PROBATION AFTER APPEAL
UNDER PHILIPPINE LAWS
Probation is a remedy which offenders must avail of at the first opportunity. As presently worded, the Probation Law requires that the application for probation must be filed within the period for perfecting an appeal. Thus, the filing of an appeal and an application for probation are mutually exclusive remedies, such that recourse to one necessarily bars resort to the other – as each will operate as an automatic waiver of the other.
Despite what appears to be the clear and categorical wording of Section 4 of the Probation Law that “no application for probation shall be entertained or granted if the defendant has perfected the appeal from the judgment of conviction,” the law itself is not at all that encompassing, plain and unambiguous such that there would be no further room for construction or interpretation. On the contrary, the provisions of the Probation Law do not address a situation wherein resort to probation is not obtainable at the time of the conviction by the trial court in view of the sentence imposed, thereby making appeal the only remedy available to the accused.
Thus, a question arises when an accused appeals a judgment of conviction by the trial court that carries a penalty of more than six years imprisonment (which by express language of the law is beyond probationary limits) and the appellate court either affirms the decision of the lower court but reduces the penalty to less than six years or finds the accused guilty of a lower offense which provides for a term of imprisonment below the statutory limit.
Would the offender then be eligible to apply for probation?
The Court of Appeals in People of the Philippines v. Araceli Valenzuela held that the offender whose penalty has been reduced on appeal to within probationable limits can apply for probation in the court a quo after the remand of the records of the case.
In the above-entitled case, accused-appellant Araceli Valenzuela was convicted by the Regional Trial Court of the crime of estafa and was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of 1 year, 8 months and 20 days to 6 years, 8 months and 21 days of imprisonment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals modified the judgment and reduced the penalty to 1 year, 12 months and 21 days to 5 years, 5 months and 11 days of imprisonment.
Subsequently, the accused filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for leave to file application for probation alleging that with the lowering of the penalty imposed on her to a penalty that is probationable, she should be afforded the opportunity to avail of the benefits of the Probation Law.
In its comment, the Office of the Solicitor General interposed no objection to the application and submitted the following rationication:
“The vital question is whether appellant can now apply for probation considering the provision in the law that an accused who appeals his conviction waives his right to probation. The rationale behind the disqualification of a criminal offender who takes an appeal from applying for probation is that by appealing he shows his impenitence for the wrong he committed. This reason does not apply to appellant. When she was convicted by the trial court, she filed a motion for reconsideration questioning the penalty imposed, obviously with an eye to probation. When her motion was denied, she appealed to this Honorable Court again questioning the penalty again (sic) for the same purpose. Under the circumstances it can not be said that appellant was impenitent. Had the penalty imposed by the trial court been correct, appellant would probably have accepted his conviction and sentence, and applied for probation. “A parallel case is Santos To v. Pano, 120 SCRA 8, where the Supreme Court declared: “’The penalty imposed by respondent court placed petitioner beyond the pale of the Probation Law. How can he be said to be a non-penitent offender, as the law would judge one...