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 on the theory that this doctrine now constitutes a principle of International law or contemporary international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution
Petitioner, Noel 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 interrogated and repeatedly tortured just to forced him to confess to being a member of the NPA. There was also a time when 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.
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.
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. 14 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.
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 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. 23
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. 24
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. 25
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. 26 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.
The court granted the 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. The court likewise ordered respondents therein to file a verified return on the writs and to 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. 33 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. 34 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.
On 12 April 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed Decision. 51 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 assignment of errors.
Whether or not the doctrine of command responsibility can be used in amparo and habeas data cases.
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.
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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.
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.