Judges CANNOT change charge of murder to homicide in application for bail

Respondent judge justifies the grant of bail to the accused on the ground that the crime was not murder but only homicide. The case was before her, however, for preliminary investigation and for admission of the accused to bail. Her only authority was to determine whether there was probable cause against the accused and, if so, whether the evidence of guilt was strong, considering that the charge was for murder. But she had no power to reduce or change the crime charged in order to justify the grant of bail to the accused. As the Deputy Court Administrator states in his report: Moreover, we find that respondent judge committed likewise an irregularity when she reduced the charge of Murder to Homicide. The Court in a number of cases has declared that the a municipal judge has no legal authority to determine the character of the crime but only to determine whether or not the evidence presented supported prima facie the allegation of facts contained in the complaint. He had no legal authority to determine the character of the crime and his declaration upon that point can only be regarded as an expression of opinion in no wise binding on the court (People vs. Gorospe, 53 Phil. 960; de Guzman vs. Escalona, 97 SCRA 619). This power belongs to the fiscal (Bais vs. Tugaoen, 89 SCRA 101). [A.M. No. MTJ-92-731. November 29, 1996]