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Archive for December, 2009

When Murder is Absorbed by Rebellion

Posted by lexforiphilippines on December 23, 2009

One of the criticisms against the 4 December 2009 Proclamation of Martial Law in Maguindanao (Proclamation 1959) was that it was a ruse to help the Ampatuans escape punishment for the 23 November 2009 Maguindanao massacre.  The President issued Proclamation 1959, in the wake of the Maguindanao massacre, supposedly to quell a rebellion led by the Amapatuans.  Critics feared that the Ampatuans would use the rebellion charges as a defense in the murder case on the premise that Murder in the course of a rebellion is deemed absorbed by the crime of Rebellion. 

But will such a defense hold water?

In People vs. Hernandez (G. R. Nos. L-6025-26; 18 July 1956), the Supreme Court held that where the murder, robberies and arson are committed as a means to or in furtherance of the rebellion charged, they are absorbed by, and form part of, the rebellion, and accordingly, the accused could be convicted only of the simple crime of rebellion.

In Enrile vs. Salazar (G.R. No. 92163; 5 June 1990), the Supreme Court held that the ruling in People vs. Hernandez (supra) “remains binding doctrine operating to prohibit the complexing of rebellion with any other offense committed on the occasion thereof, either as a means necessary to its commission or as an unintended effect of an activity that constitutes rebellion.” (Emphasis supplied.) 

In People vs. Lovedioro (G.R. No. 112235; 29 November 1995), the High Court ruled that for murder to be considered absorbed by the crime of rebellion, it must have been committed in furtherance of a political end.  In fact, even in cases where the act complained of were committed simultaneously with or in the course of the rebellion, if the killing, robbing, or etc., were accomplished for private purposes or profit, without any political motivation,  the crime would be separately punishable as a common crime and would not be absorbed by the crime rebellion (citing People vs. Geronimo, 100 Phil. 95 & 99 [1956]).  The Supreme Court further held that the political motive of the act should be conclusively demonstrated, and that the burden of demonstrating political motive falls on the defense, motive, being a state of mind which the accused, better than any individual, knows.

Thus, if political motive is not conclusively established, the accused should be convicted of murder.

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Martial Law in Maguindanao (Proclamation 1959) Lifted

Posted by lexforiphilippines on December 17, 2009

On 12 December 2009, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lifted the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao.  The lifting took effect at 9:00PM on 12 December 2009.

According to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who announced the lifting, the objectives of Proclamation 1959 have been achieved, hence, the President’s decision to approve the unanimous recommendation by the National Security Council (NSC), based on a review and assessment of the situation on the ground.

The objectives of Proclamation 1959, which the Office of the President said had been accomplished, were:

(a) Quell the rebellion in Maguindanao;

(b) Arrest the suspects in the 23 November 2009 Maguindanao massacre;

(c) Secure the safety of witnesses in the massacre;

(d) File appropriate charges against the suspects;

(e) Disarm illegal armed groups;

(f) Restore law and order and press freedom; and

(g) Restore civilian government.

On 14 December 2009, the Senate passed Resolution No. 1522 expressing the sense of the Senate that the proclamation of martial law in Maguindanao is contrary to the provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

On 15 December 2009, the last day of the joint session of Congress on Proclamation 1959, Congress ended its deliberations on whether or not to revoke the said Proclamation.

It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court would consider the petitions to nullify Proclamation No. 1959 moot, or if it would rule on the sufficiency of the factual basis of said Proclamation.  Under the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court has 30 days from the filing of the said petitions to issue its ruling.

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Martial Law in Maguindanao – Political or Judicial Question

Posted by lexforiphilippines on December 11, 2009

Where does the congressional inquiry into the Martial Law Proclamation end and the judicial review of the same Proclamation begin?

As a check-and-balance mechanism, the 1987 Constitution gave the two other co-equal branches of the government the power to rein in the seemingly vast power of the Executive.  Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution grants the Legislature the power to revoke the Proclamation, and the Judiciary the power to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the Proclamation.  But won’t there be any overlapping of issues to review? 

In determining whether or not to revoke the Proclamation, wouldn’t Congress be constrained to look into the factual basis of the Proclamation – to see if there was an actual rebellion in Maguindanao? As it is, Congress, in its joint session, has put forward issues concerning the sufficiency of the President’s reasons for issuing Proclamation No. 1959.  What happens, therefore, if Congress decides to revoke the Proclamation? Will the petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the very same Proclamation be considered moot? And won’t the mooting of the petitions only confirm that the issues which Congress considers are the very same issues put forward before the Judiciary? If the Judiciary decides, within the 30-day period prescribed by the Constitution and before Congress resolves to revoke or affirm the Proclamation, that the Proclamation had no sufficient factual basis to proclaim martial law, will Congress be bound by such finding? Can it proceed to affirm the Proclamation? Or looking at it the other way around, what if the Judiciary sustains the sufficiency of the factual basis of the Proclamation, can Congress still decide to revoke the Proclamation? What if it does?

Just asking . . . perhaps the exec better just lift it.

Although, we must say, this recent historic event has provided fertile ground for new and interesting jurisprudence.

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Proclamation No. 1959 – Martial Law in Maguindanao

Posted by lexforiphilippines on December 10, 2009

Proclamation No. 1959

On 4 December 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1959 which (a) declared a state of martial law in the province of Maguindanao except for the identified areas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the Implementing Operational Guidelines of the GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities; and (b) suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the said area for the duration of the state of martial law.

The said proclamation of martial law is the first since the 1972 declaration of martial law by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and the first under the 1987 Constitution. 

 

Constitutional Basis

Proclamation No. 1959 was issued on the strength of Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution.  Under this provision –

(a) The President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or to place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law, but only in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it;  

(b) Within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President must submit a report to Congress, in person or in writing. 

(c) Congress has the power to revoke such proclamation or suspension, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, voting jointly.  The President cannot set aside the revocation.

If not in session, Congress should convene, without need of call, within 24 hours after such proclamation or suspension.

 (d) The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or proclamation of martial law should be for a period not exceeding 60 days.  Congress may extend such suspension or proclamation –

            i. upon the President’s initiative;

            ii. if the invasion or rebellion should persist and public safety requires it;

            iii. for a period it (Congress) shall determine;

            iv. by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, voting jointly.

(e) The Supreme Court has the power to review the factual basis of such suspension or proclamation in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen.  The Supreme Court must promulgate its decision within 30 days from its filing.

(f) The proclamation of martial law does not:

            i. suspend the operation of the Constitution;

            ii. supplant the functioning of civil courts or legislative assemblies;

            iii. authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function; or

            iv. automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

(g) The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus applies only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with invasion; and

(h) During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person arrested or detained should be charged within 3 days, otherwise he should be released.

 

Grounds for the Proclamation

The President justified Proclamation No. 1959 on the ground of rebellion in Maguindanao.  The President maintains that public safety required placing the said province under martial law.

Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 6968, defines “rebellion” as a crime “committed by rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.

In Proclamation No. 1959, the President asserted that “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops, thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety.”  She added that “the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that the local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety.”

The President’s Report to Congress on Proclamation No. 1959, submitted on 6 December 2009, states that following the capture of Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., whom several witnesses identified as the leader of the 100 armed men who carried out the Maguindanao massacre which claimed 57 lives, “(t)he Ampatuan group backed by formidable group of armed followers, have used their strength and political position to deprive the Chief Executive of her power to enforce the law and to maintain public order and safety, and “a separatist group based in Maguindanao has joined forces with the Ampatuans for this purpose.”  The Report further states that –

(a) Duly verified information disclosed that the Ampatuan group is behind the closing of local government offices in Maguindanao, the refusal of local government officials to discharge their functions (including the refusal of the local civil registrar to accept the registration of the death certificates of the massacre victims), and the absence or non-appearance of judges in local courts;

(b) It has been confirmed that “the Ampatuan group has consolidated a group of rebels consisting of 2,413 heavily armed men, with 1,160 of them having been strategically deployed in Maguindanao;”

(c) “The existence of this armed rebellion is further highlighted by the recent recovery of high powered firearms and ammunitions from the 400 security escorts of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.;” and

(d) “Armored cars, tanks and patrol cars bearing ‘PNP/Police’ markings that do not belong to the duly constituted government were further recovered from a bodega owned by Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. located in x x Maguindanao.”

On 8 December 2009, the President submitted to Congress an Amendment to the Report on Proclamation No. 1959.  The President sought to clarify the word “separatist” as used in her earlier Report when she stated that a separatist group based in Maguindanao has joined forces with the Ampatuans to deprive the Chief Executive of the power to enforce the law.  According to the President, the word “separatist” must be taken “within the context of the entire Report vis-à-vis the on-going rebellion x x referring to the group that has for its purpose the removal from the allegiance to the Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippine or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive, wholly or partially, of any of her powers or prerogatives.”  “(I)n the interest of accuracy and to prevent any misunderstanding of the word “separatist,” the President sought to delete the said statement from the Report.

 

Petitions to Nullify Proclamation No. 1959

5 Petitions questioning Proclamation No. 1959 were filed separately before the Supreme Court by: (a) the lawyers for the Ampatuans; (b) Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen; (c) the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and militant groups; (d) law student Joseph Nelson Loyola; and (e) former Senate President Jovito Salonga, University of the Philippines professor Raul Pangalangan, and lawyers Gilbert Andres, Romel Bagares, Joel Butuyan, Emilio Capulong, Dexter Donne Dizon, Florin Hilbay, Allan Jones Lardizabal and Harry Roque Jr. 

The respondents include President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado and Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa.

The petitioners argued that there was no factual basis for the Proclamation as there was no actual invasion or rebellion.  They asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of Proclamation No. 1959.    

The Supreme Court  gave the respondents 5 days to submit their comment on the Petitions.

 

Congressional Review

On 9 December 2009, Congress convened a joint session to determine whether or not it would revoke Proclamation No. 1959.  The Executive Department was represented at the joint session by, among others, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera, who replied to questions propounded by members of Congress. 

The joint session was scheduled to resume at 2:00PM on 10 December 2009.

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