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SERAPIO VS.

SANDIGANBAYAN 396 SCRA 443 During the hearing on May 4, 2001 on


(2003) petitioners Urgent Petition for Bail, the
prosecution moved for the resetting of the
FACTS: arraignment of the accused earlier than the June
Before the Court are two petitions for 27, 2001 schedule. However, the Sandiganbayan
certiorari filed by petitioner Edward Serapio, denied the motion of the prosecution and issued
assailing the resolutions of the Third Division of an order declaring that the petition for bail can
the Sandiganbayan denying his petition for bail, and should be heard before petitioners
motion for a reinvestigation and motion to arraignment on June 27, 2001 and even before
quash, and a petition for habeas corpus, all in the other accused filed their respective petitions
relation to Criminal Case No. 26558 for plunder for bail. Accordingly, the Sandiganbayan set the
wherein petitioner is one of the accused hearing for the reception of evidence on
together with former President Joseph E. petitioners petition for bail on May 21 to 25,
Estrada, Jose Jinggoy P. Estrada and several 2001.
others. The Sandiganbayan issued a resolution
Petitioner was a member of the Board of requiring the attendance of petitioner as well as
Trustees and the Legal Counsel of the Erap all the other accused during the hearings on the
Muslim Youth Foundation, a non-stock, petitions for bail under pain of waiver of cross-
nonprofit foundation established in February examination. The Sandiganbayan, citing its
2000 ostensibly for the purpose of providing inherent powers to proceed with the trial of the
educational opportunities for the poor and case in the manner it determines best conducive
underprivileged but deserving Muslim youth and to orderly proceedings and speedy termination
students, and support to research and advance of the case, directed the other accused to
studies of young Muslim educators and participate in the said bail hearing considering
scientists. that under Section 8, Rule 114 of the Revised
Petitioner, as trustee of the Foundation, Rules of Court, whatever evidence is adduced
received on its behalf a donation in the amount during the bail hearing shall be considered
of Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200 Million) automatically reproduced at the trial.
from Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Chavit Singson. The bail hearing did not proceed
because petitioner filed with the Sandiganbayan
Later that year, Singson publicly accused a motion to quash the amended Information on
then president Estrada and his cohorts of the grounds that as against him, the amended
engaging in several illegal activities, including its Information does not allege a combination or
operation on the illegal numbers game known as series of overt or criminal acts constitutive of
jueteng which triggered the Ombudsman to file plunder; as against him, the amended
cases of plunder against the former president Information does not allege a pattern of criminal
and others who were allegedly involved. acts indicative of an overall unlawful scheme or
conspiracy. By way of riposte, the prosecution
The Sandiganbayan set the arraignment objected to the holding of bail hearing until
of the accused, including petitioner. In the petitioner agreed to withdraw his motion to
meantime, on April 27, 2001, petitioner filed quash. The prosecution contended that
with the Sandiganbayan an Urgent Petition for petitioners motion to quash the amended
Bail which was set for hearing on May 4, 2001. Information was antithetical to his petition for
For his part, petitioners coaccused Jose bail. He also filed a petition for Habeas Corpus.
Jinggoy Estrada filed on April 20, 2001 a Very Meanwhile, Jose Jinggoy Estrada filed
Urgent Omnibus Motion alleging that he was with the Sandiganbayan a motion praying that
entitled to bail as a matter of right. said court resolve his motion to fix his bail. the
Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution denying
petitioners motion to quash the amended information is filed against him. The Courts
Information. The motion to fix bail filed by Jose pronouncement in Lavides should be
Jinggoy Estrada was also denied by the understood in light of the fact that the
Sandiganbayan. Jose Jinggoy Estrada filed a accused in said case filed a petition for bail
petition for certiorari for the nullification of a as well as a motion to quash the
resolution of the Sandiganbayan denying his informations filed against him. Hence, we
motion to fix bail. explained therein that to condition the grant
of bail to an accused on his arraignment
ISSUES: would be to place him in a position where he
1.)Whether or not petitioner should first be has to choose between (1) filing a motion to
arraigned before hearings of his petition for bail quash and thus delay his release on bail
may be conducted; because until his motion to quash can be
2.)Whether petitioner may file a motion to resolved, his arraignment cannot be held,
quash the amended Information during the and (2) foregoing the filing of a motion to
pendency of his petition for bail; quash so that he can be arraigned at once
3.)Whether a joint hearing of the petition for bail and thereafter be released on bail. This
of petitioner and those of the other accused is would undermine his constitutional right not
mandatory; to be put on trial except upon a valid
4.)Whether the People waived their right to complaint or Information sufficient to
adduce evidence in opposition to the petition for charge him with a crime and his right to bail.
bail of petitioner and failed to adduce strong
evidence of guilt of petitioner for the crime It is therefore not necessary that an
charged accused be first arraigned before the
conduct of hearings on his application for
HELD/RATIO: bail. For when bail is a matter of right, an
accused may apply for and be granted bail
1. NO. even prior to arraignment. The ruling in
The arraignment of an accused is not a Lavides also implies that an application for
prerequisite to the conduct of hearings on bail in a case involving an offense punishable
his petition for bail. A person is allowed to by reclusion perpetua to death may also be
petition for bail as soon as he is deprived of heard even before an accused is arraigned.
his liberty by virtue of his arrest or voluntary Further, if the court finds in such case that
surrender. An accused need not wait for his the accused is entitled to bail because the
arraignment before filing a petition for bail. evidence against him is not strong, he may
be granted provisional liberty even prior to
In cases where it is authorized, bail arraignment; for in such a situation, bail
should be granted before arraignment, would be authorized under the
otherwise the accused may be precluded circumstances. In fine, the Sandiganbayan
from filing a motion to quash. committed a grave abuse of its discretion
amounting to excess of jurisdiction in
However, the foregoing pronouncement ordering the arraignment of petitioner
should not be taken to mean that the before proceeding with the hearing of his
hearing on a petition for bail should at all petition for bail.
times precede arraignment, because the rule
is that a person deprived of his liberty by
virtue of his arrest or voluntary surrender 2. YES.
may apply for bail as soon as he is deprived The Court finds that no such
of his liberty, even before a complaint or inconsistency exists between an application
of an accused for bail and his filing of a Procedure of the Sandiganbayan governing
motion to quash. Bail is the security given for the hearings of two or more petitions for bail
the release of a person in the custody of the filed by different accused or that a petition
law, furnished by him or a bondsman, to for bail of an accused be heard
guarantee his appearance before any court simultaneously with the trial of the case
as required under the conditions set forth against the other accused. The matter of
under the Rules of Court. Its purpose is to whether or not to conduct a joint hearing of
obtain the provisional liberty of a person two or more petitions for bail filed by two
charged with an offense until his conviction different accused or to conduct a hearing of
while at the same time securing his said petition jointly with the trial against
appearance at the trial. As stated earlier, a another accused is addressed to the sound
person may apply for bail from the moment discretion of the trial court. Unless grave
that he is deprived of his liberty by virtue of abuse of discretion amounting to excess or
his arrest or voluntary surrender. lack of jurisdiction is shown, the Court will
not interfere with the exercise by the
On the other hand, a motion to quash an Sandiganbayan of its discretion.
Information is the mode by which an
accused assails the validity of a criminal It may be underscored that in the
complaint or Information filed against him exercise of its discretion, the Sandiganbayan
for insufficiency on its face in point of law, or must take into account not only the
for defects which are apparent in the face of convenience of the State, including the
the Information. An accused may file a prosecution, but also that of the accused and
motion to quash the Information, as a the witnesses of both the prosecution and
general rule, before arraignment. the accused and the right of accused to a
speedy trial. The Sandiganbayan must also
These two reliefs have objectives which consider the complexities of the cases and of
are not necessarily antithetical to each the factual and legal issues involving
other. Certainly, the right of an accused right petitioner and the other accused. After all, if
to seek provisional liberty when charged this Court may echo the observation of the
with an offense not punishable by death, United States Supreme Court, the State has
reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, or a stake, with every citizen, in his being
when charged with an offense punishable by afforded our historic individual protections,
such penalties but after due hearing, including those surrounding criminal
evidence of his guilt is found not to be prosecutions. About them, this Court dares
strong, does not preclude his right to assail not become careless or complacent when
the validity of the Information charging him that fashion has become rampant over the
with such offense. It must be conceded, earth.
however, that if a motion to quash a criminal
complaint or Information on the ground that 4. NO.
the same does not charge any offense is Petitioners claim that the prosecution
granted and the case is dismissed and the had refused to present evidence to prove his
accused is ordered released, the petition for guilt for purposes of his bail application and
bail of an accused may become moot and that the Sandiganbayan has refused to grant
academic. a hearing thereon is not borne by the
records. The prosecution did not waive,
3. NO. expressly or even impliedly, its right to
There is no provision in the Revised adduce evidence in opposition to the
Rules of Criminal Procedure or the Rules of petition for bail of petitioner. It must be
noted that the Sandiganbayan had already
scheduled the hearing dates for petitioners
application for bail but the same were reset
due to pending incidents raised in several
motions filed by the parties, which incidents
had to be resolved by the court prior to the
bail hearings. The bail hearing was
eventually scheduled by the Sandiganbayan
on July 10, 2001 but the hearing did not push
through due to the filing of this petition on
June 29, 2001.

The delay in the conduct of hearings on


petitioners application for bail is therefore
not imputable solely to the Sandiganbayan
or to the prosecution. Petitioner is also
partly to blame therefor, as is evident from
the following list of motions filed by him and
by the prosecution.

When the grant of bail is discretionary,


the prosecution has the burden of showing that
the evidence of guilt against the accused is
strong. However, the determination of whether
or not the evidence of guilt is strong, being a
matter of judicial discretion, remains with the
judge. This discretion by the very nature of
things, may rightly be exercised only after the
evidence is submitted to the court at the
hearing. Since the discretion is directed to the
weight of the evidence and since evidence
cannot properly be weighed if not duly exhibited
or produced before the court, it is obvious that a
proper exercise of judicial discretion requires
that the evidence of guilt be submitted to the
court, the petitioner having the right of cross-
examination and to introduce his own evidence
in rebuttal. Accordingly, petitioner cannot be
released from detention until the
Sandiganbayan conducts a hearing of his
application for bail and resolve the same in his
favor. Even then, there must first be a finding
that the evidence against petitioner is not strong
before he may be granted bail.