Friday, March 09, 2012

Lacson vs. Perez

Facts: On May 1, 2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo, faced by an “angry and violent mob armed with explosives, firearms, bladed weapons, clubs, stones and other deadly weapons” assaulting and attempting to break into Malacañang, issued Proclamation No. 38 declaring that there was a state of rebellion in the National Capital Region. She likewise issued General Order No. 1 directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to suppress the rebellion in the National Capital Region. Warrantless arrests of several alleged leaders and promoters of the “rebellion” were thereafter effected. 

Aggrieved by the warrantless arrests, and the declaration of a “state of rebellion,” which allegedly gave a semblance of legality to the arrests, the following four related petitions were filed before the Court. 

The petitions assail the declaration of a state of rebellion by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the warrantless arrests allegedly effected by virtue thereof, as having no basis both in fact an in law. Significantly, on May 6, 2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the lifting of the declaration of a “state of rebellion” in Metro Manila. Accordingly, the instant petitions have been rendered moot and academic. As to petitioner’s claim that the proclamation of a “state of rebellion” is being used by the authorities to justify warrantless arrests, the Secretary of Justice denies that it has issued a particular order to arrest specific persons in connection with the “rebellion.” He states that what is extant are general instructions to law enforcement officers and military agencies to implement Proclamation No. 38. 

Issue: Does the SC have the power to inquire into the factual basis for the declaration of state of rebellion? 

Held: Yes. In quelling or suppressing the rebellion, the authorities may only resort to warrantless arrests of persons suspected of rebellion, as provided under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, if the circumstances so warrant. The warrantless arrest feared by petitioners is, thus, not based on the declaration of a “state of rebellion.” 

An individual subjected to warrantless arrest is not without adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law. Such an individual may ask for a preliminary investigation under Rule 112 of the Rules of court, where he may adduce evidence in his defense, or he may submit himself to inquest proceedings to determine whether or not he should remain under custody and correspondingly be charged in court. Further, a person subject of a warrantless arrest must be delivered to the proper judicial authorities within the periods provided in Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise the arresting officer could be held liable for delay in the delivery of detained persons. Should the detention be without legal ground, the person arrested can charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention. 

Petitioner Lumbao, leader of the People’s Movement against Poverty (PMAP), for his part, argues that the declaration of a “state of rebellion” is violative of the doctrine of separation of powers, being an encroachment on the domain of the judiciary which has the constitutional prerogative to “determine or interpret” what took place on May 1, 2001, and that the declaration of a state of rebellion cannot be an exception to the general rule on the allocation of the governmental powers. 

We disagree. To be sure, section 18, Article VII of the Constitution expressly provides that “[t]he President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion…” 

The factual necessity of calling out the armed forces is not easily quantifiable and cannot be objectively established since matters considered for satisfying the same is a combination of several factors which are not always accessible to the courts. Besides the absence of testual standards that the court may use to judge necessity, information necessary to arrive at such judgment might also prove unmanageable for the courts. Certain pertinent information necessary to arrive at such judgment might also prove unmanageable for the courts. Certain pertinent information might be difficult to verify, or wholly unavailable to the courts. In many instances, the evidence upon which the President might decide that there is a need to call out the armed forces may be of a nature not constituting technical proof. 

On the other hand, the President as Commander-in-Chief has a vast intelligence network to gather information, some of which may be classified as highly confidential or affecting the security of the state. In the exercise of the power to call, on-the-spot decisions may be imperatively necessary in emergency situations to avert great loss of human lives and mass destruction of property. 

The Court, in a proper case, may look into the sufficiency of the factual basis of the exercise of this power. However, this is no longer feasible at this time, Proclamation No. 38 having been lifted. 

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