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Republic vs. Agbulos Case Digest


● Trial in absentia is valid provided that: a)  the accused has been arraigned; b) he has been duly notified of the trial; and c) his failure to appear is unjustified.

● Once an accused escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country, he loses his standing in court and unless he surrenders or submits to its jurisdiction is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the court.


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Facts: 

Agbulos was charged with forcible abduction with rape. He pleaded not guilty when arraigned. Trial ensued and the prosecution rested its case.

Agbulos failed to appear during the subsequent hearings. The bonding company failed to surrender the accused and the court issued an order stating that upon motion of fiscal, judgment will issue against the full amount of the bond. In 1985, the trial court rendered its decision finding Agbulos guilty of forcible abduction with rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The counsel for the accused filed a notice of appeal.


Issues:

1. Was the trial in absentia valid?
2. May Agbulos file an appeal?


Held:

1. The trial in absentia was perfectly valid, having been held in accordance with Article IV, Section 19, of the 1973 Constitution, then in force, which has been reproduced verbatim in Article III, Section 14 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, providing in part as follows:

However, after arraignment, trial may proceed not withstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

The purpose of this rule is to speed up the disposition of criminal cases, trial of which could in the past be indefinitely deferred, and many times completely abandoned, because of the defendant's escape.

Now, the prisoner cannot by simply escaping thwart his continued prosecution and possibly eventual conviction provided only that: a) he has been arraigned; b) he has been duly notified of the trial; and c) his failure to appear is unjustified.

Under the old doctrine, trial in absentia of the escapee could not be held because he could not be duly notified thereof. Under the present rule, the fugitive is deemed to have waived such notice precisely because he has escaped, and it is also this escape that makes his failure to appear at his trial unjustified. Escape can never be a legal justification.

The right to be present at one's trial may now be waived except only at that stage where the prosecution intends to present witnesses who will identify the accused. The defendant's escape will be considered a waiver of this right and the inability of the court to notify him of the subsequent hearings will not prevent it from continuing with his trial. He will be deemed to have received due notice. The same fact of his escape will make his failure to appear unjustified because he has, by escaping, placed himself beyond the pale, and protection, of the law.


2. No. The record shows that after arraignment and during the trial, Agbulos jumped bail and has not been apprehended to date. The last time he appeared in court was on April 25, 1984, when the prosecution rested its case. The rest of the trial was held in absentia, resulting in the judgment of conviction.

Rule 124, Section 8, of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that the court may, "upon motion of the appellee or on its own motion, dismiss the appeal if the appellant escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country during the pendency of the appeal." We have held that once an accused escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country, he loses his standing in court and unless he surrenders or submits to its jurisdiction is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the court. (Republic vs. Agbulos, G.R. No. 73875 May 18, 1993)

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