FACTS: Charged with the murder of Rafael de las Alas, petitioner Jose Antonio Leviste was convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Makati City for the lesser crime of homicide and sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of six years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to 12 years and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum. He appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. Pending appeal, he filed an urgent application for admission to bail pending appeal, citing his advanced age and health condition, and claiming the absence of any risk or possibility of flight on his part. The Court of Appeals denied petitioner’s application for bail. It invoked the bedrock principle in the matter of bail pending appeal, that the discretion to extend bail during the course of appeal should be exercised “with grave caution and only for strong reasons.” Petitioner now questions as grave abuse of discretion the denial of his application for bail, considering that none of the conditions justifying denial of bail under the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court was present. Petitioner’s theory is that, where the penalty imposed by the trial court is more than six years but not more than 20 years and the circumstances mentioned in the third paragraph of Section 5 are absent, bail must be granted to an appellant pending appeal.
ISSUE: In an application for bail pending appeal by an appellant sentenced by the trial court to a penalty of imprisonment for more than six years, does the discretionary nature of the grant of bail pending appeal mean that bail should automatically be granted absent any of the circumstances mentioned in the third paragraph of Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court?
HELD: NO, discretionary nature of bail mentioned in Section 5 of Rule 114 does not mean automatic grant of bail in case of appeal.
After conviction by the trial court, the presumption of innocence terminates and, accordingly, the constitutional right to bail ends. From then on, the grant of bail is subject to judicial discretion. At the risk of being repetitious, such discretion must be exercised with grave caution and only for strong reasons. Considering that the accused was in fact convicted by the trial court, allowance of bail pending appeal should be guided by a stringent-standards approach. This judicial disposition finds strong support in the history and evolution of the rules on bail and the language of Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court. It is likewise consistent with the trial court’s initial determination that the accused should be in prison. Furthermore, letting the accused out on bail despite his conviction may destroy the deterrent effect of our criminal laws. This is especially germane to bail pending appeal because long delays often separate sentencing in the trial court and appellate review. In addition, at the post-conviction stage, the accused faces a certain prison sentence and thus may be more likely to flee regardless of bail bonds or other release conditions. Finally, permitting bail too freely in spite of conviction invites frivolous and time-wasting appeals which will make a mockery of our criminal justice system and court processes.