676 Phil. 84
Before this Court are two consolidated cases, namely, (1) Petition for Partial Review on Certiorari dated 20 April 2010 (G.R. No. 191805), and (2) Petition for Review on Certiorari dated 19 August 2010 (G.R. No. 193160).
Both Petitions assail the 12 April 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data is GRANTED.
Respondents Gen. Victor S. Ibrado, Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, Maj. Gen. Nestor Z. Ochoa, PCSupt. Ameto G. Tolentino, PSSupt. Jude W. Santos, Col. Remigio M. De Vera, Lt. Col. Laurence E. Mina and 1Lt. Ryan S. Matutina, or their replacements in their official posts if they have already vacated the same, are ORDERED to furnish this Court within five (5) days from notice of this decision, official or unofficial reports pertaining to petitioner – covering but not limited to intelligence reports, operation reports and provost marshal reports prior to, during and subsequent to September 6, 2009 – made by the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, its branches and subsidiaries, including the 17th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army.
The above-named respondents are also DIRECTED to refrain from using the said reports in any transaction or operation of the military. Necessarily, the afore-named respondents are ORDERED to expunge from the records of the military all documents having any reference to petitioner.
Likewise, the afore-named respondents, as well as respondents Police Director General Jesus Ame Versoza, Antonio Cruz, Aldwin Pasicolan and Vicente Callagan are DIRECTED to ensure that no further violation of petitioner’s rights to life, liberty and security is committed against the latter or any member of his family.
The petition is DISMISSED with respect to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on account of her presidential immunity from suit. Similarly, the petition is DISMISSED with respect to respondents Calog and George Palacpac or Harry for lack of merit.
Petitioner’s prayer for issuance of a temporary protection order and inspection order is DENIED.
Noriel Rodriguez (Rodriguez) is petitioner in G.R. No. 191805 and respondent in G.R. No. 193160. He is a member of Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon Iti Cagayan (Kagimungan)
, a peasant organization affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
On the other hand, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (former President Arroyo), Police Director General (PDG.) Jesus A. Verzosa, Police Senior Superintendent (P/SSupt.) Jude W. Santos, Brigadier General (Brig. Gen.) Remegio M. De Vera, First Lieutenant (1st Lt.) Ryan S. Matutina, Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.) Laurence E. Mina, Antonio C. Cruz (Cruz), Aldwin C. Pasicolan (Pasicolan) and Vicente A. Callagan (Callagan) are respondents in G.R. No. 191805 and petitioners in G.R. No. 193160. At the time the events relevant to the present Petitions occurred, former President Arroyo was the President of the Philippines. PDG. Verzosa, P/SSupt. Santos, Brig. Gen. De Vera, 1st Lt. Matutina and Lt. Col. Mina were officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan were Special Investigators of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Region II.Antecedent Facts
Rodriguez claims that the military tagged KMP as an enemy of the State under the Oplan Bantay Laya, making its members targets of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
On 6 September 2009, at 5:00 p.m., Rodriguez had just reached Barangay Tapel, Cagayan onboard a tricycle driven by Hermie Antonio Carlos (Carlos), when four men forcibly took him and forced him into a car. Inside the vehicle were several men in civilian clothes, one of whom was holding a .45 caliber pistol. Subsequently, three more persons arrived, and one of them carried a gun at his side. Two men boarded the car, while the others rode on the tricycle.
The men tied the hands of Rodriguez, ordered him to lie on his stomach, sat on his back and started punching him. The car travelled towards the direction of Sta. Teresita-Mission and moved around the area until about 2:00 a.m. During the drive, the men forced Rodriguez to confess to being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), but he remained silent. The car then entered a place that appeared to be a military camp. There were soldiers all over the area, and there was a banner with the word “Bravo” written on it. Rodriguez later on learned that the camp belonged to the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Rodriguez was brought to a canteen, where six men confronted him, ordering him to confess to his membership in the NPA. Due to his exhaustion, he unintentionally fell asleep. As a result, the men hit him on the head to wake him up. After the interrogation, two of the men guarded him, but did not allow him to sleep.
In the morning of 7 September 2009, the men tied the hands of Rodriguez, blindfolded him and made him board a vehicle. While they were in transit, the soldiers repeatedly hit him in the head and threatened to kill him. When the car stopped after about ten minutes, the soldiers brought him to a room, removed his blindfold, and forced him to confess to being a member of the NPA. During the interrogation, the soldiers repeatedly hit him on the head. Thereafter, he was detained inside the room for the entire day. The soldiers tied his stomach to a papag
, and gave him rice and viand. Fearing that the food might be poisoned, he refused to eat anything. He slept on the papag
while being tied to it at the waist.
On 8 September 2009, the men forced Rodriguez into a vehicle, which brought them to Bugey and Mission. While passing houses along the way, the men asked him if his contacts lived in those houses. When he failed to answer, a soldier pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him and his family. Because he remained silent, the soldiers beat him and tied him up. The vehicle returned to the military camp at past 1:00 p.m., where he was again subjected to tactical interrogation about the location of an NPA camp and his alleged NPA comrades. He suffered incessant mauling every time he failed to answer.
At dawn on 9 September 2009, soldiers armed with rifles took Rodriguez and made him their guide on their way to an NPA camp in Birao. Accompanying them was a man named Harry, who, according to the soldiers, was an NPA member who had surrendered to the military. Harry pointed to Rodriguez and called him a member of the NPA. He also heard Harry tell the soldiers that the latter knew the area well and was acquainted with a man named Elvis. The soldiers loaded Rodriguez into a military truck and drove to Tabbak, Bugey. While he was walking with the soldiers, he noticed a soldier with the name tag “Matutina,” who appeared to be an official because the other soldiers addressed him as “sir.”
Upon reaching Birao on foot, the soldiers looked for and was able to locate a certain Elvis and told him that Rodriguez had identified his whereabouts location. The soldiers forced Rodriguez to convince Elvis to disclose the location of the NPA camp. They brought the two to the mountains, where both were threatened with death. When the soldiers punched Elvis, Rodriguez told them that he would reveal the location of the NPA camp if they let Elvis go home. They finally released Elvis around 3:00 p.m. that day. The soldiers and Rodriguez spent the next three nights in the mountains.
On 12 September 2009, the soldiers again hit Rodriguez and forced him to identify the location of the NPA camp. He was blindfolded and warned to get ready because they would beat him up again in the military camp. Upon arrival therein, they brought him to the same room where he had first been detained, and two soldiers mauled him again. They repeatedly punched and kicked him. In the afternoon, they let him rest and gave him an Alaxan tablet. Thereafter, he fell asleep due to over-fatigue and extreme body pain. The soldiers, however, hit him again. After giving him a pen and a piece of paper, they ordered him to write down his request for rice from the people. When he refused, the soldiers maltreated him once more.
On 13 September 2009, the soldiers forced Rodriguez to sign documents declaring that he had surrendered in an encounter in Cumao, and
that the soldiers did not shoot him because he became a military asset in May. When he refused to sign the document, he received another beating. Thus, he was compelled to sign, but did so using a different signature to show that he was merely coerced.
The soldiers showed Rodriguez photographs of different persons and asked him if he knew the men appearing therein. When he told them that he did not recognize the individuals on the photos, the soldiers instructed him to write down the name of his school and organization, but he declined. The soldiers then wrote something on the paper, making it appear that he was the one who had written it, and forced him to sign the document. The soldiers took photographs of him while he was signing. Afterwards, the soldiers forced him down, held his hands, and sat on his feet. He did not only receive another beating, but was also electrocuted. The torture lasted for about an hour.
At 11:00 p.m. on 15 September 2009, the soldiers brought Rodriguez to a military operation in the mountains, where he saw Matutina again. They all spent the night there.
In the morning of 16 September 2009, the soldiers and Rodriguez started their descent. When they stopped, the soldiers took his photograph and asked him to name the location of the NPA camp. Thereafter, they all returned to the military camp. The soldiers asked him to take a bath and wear a white polo shirt handed to him. He was then brought to the Enrile Medical Center, where Dr. Juliet Ramil (Dr. Ramil) examined him.
When the doctor asked him why he had bruises and contusions, he lied and told her that he sustained them when he slipped, as he noticed a soldier observing him. Dr. Ramil’s medical certificate indicated that he suffered from four hematomas in the epigastric area, chest and sternum.
Back at the camp, the soldiers let Rodriguez eat with several military officials and took pictures of him while he was eating with them. They also asked him to point to a map in front of him and again took his photograph. Later, they told him that he would finally see his mother. 
Rodriguez was brought to another military camp, where he was ordered to sign a piece of paper stating that he was a surrenderee and was never beaten up. Scared and desperate to end his ordeal, he signed the paper and was warned not to report anything to the media.
Around 6:00 a.m. on 17 September 2009, the soldiers instructed petitioner to take a bath. They gave him a pair of jeans and perfume. While he was having breakfast, the two soldiers guarding him repeatedly reminded him not to disclose to the media his experience in the camp and to say instead that he had surrendered to the military.
At 9:00 a.m. on the same day, the mother and the brother of Rodriguez arrived surrounded by several men. His mother, Wilma Rodriguez (Wilma), talked to Lt. Col. Mina. Rodriguez heard one of the soldiers tell Wilma that he had surrendered to the military and had long been its asset. His brother, Rodel Rodriguez (Rodel), informed him that the men accompanying them were from the CHR, namely, Pasicolan, Cruz and Callagan. Upon seeing Rodriguez, Cruz instructed him to lift up his shirt, and one of the CHR employees took photographs of his bruises.
A soldier tried to convince Wilma to let Rodriguez stay in the camp for another two weeks to supposedly prevent the NPA from taking revenge on him. Respondent Calog also approached Rodriguez and Rodel and asked them to become military assets. Rodel refused and insisted that they take Rodriguez home to Manila. Again, the soldiers reminded them to refrain from facing the media. The soldiers also told them that the latter will be taken to the Tuguegarao Airport and guarded until they reached home.
Rodriguez and his family missed their flight. Subsequently, the soldiers accompanied them to the CHR office, where Rodriguez was made to sign an affidavit stating that he was neither abducted nor tortured. Afraid and desperate to return home, he was forced to sign the document. Cruz advised him not to file a case against his abductors because they had already freed him. The CHR personnel then led him and his family to the CHR Toyota Tamaraw FX service vehicle. He noticed that a vehicle with soldiers on board followed them.
The Tamaraw FX pulled over and respondent 1st Lt. Matutina boarded the vehicle. Upon reaching a mall in Isabela, Rodriguez, his family, Callagan, 1st Lt. Matutina and two other soldiers transferred to an orange Toyota Revo with plate number WTG 579. Upon reaching the boundary of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Viscaya, 1st Lt. Matutina alighted and called Rodriguez to a diner. A certain Alan approached Rodriguez and handed him a cellphone with a SIM card. The latter and his family then left and resumed their journey back home.
Rodriguez reached his house in Sta. Ana, Manila at 3:00 a.m. on 18 September 2010. Callagan and two soldiers went inside the house, and took photographs and a video footage thereof. The soldiers explained that the photos and videos would serve as evidence of the fact that Rodriguez and his family were able to arrive home safely. Despite Rodriguez’s efforts to confront the soldiers about their acts, they still continued and only left thirty minutes later.
On 19 September 2009, Dr. Reginaldo Pamugas, a physician trained by the International Committee on Torture and Rehabilitation, examined Rodriguez and issued a Medical Certificate stating that the latter had been a victim of torture.
Around 7:00 a.m. on 3 November 2010, Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Aileen Hazel Robles, noticed that several suspicious-looking men followed them at the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), in the streets and on a jeepney.
On 7 December 2009, Rodriguez filed before this Court a Petition for the Writ of Amparo and Petition for the Writ of Habeas Data with Prayers for Protection Orders, Inspection of Place, and Production of Documents and Personal Properties dated 2 December 2009.
The petition was filed against former President Arroyo, Gen. Ibrado, PDG. Versoza, Lt. Gen. Bangit, Major General (Maj. Gen.) Nestor Z. Ochoa, P/CSupt. Tolentino, P/SSupt. Santos, Col. De Vera, 1st Lt. Matutina, Calog, George Palacpac (Palacpac), Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan. The petition prayed for the following reliefs:
a. The issuance of the writ of amparo ordering respondents to desist from violating Rodriguez’s right to life, liberty and security.
b. The issuance of an order to enjoin respondents from doing harm to or approaching Rodriguez, his family and his witnesses.
c. Allowing the inspection of the detention areas of the Headquarters of Bravo Co., 5th Infantry Division, Maguing, Gonzaga, Cagayan and another place near where Rodriguez was brought.
d. Ordering respondents to produce documents submitted to them regarding any report on Rodriguez, including operation reports and provost marshall reports of the 5th Infantry Division, the Special Operations Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), prior to, on and subsequent to 6 September 2009.
e. Ordering records pertinent or in any way connected to Rodriguez, which are in the custody of respondents, to be expunged, disabused, and forever barred from being used.
On 15 December 2009, we granted the respective writs after finding that the petition sufficiently alleged that Rodriguez had been abducted, tortured and later released by members of the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
We likewise ordered respondents therein to file a verified return on the writs on or before 22 December 2009 and to comment on the petition on or before 4 January 2010.
Finally, we directed the Court of Appeals to hear the petition on 4 January 2010 and decide on the case within 10 days after its submission for decision.
During the initial hearing on 4 January 2010, the Court of Appeals required the parties to submit affidavits and other pieces of evidence at the next scheduled hearing on 27 January 2010.
On 8 January 2010, respondents therein, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed their Return of the Writ, which was likewise considered as their comment on the petition.
In their Return, respondents therein alleged that Rodriguez had surrendered to the military on 28 May 2009 after he had been put under surveillance and identified as “Ka Pepito” by former rebels.
According to his military handlers, Corporal (Cpl.) Rodel
B. Cabaccan and Cpl. Julius P. Navarro, Rodriguez was a former member of the NPA operating in Cagayan Valley.
Wanting to bolt from the NPA, he told Cpl. Cabaccan and Cpl. Navarro that he would help the military in exchange for his protection.
Upon his voluntary surrender on 28 May 2009, Rodriguez was made to sign an Oath of Loyalty and an Agent’s Agreement/Contract, showing his willingness to return to society and become a military asset.
Since then, he acted as a double agent, returning to the NPA to gather information.
However, he feared that his NPA comrades were beginning to suspect him of being an infiltrator.
Thus, with his knowledge and consent, the soldiers planned to stage a sham abduction to erase any suspicion about him being a double agent.
Hence, the abduction subject of the instant petition was conducted.
Meanwhile, Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan filed a Consolidated Return of the Writ dated 15 January 2010,
alleging that they had exercised extraordinary diligence in locating Rodriguez, facilitating his safe turnover to his family and securing their journey back home to Manila. More specifically, they alleged that, on 16 September 2009, after Wilma sought their assistance in ascertaining the whereabouts of her son, Cruz made phone calls to the military and law enforcement agencies to determine his location.
Cruz was able to speak with Lt. Col. Mina, who confirmed that Rodriguez was in their custody.
This information was transmitted to CHR Regional Director Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga. He, in turn, ordered Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan to accompany Wilma to the 17th Infantry Division.
When the CHR officers, along with Wilma and Rodel, arrived at the 17th Infantry Battalion at Masin, Alcala, Cagayan, Brigade Commander Col. de Vera and Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Mina alleged that Rodriguez had become one of their assets, as evidenced by the Summary on the Surrender of Noriel Rodriguez and the latter’s Contract as Agent.
The CHR officers observed his casual and cordial demeanor with the soldiers.
In any case, Cruz asked him to raise his shirt to see if he had been subjected to any maltreatment. Cruz and Pasicolan did not see any traces of torture. Thereafter, Rodriguez was released to his family, and they were made to sign a certification to this effect. During the signing of the document, herein CHR officers did not witness any threat, intimidation or force employed against Rodriguez or his family. 
During their journey back to the home of Rodriguez, the CHR officers observed that he was very much at ease with his military escorts, especially with 1st Lt. Matutina.
Neither was there any force or intimidation when the soldiers took pictures of his house, as the taking of photographs was performed with Wilma’s consent.
During the hearing on 27 January 2010, the parties agreed to file additional affidavits and position papers and to have the case considered submitted for decision after the filing of these pleadings.
On 12 April 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed Decision.
Subsequently, on 28 April 2010, respondents therein filed their Motion for Reconsideration.
Before the Court of Appeals could resolve this Motion for Reconsideration, Rodriguez filed the instant Petition for Partial Review on Certiorari (G.R. No. 191805), raising the following assignment of errors:
a. The Court of Appeals erred in not granting the Interim Relief for temporary protection order.
b. The Court of Appeals erred in saying: “(H)owever, given the nature of the writ of amparo, which has the effect of enjoining the commission by respondents of violation to petitioner’s right to life, liberty and security, the safety of petitioner is ensured with the issuance of the writ, even in the absence of an order preventing respondent from approaching petitioner.”
c. The Court of Appeals erred in not finding that respondent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had command responsibility.
On the other hand, respondents therein, in their Comment dated 30 July 2010, averred:
a. The Court of Appeals properly dropped then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as a party-respondent, as she may not be sued in any case during her tenure of office or actual incumbency.
b. Petitioner had not presented any adequate and competent evidence, much less substantial evidence, to establish his claim that public respondents had violated, were violating or threatening to violate his rights to life, liberty and security, as well as his right to privacy. Hence, he was not entitled to the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data or to the corresponding interim reliefs (i.e. inspection order, production order and temporary protection order) provided under the rule on the writ of amparo and the rule on the writ of habeas data.
On 19 August 2010, PDG. Verzosa, P/SSupt. Santos, BGen. De Vera, 1st Lt. Matutina, Lt. Col. Mina, Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari, seeking the reversal of the 12 April 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals.
They alleged that Rodriguez –
Has not presented any adequate and competent evidence, must less substantial evidence, to establish his claim that petitioners have violated, are violating or threatening with violation his rights to life, liberty and security, as well as his right to privacy; hence, he is not entitled to the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data and their corresponding interim reliefs (i.e., inspection order, production order and temporary protection order) provided under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo
and the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data
In ascertaining whether the Court of Appeals committed reversible error in issuing its assailed Decision and Resolution, the following issues must be resolved:
- Whether the interim reliefs prayed for by Rodriguez may be granted after the writs of amparo and habeas data have already been issued in his favor.
- Whether former President Arroyo should be dropped as a respondent on the basis of the presidential immunity from suit.
- Whether the doctrine of command responsibility can be used in amparo and habeas data cases.
- Whether the rights to life, liberty and property of Rodriguez were violated or threatened by respondents in G.R. No. 191805.
At the outset, it must be emphasized that the writs of amparo
and habeas data
were promulgated to ensure the protection of the people’s rights to life, liberty and security.
The rules on these writs were issued in light of the alarming prevalence of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
The Rule on the Writ of Amparo
took effect on 24 October 2007,
and the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data
on 2 February 2008.
The writ of amparo
is an extraordinary and independent remedy that provides rapid judicial relief, as it partakes of a summary proceeding that requires only substantial evidence to make the appropriate interim and permanent reliefs available to the petitioner.
It is not an action to determine criminal guilt requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt, or liability for damages requiring preponderance of evidence, or administrative responsibility requiring substantial evidence that will require full and exhaustive proceedings.
Rather, it serves both preventive and curative roles in addressing the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
It is preventive in that it breaks the expectation of impunity in the commission of these offenses, and it is curative in that it facilitates the subsequent punishment of perpetrators by inevitably leading to subsequent investigation and action.
Meanwhile, the writ of habeas data
provides a judicial remedy to protect a person’s right to control information regarding oneself, particularly in instances where such information is being collected through unlawful means in order to achieve unlawful ends.
As an independent and summary remedy to protect the right to privacy – especially the right to informational privacy
– the proceedings for the issuance of the writ of habeas data
does not entail any finding of criminal, civil or administrative culpability. If the allegations in the petition are proven through substantial evidence, then the Court may (a) grant access to the database or information; (b) enjoin the act complained of; or (c) in case the database or information contains erroneous data or information, order its deletion, destruction or rectification.First issue: Grant of interim reliefs
In the petition in G.R. No. 191805, Rodriguez prays for the issuance of a temporary protection order. It must be underscored that this interim relief is only available before final judgment. Section 14 of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo
Interim Reliefs. – Upon filing of the petition or at anytime before final judgment, the court, justice or judge may grant any of the following reliefs:
Temporary Protection Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon motion or motu proprio, may order that the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family be protected in a government agency or by an accredited person or private institution capable of keeping and securing their safety. If the petitioner is an organization, association or institution referred to in Section 3(c) of this Rule, the protection may be extended to the officers involved.
The Supreme Court shall accredit the persons and private institutions that shall extend temporary protection to the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family, in accordance with guidelines which it shall issue.
The accredited persons and private institutions shall comply with the rules and conditions that may be imposed by the court, justice or judge.
(a) Inspection Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon verified motion and after due hearing, may order any person in possession or control of a designated land or other property, to permit entry for the purpose of inspecting, measuring, surveying, or photographing the property or any relevant object or operation thereon.
The motion shall state in detail the place or places to be inspected. It shall be supported by affidavits or testimonies of witnesses having personal knowledge of the enforced disappearance or whereabouts of the aggrieved party.
If the motion is opposed on the ground of national security or of the privileged nature of the information, the court, justice or judge may conduct a hearing in chambers to determine the merit of the opposition.
The movant must show that the inspection order is necessary to establish the right of the aggrieved party alleged to be threatened or violated.
The inspection order shall specify the person or persons authorized to make the inspection and the date, time, place and manner of making the inspection and may prescribe other conditions to protect the constitutional rights of all parties. The order shall expire five (5) days after the date of its issuance, unless extended for justifiable reasons.
(b) Production Order. – The court, justice, or judge, upon verified motion and after due hearing, may order any person in possession, custody or control of any designated documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects or tangible things, or objects in digitized or electronic form, which constitute or contain evidence relevant to the petition or the return, to produce and permit their inspection, copying or photographing by or on behalf of the movant.
The motion may be opposed on the ground of national security or of the privileged nature of the information, in which case the court, justice or judge may conduct a hearing in chambers to determine the merit of the opposition.
The court, justice or judge shall prescribe other conditions to protect the constitutional rights of all the parties.
(c) Witness Protection Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon motion or motu proprio, may refer the witnesses to the Department of Justice for admission to the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program, pursuant to Republic Act No. 6981.
The court, justice or judge may also refer the witnesses to other government agencies, or to accredited persons or private institutions capable of keeping and securing their safety. (Emphasis supplied)
We held in Yano v. Sanchez
that “[t]hese provisional reliefs are intended to assist the court before it arrives at a judicious determination of the amparo
petition.” Being interim reliefs, they can only be granted before a final adjudication of the case is made. In any case, it must be underscored that the privilege of the writ of amparo
, once granted, necessarily entails the protection of the aggrieved party. Thus, since we grant petitioner the privilege of the writ of amparo
, there is no need to issue a temporary protection order independently of the former. The order restricting respondents from going near Rodriguez is subsumed under the privilege of the writ.Second issue: Presidential immunity from suit
It bears stressing that since there is no determination of administrative, civil or criminal liability in amparo
and habeas data proceedings, courts can only go as far as ascertaining responsibility or accountability for the enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing. As we held in Razon v. Tagitis:
It does not determine guilt nor pinpoint criminal culpability for the disappearance; rather, it determines responsibility, or at least accountability, for the enforced disappearance for purposes of imposing the appropriate remedies to address the disappearance. Responsibility refers to the extent the actors have been established by substantial evidence to have participated in whatever way, by action or omission, in an enforced disappearance, as a measure of the remedies this Court shall craft, among them, the directive to file the appropriate criminal and civil cases against the responsible parties in the proper courts. Accountability, on the other hand, refers to the measure of remedies that should be addressed to those who exhibited involvement in the enforced disappearance without bringing the level of their complicity to the level of responsibility defined above; or who are imputed with knowledge relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of the enforced disappearance. In all these cases, the issuance of the Writ of Amparo is justified by our primary goal of addressing the disappearance, so that the life of the victim is preserved and his liberty and security are restored. (Emphasis supplied.)
Thus, in the case at bar, the Court of Appeals, in its Decision
found respondents in G.R. No. 191805 – with the exception of Calog, Palacpac or Harry – to be accountable for the violations of Rodriguez’s right to life, liberty and security committed by the 17th
Infantry Battalion, 5th
Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. 
The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition with respect to former President Arroyo on account of her presidential immunity from suit. Rodriguez contends, though, that she should remain a respondent in this case to enable the courts to determine whether she is responsible or accountable therefor. In this regard, it must be clarified that the Court of Appeals’ rationale for dropping her from the list of respondents no longer stands since her presidential immunity is limited only to her incumbency.
In Estrada v. Desierto
we clarified the doctrine that a non-sitting President does not enjoy immunity from suit, even for acts committed during the latter’s tenure. We emphasize our ruling therein that courts should look with disfavor upon the presidential privilege of immunity, especially when it impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right, to wit:
We reject [Estrada’s] argument that he cannot be prosecuted for the reason that he must first be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. The impeachment trial of petitioner Estrada was aborted by the walkout of the prosecutors and by the events that led to his loss of the presidency. Indeed, on February 7, 2001, the Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 83 “Recognizing that the Impeachment Court is Functus Officio.” Since the Impeachment Court is now functus officio, it is untenable for petitioner to demand that he should first be impeached and then convicted before he can be prosecuted. The plea if granted, would put a perpetual bar against his prosecution. Such a submission has nothing to commend itself for it will place him in a better situation than a non-sitting President who has not been subjected to impeachment proceedings and yet can be the object of a criminal prosecution. To be sure, the debates in the Constitutional Commission make it clear that when impeachment proceedings have become moot due to the resignation of the President, the proper criminal and civil cases may already be filed against him, viz:
“xxx xxx xxx
Mr. Aquino. On another point, if an impeachment proceeding has been filed against the President, for example, and the President resigns before judgment of conviction has been rendered by the impeachment court or by the body, how does it affect the impeachment proceeding? Will it be necessarily dropped?
Mr. Romulo. If we decide the purpose of impeachment to remove one from office, then his resignation would render the case moot and academic. However, as the provision says, the criminal and civil aspects of it may continue in the ordinary courts.”
This is in accord with our ruling in In Re: Saturnino Bermudez that “incumbent Presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure” but not beyond. xxx
We now come to the scope of immunity that can be claimed by petitioner as a non-sitting President. The cases filed against petitioner Estrada are criminal in character. They involve plunder, bribery and graft and corruption. By no stretch of the imagination can these crimes, especially plunder which carries the death penalty, be covered by the alleged mantle of immunity of a non-sitting president. Petitioner cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit criminal acts and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. It will be anomalous to hold that immunity is an inoculation from liability for unlawful acts and omissions. The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any other trespasser.
Indeed, a critical reading of current literature on executive immunity will reveal a judicial disinclination to expand the privilege especially when it impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right. In the 1974 case of US v. Nixon, US President Richard Nixon, a sitting President, was subpoenaed to produce certain recordings and documents relating to his conversations with aids and advisers. Seven advisers of President Nixon's associates were facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and other offenses which were committed in a burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington's Watergate Hotel during the 1972 presidential campaign. President Nixon himself was named an unindicted co-conspirator. President Nixon moved to quash the subpoena on the ground, among others, that the President was not subject to judicial process and that he should first be impeached and removed from office before he could be made amenable to judicial proceedings. The claim was rejected by the US Supreme Court. It concluded that “when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice.” In the 1982 case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald, the US Supreme Court further held that the immunity of the President from civil damages covers only “official acts.” Recently, the US Supreme Court had the occasion to reiterate this doctrine in the case of Clinton v. Jones where it held that the US President's immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial conduct. (Emphasis supplied)
Further, in our Resolution in Estrada v. Desierto,
we reiterated that the presidential immunity from suit exists only in concurrence with the president’s incumbency:
Petitioner stubbornly clings to the contention that he is entitled to absolute immunity from suit. His arguments are merely recycled and we need not prolong the longevity of the debate on the subject. In our Decision, we exhaustively traced the origin of executive immunity in our jurisdiction and its bends and turns up to the present time. We held that given the intent of the 1987 Constitution to breathe life to the policy that a public office is a public trust, the petitioner, as a non-sitting President, cannot claim executive immunity for his alleged criminal acts committed while a sitting President. Petitioner's rehashed arguments including their thinly disguised new spins are based on the rejected contention that he is still President, albeit, a President on leave. His stance that his immunity covers his entire term of office or until June 30, 2004 disregards the reality that he has relinquished the presidency and there is now a new de jure President.
Petitioner goes a step further and avers that even a non-sitting President enjoys immunity from suit during his term of office. He buttresses his position with the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, viz:
“Mr. Suarez. Thank you.
The last question is with reference to the Committee's omitting in the draft proposal the immunity provision for the President. I agree with Commissioner Nolledo that the Committee did very well in striking out this second sentence, at the very least, of the original provision on immunity from suit under the 1973 Constitution. But would the Committee members not agree to a restoration of at least the first sentence that the president shall be immune from suit during his tenure, considering that if we do not provide him that kind of an immunity, he might be spending all his time facing litigations, as the President-in-exile in Hawaii is now facing litigations almost daily?
The reason for the omission is that we consider it understood in present jurisprudence that during his tenure he is immune from suit.
So there is no need to express it here.
There is no need. It was that way before. The only innovation made by the 1973 Constitution was to make that explicit and to add other things.
On the understanding, I will not press for any more query, madam President.
I thank the Commissioner for the clarification.”
Petitioner, however, fails to distinguish between term and tenure. The term means the time during which the officer may claim to hold the office as of right, and fixes the interval after which the several incumbents shall succeed one another. The tenure represents the term during which the incumbent actually holds office. The tenure may be shorter than the term for reasons within or beyond the power of the incumbent. From the deliberations, the intent of the framers is clear that the immunity of the president from suit is concurrent only with his tenure and not his term. (Emphasis supplied)
Applying the foregoing rationale to the case at bar, it is clear that former President Arroyo cannot use the presidential immunity from suit to shield herself from judicial scrutiny that would assess whether, within the context of amparo proceedings, she was responsible or accountable for the abduction of Rodriguez.Third issue: Command responsibility in amparo proceedings
To attribute responsibility or accountability to former President Arroyo, Rodriguez contends that the doctrine of command responsibility may be applied. As we explained in Rubrico v. Arroyo,
command responsibility pertains to 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.”
Although originally used for ascertaining criminal complicity, the command responsibility doctrine has also found application in civil cases for human rights abuses.
In the United States, for example, command responsibility was used in Ford v. Garcia
and Romagoza v. Garcia
– civil actions filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.
This development in the use of command responsibility in civil proceedings shows that the application of this doctrine has been liberally extended even to cases not criminal in nature. Thus, it is our view that command responsibility may likewise find application in proceedings seeking the privilege of the writ of amparo. As we held in Rubrico:
It may plausibly be contended that command responsibility, as legal basis to hold military/police commanders liable for extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, or threats, may be made applicable to this jurisdiction on the theory that the command responsibility doctrine now constitutes a principle of international law or customary international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution.
… … …
If command responsibility were to be invoked and applied to these proceedings, it should, at most, be only to determine the author who, at the first instance, is accountable for, and has the duty to address, the disappearance and harassments complained of, so as to enable the Court to devise remedial measures that may be appropriate under the premises to protect rights covered by the writ of amparo. As intimated earlier, however, the determination should not be pursued to fix criminal liability on respondents preparatory to criminal prosecution, or as a prelude to administrative disciplinary proceedings under existing administrative issuances, if there be any. (Emphasis supplied.)
Precisely in the case at bar, the doctrine of command responsibility may be used to determine whether respondents are accountable for and have the duty to address the abduction of Rodriguez in order to enable the courts to devise remedial measures to protect his rights. Clearly, nothing precludes this Court from applying the doctrine of command responsibility in amparo proceedings to ascertain responsibility and accountability in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. In this regard, the Separate Opinion of Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales in Rubrico is worth noting, thus:
That proceedings under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo do not determine criminal, civil or administrative liability should not abate the applicability of the doctrine of command responsibility. Taking Secretary of National Defense v. Manalo and Razon v. Tagitis in proper context, they do not preclude the application of the doctrine of command responsibility to Amparo cases.
Manalo was actually emphatic on the importance of the right to security of person and its contemporary signification as a guarantee of protection of one’s rights by the government. It further stated that protection includes conducting effective investigations, organization of the government apparatus to extend protection to victims of extralegal killings or enforced disappearances, or threats thereof, and/or their families, and bringing offenders to the bar of justice.
Tagitis, on the other hand, cannot be more categorical on the application, at least in principle, of the doctrine of command responsibility:
Given their mandates, the PNP and PNP-CIDG officials and members were the ones who were remiss in their duties when the government completely failed to exercise the extraordinary diligence that the Amparo Rule requires. We hold these organizations accountable through their incumbent Chiefs who, under this Decision, shall carry the personal responsibility of seeing to it that extraordinary diligence, in the manner the Amparo Rule requires, is applied in addressing the enforced disappearance of Tagitis.
Neither does Republic Act No. 9851 emasculate the applicability of the command responsibility doctrine to Amparo cases. The short title of the law is the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.” Obviously, it should, as it did, only treat of superior responsibility as a ground for criminal responsibility for the crimes covered. Such limited treatment, however, is merely in keeping with the statute’s purpose and not intended to rule out the application of the doctrine of command responsibility to other appropriate cases.
Indeed, one can imagine the innumerable dangers of insulating high-ranking military and police officers from the coverage of reliefs available under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo. The explicit adoption of the doctrine of command responsibility in the present case will only bring Manalo and Tagitis to their logical conclusion.
In fine, I submit that the Court should take this opportunity to state what the law ought to be if it truly wants to make the Writ of Amparo an effective remedy for victims of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof. While there is a genuine dearth of evidence to hold respondents Gen. Hermogenes Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Avelino Razon accountable under the command responsibility doctrine, the ponencia’s hesitant application of the doctrine itself is replete with implications abhorrent to the rationale behind the Rule on the Writ of Amparo. (Emphasis supplied.)
This Separate Opinion was reiterated in the recently decided case of Boac v. Cadapan
likewise penned by Justice Carpio-Morales, wherein this Court ruled:
Rubrico categorically denies the application of command responsibility in amparo cases to determine criminal liability. The Court maintains its adherence to this pronouncement as far as amparo cases are concerned.
Rubrico, however, recognizes a preliminary yet limited application of command responsibility in amparo cases to instances of determining the responsible or accountable individuals or entities that are duty-bound to abate any transgression on the life, liberty or security of the aggrieved party.
If command responsibility were to be invoked and applied to these proceedings, it should, at most, be only to determine the author who, at the first instance, is accountable for, and has the duty to address, the disappearance and harassments complained of, so as to enable the Court to devise remedial measures that may be appropriate under the premises to protect rights covered by the writ of amparo. As intimated earlier, however, the determination should not be pursued to fix criminal liability on respondents preparatory to criminal prosecution, or as a prelude to administrative disciplinary proceedings under existing administrative issuances, if there be any.
In other words, command responsibility may be loosely applied in amparo cases in order to identify those accountable individuals that have the power to effectively implement whatever processes an amparo court would issue. In such application, the amparo court does not impute criminal responsibility but merely pinpoint the superiors it considers to be in the best position to protect the rights of the aggrieved party.
Such identification of the responsible and accountable superiors may well be a preliminary determination of criminal liability which, of course, is still subject to further investigation by the appropriate government agency. (Emphasis supplied.)
As earlier pointed out, amparo proceedings determine (a) responsibility, or the extent the actors have been established by substantial evidence to have participated in whatever way, by action or omission, in an enforced disappearance, and (b) accountability, or the measure of remedies that should be addressed to those (i) who exhibited involvement in the enforced disappearance without bringing the level of their complicity to the level of responsibility defined above; or (ii) who are imputed with knowledge relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or (iii) those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of the enforced disappearance. Thus, although there is no determination of criminal, civil or administrative liabilities, the doctrine of command responsibility may nevertheless be applied to ascertain responsibility and accountability within these foregoing definitions.a. Command responsibility of the President
Having established the applicability of the doctrine of command responsibility in amparo
proceedings, it must now be resolved whether the president, as commander-in-chief of the military, can be held responsible or accountable for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. We rule in the affirmative.
To hold someone liable under the doctrine of command responsibility, the following elements must obtain:
- the existence of a superior-subordinate relationship between the accused as superior and the perpetrator of the crime as his subordinate;
- the superior knew or had reason to know that the crime was about to be or had been committed; and
- the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the criminal acts or punish the perpetrators thereof.
The president, being the commander-in-chief of all armed forces,
necessarily possesses control over the military that qualifies him as a superior within the purview of the command responsibility doctrine. 
On the issue of knowledge, it must be pointed out that although international tribunals apply a strict standard of knowledge, i.e., actual knowledge, such may nonetheless be established through circumstantial evidence.
In the Philippines, a more liberal view is adopted and superiors may be charged with constructive knowledge. This view is buttressed by the enactment of Executive Order No. 226, otherwise known as the Institutionalization of the Doctrine of ‘Command Responsibility’ in all Government Offices, particularly at all Levels of Command in the Philippine National Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies
Under E.O. 226, a government official may be held liable for neglect of duty under the doctrine of command responsibility if he has knowledge that a crime or offense shall be committed, is being committed, or has been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his area of responsibility and, despite such knowledge, he did not take preventive or corrective action either before, during, or immediately after its commission.
Knowledge of the commission of irregularities, crimes or offenses is presumed when (a) the acts are widespread within the government official’s area of jurisdiction; (b) the acts have been repeatedly or regularly committed within his area of responsibility; or (c) members of his immediate staff or office personnel are involved.
Meanwhile, as to the issue of failure to prevent or punish, it is important to note that as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president has the power to effectively command, control and discipline the military.b. Responsibility or accountability of former President Arroyo
The next question that must be tackled is whether Rodriguez has proven through substantial evidence that former President Arroyo is responsible or accountable for his abduction. We rule in the negative.
Rodriguez anchors his argument on a general allegation that on the basis of the “Melo Commission” and the “Alston Report,” respondents in G.R. No. 191805 already had knowledge of and information on, and should have known that a climate of enforced disappearances had been perpetrated on members of the NPA.
Without even attaching, or at the very least, quoting these reports, Rodriguez contends that the Melo Report points to rogue military men as the perpetrators. While the Alston Report states that there is a policy allowing enforced disappearances and pins the blame on the President, we do not automatically impute responsibility to former President Arroyo for each and every count of forcible disappearance.
Aside from Rodriguez’s general averments, there is no piece of evidence that could establish her responsibility or accountability for his abduction. Neither was there even a clear attempt to show that she should have known about the violation of his right to life, liberty or security, or that she had failed to investigate, punish or prevent it.Fourth issue: Responsibility or accountability of respondents in G.R. No. 191805
The doctrine of totality of evidence in amparo
cases was first laid down in this Court’s ruling in Razon,
The fair and proper rule, to our mind, is to consider all the pieces of evidence adduced in their totality, and to consider any evidence otherwise inadmissible under our usual rules to be admissible if it is consistent with the admissible evidence adduced. In other words, we reduce our rules to the most basic test of reason – i.e., to the relevance of the evidence to the issue at hand and its consistency with all other pieces of adduced evidence. Thus, even hearsay evidence can be admitted if it satisfies this basic minimum test. (Emphasis supplied.)
In the case at bar, we find no reason to depart from the factual findings of the Court of Appeals, the same being supported by substantial evidence. A careful examination of the records of this case reveals that the totality of the evidence adduced by Rodriguez indubitably prove the responsibility and accountability of some respondents in G.R. No. 191805 for violating his right to life, liberty and security.a. The totality of evidence proved by substantial evidence the responsibility or accountability of respondents for the violation of or threat to Rodriguez’s right to life, liberty and security.
After a careful examination of the records of these cases, we are convinced that the Court of Appeals correctly found sufficient evidence proving that the soldiers of the 17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the military abducted Rodriguez on 6 September 2009, and detained and tortured him until 17 September 2009.
Rodriguez’s Sinumpaang Salaysay
dated 4 December 2009 was a meticulous and straightforward account of his horrific ordeal with the military, detailing the manner in which he was captured and maltreated on account of his suspected membership in the NPA.
His narration of his suffering included an exhaustive description of his physical surroundings, personal circumstances and perceived observations. He likewise positively identified respondents 1st Lt. Matutina and Lt. Col. Mina to be present during his abduction, detention and torture,
and respondents Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan as the CHR representatives who appeared during his release.
More particularly, the fact of Rodriguez’s abduction was corroborated by Carlos in his Sinumpaang Salaysay
dated 16 September 2009,
wherein he recounted in detail the circumstances surrounding the victim’s capture.
As regards the allegation of torture, the respective Certifications of Dr. Ramil and Dr. Pamugas validate the physical maltreatment Rodriguez suffered in the hands of the soldiers of the 17th
Infantry Battalion, 5th
Infantry Division. According to the Certification dated 12 October 2009 executed by Dr. Ramil,
she examined Rodriguez in the Alfonso Ponce Enrile Memorial District Hospital on 16 September 2009 and arrived at the following findings:
- 10cm healed scar face right side
- 2cm healed scar right eyebrow (lateral area)
- 2cm healed scar right eye brow (median area)
- 4cm x 2cm hematoma anterior chest at the sternal area right side
- 3cm x 2cm hematoma sternal area left side
- 6cm x 1cm hematoma from epigastric area to ant. chest left side
- 6cm x 1cm hematoma from epigastric area to ant. chest right side
- Multiple healed rashes (brownish discoloration) both forearm
- Multiple healed rashes (brownish discoloration)
- both leg arm
- hip area/lumbar area
Dr. Pamugas performed a separate medical examination of Rodriguez on 19 September 2009, the results of which confirmed that the injuries suffered by the latter were inflicted through torture. Dr. Pamugas thus issued a Medical Report dated 23 September 2009,
explicitly stating that Rodriguez had been tortured during his detention by the military, to wit:
X. Interpretation of Findings
The above physical and psychological findings sustained by the subject are related to the torture and ill-treatment done to him. The multiple circular brown to dark brown spots found on both legs and arms were due to the insect bites that he sustained when he was forced to join twice in the military operations. The abrasions could also be due to the conditions related during military operations. The multiple pin-point blood spots found on his left ear is a result of an unknown object placed inside his left ear. The areas of tenderness he felt during the physical examination were due to the overwhelming punching and kicking on his body. The occasional difficulty of sleeping is a symptom experience (sic) by the subject as a result of the psychological trauma he encountered during his detention.
XI. Conclusions and Recommendations
The physical injuries and psychological trauma suffered by the subject are secondary to the torture and ill-treatment done to him while in detention for about 11 days. The physical injuries sustained by the subject, of which the age is compatible with the alleged date of infliction (sic). (Emphasis supplied.)
In assessing the weight of the Certifications, the Court of Appeals correctly relied on the medical finding that the injuries suffered by Rodriguez matched his account of the maltreatment inflicted on him by the soldiers of the 17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. Further, the kind of injuries he sustained showed that he could not have sustained them from merely falling, thus making respondents’ claim highly implausible.
Despite these medical findings that overwhelmingly supported and lent credibility to the allegations of Rodriguez in his Sinumpaang Salaysay
, respondents in G.R. No. 191805 still stubbornly clung to their argument that he was neither abducted nor detained. Rather, they claimed that he was a double agent, whose relationship with the military was at all times congenial. This contention cannot be sustained, as it is far removed from ordinary human experience.
If it were true that Rodriguez maintained amicable relations with the military, then he should have unhesitatingly assured his family on 17 September 2009 that he was among friends. Instead, he vigorously pleaded with them to get him out of the military facility. In fact, in the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated 4 December 2009
Wilma executed, she made the following averments:
18. Na nang Makita ko ang aking anak ay nakaramdam ako sa kanya ng awa dahil sa mukha syang pagod at malaki ang kanyang ipinayat.
19. Na niyakap ko sya at sa aming pagkakayakap ay binulungan nya ako na wag ko syang iiwan sa lugar na iyon;
xxx xxx xxx
23. Na sinabihan ako ng mga sundalo na kung pwede daw ay maiwan muna ng dalawang linggo sa kampo ako at si Noriel para daw matrain pa si Noriel sa loob ng kampo;
24. Na hindi ako pumayag na maiwan ang aking anak;
xxx xxx xxx
33. Na sa kasalukuhan, hanggang ngayon ay nag-aalala pa ako sa paa (sic) sa kaligtasan ng aming buong pamilya, lalo na kay Noriel; xxx
Also, Rodel made the following supporting averments in his Sinumpaang Salaysay dated 3 December 2009:
24. Na nang makita ko si Noriel, hindi sya makalakad ng diretso, hinang-hina sya, malaki ang ipinayat at nanlalalim ang mga mata;
25. Na nang makita ko ang aking kapatid ay nakaramdam ako ng awa dahil nakilala ko syang masigla at masayahin;
26. Na ilang minuto lang ay binulugan nya ako ng “Kuya, ilabas mo ako dito, papatayin nila ako.”
27. Na sinabihan kami ni Lt. Col. Mina na baka pwedeng maiwan pa ng dalwang linggo ang aking kapatid sa kanila para raw ma-train sya.
28. Na hindi kami pumayag ng aking nanay; xxx
Moreover, the Court of Appeals likewise aptly pointed out the illogical, if not outrightly contradictory, contention of respondents in G.R. No. 191805 that while Rodriguez had complained of his exhaustion from his activities as a member of the CPP-NPA, he nevertheless willingly volunteered to return to his life in the NPA to become a double-agent for the military. The lower court ruled in this manner:
In the Return of the Writ, respondent AFP members alleged that petitioner confided to his military handler, Cpl. Navarro, that petitioner could no longer stand the hardships he experienced in the wilderness, and that he wanted to become an ordinary citizen again because of the empty promises of the CPP-NPA. However, in the same Return, respondents state that petitioner agreed to become a double agent for the military and wanted to re-enter the CPP-NPA, so that he could get information regarding the movement directly from the source. If petitioner was tired of life in the wilderness and desired to become an ordinary citizen again, it defies logic that he would agree to become an undercover agent and work alongside soldiers in the mountains – or the wilderness he dreads – to locate the hideout of his alleged NPA comrades. (Emphasis supplied.)
Furthermore, the appellate court also properly ruled that aside from the abduction, detention and torture of Rodriguez, respondents, specifically 1st Lt. Matutina, had violated and threatened the former’s right to security when they made a visual recording of his house, as well as the photos of his relatives, to wit:
In the videos taken by the soldiers – one of whom was respondent Matutina – in the house of petitioner on September 18, 2009, the soldiers even went as far as taking videos of the photos of petitioner’s relatives hung on the wall of the house, as well as videos of the innermost part of the house. This Court notes that 1Lt. Matutina, by taking the said videos, did not merely intend to make proofs of the safe arrival of petitioner and his family in their home. 1Lt. Matutina also desired to instill fear in the minds of petitioner and his family by showing them that the sanctity of their home, from then on, will not be free from the watchful eyes of the military, permanently captured through the medium of a seemingly innocuous cellhpone video camera. The Court cannot – and will not – condone such act, as it intrudes into the very core of petitioner’s right to security guaranteed by the fundamental law. (Emphasis supplied.)
Taken in their totality, the pieces of evidence adduced by Rodriguez, as well as the contradictory defenses presented by respondents in G.R. No. 191805, give credence to his claim that he had been abducted, detained and tortured by soldiers belonging to the 17th
Infantry Battalion, 5th
Infantry Division of the military.
It must be pointed out, however, that as to respondents Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan, there was no substantial evidence to show that they violated, or threatened with violation, Rodriguez’s right to life, liberty and security. Despite the dearth of evidence to show the CHR officers’ responsibility or accountability, this Court nonetheless emphasizes its criticism as regards their capacity to recognize torture or any similar form of abuse. The CHR, being constitutionally mandated to protect human rights and investigate violations thereof,
should ensure that its officers are well-equipped to respond effectively to and address human rights violations. The actuations of respondents unmistakably showed their insufficient competence in facilitating and ensuring the safe release of Rodriguez after his ordeal.b. The failure to conduct a fair and effect investigation amounted to a violation of or threat to Rodriguez’s rights to life, liberty and security.
The Rule on the Writ of Amparo
explicitly states that the violation of or threat to the right to life, liberty and security may be caused by either an act or an omission
of a public official.
Moreover, in the context of amparo
proceedings, responsibility may refer to the participation of the respondents, by action or omission
, in enforced disappearance.
Accountability, on the other hand, may attach to respondents who are imputed with knowledge
relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation
of the enforced disappearance.
In this regard, we emphasize our ruling in Secretary of National Defense v. Manalo
that the right to security of a person includes the positive obligation of the government to ensure the observance of the duty to investigate, viz:
Third, the right to security of person is a guarantee of protection of one's rights by the government. In the context of the writ of Amparo, this right is built into the guarantees of the right to life and liberty under Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution and the right to security of person (as freedom from threat and guarantee of bodily and psychological integrity) under Article III, Section 2. The right to security of person in this third sense is a corollary of the policy that the State “guarantees full respect for human rights” under Article II, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution. As the government is the chief guarantor of order and security, the Constitutional guarantee of the rights to life, liberty and security of person is rendered ineffective if government does not afford protection to these rights especially when they are under threat. Protection includes conducting effective investigations, organization of the government apparatus to extend protection to victims of extralegal killings or enforced disappearances (or threats thereof) and/or their families, and bringing offenders to the bar of justice. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights stressed the importance of investigation in the Velasquez Rodriguez Case, viz:
(The duty to investigate) must be undertaken in a serious manner and not as a mere formality preordained to be ineffective. An investigation must have an objective and be assumed by the State as its own legal duty, not as a step taken by private interests that depends upon the initiative of the victim or his family or upon their offer of proof, without an effective search for the truth by the government.Similarly, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has interpreted the “right to security” not only as prohibiting the State from arbitrarily depriving liberty, but imposing a positive duty on the State to afford protection of the right to liberty. The ECHR interpreted the “right to security of person” under Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights in the leading case on disappearance of persons, Kurt v. Turkey. In this case, the claimant's son had been arrested by state authorities and had not been seen since. The family's requests for information and investigation regarding his whereabouts proved futile. The claimant suggested that this was a violation of her son's right to security of person. The ECHR ruled, viz:
xxx xxx xxx
... any deprivation of liberty must not only have been effected in conformity with the substantive and procedural rules of national law but must equally be in keeping with the very purpose of Article 5, namely to protect the individual from arbitrariness... Having assumed control over that individual it is incumbent on the authorities to account for his or her whereabouts. For this reason, Article 5 must be seen as requiring the authorities to take effective measures to safeguard against the risk of disappearance and to conduct a prompt effective investigation into an arguable claim that a person has been taken into custody and has not been seen since. (Emphasis supplied)
In the instant case, this Court rules that respondents in G.R. No. 191805 are responsible or accountable for the violation of Rodriguez’s right to life, liberty and security on account of their abject failure to conduct a fair and effective official investigation of his ordeal in the hands of the military. Respondents Gen. Ibrado, PDG. Verzosa, Lt. Gen. Bangit, Maj. Gen. Ochoa, Col. De Vera and Lt. Col. Mina only conducted a perfunctory investigation, exerting no efforts to take Ramirez’s account of the events into consideration. Rather, these respondents solely relied on the reports and narration of the military. The ruling of the appellate court must be emphasized:
In this case, respondents Ibrado, Verzosa, Bangit, Tolentino, Santos, De Vera, and Mina are accountable, for while they were charged with the investigation of the subject incident, the investigation they conducted and/or relied on is superficial and one-sided. The records disclose that the military, in investigating the incident complained of, depended on the Comprehensive Report of Noriel Rodriguez @Pepito prepared by 1Lt. Johnny Calub for the Commanding Officer of the 501st Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. Such report, however, is merely based on the narration of the military. No efforts were undertaken to solicit petitioner’s version of the subject incident and no witnesses were questioned regarding the alleged abduction of petitioner.
Respondent PDG Verzosa, as Chief of the PNP, is accountable because Section 24 of Republic Act No. 6975, otherwise known as the “PNP Law,” specifies the PNP as the governmental office with the mandate “to investigate and prevent crimes, effect the arrest of criminal offenders, bring offenders to justice and assist in their prosecution.” In this case, PDG Verzosa failed to order the police to conduct the necessary investigation to unmask the mystery surrounding petitioner’s abduction and disappearance. Instead, PDG Verzosa disclaims accountability by merely stating that petitioner has no cause of action against him. Palpable, however, is the lack of any effort on the part of PDG Verzosa to effectively and aggressively investigate the violations of petitioner’s right to life, liberty and security by members of the 17th Infantry Battalion, 17th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. (Emphasis supplied.)
Clearly, the absence of a fair and effective official investigation into the claims of Rodriguez violated his right to security, for which respondents in G.R. No. 191805 must be held responsible or accountable.
Nevertheless, it must be clarified that Rodriguez was unable to establish any responsibility or accountability on the part of respondents P/CSupt. Tolentino, P/SSupt. Santos, Calog and Palacpac. Respondent P/CSupt. Tolentino had already retired when the abduction and torture of Rodriguez was perpetrated, while P/SSupt. Santos had already been reassigned and transferred to the National Capital Regional Police Office six months before the subject incident occurred. Meanwhile, no sufficient allegations were maintained against respondents Calog and Palacpac.
From all the foregoing, we rule that Rodriguez was successful in proving through substantial evidence that respondents Gen. Ibrado, PDG. Verzosa, Lt. Gen. Bangit, Maj. Gen. Ochoa, Brig. Gen. De Vera, 1st Lt. Matutina, and Lt. Col. Mina were responsible and accountable for the violation of Rodriguez’s rights to life, liberty and security on the basis of (a) his abduction, detention and torture from 6 September to 17 September 2009, and (b) the lack of any fair and effective official investigation as to his allegations. Thus, the privilege of the writs of amparo
and habeas data
must be granted in his favor. As a result, there is no longer any need to issue a temporary protection order, as the privilege of these writs already has the effect of enjoining respondents in G.R. No. 191805 from violating his rights to life, liberty and security.
It is also clear from the above discussion that despite (a) maintaining former President Arroyo in the list of respondents in G.R. No. 191805, and (b) allowing the application of the command responsibility doctrine to amparo and habeas data proceedings, Rodriguez failed to prove through substantial evidence that former President Arroyo was responsible or accountable for the violation of his rights to life, liberty and property. He likewise failed to prove through substantial evidence the accountability or responsibility of respondents Maj. Gen. Ochoa, Cruz, Pasicolan and Callagan.WHEREFORE
, we resolve to GRANT
the Petition for Partial Review in G.R. No. 191805 and DENY
the Petition for Review in G.R. No. 193160. The Decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION.
The case is dismissed with respect to respondents former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, P/CSupt. Ameto G. Tolentino, and P/SSupt. Jude W. Santos, Calog, George Palacpac, Antonio Cruz, Aldwin Pasicolan and Vicent Callagan for lack of merit.
This Court directs the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take the appropriate action with respect to any possible liability or liabilities, within their respective legal competence, that may have been incurred by respondents Gen. Victor Ibrado, PDG. Jesus Verzosa, Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, Maj. Gen. Nestor Ochoa, Brig. Gen. Remegio De Vera, 1st Lt. Ryan Matutina, and Lt. Col. Laurence Mina. The Ombudsman and the DOJ are ordered to submit to this Court the results of their action within a period of six months from receipt of this Decision.
In the event that herein respondents no longer occupy their respective posts, the directives mandated in this Decision and in the Court of Appeals are enforceable against the incumbent officials holding the relevant positions. Failure to comply with the foregoing shall constitute contempt of court.SO ORDERED.Corona, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes
, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ.
, concur.Del Castillo,
and Leonardo-De Castro, JJ
., on official leave.
Resolution dated 28 June 2011, ordering the consolidation of G.R. Nos. 191805 and 193160.
Petition, CA rollo
(G.R. No. 191805), p. 4.
(G.R. No. 191805), p. 30. Rollo
(G.R. No. 191805), p. 31.
(G.R. No. 191805), pp. 31-32.
Id. at 32.
Id. at 32-33.
Id. at 33.
Id. at 34.
(G.R. No. 191805), pp. 34-35.
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