Detained indigent persons have the right to liberty

LAWMAKERS are confident that Senate would soon pass the House-approved “Recognizance Act of 2011” granting the release of an indigent person in custody as an accused in a criminal case.

“This is a classic case of injustice that victimizes only the poor and smacks of the social justice mandate of our Constitution,” declared Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariñas (1st District, Ilocos Norte), the principal author of substitute HB 5395.

HB 5395, which substituted the original HB 2414, was approved by the House of Representatives on December 13, 2011 and transmitted to the Senate two days later.

The bill’s other principal authors include, among others, Committee on Justice chairman Niel Tupas, Jr. (5th District, Iloilo), Reps. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City), Joseph Violago (2nd District, Nueva Ecija), Teodoro Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna), Neri
Colmenares (Party-list, Bayan Muna), Luzviminda Ilagan (Party-list, Gabriela), Rafael Mariano (Party-list, Anakpawis), Raymond Palatino (Party-list, Kabataan), Emmi De Jesus (Party-list, Gabriela), Antonio Tinio (Party-list, Act Teachers), Jeffrey Ferrer (4th District, Negros Occidental), Orlando Fua (Lone District, Siquijor), and George Arnaiz (2nd District, Negros Oriental).

Recognizance is defined as a mode of securing the release of any person in custody or detention for the commission of an offense but is unable to post bail due to abject poverty.

The court where the case of such person has been filed, the bill states, shall allow the release of the accused on recognizance, as provided in the measure, to the custody of a responsible member of the city or municipality where the accused resides.

“The release on recognizance is a matter of right when the offense is not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, provided that the accused or any person on his behalf files the application for such,” Fariñas said.

The proposed measure, Casiño and Colmenares pointed out, seeks to establish a missing but vital component of our judicial system by allowing the depressed sector of our society to be equal with all others in terms of enjoying liberty while the State proves their guilt
in the commission of an offense.

“Unfortunately, there are a great number of persons who have the right to bail but end up being deprived of liberty and are detained during trial simply because they do not have the financial means to post bail required by law,” Nograles lamented.

Fariñas said the noble purpose of his bill is to give the poor “more in law,” by affording them the right to be released on recognizance while their cases are pending in court.

Before any court could grant the release, the detained person shall have complied with the requirements provided for under the proposed law.

“The Bill provides for the participation of the duly elected local officials, in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to ensure that a beneficiary of the proposed law does not have the financial capacity to post bail by sufficient securities,” the authors said.

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