N. Rights of the accused

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Lawyer, Author, Mentor
No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law. (Section 14[1], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

Frequency: ★★☆☆☆

1. Criminal due process

No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law. (Section 14[1], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

A day in court is the touchstone of the right to due process in criminal justice. It is an aspect of the duty of the government to follow a fair process of decision-making when it acts to deprive a person of his liberty. But just as an accused is accorded this constitutional protection, so is the State entitled to due process in criminal prosecutions. It must similarly be given the chance to present its evidence in support of a charge. (People v. Verra, G.R. No. 134732, 29 May 2002)

a. CONSEQUENCES OF NO DUE PROCESS

1) Void judgment

A judgment rendered without due process is null and void, could never become final, and could be attacked in any appropriate proceeding. (Ibid.)

2) No jurisdiction

A violation of the State’s right to due process ousts courts of their jurisdiction and warrants a remand of the case to the trial court for further proceeding and reception of evidence. (Ibid.)

In those two cases, however, it is clear that the aggrieved parties were denied their day in court. In Villa, petitioner was not informed of the complaint against her; the administrative inquiry involving her was conducted in the most informal manner by means only of communication requiring submission of certain documents; and the documents she submitted were never given consideration on the pretense of lack of compliance. Similarly, in Paulin, the prosecution was stripped of its right to complete the presentation of its evidence when the case therein was prematurely terminated and dismissed. Obviously, the facts in Villa and Paulin are different. That petitioner, to reiterate, was never denied its day in court nor was it deceived by its own witness is a point already well-belabored.

2. Bail

a. CONCEPT

Bail – is the security given for the release of a person in custody of the law, furnished by him or a bondsman, conditioned upon his appearance before any court as required under the conditions hereinafter specified. Bail may be given in the form of corporate surety, property bond, cash deposit, or recognizance. (Section 1, Rule 114, Rules of Court)

Bail is the security given for the temporary release of a person who has been arrested and detained but “whose guilt has not yet been proven” in court beyond reasonable doubt. (People v. Escobar, G.R. No. 214300, 26 July 2017)

1) Requirements

All kinds of bail are subject to the following conditions:

1) The undertaking shall be effective upon approval and remain in force at all stages of the case, unless sooner cancelled, until the promulgation of the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, irrespective of whatever the case was originally filed in or appealed to it;

2) The accused shall appear before the proper court whenever so required by the court or these Rules;

3) The failure if the accused to appear at the trial without justification despite due notice to him or his bondsman shall be deemed an express waiver of his right to be present on the date specified in the notice. In such case, the trial may proceed in absentia; and,

4) The bondsman shall surrender the accused to the court for execution of the final judgment. (Section 2, Rule 114, Rules of Court)

2) When a matter of right

All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. (Section 13, Article III, 1987 Constitution)

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 offenses 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. (Section 4, Rule 114, Rules of Court)

The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required. (Section 13, Article III, 1987 Constitution)

The right to bail is cognate to the fundamental right to be presumed innocent. (People v. Escobar, supra.)

3) When discretionary

Bail may be a matter of right or judicial discretion. The accused has the right to bail if the offense charged is “not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment” before conviction by the Regional Trial Court. However, if the accused is charged with an offense the penalty of which is death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment – “regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution” – and when evidence of one’s guilt is not strong, then the accused’s prayer for bail is subject to the discretion of the trial court. (Ibid.)

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. (Section 5, Rule 114, Rules of Court)

The court, in its discretion, may allow the accused to continue on provisional liberty under the same bail bond during the period of appeal subject to the consent of the bondsman. (Paragraph 2, Section 5, Rule 114, Ibid.)

If the court imposed a penalty of imprisonment exceeding six (6) years but not more than twenty (20)years, the accused shall be denied bail, or his bail previously granted shall be cancelled, upon a showing by the prosecution, with notice to the accused, of the following or other similar circumstances:

1) That the accused is a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration;

2) That the accused is found to have previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or has violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification;

3) That the accused committed the offense while on probation, parole, or under conditional pardon;

4) That the circumstances of the accused or his indicate the probability of flight of released on bail; or

5) That there is undue risk that during the pendency of the appeal, the accused may commit another crime. (Paragraph 3, Section 5, Rule 114, Ibid.)

4) Recognizance

Recognizance – is a mode of securing the release of any person in custody or detention for the commission of an offense who is unable to post bail due to abject poverty. The court where the case of such person has been filed shall allow the release of the accused on recognizance as provided herein, to the custody of a qualified member of the barangay, city or municipality where the accused resides. (Section 3, R.A. 10389, Recognizance Act of 2012)

3. Presumption of innocence

a. CONCEPT

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. (Section 14[2], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

The presumption of innocence of an accused in a criminal case is a basic constitutional principle, fleshed out by procedural rules which place on the prosecution the burden of proving that an accused is guilty of the offense charged by proof beyond reasonable doubt. Corollary thereto, conviction must rest on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence and not on the weakness of the defense. (People v. Maraorao, G.R. No. 174369, 20 June 2012)

Indeed, suspicion no matter how strong must never sway judgment. Where there is reasonable doubt, the accused must be acquitted even though their innocence may not have been established. The Constitution presumes a person innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt. When guilt is not proven with moral certainty, it has been our policy of long standing that the presumption of innocence must be favored, and exoneration granted as a matter of right. (Ibid.)

In every criminal case where the accused enjoys the presumption of innocence, he is entitled to acquittal unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. (People v. Claro, G.R. No. 199894, 05 April 2017)

1) Reasonable doubt

Reasonable doubt – is not mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human affairs, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of jurors in such a condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge. (Ibid.)

2) Burden of proof on the State

The State has the burden of proof to show:

1) The correct identification of the author of a crime; and,

2) The actuality of the commission of the offense with the participation of the accused.  (People v. Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, 04 September 2013)

All these facts must be proved by the State beyond reasonable doubt on the strength of its evidence and without solace from the weakness of the defense. That the defense the accused puts up may be weak is inconsequential if, in the first place, the State has failed to discharge the onus of his identity and culpability. (Ibid.)

The presumption of innocence dictates that it is for the Prosecution to demonstrate the guilt and not for the accused to establish innocence. Indeed, the accused, being presumed innocent, carries no burden of proof on his or her shoulders. For this reason, the first duty of the Prosecution is not to prove the crime but to prove the identity of the criminal. For even if the commission of the crime can be established, without competent proof of the identity of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, there can be no conviction. (Ibid.)

a) Proof beyond reasonable doubt

In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. (Section 2, Rule 133, Rules of Court)

Proof beyond reasonable doubt charges the prosecution with the immense responsibility of establishing moral certainty. The prosecution’s case must rise on its own merits, not merely on relative strength as against that of the defense. Should the prosecution fail to discharge its burden, acquittal must follow as a matter of course. (Daayata v. People, G.R. No. 205745, 08 March 2017)

4. Right to counsel

a. CONCEPT

1) Absolute and may be invoked at all times

The right to counsel is absolute and may be invoked at all times. More so, in the case of an on-going litigation, it is a right that must be exercised at every step of the way, with the lawyer faithfully keeping his client company. (Inacay v. People, G.R. No. 223506, 28 November 2016)

In essence, the right to be heard by counsel simply refers to the right to be assisted by counsel for the purpose of ensuring that an accused is not denied the collateral right to due process, a fundamental right which cannot be waived by an accused. (People v. Buenaventura, G.R. No. 120468, 15 August 2001)

a) Custodial investigation

Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. (Section 12[1], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

b) Trial and criminal prosecution

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel. (Section 14[2], Article III, Ibid.)

If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. (Section 12[1], Article III, Ibid.)

2) Purpose

The presence and participation of counsel in criminal proceedings should never be taken lightly. Even the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of the law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and, without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his innocence. (People v. Santocildes, Jr., supra.)

b. CONSEQUENCES IF VIOLATED

1) Denial of due process

In criminal cases, the right of the accused to be assisted by counsel is immutable. Otherwise, there will be a grave denial of due process. (Inacay v. People, supra.)

Unless the accused is represented by a lawyer, there is great danger that any defense presented in his behalf will be inadequate considering the legal perquisites and skills needed in the court proceedings. This would certainly be a denial of due process. (Ibid.)

a) Recall of judgment

The right to counsel proceeds from the fundamental principle of due process which basically means that a person must be heard before being condemned. Thus, even if the judgment had become final and executory, it may still be recalled, and the accused afforded the opportunity to be heard by himself and counsel. (Ibid.)

Case Law

1) In Inacay v. People, during the proceedings before the trial court and the appellate court, was represented by a certain Eulogia Manila who, based on the Certification issued by the OBC, is not a lawyer. At that time, Inacay had no inkling that he was being represented by a sham lawyer. It was only when his conviction of the offense charged was upheld by the appellate court did Inacay learn that Manila is not a lawyer. Clearly, Inacay was not assisted by counsel in the proceedings before the lower courts and, hence, was denied of due process… Considering that there was a denial of due process, there is a need to set aside the judgment of conviction against Inacay and remand the case to the trial court for new, trial. Further, Manila, for representing herself as a lawyer, should be held liable for indirect contempt of court. (Ibid.)

b) Void sentence

The Constitutional right to counsel is inviolate. No court of justice under our system of government has the power to deprive him of that right. If the accused does not waive his right to be heard but on the contrary invokes that rough, and the court denies it to him, that court no longer has jurisdiction to proceed; it has no power to sentence the accused without hearing him in his defense; and the sentence thus pronounced is void and may be collaterally attacked in a habeas corpus proceeding. (Abriol v. Homeres, En Banc, G.R. No. L-2754, 31 August 1949)

5. Right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation

a. CONCEPT

Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed. (Section 12[1], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. (Section 14[2], Article III, Ibid.)

1) Elements of the offense on the Complaint or Information

No less than the Constitution guarantees the right of every person accused in a criminal prosecution to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him. It is fundamental that every element of which the offense is composed must be alleged in the complaint or information. The main purpose of requiring the various elements of a crime to be set out in the information is to enable the accused to suitably prepare his defense. He is presumed to have no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense. (Canceran v. People, G.R. No. 206442, 01 July 2015)

2) When offense proved is necessarily included in offense charged

The due recognition of the constitutional right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation through the criminal complaint or information is decisive of whether his prosecution for a crime stands or not. The right is not transgressed if the information sufficiently alleges facts and omissions constituting an offense that includes the offense established to have been committed by the accused. (People v. Manansala, G.R. No. 175939, 03 April 2013)

An accused cannot be convicted of a crime, even if duly proven, unless it is alleged or necessarily included in the information filed against him. An offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, constitute the latter. (Canceran v. People, G.R. No. 206442, 01 July 2015)

The rule is that when there is a variance between the offense charged in the complaint or information, and that proved or established by the evidence, and the offense as charged necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved included in that which is charged. (People v. Manansala, supra.)

Case Law

1) In People v. Manansala, the accused’s right to be informed was not violated simply because the information had precisely charged him with selling, delivering, giving away and distributing more or less 750 grams of dried marijuana leaves. Thereby, he was being sufficiently given notice that he was also to be held to account for possessing more or less 750 grams of dried marijuana leaves. The crime of illegal sale of marijuana defined and punished under Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, implied the prior possession of the marijuana. As such, the crime of illegal sale included or absorbed the crime of illegal possession. (Ibid.)

3) When offense proved is higher than offense charged

An accused cannot be convicted of a higher offense than that with which he was charged in the complaint or information and on which he was tried. (Canceran v. People, supra.)

It matters not how conclusive and convincing the evidence of guilt may be, an accused cannot be convicted in the courts of any offense, unless it is charged in the complaint or information on which he is tried, or necessarily included therein. (Ibid.)

He has a right to be informed as to the nature of the offense with which he is charged before he is put on trial, and to convict him of an offense higher than that charged in the complaint or information on which he is tried would be an unauthorized denial of that right. (Ibid.)

6. Right to speedy, impartial and public trial

a. CONCEPT

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial. (Section 14[2], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

1) Right to speedy trial

All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies. (Section 16, Article III, Ibid.)

NB: For more discussions, see: Part IX. Bill of Rights > O. Right to speedy disposition of cases

2) Right to impartial trial

Justice shall be impartially administered without unnecessary delay. (Section 1, Rule 135, Rules of Court)

An essential part of the right to due process is to be afforded a just and fair trial before his conviction for any crime. Any violation of the right cannot be condoned, for the impartiality of the judge who sits on and hears a case, and decides it is an indispensable requisite of procedural due process. (Lai v. People, G.R. No. 175999, 01 July 2015)

a) Impartiality of the judge

Judges should not only be impartial, but should also appear impartial. (Sardinia-Linco v. Pineda, En Banc, G.R. No. L-55939, 29 May 1981)

This Court has repeatedly and consistently demanded “the cold neutrality of an impartial judge” as the indispensable imperative of due process. To bolster that requirement, we have held that the judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial as an added assurance to the parties that his decision will be just. The litigants are entitled to no less than that. (Lai v. People, supra.)

They should be sure that when their rights are violated they can go to a judge who shall give them justice. They must trust the judge, otherwise they will not go to him at all. They must believe in his sense of fairness, otherwise they will not seek his judgment. Without such confidence, there would be no point in invoking his action for the justice they expect. (Ibid.)

3) Right to public trial

The sitting of every court of justice shall be public, but any court may, in its discretion, exclude the public when the evidence to be adduced is of such nature as to require their exclusion in the interest of morality or decency. The records of every court of justice shall be public records and shall be available for the inspection of any interested person, at all proper business hours, under the supervision of the clerk having custody of such records, unless the court shall, in any special case, have forbidden their publicity, in the interest of morality or decency. (Section 2, Rule 135, Rules of Court)

a) Belongs to the accused

An accused has a right to a public trial but it is a right that belongs to him, more than anyone else, where his life or liberty can be held critically in balance. A public trial aims to ensure that he is fairly dealt with and would not be unjustly condemned and that his rights are not compromised in secrete conclaves of long ago. (Re: Request Radio-TV Coverage of the Trial of the Sandiganbayan of the Plunder Cases Against the Former President Joseph E. Estrada v. Estrada, En Banc, A.M. No. 01-4-03-SC, 29 June 2001)

b) Public trial v. Publicized trial

A public trial is not synonymous with publicized trial; it only implies that the court doors must be open to those who wish to come, sit in the available seats, conduct themselves with decorum and observe the trial process. (Ibid.)

In the constitutional sense, a courtroom should have enough facilities for a reasonable number of the public to observe the proceedings, not too small as to render the openness negligible and not too large as to distract the trial participants from their proper functions, who shall then be totally free to report what they have observed during the proceedings. (Ibid.)

The courts recognize the constitutionally embodied freedom of the press and the right to public information. It also approves of media’s exalted power to provide the most accurate and comprehensive means of conveying the proceedings to the public and in acquainting the public with the judicial process in action; nevertheless, within the courthouse, the overriding consideration is still the paramount right of the accused to due process which must never be allowed to suffer diminution in its constitutional proportions. (Ibid.)

7. Right of confrontation

a. CONCEPT

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to meet the witnesses face to face. (Section 14[2], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

The right of confrontation thus guaranteed and secured to be accused is a personal privilege, and there does not seem to be any reason founded on principle or the circumstances a case which prohibits its waiver. (U.S. v. Anastasio, En Banc, G.R. No. L-2821, 30 August 1906)

1) Right to witness face-to-face

“To meet the witnesses face to face” is the right of confrontation. Subsumed in this right to confront is the right of an accused to cross-examine the witnesses against him or her, i.e., to propound questions on matters stated during direct examination, or connected with it. The cross-examination may be done with sufficient fullness and freedom to test the witness’ accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias, or the reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue. (Liong v. People, supra.)

Denying an accused the right to cross-examine will render the testimony of the witness incomplete and inadmissible in evidence.  When cross-examination is not and cannot be done or completed due to causes attributable to the party offering the witness, the uncompleted testimony is thereby rendered incompetent. (Ibid.)

The right of confrontation is held to apply specifically to criminal proceedings. (Go v. People, G.R. No. 185527, 18 July 2012)

a) Excludes preliminary investigation

The constitutional right of an accused to be confronted by the witnesses against him does not apply to preliminary hearings; nor will the absence of a preliminary examination be an infringement of his right to confront witnesses. (Dequito v. Arellano, En Banc, G.R. No. L-1336, 28 May 1948)

The constitutional right of an accused to confront the witnesses against him does not apply in preliminary investigations; nor will the absence of a preliminary investigation be an infringement of his right to confront the witnesses against him. A preliminary investigation may be done away with entirely without infringing the constitutional right of an accused under the due process clause to a fair trial. (Estrada v. Ombudsman, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 212140-41, 21 January 2015)

2) Purpose

The right has a two-fold purpose:

1) To afford the accused an opportunity to test the testimony of witnesses by cross-examination; and,

2) To allow the judge to observe the deportment of witnesses. (Go v. People, supra.)

The constitutional requirement “insures that the witness will give his testimony under oath, thus deterring lying by the threat of perjury charge; it forces the witness to submit to cross-examination, a valuable instrument in exposing falsehood and bringing out the truth; and it enables the court to observe the demeanor of the witness and assess his credibility.” (Ibid.)

3) Personal to the accused; May be waived

The right to confront and cross-examine an adverse witness is a basic fundamental constitutional right. However, this is personal to the accused, who can waive the right. (Liong v. People, G.R. No. 200630, 04 June 2018)

The right to cross-examine may be waived. It “is a personal one which may be waived expressly or impliedly by conduct amounting to a renunciation of the right of cross-examination.” When an accused is given the opportunity to cross-examine a witness but fails to avail of it, the accused shall be deemed to have waived this right.  The witness’ testimony given during direct examination will remain on record. If this testimony is used against the accused, there will be no violation of the right of confrontation. (Ibid.)

Case Law

1) In People v. Narca, the trial court deferred to another date the cross-examination of the prosecution witness on the instance of the accused. However, in the interim, the prosecution witness was murdered. Thus, the accused moved that the testimony of the prosecution witness be stricken off the record for lack of cross-examination. This Court rejected the argument, finding that the accused waived their right to cross-examine the prosecution witness when they moved for postponement. It said that “mere opportunity and not actual cross-examination is the essence of the right to cross-examine.” (Ibid.)

2) In Gimenez v. Nazareno, the accused, after arraignment but before trial, escaped from his detention center. Trial ensued despite his absence and the accused was subsequently convicted of murder. On appeal, the accused contended that the testimonies against him should be stricken off the record because he failed to exercise his right to cross-examine the witnesses against him. Rejecting this contention, this Court held that an escapee who has been tried in absentia does not retain the rights to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him. These rights are personal and “by his failure to appear during the trial of which he had notice,” this Court said that the accused “virtually waived these rights.” (Ibid.)

8. Right to compulsory processes

a. CONCEPT

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. (Section 14[2], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

Case Law

1) In Fajardo v. Garcia, the accused invoked their right to have compulsory processes issued against the attending doctor who treated them but who left for the United States, in the form of written interrogatories. In strucking down their motion, it was held that the fact that the accused were treated in the hospital by a doctor in question could be testified to by other witnesses, including the nurses who must have been present. It cannot be assumed that there would be an insuperable objection to the presentation of the mechanical indicate as to the wounds alleged to have been inflicted, as they could very weld show traces of such maltreatment. Even the length of their stay in the hospital could be verified by its records. (Fajardo v. Garcia, G.R. No. L-38675, 02 July 1980)

9. Trial in absentia

a. CONCEPT

After arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable. (Section 14[2], Article III, 1987 Constitution)

The holding of trial in absentia is authorized under Section 14 (2),  Article III of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.” (Bernardo v. People, G.R. No. 166980, 04 April 2007)

Pursuant to the last sentence of paragraph (2), Section 14, Article III of the Constitution, trial against them should continue and upon its termination, judgment should be rendered against them notwithstanding their absence unless, of course, both accused have died and the fact of such death is sufficiently established. (People vs. Tabag, G.R. No. 116511, 12 February 1997)

1) Trials against fugitives proceeds

The trial against the fugitives, just like those of the others, should be brought to its ultimate conclusion. Thereafter, the trial court has the duty to rule on the evidence presented by the prosecution against all the accused and to render its judgment accordingly. It should not wait for the fugitives’ re-appearance or re-arrest. They were deemed to have waived their right to present evidence on their own behalf and to confront and cross-examine the witnesses who testified against them. (Bernardo v. People, G.R. No. 166980, 04 April 2007)

Case Law

1. In People v. Salas, the escape was considered a waiver of their right to be present at their trial, and the inability of the court to notify them of the subsequent hearings did not prevent it from continuing with their trial. They were deemed to have received notice. The same fact of their escape made their failure to appear unjustified because they have, by escaping, placed themselves beyond the pale and protection of the law.

2) Promulgation of judgment in absentia

The judgment is promulgated by reading it in the presence of the accused and any judge of the court in which it was rendered. However, if the conviction is for a light offense, the judgment may be pronounced in the presence of his counsel or representative. When the judge is absent or outside the province or city, the judgment may be promulgated by the clerk of court. (Section 6, Rule 120, Rules of Court)

The proper clerk of court shall give notice to the accused personally or through his bondsman or warden and counsel, requiring him to be present at the promulgation of the decision. If the accused was tried in absentia because he jumped bail or escaped from prison, the notice to him shall be served at his last known address. (Paragraph 3, Section 6, Rule 120, Ibid.)

In case the accused fails to appear at the scheduled date of promulgation of judgment despite notice, the promulgation shall be made by recording the judgment in the criminal docket and serving him a copy thereof at his last known address or thru his counsel. (Paragraph 4, Section 6, Rule 120, Ibid.)

a) Purpose

The rules allow promulgation of judgment in absentia to obviate the situation where juridical process could be subverted by the accused jumping bail. But the Rules also provide measures to make promulgation in absentia a formal and solemn act so that the absent accused, wherever he may be, can be notified of the judgment rendered against him. (Estrada v. People, G.R. No. 162371, 25 August 2005)

b) Notice to accused

The sentence imposed by the trial court cannot be served in the absence of the accused. Hence, all means of notification must be done to let the absent accused know of the judgment of the court. And the means provided by the Rules are:

1) The act of giving notice to all persons or the act of recording or registering the judgment in the criminal docket (which Section 6 incidentally mentions first showing its importance); and,

2) The act of serving a copy thereof upon the accused (at his last known address) or his counsel. In a scenario where the whereabouts of the accused are unknown (as when he is at large), the recording satisfies the requirement of notifying the accused of the decision wherever he may be.(Ibid.)

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