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[G.R. No. 158129.  June 18, 2003]

BRIONES vs. PEOPLE

THIRD DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 18 2003.

G.R. No. 158129 (Jun Ancajas Briones vs. People of the Philippines, Hon. Narciso Bravo, Presiding Judge, RTC Br. 46 Masbate, Atty. Regino Tambago, and the Hon. Court Of Appeals.)

Before us is a petition for certiorari with prayer for issuance of writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assailing the twin orders[1]cralaw issued by the Regional Trial Court of Masbate City, Branch 46, in Criminal Case No. 9272 dated February 18, 2002 and March 14, 2002 which denied petitioner's application for bail and motion for reconsideration respectively.

On September 14, 1998, private respondent Regino Tambago filed a criminal complaint for libel against petitioner Jun Ancajas Briones. The trial court found probable cause against petitioner and, on September 17, 1998, it approved petitioner's bail bond.

Petitioner was then charged with libel in an information dated January 29, 1999. During the trial, petitioner repeatedly failed to appear in court despite due notice. Consequently, the trial court allowed the prosecution to present evidence in absentia.

On October 2, 2001, the prosecution rested its case and, on the same day, the trial court declared petitioner to have waived his right to present his evidence and deemed the case submitted for decision.

On November 14, 2001, the case was set for promulgation of judgment. The decision was thereafter promulgated in accordance with Section 6, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court.

On February 11, 2002, petitioner filed his application for bail, citing as a ground for its allowance his voluntary surrender on January 22, 2002 and the fact that the decision was still unpromulgated as to him because he had neither been notified of its promulgation nor given a copy thereof.

On February 18, 2002, the trial court issued the first assailed order denying petitioner's bail application. On the same day, petitioner escaped from the provincial jail.

On February 22, 2002, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. On March 14, 2002, the trial court denied said motion for reconsideration in its second assailed order.

Aggrieved, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via petition for certiorari. On October 4, 2002, the appellate court rendered a decision[2]cralaw dismissing the same for lack of merit. A subsequent motion for reconsideration likewise failed.

Thus, the instant petition wherein petitioner harps on the alleged grave abuse of discretion committed by the trial court when it denied his application for bail despite the fact that there was allegedly no valid promulgation of judgment against him.

The petition deserves scant consideration.

Records reveal that no abuse of discretion was committed by the trial court when it denied petitioner's application for bail and motion for reconsideration. In fact, the assailed orders were founded on justifiable ground which was petitioner's blatant disregard of the lawful orders of the court.

It is worthy to note that the trial court approved the bail bond of petitioner on September 17, 1998 and thus, he was in fact out on bail during the entire duration of the trial of his case. However, petitioner repeatedly failed to appear before the court despite due notice, to the point that the trial court considered him to have waived his right to present evidence and deemed the case submitted for decision.

Under the third paragraph of Section 6 of Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, all accused, regardless of the gravity of the offense with which they are charged, must be given notice of promulgation of judgment. However, the last paragraph of the said provision allows the promulgation of judgment in absentia to cover the possibility that the judicial process might be subverted if the accused jumps bail. This is the exact situation in the case at bar. Petitioner insists that he was not served a notice of promulgation. On the other hand, the trial court, in denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration, categorically stated that there was a valid promulgation of judgment against him:

The counsel for the accused insists that the decision in the above cases had never been promulgated. The record of each of the above-entitled cases shows that the decision had been duly promulgated. It was the making of the accused not to receive a copy of the decision at his last known address and there was no one to receive a copy of the decision. The accused had been a fugitive from justice, hence, he lost his legal standing in court and had forfeited all his rights under the law.[3]cralaw

As against petitioner's unsubstantiated allegation, the Court is inclined to give credence to the trial court's pronouncement which carries a presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty.[4]cralaw

Regarding the supposed entitlement to bail of petitioner as a matter of right, Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 114 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure are explicit:

SEC. 4. Bail, a matter of right. - All persons in custody shall: (a) before or after conviction by the Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, and (b) before conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, be admitted to bail as a matter of right, with sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as prescribed by law or this Rule. (3a)

SEC. 5 Bail, when discretionary. - Upon conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, the court, on application, may admit the accused to bail.

Clearly, after conviction by the RTC of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, bail becomes a matter of discretion.

It is settled that where the ground invoked in a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is abuse of discretion, the abuse must be so grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility; or it must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of power.[5]cralaw

All told, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion committed by the trial court.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) JULIETA Y. CARREON

Clerk of Court



[1]cralaw Issued by Judge Narciso G. Bravo.

[2]cralaw Penned by Associate Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole and concurred in by Associate Justices Salvador J. Valdez Jr. and Sergio L. Pestaņo of the Eleventh Division.

[3]cralaw Rollo, p. 17.

[4]cralaw Celia A. Flores vs. National Labor Relations Commission and Philippine Public School Teachers Association, 256 SCRA 735 [1996].

[5]cralaw Republic vs. Villarama, Jr., 278 SCRA 736 [1997].


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