to bail, may be punished by death." It is clear from this provision that the capital nature of an offense is determined by the penalty prescribed by law, with reference to which it is relatively easy to ascertain whether the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong. Moreover, when the Constitution or the law speaks of evidence of guilt, it evidently refers to a finding of innocence or culpability, regardless of the modifying circumstances.

To allow bail on the basis of the penalty to be actually imposed would require a consideration not only of the evidence of the commission of the crime but also evidence of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. There would then be a need for a complete trial, after which the judge would be just about ready to render a decision in the case. As perceptively observed by the Solicitor General, such procedure would defeat the purpose of bail, which is to entitle the accused to provisional liberty pending trial.

Nevertheless, where it has been established without objection that the accused is only 16 years old, it follows that, if convicted, he would be given "the penalty next lower than that prescribed by law," which effectively rules out the death penalty.

The Constitution withholds the guaranty of bail from one who is accused of a capital offense where the evidence of guilt is strong. The obvious reason is that one who faces a probable death sentence has a particularly strong temptation to flee. This reason does not hold where the accused has been established without objection to be a minor who by law cannot be sentenced to death.

It results that petitioner is entitled to bail as a matter of right, which makes it unnecessary to decide whether he, being a minor, is entitled to be placed pending trial in the care and custody of the MSSD pursuant to Article 191 of P.D. No. 603. (Bravo vs. Borja, G.R. No. L-65228, February 18, 1985)

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