Lower bail for indigent

On 20 February 2023, the Department of Justice or DoJ issued Circular No. 11 with the subject “Guidelines on the Recommendation of Bail Amounts in Criminal Informations.”

The new guidelines were introduced as a result of the Justice Zone Coordinating Council’s dialogue held in January 2023, where the Supreme Court proposed revisiting the existing 2018 Bail Bond Guide.

According to the Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, severe overpopulation exists in the country’s jail and detention facilities.

In order to address the issue of overcrowded and congested jail and detention facilities, the subject Circular was issued in the interest of social justice.

Pursuant to the Circular, an investigating prosecutor handling cases involving indigent respondents shall indicate in the criminal information only half or 50 percent of the recommended bail as stated in the 2018 Bail Bond Guide, or the amount of P10,000 whichever is lower.

The new guidelines apply to all cases undergoing inquest or preliminary investigation proceedings, except for crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment.

The Circular directs investigating prosecutors to consider the financial capacity of the accused when recommending the amount of bail in criminal information for filing in court.

Investigating prosecutors have the duty to inquire from the respondent at the start of the inquest or preliminary investigation proceeding whether or not they claim indigency.

If the respondent claims to be an indigent, he or she shall submit to the investigating prosecutor documents evidencing the fact of indigency, such as but not limited to the following:

  1. Latest Income Tax Return or pay slip, other suitable proof of income;
  2. Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development; or
  3. Certificate of Indigency/no income from the Office of the Punong Barangay/Barangay Chairperson having jurisdiction over the respondent’s residence.

A respondent who claims to be an indigent must also prove that he or she is not a habitual delinquent or recidivist.

Section 4 of the Circular states, “In the event that, after the conduct of inquest or preliminary investigation proceedings, the investigating prosecutor finds probable cause with a reasonable certainty of conviction against the indigent respondent, he or she shall indicate in the criminal information only 50 percent of the recommended bail as stated in the 2018 Bail Bond Guide, or the amount of P10,000, whichever is lower.”

The Section further provides that the fact of indigency of the respondent or the accused, as found in the information, shall be indicated alongside the recommended bail.

With respect to trial prosecutors, the new guidelines direct trial prosecutors in all cases pending before the first or second-level courts to ensure that only applications for release on recognizance by accused who are qualified and comply with the requirements of the Recognizance Act of 2012 shall be submitted for consideration of the courts.

The Recognizance Act recognizes and guarantees the right to be released on recognizance of persons deprived of liberty. The Circular reminds that accused charged with crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment shall be deemed disqualified.



For more of Dean Nilo Divina’s legal tidbits, please visit www.divinalaw.com. For comments and questions, please send an email to cabdo@divinalaw.com.

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