General Santos City (September 26, 2017) - The Local Government of General Santos City has now officially launched a local policy that capacitates the poor in jail to exercise their constitutional right to be released on recognizance.
The Local Recognizance Task Force of General Santos City (LRT-GSC), led by its chairperson, Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas, and the Committee on Recognizance of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, chaired by City Councilor Atty. Dominador Lagare, Jr., presented to the public the Recognizance Program of General Santos City last September 4.
The city’s program – enabled by City Ordinance No. 05, series of 2015 in compliance with Republic Act No. 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012 – aims to secure the release of a person in custody or detention for the commission of an offense who is unable to post bail due to abject poverty.
Both legislations intend to prevent the undue incarceration or imprisonment of an accused that may be released after trial unless proven guilty while protecting the people and the peace of the community that may be disturbed upon the temporary release and assuring the accused’s appearance in court.
General Santos City’s ordinance on recognizance was the result of three years of protracted consultations conducted by the LRT-GSC and the SP Committee on Recognizance with key institutions and stakeholders, i.e. judges, prosecutors, police officers, jail officers, public attorneys, probation officers, Integrated Bar of the Philippines legal aid, social workers, religious and civil society organizations.
At the event, a panel of composed of resource persons from the LRT-GSC and the SP Committee on Recognizance catered questions from the audience made up of near 200 local barangay officials, purok leaders, and local church leaders who were urged to assist incapacitated, and incarcerated poor with pending criminal cases by becoming custodians.
Accompanying Vice Mayor Bañas and Councilor Lagare, Jr. at the panelist’s table were Executive Judge Marie Ellengrid Baliguat of the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, General Santos City, Committee on Recognizance member Hon. Lourdes Casabuena, City Legal Office Assistant Department Head Atty. Marites Taniegra, City Mayor’s Office Executive Assistant Jose Kevin Sienes, Atty. Fatima Eugenio from the Public Attorney’s Office-Gensan, Mr. Noel Gentapanan from the Parole and Probation Administration-Gensan, and JO2 Alvin Tan of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The Vice Mayor shared with the audience that the Sanggunian accepts its added role as “an opportunity for us to serve, an opportunity to be an agent of change and transformation, an opportunity for helping reform lives, and an opportunity for building communities.”
The said city ordinance is now the first enabling local law in the country in cognizance to the national law on recognizance.
In order to avail of the city’s program, an accused must first be a resident of General Santos City, indigent or incapacitated to either post a cash bail or proffer personal or real property acceptable as sufficient surety, and charged of offense not punishable by death or reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment.
And then the grueling process: the accused applies for the program at the LRT-GSC which will collate the applicant’s documents. The LRT-GSC then endorses to the applicant’s counsel said documents for the filing before the proper court where the criminal case is pending. The court notifies the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) on the filed motion for the applicant’s release on recognizance. The SP will only have ten days to determine the approval of the matter upon its receipt. The SP Committee on Recognizance will evaluate and file the matter in the agenda.
The SP will then have to determine the approval of the resolution in which the matter and the names of the custodians – who are essential in the application for recognizance since they are obliged to guarantee the appearance of the accused that is released on recognizance whenever required by the court – will be indicated.
Upon approval of the resolution in the SP, the SP Secretary will have 24 hours to transmit the resolution to the City Mayor who will only have 24 hours upon receipt to act on it. Upon the approval of the City Mayor on the resolution, the SP Secretary will then secure and transmit all documents to the court within three days from the passage of the resolution. The court will then finally dispose the motion for release on recognizance.
The local law enables Section 13, Article III of the Constitution which provides that 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. (Hezekiah Kit Sales Canlas/VMO)