Saturday, July 9, 2011

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE: THE RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL

An accused’s right to "have a speedy, impartial, and public trial" is guaranteed in criminal cases by Section 14(2) of Article III of the Constitution. This right to a speedy trial may be defined as one free from vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays, its "salutary objective" being to assure that an innocent person may be free from the anxiety and expense of a court litigation or, if otherwise, of having his guilt determined within the shortest possible time compatible with the presentation and consideration of whatsoever legitimate defense he may interpose. Intimating historical perspective on the evolution of the right to speedy trial, the Supreme Court reiterated the old legal maxim, "justice delayed is justice denied." This oft-repeated adage requires the expeditious resolution of disputes, much more so in criminal cases where an accused is constitutionally guaranteed the right to a speedy trial (TAN vs. PEOPLE, G.R. No. 173637, April 21, 2009, Third Division, Chico-Nazario, J.).

 The right of the accused to a speedy trial and to a speedy disposition of the case against him was designed to prevent the oppression of the citizen by holding criminal prosecution suspended over him for an indefinite time, and to prevent delays in the administration of justice by mandating the courts to proceed with reasonable dispatch in the trial of criminal cases. Such right to a speedy trial and a speedy disposition of a case is violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. The inquiry as to whether or not an accused has been denied such right is not susceptible by precise qualification. The concept of a speedy disposition is a relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept.  xxxxxxx A balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights of the accused necessarily compels the court to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.

In determining whether the accused has been deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of the case and to a speedy trial, Four (4) factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for the delay; (c) the defendant’s assertion of his right; and (d) prejudice to the defendant. x x x. Closely related to the length of delay is the reason or justification of the State for such delay. Different weights should be assigned to different reasons or justifications invoked by the State. xxxx (Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 162214, 11 November 2004, 442 SCRA 294, 312-313).   

Relative thereto, the Supreme Court has clarified that in determining the right of an accused to speedy trial, courts are required to do more than a mathematical computation of the number of postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is clearly insufficient, and particular regard must be given to the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.

            In Alvizo v. Sandiganbayan,
(G.R. No. 101689, 17 March 1993, 220 SCRA 55) the Court ruled that there was no violation of the right to speedy trial and speedy disposition. The Court took into account the reasons for the delay, i.e., the frequent amendments of procedural laws by presidential decrees, the structural reorganizations in existing prosecutorial agencies and the creation of new ones by executive fiat, resulting in changes of personnel, preliminary jurisdiction, and the functions and powers of prosecuting agencies. The Court also considered the failure of the accused to assert such right, and the lack of prejudice caused by the delay to the accused.


In Defensor-Santiago v. Sandiganbayan, 408 Phil. 767 (2001), the complexity of the issues and the failure of the accused to invoke her right to speedy disposition at the appropriate time spelled defeat for her claim to the constitutional guarantee.


In Cadalin v. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s Administrator, (G.R. No. 104776, 5 December 1994, 238 SCRA 721), the Court, considering also the complexity of the cases and the conduct of the parties’ lawyers, held that the right to speedy disposition was not violated therein.

“Petitioner’s objection to the prosecution’s stand that he gave an implied consent to the separate trial of Criminal Case No. 119830 is belied by the records of the case. No objection was interposed by his defense counsel when this matter was discussed during the initial hearing. Petitioner’s conformity thereto can be deduced from his non-objection at the preliminary hearing when the prosecution manifested that the evidence to be presented would be only for Criminal Cases No. 119831-119832. His failure to object to the prosecution’s manifestation that the cases be tried separately is fatal to his case. The acts, mistakes and negligence of counsel bind his client, except only when such mistakes would result in serious injustice. In fact, petitioner’s acquiescence is evident from the transcript of stenographic notes during the initial presentation of the People’s evidence in the five BW cases.” xxxxx

In the case of Tan vs. People, the length of delay, complexity of the issues and the petitioner’s failure to invoke said right to speedy trial at the appropriate time tolled the death knell on his claim to the constitutional guarantee. More importantly, in failing to interpose a timely objection to the prosecution’s manifestation during the preliminary hearings that the cases be tried separately, one after the other, petitioner was deemed to have acquiesced and waived his objection thereto. For the reasons above-stated, there is clearly insufficient ground to conclude that the prosecution is guilty of violating petitioner’s right to speedy trial (TAN vs. PEOPLE, G.R. No. 173637, April 21, 2009, 3rd Division, Chico-Nazario, J.).





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