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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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