SC issues ruling on extradition

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A person facing extradition proceedings in the country may be allowed to post bail for as long as he can present “clear and convincing evidence” that he is not a flight risk, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

In a landmark decision, the 15-member tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Hong Kong government through the Philippine Department of Justice assailing the ruling of Manila Judge Felixberto Olalia Jr. allowing a certain Juan Antonio Munoz, who is facing criminal cases in the former British colony, to post bail pending the extradition proceedings against him.

The 14-page decision of the high court was written by Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez.

Munoz is wanted in Hong Kong for three counts of “accepting an advantage as agent” and seven counts of conspiracy to defraud. If convicted, Munoz may be sentenced to a jail term of seven to 14 years.

In dismissing the petition filed by the Hong Kong government, the SC abandoned its ruling in US government vs. Manila Judge Guillermo Purganan and Mark Jimenez, which held that the constitutional provision on bail does not apply to extradition proceedings, and that it is “available only in criminal proceedings.” The SC ruling in Mark Jimenez case was penned by then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

Considering the various international treaties giving recognition and protection to human rights, the justices said that it was only proper to “re-examine” Panganiban’s decision.

“Clearly, the right of a prospective extraditee to apply for bail in this jurisdiction must be viewed in light of the various treaty obligations of the Philippines concerning respect for the promotion and protection of human rights. Under these treaties, the presumption lies in favor of human liberty. Thus, the Philippines should see to it that the right to liberty of every individual is not impaired,” the SC ruled.

In adopting a new doctrine, the SC gave weight to the separate opinion of then Associate Justice Reynato Puno in the Purganan case, where he proposed that “clear and convincing evidence” should be used as basis for granting bail in extradition cases.

Puno’s separate opinion advocated that while extradition is administrative in nature, it still bears “all earmarks of a criminal process” since it entails deprivation of liberty on the part of the potential extraditee and the means employed to attain the purpose of extradition is also “the machinery of criminal law.”

“To limit bail to criminal proceedings would be to close our eyes to our jurisprudential history. Philippine jurisprudence has not limited the exercise of the right to bail to criminal proceedings. .. In fact, bail has been allowed in this jurisdiction to persons in detention during the pendency of administrative proceedings, taking into cognizance the obligation of the Philippines under international conventions to uphold human rights,” the SC noted.