Tuesday, April 21, 2009


In the case of EDUARDO E. KAPUNAN, JR. vs. COURT OF APPEALS, et. al., G.R. Nos. 148213-17, March 13, 2009; and OSCAR E. LEGASPI vs. SERAFIN CUEVAS, G.R. No. 148243, March 13, 2009, which involved the 1986 extrajudicial killing of prominent Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Rolando Olalia, the Philippine Supreme Court held, among other things, that the defense of whether or not the two military officers indicted by the Department of Justice for murder were exempted from criminal liability, by virtue of an amnesty granted to them by the Philippine Government, was a factual issue and a matter of defense which must be presented during trial and was not a proper ground to quash the criminal Informations filed against them.

The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to consider “whether they were immune from prosecution for the Alay-ay/Olalia slayings by reason of a general grant of amnesty issued by President Fidel V. Ramos to rebels, insurgents and other persons who had committed crimes in furtherance of political ends.”

I wish to digest below the salient parts of the aforecited decision.

The Investigating Panel of the Department of Justice refused to consider petitioners’ defense of amnesty on the ground that documents pertaining to the amnesty failed to show that the Olalia-Alay-ay murder case was one of the crimes for which the amnesty was applied for. Moreover, the Panel pointed out that the criminal liability of petitioners was not obliterated by the amnesty granted to them. It was held that the killings were not committed in furtherance of a political belief because at that time, there was no rebellion yet launched against the Cory Aquino government. The rebellion mounted by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) against the government was made long after the killing.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the petitioners invoked as grounds for the allowance of their petition the Court of Appeals’ erroneous refusal to: (1) rule on the applicability of amnesty to him; and (2) the issue of whether the Olalia-Alay-ay double murder was committed in pursuit of a political belief.

In fine, the main issues raised by Kapunan and Legaspi may be synthesized into one, that is, “whether or not the grant of amnesty extinguished their criminal liability.”

Off hand, the Court held that as a rule it “refrains from interfering in the conduct of preliminary investigations and to leave the Department of Justice ample latitude of discretion in the determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for the prosecution of supposed offenders.” Consistent with this policy, the Court stated that “courts do not reverse the Secretary of Justice’s findings and conclusions on the matter of probable cause except in clear cases of grave abuse of discretion.”

Section 1 of Proclamation No. 347 reads, thus:

“Section 1. Grant of Amnesty. – Amnesty is hereby granted to all persons who shall apply therefore and who have or may have committed crimes, on or before thirty (30) days following the publication of this Proclamation in two (2) newspapers of general circulation, in pursuit of political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws, including but not limited to the following: rebellion or insurrection; coup d’ etat; conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, insurrection or coup d’ etat; disloyalty of public officers or employees; inciting to rebellion or insurrection; sedition; conspiracy to commit sedition; inciting to sedition; illegal assembly; illegal association; direct assault; indirect assault; resistance and disobedience to a person in authority or the agents of such person; tumults and other disturbances of public order; unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances; alarms and scandals; illegal possession of firearms, ammunition or explosives, committed in furtherance of, incident to, or in connection with the crimes of rebellion or insurrection; and violations of Articles 59 (desertion), 62 (absence without leave), 67 (mutiny or sedition), 68 (failure to suppress mutiny or sedition), 94 (various crimes) 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), and 97 (general article) of the Articles of War: Provided, that the amnesty shall not cover crimes against chastity and other crimes committed for personal ends.”

Section 1 of Proclamation No. 348, as amended by Section 1 of Proclamation No. 377, provides:

“Section 1. Grant of Amnesty. – Amnesty is hereby granted to all personnel of the AFP and PNP who shall apply therefor and who have or may have committed, as of the date of this Proclamation, acts or omissions punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War or other special laws, in furtherance of, incident to, or in connection with counter-insurgency operations; Provided, that such acts or omissions do not constitute serious human rights violations, such as acts of torture, extra-legal execution, arson, massacre, rape, other crimes against chastity or robbery of any form; and Provided, That the acts were not committed for personal ends.” (Emphasis supplied)

Administrative Order No. 1-94, as amended, served as the implementing rules to the two proclamations.

The Court noted that the text of Proclamation No. 347 was sufficiently clear that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are indeed covered by the Proclamation.

Both petitioners had duly applied for amnesty with the National Amnesty Commission, and both had been issued amnesty certificates. However, an examination of these certificates reveals that the grant of amnesty was not as far-reaching as the petitioners imply.

The amnesty granted to Kapunan extends to acts constituting only one crime, rebellion. Thus, any inquiry whether he is liable for prosecution in connection with the Olalia killings will necessarily rely not on the list of acts or crimes enumerated in Section 1 of Proclamation No. 347, but on the definition of rebellion and its component acts.

The limited scope of the amnesty granted to Legaspi is even more apparent. At most, it could only cover offenses connected with his participation in the 1987 and 1989 coup attempts.

The Court noted that, on their face, the murders of Olalia and Alay-ay do not indicate they are components of rebellion. It is not self-explanatory how the murders of two private citizens could have been oriented to the aims of rebellion, explained in the Revised Penal Code as “removing from the allegiance to [the] Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”

Assuming that Kapunan, Jr. was intent to invoke the amnesty granted him in his defense against the charges connected with the Olalia/Alay-ay slays, it would be incumbent upon him to prove before the courts that the murders were elemental to his commission or attempted commission of the crime of rebellion, and not just by way of a general averment, but through detailed evidence.