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Aberca vs.

Ver Case Digest L-69866 April 15, 1988

This case stems from alleged illegal searches and seizures and other
violations of the rights and liberties of plaintiffs by various intelligence
units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, known as Task Force
Makabansa (TFM) ordered by General Fabian Ver "to conduct pre-emptive
strikes against known communist-terrorist (CT) underground houses in
view of increasing reports about CT plans to sow disturbances in Metro
Manila," Plaintiffs allege, among others, that complying with said order,
elements of the TFM raided several places, employing in most cases
defectively issued judicial search warrants; that during these raids,
certain members of the raiding party confiscated a number of purely
personal items belonging to plaintiffs; that plaintiffs were arrested without
proper warrants issued by the courts; that for some period after their
arrest, they were denied visits of relatives and lawyers; that plaintiffs
were interrogated in violation of their rights to silence and counsel; that
military men who interrogated them employed threats, tortures and other
forms of violence on them in order to obtain incriminatory information or
confessions and in order to punish them; that all violations of plaintiffs
constitutional rights were part of a concerted and deliberate plan to
forcibly extract information and incriminatory statements from plaintiffs
and to terrorize, harass and punish them, said plans being previously
known to and sanctioned by defendants.
Seeking to justify the dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint, the respondents
postulate the view that as public officers they are covered by the mantle
of state immunity from suit for acts done in the performance of official
duties or function
ISSUE:whether the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas
corpus bars a civil action for damages for illegal searches conducted by
military personnel and other violations of rights and liberties guaranteed
under the Constitution. If such action for damages may be maintained,
who can be held liable for such violations: only the military personnel
directly involved and/or their superiors as well.
SC: We find respondents' invocation of the doctrine of state immunity
from suit totally misplaced. The cases invoked by respondents actually
involved acts done by officers in the performance of official duties written
the ambit of their powers.

It may be that the respondents, as members of the Armed Forces of the

Philippines, were merely responding to their duty, as they claim, "to
prevent or suppress lawless violence, insurrection, rebellion and
subversion" in accordance with Proclamation No. 2054 of President
Marcos, despite the lifting of martial law on January 27, 1981, and in
pursuance of such objective, to launch pre- emptive strikes against
alleged communist terrorist underground houses. But this cannot be
construed as a blanket license or a roving commission untramelled by any
constitutional restraint, to disregard or transgress upon the rights and
liberties of the individual citizen enshrined in and protected by the
Constitution. The Constitution remains the supreme law of the land to
which all officials, high or low, civilian or military, owe obedience and
allegiance at all times.
Article 32 of the Civil Code which renders any public officer or employee
or any private individual liable in damages for violating the Constitutional
rights and liberties of another, as enumerated therein, does not exempt
the respondents from responsibility. Only judges are excluded from
liability under the said article, provided their acts or omissions do not
constitute a violation of the Penal Code or other penal statute.
We do not agree. We find merit in petitioners' contention that the
suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not destroy
petitioners' right and cause of action for damages for illegal arrest and
detention and other violations of their constitutional rights. The
suspension does not render valid an otherwise illegal arrest or detention.
What is suspended is merely the right of the individual to seek release
from detention through the writ of habeas corpus as a speedy means of
obtaining his liberty.
Firstly, it is wrong to at the plaintiffs' action for damages 5 Section 1,
Article 19. to 'acts of alleged physical violence" which constituted delict or
wrong. Article 32 clearly specifies as actionable the act of violating or in
any manner impeding or impairing any of the constitutional rights and
liberties enumerated therein, among others
The complaint in this litigation alleges facts showing with abundant clarity
and details, how plaintiffs' constitutional rights and liberties mentioned in
Article 32 of the Civil Code were violated and impaired by defendants.
The complaint speaks of, among others, searches made without search
warrants or based on irregularly issued or substantially defective
warrants; seizures and confiscation, without proper receipts, of cash and
personal effects belonging to plaintiffs and other items of property which
were not subversive and illegal nor covered by the search warrants; arrest
and detention of plaintiffs without warrant or under irregular, improper
and illegal circumstances; detention of plaintiffs at several undisclosed
places of 'safehouses" where they were kept incommunicado and

subjected to physical and psychological torture and other inhuman,

degrading and brutal treatment for the purpose of extracting
incriminatory statements. The complaint contains a detailed recital of
abuses perpetrated upon the plaintiffs violative of their constitutional
Secondly, neither can it be said that only those shown to have
participated "directly" should be held liable. Article 32 of the Civil Code
encompasses within the ambit of its provisions those directly, as well as
indirectly, responsible for its violation.
The responsibility of the defendants, whether direct or indirect, is amply
set forth in the complaint. It is well established in our law and
jurisprudence that a motion to dismiss on the ground that the complaint
states no cause of action must be based on what appears on the face of
the complaint. 6 To determine the sufficiency of the cause of action, only
the facts alleged in the complaint, and no others, should be considered. 7
For this purpose, the motion to dismiss must hypothetically admit the
truth of the facts alleged in the complaint.

Lenido Lumanog v. People of the Philippines (and other consolidated

cases), G.R. No. 182555, September 7, 2010
(En Banc)


Appellants were the accused perpetrators of the ambush-slay of

former Chief of the Metropolitan Command Intelligence and Security
Group of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police),
Colonel Rolando N. Abadilla.
The principal witness for the prosecution was Freddie Alejo, a
security guard employed assigned at 211 Katipunan Avenue, Blue Ridge,
Quezon City, where the ambush-slay happened. As a purported
eyewitness, he testified on what he saw during the fateful day, including
the faces of the accused.
All the accused raised the defense of alibi, highlighted the negative
findings of ballistic and fingerprint examinations, and further alleged
torture in the hands of police officers and denial of constitutional rights
during custodial investigation.

The trial court however convicted the accused-appellants. The CA

affirmed with modification the decision of the trial court. The CA upheld
the conviction of the accused-appellants based on the credible
eyewitness testimony of Alejo, who vividly recounted before the trial court
their respective positions and participation in the fatal shooting of
Abadilla, having been able to witness closely how they committed the


1. Did the CA decision comply with the constitutional standard that

[n]o decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein
clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based?
2. Was the extra-judicial confession of accused Joel de Jesus taken
during the custodial investigation valid?
Was the right to speedy disposition of cases of the accused
4. Was the eyewitness testimony of security guard Alejo against
the accused credible?
Was the out-of-court identification of the accused-appellants
made by the eyewitness, security guard Alejo, in a police line-up was
6. Were the results of the ballistic and fingerprint tests conclusive
of the innocence of the accused-appellants?
Can the defense of alibi of the accused prevail over their
positive identification in this case?
1. YES, the CA decision complied with the constitutional
standard that [n]o decision shall be rendered by any court
without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and
the law on which it is based.
Perusing the CA decision, we hold that it cannot be deemed
constitutionally infirm, as it clearly stated the facts and law on which the
ruling was based, and while it did not specifically address each and every
assigned error raised by appellants, it cannot be said that the appellants
were left in the dark as to how the CA reached its ruling affirming the trial
courts judgment of conviction. The principal arguments raised in their
Memorandum submitted before this Court actually referred to the main
points of the CA rulings, such as the alleged sufficiency of prosecution
evidence, their common defense of alibi, allegations of torture, probative
value of ballistic and fingerprint test results, circumstances qualifying the
offense and modification of penalty imposed by the trial court. What

appellants essentially assail is the verbatim copying by the CA of not only

the facts narrated, but also the arguments and discussion including the
legal authorities, in disposing of the appeal. On such wholesale adoption
of the Office of the Solicitor Generals position, as well as the trial courts
insufficient findings of fact, appellants anchor their claim of failure of
intermediate review by the CA.
2. NO, the extra-judicial confession of accused Joel de Jesus
taken during the custodial investigation was NOT valid.
Police officers claimed that upon arresting Joel, they informed him of
his constitutional rights to remain silent, that any information he would
give could be used against him, and that he had the right to a competent
and independent counsel, preferably, of his own choice, and if he cannot
afford the services of counsel he will be provided with one
(1). However, since these rights can only be waived in writing and with
the assistance of counsel, there could not have been such a valid waiver
by Joel, who was presented to Atty. Sansano at the IBP Office, Quezon
City Hall only the following day and stayed overnight at the police station
before he was brought to said counsel.
Even assuming that custodial investigation started only during Joels
execution of his statement before Atty. Sansano on June 20, 1996, still the
said confession must be invalidated. To be acceptable, extrajudicial
confessions must conform to constitutional requirements. A confession is
not valid and not admissible in evidence when it is obtained in violation of
any of the rights of persons under custodial investigation.
Atty. Sansano, who supposedly interviewed Joel and assisted the
latter while responding to questions propounded by SPO2 Garcia, Jr., did
not testify on whether he had properly discharged his duties to said
client. While SPO2 Garcia, Jr. testified that Atty. Sansano had asked Joel if
he understood his answers to the questions of the investigating officer
and sometimes stopped Joel from answering certain questions, SPO2
Garcia, Jr. did not say if Atty. Sansano, in the first place, verified from
them the date and time of Joels arrest and the circumstances thereof, or
any previous information elicited from him by the investigators at the
station, and if said counsel inspected Joels body for any sign or mark of
physical torture.
3. No, the right to speedy disposition of cases of the
accused was NOT violated.
Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that all
persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before
all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies. This protection
extends to all citizens and covers the periods before, during and after

trial, affording broader protection than Section 14(2), which guarantees

merely the right to a speedy trial. However, just like the constitutional
guarantee of speedy trial, speedy disposition of cases is a flexible
concept. It is consistent with delays and depends upon the
circumstances. What the Constitution prohibits are unreasonable,
arbitrary and oppressive delays, which render rights nugatory.
It must be stressed that in the determination of whether the right to
speedy disposition of cases has been violated, particular regard must be
taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. A mere
mathematical reckoning of the time involved would not be sufficient.
Under the circumstances, we hold that the delay of (4) four years during
which the case remained pending with the CA and this Court was not
unreasonable, arbitrary or oppressive.
In several cases where it was manifest that due process of law or
other rights guaranteed by the Constitution or statutes have been denied,
this Court has not faltered to accord the so-called radical relief to keep
accused from enduring the rigors and expense of a full-blown trial. In this
case, however, appellants are not entitled to the same relief in the
absence of clear and convincing showing that the delay in the resolution
of their appeal was unreasonable or arbitrary.
4. YES, the eyewitness testimony of security guard Alejo
against the accused was credible.
In giving full credence to the eyewitness testimony of security guard
Alejo, the trial judge took into account his proximity to the spot where the
shooting occurred, his elevated position from his guardhouse, his
opportunity to view frontally all the perpetrators for a brief time -- enough
for him to remember their faces (when the two [2] lookouts he had
earlier noticed walking back and forth in front of his guard post pointed
their guns at him one [1] after the other, and later when the four [4]
armed men standing around the victims car momentarily looked at him
as he was approached at the guardhouse by the second lookout), and his
positive identification in the courtroom of appellants as the six (6)
persons whom he saw acting together in the fatal shooting of Abadilla on
June 13, 1996. The clear view that Alejo had at the time of the incident
was verified by Judge Jose Catral Mendoza (now an Associate Justice of
this Court) during the ocular inspection conducted in the presence of the
prosecutors, defense counsel, court personnel, and witnesses Alejo and
Maj. Villena.
The trial judge also found that Alejo did not waver in his detailed
account of how the assailants shot Abadilla[,] who was inside his car, the
relative positions of the gunmen and lookouts, and his opportunity to look
at them in the face. Alejo immediately gave his statement before the

police authorities just hours after the incident took place. Appellants
make much of a few inconsistencies in his statement and testimony, with
respect to the number of assailants and his reaction when he was ordered
to get down in his guard post. But such inconsistencies have already been
explained by Alejo during cross-examination by correcting his earlier
statement in using number four (4) to refer to those persons actually
standing around the car and two (2) more persons as lookouts, and that
he got nervous only when the second lookout shouted at him to get down,
because the latter actually poked a gun at him. It is settled that
affidavits, being ex-parte, are almost always incomplete and often
inaccurate, but do not really detract from the credibility of witnesses. The
discrepancies between a sworn statement and testimony in court do not
outrightly justify the acquittal of an accused, as testimonial evidence
carries more weight than an affidavit.
5. YES, the out-of-court identification of the accusedappellants made by the eyewitness, security guard Alejo, in a
police line-up was reliable.
Applying the totality-of-circumstances test, we reiterate that Alejos
reasons that, first, he was very near the place where Abadilla was shot
and thus had a good view of the gunmen, not to mention that the two (2)
lookouts directly approached him and pointed their guns at
them; second, no competing event took place to draw his attention from
the event; third, Alejo immediately gave his descriptions of at least two
(2) of the perpetrators, while affirming he could possibly identify the
others if he would see them again, and the entire happening that he
witnessed; and finally, there was no evidence that the police had
supplied or even suggested to Alejo that appellants were the suspects,
except for Joel de Jesus whom he refused to just pinpoint on the basis of a
photograph shown to him by the police officers, insisting that he would
like to see said suspect in person. More importantly, Alejo during the
trial had positively identified appellant Joel de Jesus independently of the
previous identification made at the police station. Such in-court
identification was positive, straightforward and categorical.
6. NO, the results of the ballistic and fingerprint tests were
NOT conclusive of the innocence of the accused-appellants.
[T]he negative result of ballistic examination was inconclusive, for
there is no showing that the firearms supposedly found in appellants
possession were the same ones used in the ambush-slay of Abadilla. The
fact that ballistic examination revealed that the empty shells and slug
were fired from another firearm does not disprove appellants guilt, as it
was possible that different firearms were used by them in shooting
Abadilla. Neither will the finding that the empty shells and slug matched

those in another criminal case allegedly involving ABB members, such

that they could have been fired from the same firearms belonging to said
rebel group, exonerate the appellants who are on trial in this case and not
the suspects in another case. To begin with, the prosecution never
claimed that the firearms confiscated from appellants, which were the
subject of separate charges for illegal possession of firearms, were the
same firearms used in the ambush-slay of Abadilla. A ballistic
examination is not indispensable in this case. Even if another weapon
was in fact actually used in killing the victim, still, appellants Fortuna and
Lumanog cannot escape criminal liability therefor, as they were positively
identified by eyewitness Freddie Alejo as the ones who shot Abadilla to
The negative result of the fingerprint tests conducted by fingerprint
examiner Remedios is likewise inconclusive and unreliable. Said witness
admitted that no prints had been lifted from inside the KIA Pride and only
two (2) fingerprints were taken from the car of Abadilla.
7. NO, the defense of alibi of the accused CANNOT prevail
over their positive identification in this case.
Alibi is the weakest of all defenses, for it is easy to fabricate and
difficult to disprove, and it is for this reason that it cannot prevail over the
positive identification of the accused by the witnesses. To be valid for
purposes of exoneration from a criminal charge, the defense of alibi must
be such that it would have been physically impossible for the person
charged with the crime to be at the locus criminis at the time of its
commission, the reason being that no person can be in two places at the
same time. The excuse must be so airtight that it would admit of no
exception. Where there is the least possibility of accuseds presence at
the crime scene, the alibi will not hold water.
Deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is the rule that positive
identification of the accused, where categorical and consistent, without
any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying, should
prevail over the alibi and denial of appellants, whose testimonies are not
substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. However, none of the
appellants presented clear and convincing excuses showing the physical
impossibility of their being at the crime scene between 8:00 oclock and
9:00 oclock in the morning of June 13, 1996. Hence, the trial court and
CA did not err in rejecting their common defense of alibi.

Case Digest: Antonio Lejano vs. People of the Philippines

G.R. No. 176389

14 December 2010

On 30 June 1991, Estellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela and
Jennifer were brutally slain at their home in Paranaque City. Four years
later in 1995, the NBI announced that it had solved the crime. It
presented star-witness Jessica Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed
that she had witnessed the crime. She pointed to Hubert Webb, Antonio
Lejano, Artemio Ventura, Michael Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Peter
Estrada, Miguel Rodriguez and Joy Filart as the culprits. She also tagged
police officer, Gerardo Biong, as an accessory after the fact. Alfaro had
been working as an asset to the NBI by leading the agency to criminals.
Some of the said criminals had been so high-profile, that Alfaro had
become the darling of the NBI because of her contribution to its
success. The trial court and the Court of Appeals found that Alfaros
direct and spontaneous narration of events unshaken by gruesome crossexamination should be given a great weight in the decision of the case.
In Alfaros story, she stated that after she and the accused got high of
shabu, she was asked to see Carmela at their residence. After Webb was
informed that Carmela had a male companion with her, Webb became
piqued and thereafter consumed more drugs and plotted the gang rape
on Carmela. Webb, on the other hand, denied all the accusations against
him with the alibi that during the whole time that the crime had taken
place, he was staying in the United States. He had apparently left for the
US on 09 March 1991 and only returned on 27 October 1992. As
documentary evidence, he presented photocopies of his passport with
four stamps recording his entry and exit from both the Philippines and the
US, Flights Passenger Manifest employment documents in the US during
his stay there and US-INS computer generated certification authenticated
by the Philippine DFA. Aside from these documentary alibis, he also gave
a thorough recount of his activities in the US
Whether or not Webbs documented alibi of his U.S. travel should be
given more credence by the Court than the positive identification by
For a positive identification to be acceptable, it must meet at least two
The positive identification of the offender must come from a credible
witness; and

The witness story of what she personally saw must be believable, not
inherently contrived.
The Supreme Court found that Alfaro and her testimony failed to meet the
above criteria. She did not show up at the NBI as a spontaneous witness
bothered by her conscience. She had been hanging around the agency
for sometime as a stool pigeon, one paid for mixing up with criminals and
squealing on them. And although her testimony included details, Alfaro
had prior access to the details that the investigators knew of the case.
She took advantage of her familiarity with these details to include in her
testimony the clearly incompatible acts of Webb hurling a stone at the
front door glass frames, for example, just so she can accommodate the
crime scene feature.
To establish alibi, the accused must prove by positive, clear and
satisfactory evidence that:
He was present at another place at the time of the perpetration of the
crime, and
That it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime.
The Supreme Court gave very high credence to the compounded
documentary alibi presented by Webb. This alibi altogether impeaches
Alfaros testimony not only with respect to him, but also with respect to
the other accused. For, if the Court accepts the proposition that Webb
was in the US when the crime took place, Alfaros testimony will not hold
altogether. Webbs participation is the anchor of Alfaros story.

Hilao v. Estate of Marcos,103 F.3d 767, 776 to 778 (9th Cir.

The district court instructed the jury that it could find the Estate liable if it
found either that (1) Marcos directed, ordered, conspired with, or aided
the military in torture, summary execution, and "disappearance" or (2) if
Marcos knew of such conduct by the military and failed to use his power
to prevent it. The Estate challenges the latter basis for liability, arguing
that liability is not imposed under such conditions in analogous U.S. law
claims, that "no international law decision ... has ever imposed liability
upon a foreign official" on those grounds, and that the district court
essentially made the Estate liable on a respondeat superior theory that is
inapplicable in intentional torts.

The principle of "command responsibility" that holds a superior

responsible for the actions of subordinates appears to be well accepted in
U.S. and international law in connection with acts committed in wartime,
as the Supreme Court's opinion in In Re Yamashita indicates:
[T]he gist of the charge is an unlawful breach of duty by petitioner as an
army commander to control the operations of the members of his
command by 'permitting them to commit' the extensive and widespread
atrocities specified.... [T]he law of war presupposes that its violation is to
be avoided through the control of the operations of war by commanders
who are to some extent responsible for their subordinates.... [P]rovisions
[of international law] plainly imposed on petitioner, who at the time
specified was military governor of the Philippines, as well as commander
of the Japanese forces, an affirmative duty to take such measures as were
within his power and appropriate in the circumstances to protect
prisoners of war and the civilian population. This duty of a commanding
officer has heretofore been recognized, and its breach penalized[,] by our
own military tribunals.
In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1, 14-16, 66 S.Ct. 340, 347-48, 90 L.Ed. 499
(1946). See also Art. 86(2), Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of August
12, 1949, opened for signature December 12, 1977, reprinted in 16 I.L.M.
1391, 1429 (1977) ("The fact that a breach of the Conventions or of this
Protocol was committed by a subordinate does not absolve his superiors
from penal [or] disciplinary responsibility ... if they knew, or had
information which should have enabled them to conclude in the
circumstances at the time, that he was committing or was going to
commit such a breach and if they did not take all feasible measures
within their power to prevent or repress the breach."); Art. 7(3), Statute of
the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for
Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the
Territory of the Former Yugoslavia, 32 I.L.M. 1159, 1192-94 (1993) ( "The
fact that any [act of genocide, crime against humanity, or violation of the
Geneva Conventions or of the laws or customs of war] was committed by
a subordinate does not relieve his superior of criminal responsibility if he
knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit
such acts or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary
and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the
perpetrators thereof."); see generally Lt. Cmdr. Weston D. Burnett,
Command Responsibility and a Case Study of the Criminal Responsibility
of Israeli Military Commanders for the Pogrom at Shatila and Sabra, 107
Mil.L.J. 71 (1985).
The United States has moved toward recognizing similar "command
responsibility" for torture that occurs in peacetime, perhaps because the
goal of international law regarding the treatment of noncombatants in
wartime--"to protect civilian populations and prisoners ... from brutality",

Yamashita, 327 U.S. at 15, 66 S.Ct. at 347-48--is similar to the goal of

international human-rights law. This move is evidenced in the legislative
history of the TVPA:
[A] higher official need not have personally performed or ordered the
abuses in order to be held liable. Under international law, responsibility
for torture, summary execution, or disappearances extends beyond the
person or persons who actually committed those acts--anyone with higher
authority who authorized, tolerated or knowingly ignored those acts is
liable for them.
S.Rep. No. 249, 102d Cong., 1st Sess. at 9 (1991) (footnote omitted)
(citing Forti and In re Yamashita ). At least one district court has
recognized such liability. Xuncax, 886 F.Supp. at 171-73, 174-75
("Gramajo was aware of and supported widespread acts of brutality
committed by personnel under his command resulting in thousands of
civilian deaths.... Gramajo refused to act to prevent such atrocities." "...
Gramajo may be held liable for the acts of members of the military forces
under his command."). See also Paul v. Avril, 901 F.Supp. 330, 335
(S.D.Fla.1994) ("Defendant Avril [former military ruler of Haiti] bears
personal responsibility for a systematic pattern of egregious human rights
abuses in Haiti during his military rule ... He also bears personal
responsibility for the interrogation and torture of each of the plaintiffs ...
All of the soldiers and officers in the Haitian military responsible for the
arbitrary detention and torture of plaintiffs were employees,
representatives, or agents of defendant Avril, acting under his
instructions, authority, and control and acting within the scope of
authority granted by him."). The conduct at issue in this case involved
violations by members of military or paramilitary forces of a jus cogens
norm of international law parallel to the types of war crimes for which
international law imposes command responsibility. Siderman de Blake v.
Republic of Argentina, 965 F.2d 699, 714-717 (9th Cir.1992) (prohibition
against torture has attained status of jus cogens norm from which no
derogation is permitted). In these circumstances, the district court's
instruction on the second category of liability was proper under
international law.