BAOC vs. CADAPAN G.R. Nos. 184461-62, May 31, 2011

Facts:

June 26, 2006, armed men abducted Sherlyn Cadapan (Sherlyn), Karen Empeño (Karen) and Manuel Merino (Merino) (abductees) from a house in San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. The three were herded onto a jeep bearing license plate RTF 597 that sped towards an undisclosed location.Spouses Asher and Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño filed a petition for habeas corpus before the Court, impleading then Generals Romeo Tolentino and Jovito Palparan (Gen. Palparan), Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac (Lt. Col. Boac), Arnel Enriquez and Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson (Lt. Mirabelle) as respondents. The Court issued a writ of habeas corpus, returnable to the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals. By Return of the Writ, the respondents in the habeas corpus petition denied that abductees are in the custody of the military. Trial thereupon ensued at the appellate court. The Court of Appeals dismissed the habeas corpus petition. The Court, however, further resolves to refer the case to the Commission on Human Rights, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police for separate investigations and appropriate actions as may be warranted by their findings and to furnish the Court with their separate reports on the outcome of their investigations and the actions taken thereon. Petitioners moved for a reconsideration of the appellate court’s decision. Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño filed before this Court a Petition for Writ of Amparo With Prayers for Inspection of Place and Production of Documents The petition impleaded the same respondents in the habeas corpus petition, with the addition of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then Armed Forces of the Phil. (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr., then Phil. National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Avelino Razon (Gen. Razon), Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado (Lt. Col. Anotado) and Donald Caigas. Then President Arroyo was eventually dropped as respondent in light of her immunity from suit while in office. By Resolution the Court issued a writ of amparo returnable to the Special Former Eleventh Division of the appellate court, and ordered the consolidation of the amparo petition with the pending habeas corpus petition. By Decision of the appellate court granted the Motion for Reconsideration and ordered the immediate release of Sherlyn, Karen and Merino.

Issue:

  1. Whether the testimony of Raymond Manalo is credible;
  2. Whether the chief of the AFP, the commanding general of the Philippine Army, as well as the heads of the concerned units had command responsibility over the abduction and detention of Sherlyn, Karen and Merino;
  3. Whether there is a need to file a motion for execution to cause the release of the aggrieved parties; and
  4. Whether Court of Appeals erred in dropping President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as party respondent in this case.

Held:

  1. Yes, Raymond’s affidavit and testimony were corroborated by the affidavit of respondent Reynaldo Manalo. The testimony and medical reports prepared by forensic specialist Dr. Molino, and the pictures of the scars left by the physical injuries inflicted on respondents, also corroborate respondents’ accounts of the torture they endured while in detention. Respondent Raymond Manalo’s familiarity with the facilities in Fort Magsaysay such as the “DTU,” as shown in his testimony and confirmed by Lt. Col. Jimenez to be the “Division Training Unit,” firms up respondents’ story that they were detained for some time in said military facility. The corroborative testimonies, in the same case, of Manalo’s brother Reynaldo and a forensic specialist, as well as Manalo’s graphic description of the detention area. There is thus no compelling reason for the Court to disturb its appreciation in Manalo’s testimony. The outright denial of petitioners Lt. Col. Boac, et al. thus crumbles.
  2. No, The evolution of the command responsibility doctrine finds its context in the development of laws of war and armed combats. Command responsibility in its simplest terms, means the “responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by subordinate members of the armed forces or other persons subject to their control in international wars or domestic conflict.” In this sense, command responsibility is properly a form of criminal complicity. The Hague Conventions of 1907 adopted the doctrine of command responsibility, foreshadowing the present-day precept of holding a superior accountable for the atrocities committed by his subordinates should he be remiss in his duty of control over them. As then formulated, command responsibility is “an omission mode of individual criminal liability,” whereby the superior is made responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates for failing to prevent or punish the perpetrators (as opposed to crimes he ordered). (citations omitted; emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied). It bears stressing that command responsibility is properly a form of criminal complicity, and thus a substantive rule that points to criminal or administrative liability. An amparo proceeding is not criminal in nature nor does it ascertain the criminal liability of individuals or entities involved. Neither does it partake of a civil or administrative suit. Rather, it is a remedial measure designed to direct specified courses of action to government agencies to safeguard the constitutional right to life, liberty and security of aggrieved individuals. An amparo proceeding does nor determine guilt nor pinpoint criminal culpability for the disappearance or threats thereof or extrajudicial killings; it determines responsibility, or at least accountability, for the enforced disappearance…for purposes of imposing the appropriate remedies to address the disappearance…
  3. No, Contrary to the ruling of the appellate court, there is no need to file a motion for execution for an amparo or habeas corpus decision. Since the right to life, liberty and security of a person is at stake, the proceedings should not be delayed and execution of any decision thereon must be expedited as soon as possible since any form of delay, even for a day, may jeopardize the very rights that these writs seek to immediately protect. The Solicitor General’s argument that the Rules of Court supplement the Rule on the Writ of Amparo is misplaced. The Rules of Court only find suppletory application in an amparo proceeding if the Rules strengthen, rather than weaken, the procedural efficacy of the writ. As it is, the Rule dispenses with dilatory motions in view of the urgency in securing the life, liberty or security of the aggrieved party. Suffice it to state that a motion for execution is inconsistent with the extraordinary and expeditious remedy being offered by an amparo proceeding. In fine, the appellate court erred in ruling that its directive to immediately release Sherlyn, Karen and Merino was not automatically executory. For that would defeat the very purpose of having summary proceedings in amparo petitions. Summary proceedings, it bears emphasis, are immediately executory without prejudice to further appeals that may be taken therefrom.
  4. No, the Court finds the appellate court’s dismissal of the petitions against then President Arroyo well-taken, owing to her immunity from suit at the time the habeas corpus and amparo petitions were filed. Settled is the doctrine that the President, during his tenure of office or actual incumbency, may not be sued in any civil or criminal case, and there is no need to provide for it in the Constitution or law. It will degrade the dignity of the high office of the President, the Head of State, if he can be dragged into court litigations while serving as such. Furthermore, it is important that he be freed from any form of harassment, hindrance or distraction to enable him to fully attend to the performance of his official duties and functions. Unlike the legislative and judicial branch, only one constitutes the executive branch and anything which impairs his usefulness in the discharge of the many great and important duties imposed upon him by the Constitution necessarily impairs the operation of the Government. Parenthetically, the petitions are bereft of any allegation that then President Arroyo permitted, condoned or performed any wrongdoing against the three missing persons.

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