Q: The accused in a criminal case failed to appear in person before the court. Accordingly, the trial court declared his bail forfeited. The trial court gave the bondsmen a 30-day period to produce the accused or a reasonable explanation for their non-production. However, two years had passed from the time the court ordered the forfeiture and still no judgment had been rendered against the bondsmen for the amount of the bail. Instead, an order of execution was issued and the property was put up for sale and was awarded to the highest bidders in good faith.
Can the bondsmen still go after the property, on the ground that the trial court did not render a judgment against them?
Section 21, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure clearly provides for the procedure to be followed before a bail bond may be forfeited and a judgment on the bond rendered against the surety. There are two requisites before the trial court judge may rule adversely against the bondsmen in cases when the accused fails to appear in court. First, the non-appearance by the accused is cause for the judge to summarily declare the bond as forfeited. Second, the bondsmen, after the summary forfeiture of the bond, are given 30 days within which to produce the principal and to show cause why a judgment should not be rendered against them for the amount of the bond.
It is only after this 30-day period (during which the bondsmen are afforded the opportunity to be heard by the trial court) that the trial court may render a judgment on the bond against the bondsmen. Judgment against the bondsmen cannot be entered unless such judgment is preceded by the order of forfeiture and an opportunity given to the bondsmen to produce the accused or to adduce satisfactory reason for their inability to do so.
In this case, no such judgment was ever issued and neither has an amount been fixed for which the bondsmen may be held liable. The law was not strictly observed and this violated the bondsmen’s right to procedural due process.
The issue of good faith in buying the property at the auction sale is not material. Since the execution and sale of the land was invalid, the basis for which title to the land had been issued has no more leg to stand on.
Case: Mendoza v. Alarma, G.R. No. 151970, May 7, 2008.
Photo: Jackson West, Creative Commons, Flickr