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Balao vs.

Macagagal-Arroyo 662 SCRA 312 , December 13, 2011


Case Title : ARTHUR BALAO, WINSTON BALAO, NONETTE BALAO, JONILYN BALAO-
STRUGAR and BEVERLY LONGID, petitioners, vs. GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO,
EDUARDO ERMITA, GILBERTO TEODORO, RONALDO PUNO, NORBERTO GONZALES, Gen.
ALEXANDER YANO, Gen. JESUS VERZOSA, Brig. Gen. REYNALDO MAPAGU, Lt. P/Dir.
EDGARDO DOROMAL, Maj. Gen. ISAGANI CACHUELA, Commanding Officer of the AFP-
ISU based in Baguio City, PSS EUGENE MARTIN and several JOHN DOES,
respondents.Case Nature : PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the
Regional Trial Court of La Trinidad, Benguet, Br. 63.
Syllabi Class : Writ of Amparo|Extralegal Killings|Enforced Disappearances|Command
Responsibility|Presidential Immunity
Syllabi:
1. Writ of Amparo; Extralegal Killings; Enforced Disappearances; Meaning of
Extralegal Killings and Enforced Disappearances.-
The Rule on the Writ of Amparo was promulgated on October 24, 2007 amidst rising
incidence of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances. It was formulated in the
exercise of this Courts expanded rule-making power for the protection and enforcement
of constitutional rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, albeit limited to these two
situations. Extralegal killings refer to killings committed without due process of law,
i.e., without legal safeguards or judicial proceedings. On the other hand, enforced
disappearances are attended by the following characteristics: an arrest, detention, or
abduction of a person by a government official or organized groups or private individuals
acting with the direct or indirect acquiescence of the government; the refusal of the
State to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the person concerned or a refusal to
acknowledge the deprivation of liberty which places such person outside the protection
of law.
2. Same; Same; Same; Granting the privilege of the writ may include an order
instructing respondents to conduct further investigation if such a directive is deemed as
an appropriate remedial measure under the premises to protect the rights under the
writ.-
The ponencia orders the referral of this case back to the trial court for further
investigation by the PNP and CIDG. As previously discussed, an explicit finding of
absence of a fair and effective investigation should have been sufficient to grant the
privilege of the writ of amparo. After all, there is no finding of criminal, civil or
administrative liability in amparo proceedings. In fact, granting the privilege of the writ
may include an order instructing respondents to conduct further investigation, if such a
directive is deemed as an appropriate remedial measure under the premises to protect
the rights under the writ.
3. Same; Same; Same; Same; Presidential immunity from suit exists only in
concurrence with the Presidents incumbency.-
In this Courts Resolution in Estrada v. Desierto, 356 SCRA 108 (2001), it was
emphasized that presidential immunity from suit exists only in concurrence with the
Presidents incumbency.
4. Same; Same; Same; Same; Presidential Immunity; A non-sitting President does
not enjoy immunity from suit even for acts committed during the latters tenure.-
The majority Decision states that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (former
President Arroyo) should have been accorded presidential immunity, as she was the
incumbent President when the present Petitions were filed. This position is not in accord
with the ruling of this Court in Estrada v. Desierto, 353 SCRA 452 (2001), in which it
was explicitly held that a non-sitting President does not enjoy immunity from suit even
for acts committed during the latters tenure.
5. Same; Same; Same; Same; The doctrine of command responsibility may be used in
amparo proceedings to the extent of identifying the superiors accountable for the
enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing.-
The doctrine of command responsibility may be used in amparo proceedings to the
extent of identifying the superiors accountable for the enforced disappearance or
extrajudicial killing, and those who may be directed to implement the processes and
reliefs in the amparo case.
6. Same; Same; Same; Command Responsibility; The doctrine of command
responsibility is not mutually exclusive with the standard of responsibility and
accountability in amparo cases.-
The ponencia rejects the use of command responsibility in amparo proceedings on the
ground that the manner of impleading commanders must be on the basis of their
responsibility or accountability. It must be pointed out that the doctrine of command
responsibility is not mutually exclusive with the standard of responsibility and
accountability in amparo cases.
7. Writ of Amparo; Extralegal Killings; Enforced Disappearances; While the
substantial evidence rule remains the standard in amparo proceedings,
flexibility should be observed; Courts must consider evidence adduced in its totality
including that which would otherwise be deemed inadmissible if consistent with the
admissible evidence adduced.-
Section 17 of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo prescribes the threshold of substantial
evidence as necessary for establishing the claims of petitioners in G.R. No. 186050.
While the substantial evidence rule remains the standard in amparo proceedings,
flexibility should be observed. Courts must consider evidence adduced in its totality,
including that which would otherwise be deemed inadmissible if consistent with the
admissible evidence adduced.
8. Same; Same; Same; A basic requirement before an amparo court may grant an
inspection order is that the place to be inspected is reasonably determinable from the
allegations of the party seeking the order.-
An inspection order is an interim relief designed to give support or strengthen the
claim of a petitioner in an amparo petition, in order to aid the court before making a
decision. A basic requirement before an amparo court may grant an inspection order is
that the place to be inspected is reasonably determinable from the allegations of the
party seeking the order. In this case, the issuance of inspection order was properly
denied since the petitioners specified several military and police establishments based
merely on the allegation that the testimonies of victims and witnesses in previous
incidents of similar abductions involving activists disclosed that those premises were
used as detention centers.
9. Same; Same; Same; Presidential Immunity; The trial court clearly erred in
holding that presidential immunity cannot be properly invoked in an amparo
proceeding.-
As to the matter of dropping President Arroyo as party-respondent, though not raised
in the petitions, we hold that the trial court clearly erred in holding that presidential
immunity cannot be properly invoked in an amparo proceeding. As president, then
President Arroyo was enjoying immunity from suit when the petition for a writ of amparo
was filed. Moreover, the petition is bereft of any allegation as to what specific
presidential act or omission violated or threatened to violate petitioners protected
rights.
10. Same; Same; Same; Reports of top police officials indicating the personnel and
units they directed to investigate can never constitute exhaustive and meaningful
investigation or equal detailed investigative reports of the activities undertaken to
search for the victim.-
In view of the foregoing evidentiary gaps, respondents clearly failed to discharge their
burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of Jamess abduction. Such
ineffective investigation extant in the records of this case prevents us from completely
exonerating the respondents from allegations of accountability for James disappearance.
The reports submitted by the PNP Regional Office, Task Force Balao and Baguio City
Police Station do not contain meaningful results or details on the depth and extent of the
investigation made. In Razon, Jr. v. Tagitis, 606 SCRA 598 (2009), the Court observed
that such reports of top police officials indicating the personnel and units they directed
to investigate can never constitute exhaustive and meaningful investigation, or equal
detailed investigative reports of the activities undertaken to search for the victim. In the
same case we stressed that the standard of diligence requiredthe duty of public
officials and employees to observe extraordinary diligencecalled for extraordinary
measures expected in the protection of constitutional rights and in the consequent
handling and investigation of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance cases.
11. Same; Same; Same; Definition of Responsibility and Accountability.-
In Razon, Jr. v. Tagitis, 606 SCRA 598 (2009), the Court defined responsibility and
accountability as these terms are applied to amparo proceedings, as follows: x x x
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. x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
12. Same; Same; Same; The inapplicability of the doctrine of command responsibility
in an amparo proceeding does not by any measure preclude impleading military or police
commanders on the ground that the complained acts in the petition were committed
with their direct or indirect acquiescence.-
Subsequently, we have clarified that the inapplicability of the doctrine of command
responsibility in an amparo proceeding does not, by any measure, preclude impleading
military or police commanders on the ground that the complained acts in the petition
were committed with their direct or indirect acquiescence. Commanders may therefore
be impleadednot actually on the basis of command responsibilitybut rather on the
ground of their responsibility, or at least accountability.
13. Same; Same; Same; Such documented practice of targeting activists in the
militarys counter-insurgency program by itself does not fulfill the evidentiary standard
provided in the Amparo Rule to establish an enforced disappearance.-
We hold that such documented practice of targeting activists in the militarys counter-
insurgency program by itself does not fulfill the evidentiary standard provided in the
Amparo Rule to establish an enforced disappearance. In the case of Roxas v. Macapagal-
Arroyo, 630 SCRA 211 (2010), the Court noted that the similarity between the
circumstances attending a particular case of abduction with those surrounding previous
instances of enforced disappearances does not, necessarily, carry sufficient weight to
prove that the government orchestrated such abduction. Accordingly, the trial court in
this case cannot simply infer government involvement in the abduction of James from
past similar incidents in which the victims also worked or affiliated with the CPA and
other left-leaning groups.

Division: EN BANC

Docket Number: G.R. No. 186050

Counsel: Reynaldo Cortes, Cheryl L. Daytec-Yangot, Mary Ann M. Bayang, Jennifer


Asuncion and Rex Lampa

Ponente: VILLARAMA, JR., J.

Dispositive Portion:
WHEREFORE, the petitions in G.R. Nos. 186050 and 186059 are PARTLY GRANTED. The
Judgment dated January 19, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court of La Trinidad, Benguet,
Branch 63, in Special Proceeding No. 08-AMP-0001 is MODIFIED as follows: 1)
REVERSING the grant of the privilege of the writ of amparo; 2) AFFIRMING the denial
of the prayer for inspection and production orders, without prejudice to the subsequent
grant thereof, in the course of hearing and other developments in the investigations by
the Philippine National Police/Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and
Detection Group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines; 3) ORDERING the incumbent
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or his successor, and the
incumbent Director General of the Philippine National Police, or his successor, to
CONTINUE the investigations and actions already commenced by the Philippine National
Police Regional OfficeCordillera, Baguio City Police, Northern Luzon Command,
Philippine National Police/Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection
Group, Philippine Army-Intelligence Service Unit and other concerned units, and
specifically take and continue to take the necessary steps: (a) to identify the persons
described in the cartographic sketches submitted by Task Force Balao; (b) to locate
and search the vehicles bearing the plate numbers submitted by the petitioners and
which James Balao had reported to be conducting surveillance on his person prior to his
abduction on September 17, 2008, and investigate the registered owners or whoever the
previous and present possessors/transferees thereof; and to pursue any other leads
relevant to the abduction of James Balao; The incumbent Armed Forces of the
Philippines Chief of Staff, Philippine National Police Director General, or their successors,
shall ensure that the investigations and actions of their respective units on the abduction
of James Balao are pursued with extraordinary diligence as required by Sec. 17 of the
Amparo Rule. For purposes of these investigations, the Philippine National
Police/Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group shall
periodically report the detailed results of its investigation to the trial court for its
consideration and action. On behalf of this Court, the trial court shall pass upon the
sufficiency of their investigative efforts. The Philippine National Police and the Philippine
National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group shall have six (6) months
from notice hereof to undertake their investigations. Within fifteen (15) days after
completion of the investigations, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
and the Director General of the Philippine National Police shall submit a full report of the
results of the said investigations to the trial court. Within thirty (30) days thereafter, the
trial court shall submit its full report to this Court. These directives and those of the trial
court made pursuant to this Decision shall be given to, and shall be directly enforceable
against, whoever may be the incumbent Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff,
Director General of the Philippine National Police and Chief of the Philippine National
Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and other concerned units, under pain
of contempt from this Court when the initiatives and efforts at disclosure and
investigation constitute less than the EXTRAORDINARY DILIGENCE that the Amparo Rule
and the circumstances of the case demand; and 4) DROPPING former President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo as party-respondent in the petition for writ of amparo; This case is
hereby REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of La Trinidad, Benguet, Branch 63 for
continuation of proceedings in Special Proceeding No. 08-AMP-0001 for the purposes of
monitoring compliance with the above directives and determining whether, in the light of
any recent reports or recommendations, there would already be sufficient evidence to
hold any of the public respondents responsible, or, at least, accountable. After making
such determination, the trial court shall submit its own report and recommendation to
this Court for final action. The trial court will continue to have jurisdiction over this case
in order to accomplish its tasks under this decision; Accordingly, the public respondents
shall remain personally impleaded in this petition to answer for any responsibilities
and/or accountabilities they may have incurred during their incumbencies. No
pronouncement as to costs.