Remedial Law

Jessica Lucila Reyes vs Director of Camp Bagong Diwa

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G.R. No. 254838 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Rule 102; Habeas Corpus – Habeas Corpus may be availed of if there is a violation of an accused’s right to speedy trial even if detention was upon a valid court order

Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes was arrested in 2014 for plunder. After her arrest, the Sandiganbayan committed her to the detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. In 2021, while her case was still pending in the Sandiganbayan, Reyes filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus with the Supreme Court. Reyes argued, among others, that her case dragged on for years due to the errors of the Prosecution; that the prosecution wrongfully marked certain pieces of evidence which resulted in postponements; that as a further result, the Sandiganbayan issued two pre-trial orders which are vague; and that trial has been suspended (NOTE: trial in the Sandiganbayan only resumed in March 2022) with no assurance of speedy resolution.

The warden filed a return where it was argued that under prevailing rule and jurisprudence, Reyes is not entitled to habeas corpus because her detention was upon a valid court order.

The Office of the Solicitor General also argued that several of the postponements are attributable to the various filings of Reyes herself which even reached and are pending in the Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not Gigi Reyes is entitled to the remedy of habeas corpus.

HELD: Yes. This is on the ground that her constitutional right to speedy trial has been violated. While the writ is generally not available to a person whose liberty is under custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge, when such custody becomes vexatious, capricious, and oppressive amounting to an infringement on the constitutional right to speedy trial of an accused, habeas corpus may be provisionally availed of. In this light, the Supreme Court provided the following:

Guidelines in availing habeas corpus when speedy trial is invoked:

1. Petitioner must be illegally restrained;

2. If not illegally restrained, there must be a violation on the petitioner’s constitutional right. Mere allegation of a violation of a constitutional right is not enough. The violation of constitutional right must be shown to be sufficient as to possibly void the proceedings;

3. One of the constitutional rights violated must be the right to speedy trial. Any of these grounds must be shown and may be proven to exist under the Barker Balancing Test or the Cagang Guidelines:

a. The proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays;
b. Unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured;
c. Without cause of justifiable motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the Petitioner having his or her case tried.

4. The petition is only to seek provisional liberty and not to determine the merit of the case

In this case, the Prosecution was at fault for the delays. Even though some of the delays were caused by Reyes, still, the Prosecution should have justified the delays they caused. Here, they merely invoked that under prevailing rules and jurisprudence, Reyes is not entitled to habeas corpus because her detention was ordered by the Sandiganbayan. Due to the protracted hearing, Reyes’ detention has become vexatious, capricious, and excessive.

Reyes was ordered released. She was not directed to post bail but was ordered to attend the scheduled hearings, give periodic reports, and cannot leave the country without authority from the Sandiganbayan.

What is the Barker Balancing Test?

Under the BBT, the following must be considered:

1. Length of delay
2. Reasons for the delay
3. Assertion or non-assertion of the right by the accused
4. Prejudice caused by the delay

What is the Cagang Guidelines?

1. Burden of proof in proving violation of the speedy trial rule is on the Accused;
2. Entire context of the case must be considered, i.e., complexity or simplicity of the case; volume of evidence to be considered;
3. Right to speedy trial must be timely raised.

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