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Aberca v.

Fabian-Ver, GR L-69866, 15 April 1988,


Facts:
The case stems from alleged illegal searches and seizures and other violations of
the rights and liberties of Rogelio Aberca, Rodolfo Benosa, Nestor Bodino, Noel
Etabag, Danilo De La Fuente, Belen DiazFlores, anuel ario !uzman, Alan
"azminez, Ed#in Lo$ez, Alfredo ansos, Ale% arcelino, Elizabeth &rotacio'
arcelino, "ose$h (la)er, *arlos &alma, arco &alo, Rolando +alutin, Ben,amin
+esgundo, Arturo Tabara, Ed#in Tulalian and Rebecca Tulalian b) various
intelligence suits of the Armed Forces of the &hili$$ines, -no#n as Tas- Force
a-abansa .TF/, ordered b) !eneral Fabian 0er 1to conduct $re'em$tive stri-es
against -no#n communist'terrorist .*T/ underground houses in vie# of increasing
re$orts about *T $lans to so# disturbances in etro anila21 Aberca, et2 al2 alleged
that com$l)ing #ith said order, elements of the TF raided several $laces,
32 em$lo)ing in most cases defectivel) issued ,udicial search #arrants4
52 that during these raids, certain members of the raiding $art) con6scated a
number of $urel) $ersonal items belonging to Aberca, et2 al24
72 that Aberca, et2 al2 #ere arrested #ithout $ro$er #arrants issued b) the
courts4
82 that for some $eriod after their arrest, the) #ere denied visits of relatives and
la#)ers4 that Aberca, et2 al2#ere interrogated in violation of their rights to
silence and counsel4
92 that militar) men #ho interrogated them em$lo)ed threats, tortures and
other forms of violence on them in order to obtain incriminator) information
or confessions and in order to $unish them4
:2 that all violations of Aberca, et2 al2;s constitutional rights #ere $art of a
concerted and deliberate $lan to forcibl) e%tract information and
incriminator) statements from Aberca, et2al2 and to terrorize, harass and
$unish them, said $lans being $reviousl) -no#n to and sanctioned b) a,2
Res$ondents $ostulate the vie# that as $ublic o<cers the) are covered b) the
mantle of state immunit) from suit for acts done in the $erformance of o<cial
duties or function2
=ssue:
>hether 0er, et2 al2, ma) be held civill) liable for underta-ing invalid search and
seizures, or violation of *onstitutional rights or liberties of another in general2
?eld:
+*: We fnd respondents invocation o! t"e doctrine o! state i##$nit% !ro#
s$it totall% #isplaced. The cases invo-ed b) res$ondents actuall) involved acts
done b) o<cers in the $erformance of o<cial duties #ritten the ambit of their
$o#ers2
=t ma) be that 0er, et2 al2, as members of the Armed Forces of the &hili$$ines, #ere
merel) res$onding to their dut), as the) claim, 1to $revent or su$$ress la#less
violence, insurrection, rebellion and subversion1 in accordance #ith &roclamation
5@98 of &resident arcos, des$ite the lifting of martial la# on 5A "anuar) 3BC3, and
in $ursuance of such ob,ective, to launch $re'em$tive stri-es against alleged
communist terrorist underground houses2 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 ofcials,
high or low, civilian or military, owe obedience and allegiance at all times.
Article 75 of the *ivil *ode #hich renders an) $ublic o<cer or em$lo)ee or an)
$rivate individual liable in damages for violating the *onstitutional rights and
liberties of another, as enumerated therein, does not e%em$t 0er, et2 al2 from
res$onsibilit)2 (nl) ,udges are e%cluded from liabilit) under the said article, $rovided
their acts or omissions do not constitute a violation of the &enal *ode or other $enal
statute2 This is not to sa) that militar) authorities are restrained from $ursuing their
assigned tas- or carr)ing out their mission #ith vigor2 ?o#ever, in carr)ing out this
tas- and mission, constitutional and legal safeguards must be observed, other#ise,
the ver) fabric of our faith #ill start to unravel2 Article 75 clearl) s$ea-s of an o<cer
or em$lo)ee or $erson 1directl)1 or 1indirectl)1 res$onsible for the violation of the
constitutional rights and liberties of another2
Thus, it is not the actor alone .i2e2 the one directl) res$onsible/ #ho must ans#er for
damages under Article 754 the $erson indirectl) res$onsible has also to ans#er for
the damages or in,ur) caused to the aggrieved $art)2 B) this $rovision, the $rinci$le
of accountabilit) of $ublic o<cials under the *onstitution acDuires added meaning
and assumes a larger dimension2 No longer ma) a su$erior o<cial rela% his
vigilance or abdicate his dut) to su$ervise his subordinates, secure in the thought
that he does not have to ans#er for the transgressions committed b) the latter
against the constitutionall) $rotected rights and liberties of the citizen2
&art of the factors that $ro$elled $eo$le $o#er in Februar) 3BC: #as the #idel)
held $erce$tion that the government #as callous or indiEerent to, if not actuall)
res$onsible for, the ram$ant violations of human rights2 >hile it #ould certainl) be
too naive to e%$ect that violators of human rights #ould easil) be deterred b) the
$ros$ect of facing damage suits, it should nonetheless be made clear in no
uncertain terms that Article 75 of the *ivil *ode ma-es the $ersons #ho are directl),
as #ell as indirectl), res$onsible for the transgression ,oint tortfeasors2
F$rt"er, t"e s$spension o! t"e privile&e o! t"e 'rit o! "abeas corp$s does
not destro% Aberca, et. al.s ri&"t and ca$se o! action !or da#a&es !or
ille&al arrest and detention and ot"er violations o! t"eir constit$tional
ri&"ts.
("e s$spension does not render valid an ot"er'ise ille&al arrest or
detention. W"at is s$spended is #erel% t"e ri&"t o! t"e individ$al to see)
release !ro# detention t"ro$&" t"e 'rit o! "abeas corp$s as a speed%
#eans o! obtainin& "is libert%. Furthermore, their right and cause of action for
damages are e%$licitl) recognized in &2D2 No2 3A99 #hich amended Article 338: of
the *ivil *ode b) adding the follo#ing to its te%t: 1?o#ever, #hen the action .for
in,ur) to the rights of the $laintiE or for a Duasi'delict/ arises from or out of an) act,
activit) or conduct of an) $ublic o<cer involving the e%ercise of $o#ers or authorit)
arising from artial La# including the arrest, detention andFor trial of the $laintiE,
the same must be brought #ithin one .3/ )ear21 Thus, even assuming that the
sus$ension of the $rivilege of the #rit of habeas cor$us sus$ends Aberca, et2 al2;s
right of action for damages for illegal arrest and detention, it does not and cannot
sus$end their rights and causes of action for in,uries suEered because of 0er, et2
al2;s con6scation of their $rivate belongings, the violation of their right to remain
silent and to counsel and their right to $rotection against unreasonable searches
and seizures and against torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment2