G. R. No. 1503. December 29, 1903

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3 Phil. 121

[ G. R. No. 1503. December 29, 1903 ]



The defendants Alejo Ravidas and Narciso Melliza, together with. several other defendants,  were tried in  the Court of First Instance of Misamis on a charge of insurrection.  Both were convicted,  and Ravidas was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five years and Melliza to three years.   Both appealed to the Supreme Court from the judgment  of conviction.   After the case was lodged in the Supreme Court the attorneys for the two  defendants named made a motion that they be allowed  bail pending appeal, no such motion having been made in the trial court. This  motion was heard on November 16, 1903, and was opposed by the representative of the Attorney-General who appeared on behalf of the Government,

On November 30, 1903, the court directed the entry of the following order on its minutes: 

“Acting upon the motion  of Messrs. Palma,  Gerona & Mercado, attorneys for Alejo  Ravidas and Narciso Melliza, defendants in  the case of the United States vs.  Ravidas. et al., that the said defendants be granted bail during  the pendency of the appeal in this case before the court, after deliberation: 

“Resolved, by a majority vote, That the motion to admit the said defendants to bail  be denied.  The Hon. C.  S. Arellano, Chief Justice, and Justices Torres, Willard, and Johnson voted to deny the motion.”

From the order so entered  and the refusal to grant bail Justices McDonough, Mapa, and Cooper dissented.


MCDONOUGH, J., with whom concur COOPER and MAPA, JJ., 

This is a motion to admit the defendants to bail pending the trial of their appeal in this court.

Bail is usually favored.  Before conviction,  except  in capital cases, it is allowed as a matter of right.  After conviction, however, it is discretionary with the Court  of First Instance and also with this court to grant or refuse bail in noncapital eases pending on appeal.   (See sec. 53, G. O., 58.)

In several of the States the courts have refused to exercise this discretion unless there exist special  circumstances which call for the  intervention of the court in behalf  of the prisoner.   In those States the question has often been raised as to what is a special circumstance which justifies the courts in letting to  bail after conviction and pending an appeal. The answers have been numerous, various, and many of them vague. 

  1. In California it was said  in  the  case of  Ex parte Smallman et al.  (54 Cal., 35), that it might be a special circumstance  warranting the granting of bail  when, for example,  after a  conviction for the crime of felonious homicide and appeal “the deceased” was produced alive. 

  3. The same court gave as another instance:  Where the defendant had been convicted of stealing  goods and  it turned out afterwards that the goods of which he was convicted of stealing were at the time of the alleged theft  in the hands of the owner.
    With all due respect to the learned judge who gave these instances, it may be remarked that these were special circumstances warranting speedy pardon rather than bail.    
  4.   It was held in Nebraska (42 Neb., 48) that, after conviction and pending appeal, this discretion of the court may  be exercised upon the showing of probable error calling for a reversal of the judgment.

New York  State follows this view and, pending appeal and  an application for  a stay and  for bail,  the court will  look  into the record for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not there is probable cause for reversal.

In  Indiana it  has  been held,  on an  appeal  from the refusal of a judge to admit to bail, the supreme court  will weigh the evidence and determine the facts, as if trying the case  originally.   (Ex-parte  Heffernan,  27  Ind., 87; Ex-parte Kendall, 100  Ind.,  599, and cases cited.) 

  1. In 3 American and English Encyclopedia of Law, 677, it is said that a special circumstance  justifying bail, after conviction, is where the defendant voluntarily surrendered; or  
  2. Where he is a man of large means; or  
  3. Where he refused an opportunity to escape; or   
  4. When the defendant is seriously ill; or   
  5. When the hearing on the appeal has been unnecessarily delayed.

Thus it appears that the exceptions are so numerous that they almost constitute the rule.

The discretion to let to  bail conferred on this court is to be exercised  regardless of the action of the Court of First Instance.   Even in California, where it frequently happened that the trial court refused to exercise the discretion vested in it to let to bail, the supreme court, in  the case of Smith (89 Cal., 80), rebuked the court below  for failure to act.   “The fact,” said the learned judge of  the supreme court who wrote the opinion, “that the trial court adopted an inflexible rule not to admit a defendant to bail who has been convicted of a felony,  can have no weight with us, however inconsistent such rule is with section 1272 of the Penal Code” (allowing the court to  exercise discretion). “This court passes upon the merits of the petition presented to  it regardless  of any action or rule  the trial court niwy have  adopted”

In  the case of Hodge (48 Cal., 3) the chief justice of the supreme court allowed bail  after it  had been refused by the court below. There the defendant had  been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily injury.   The punishment for  that  offense  was a fine  or imprisonment,  and the  defendant  had been sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment of eighteen months in the State prison.

On the argument, the attention of Chief Justice Wallace was called to the record, and he evidently examined the record and the rulings of the court below and the charge to the jury, for he said:

“It is not proper that I should intimate an opinion as to the ultimate determination of the points  which it  is the purpose of this appeal to present for the judgment  of the supreme court.

“They are sufficient in my  judgment to show that the appeal is bona fide and that  the case made is not to be characterized as frivolous or unsubstantial.

“I think that should I, under the circumstance, refuse to admit the prisoner to bail, it would be a misapplication of the discretion conferred by the statute.

“The right to, appeal to the supreme court is guaranteed by the Constitution to the prisoner and is as secure as the right of trial by jury.  It is one of the means  the law has provided to determine the question  of his guilt or innocence.   Upon  such an appeal the  ultimate  question  is nearly always  as to the validity of the judgment  under which  the prisoner is to suffer, and it is  certainly not consonant to our ideas of justice, if it can be prevented by legal means,  that, even while  the question of  guilt or innocence is yet being agitated in the form of an appeal, the prisoner should be undergoing the very punishment  and suffering the very infamy which it was the lawful purpose of the  appeal to avert.   It would be somewhat akin to a practice of punishing the accused for his alleged  offense while the jury was yet deliberating upon a verdict.”

These are sensible and weighty reasons for the exercise of the discretion of the court to let a prisoner out on bail pending his appeal, but weighty and just as they may be  in California, there is much more reason for following them in these Islands, because here the accused  is not finally tried until his case is heard,  retried, and determined by this court, which, in case of conviction, sentences the accused  for  the  full term prescribed  by law; and he  is obliged to serve the full term of imprisonment imposed upon him by this  court, without being credited with the time served in prison, between the time of determining his guilt below and the time of conviction here, except where convicted  of certain minor offenses  in which  the convict is credited with half the time served pending the appeal. So  that  this may  result, especially if  delay occurs  in bringing the case to trial in this court,  and in deciding the same, that an accused may have to serve a longer term in prison than is prescribed by the Code.

Moreover, in  the  State courts,  the accused is allowed bail as a matter of right before conviction by a jury in noncapital cases.  The conviction, under our system, in a Court of First Instance, where an appeal has been taken, is very like an examination  and a holding for  trial by a committing magistrate in the States, if the holding  of this court in the case of the United States vs. Kepner (1 Off. (Gaz., 353) be good law.[1]  In the opinion of this court in that case,  it is  stated, under  the Spanish rule in these Islands: “There never was any finality to the judgment of the trial court, in felony cases, until it had been ratified and confirmed by the court of last resort.  Such a judgment was merely advisory to the appellate tribunal. *  * * That was the law of the land when  the change of sovereignty took place, and it has only been modified since to the extent of making the judgment of the Court of First Instance,  in felony cases (except capital  offenses)  final, unless an appeal lias been taken either by the Attorney-General or the accused.  So then, so now.”

Inasmuch as there has been an appeal taken in the case at bar, the  judgment below, therefore,  is not final; it is not such a judgment as is entered in the  States upon  the verdict of a jury; it is  in its nature “merely advisory,” and, therefore, it, together with the double  punishment mentioned above, constitutes a special  circumstance entitling the  defendants to  the  exercise  of the discretion of the court in their favor.

It seems  to me  that  this  court  ought to  follow  the practice of  the Federal  courts and that  of the Supreme Court  of the United States, and not  deny bail  after conviction unless some special circumstance exists which  appeals especially  to the discretion of the court, but  rather to allow  bail, unless  some  great urgency exists  which would  make it manifestly improper to grant the petition.

Thus  in  the case of McKnight  (113 Fed. Rep.,  451), decided  by the circuit court of appeals of the sixth circuit, 1902, it  was held that the United States Court of Appeals, pending a  writ  of error, had power,  and that it was generally its duty to.admit to bail, after  conviction of a crime not capital; that where the trial court refused to admit to bail pending a writ of error, in the absence of some great  urgency, a further application should be  made to the appellate court, and that the fact that the defendant had been three times convicted on  the same indictment, for embezzling funds of a national bank, was not sufficient ground for denying bail pending a writ  of error.

In the case of Hudson vs. Parker (156 U. S., 277) it appeared that Hudson  had  been convicted in the United States district court for the western district of Arkansas, of assault with intent to kill,  and was sentenced to imprisonment for a  term of years.

A writ of error was granted by one of the justices of the supreme court (not assigned to that circuit)  and an  order made for supersedeas and bail, in a sum named, pending the writ, the bond to be approved  by Judge Parker, the district judge.  He, however, refused to approve the  bond, holding that the supreme court judge was without authority to let the prisoner to bail.

In the opinion  of the supreme court it  was said  that: “The statutes of the United States have been  framed  upon the theory that a person accused of a crime shall not,  until he is finally adjudged guilty in  the court of last resort, be absolutely compelled to undergo imprisonment or punishment, but may be admitted to  bail not only after arrest and before trial, but after conviction and pending a writ of error,” and  so the court  ordered a mandamus  to be issued commanding Judge Parker to take action regarding the approval of the bond.

For  the foregoing reasons I am of opinion that the defendants should be let to bail pending the disposal of  their appeal in this court.

[1] 1 Phil. Rep., 397.

Date created: April 16, 2014


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