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Bong Revilla, Richard Cambe, and Janet Napoles were charged with plunder. In 2018, Cambe and Napoles were convicted. Napoles was transferred to the Correctional Institution for Women. She appealed her conviction. Pending her appeal, the pandemic broke out. Napoles then filed a motion to be released on recognizance. She invoked the Nelson Mandela Rules and Office of the Court Administrator’s Circular No. 91-2020 (Release of Qualified Persons Deprived of Liberty) as basis for her release. She likewise cited the case of De La Rama (77 Phil. 461) and Enrile (767 Phil. 147). She claimed that as a person suffering diabetes, she should be released on medical grounds just like Enrile and De La Rama in their respective cases; that as a diabetic, she has a strong likelihood to contract Covid while in prison.
ISSUE: Whether or not Napoles’ motion has merit.
HELD: No. Her petition is riddled with flaws. She was already convicted. Bail is only a matter of right in non-capital offenses. Plunder is a capital offense. In capital offenses, an accused may only be granted bail if evidence of guilt is not strong. Here, there was already a finding that the evidence of guilt strong which was why she was convicted.
Further, Napoles may not be released on recognizance. She did not even allege that she is an indigent. Republic Act No. 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012 is applicable to those who are entitled to bail, but are unable to post bail due to abject poverty.
Nor may Napoles be released on humanitarian grounds. The mere fact that she has diabetes is not sufficient for her to be released. OCA 91-2020 is not a blanket authority to release inmates during the pandemic. It merely reminds the trial courts to effectively implement the existing policies laid down by the Constitution and the laws regarding the accused’s right to bail, and to speedy trial for the reduction of the congestion in detention facilities. To be sure, releasing an accused who has been convicted of a capital offense is not in accord with the Constitution, laws, rules and circulars.
Further still, the Nelson Mandela Rules (Rule 24, United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners) provides for minimum standards which State prisons must comply with. It does not provide that inmates facing capital offense may be released on bail.