Aberca et al. v. Maj. Gen. Ver et al.Jurisprudence
- Case number
- En Banc
- Date of decision
- May 15, 1988
- Nature of the case
Arbitrary detention; Torture
- Summary of outcome
Intelligence units of the AFP known as Task Force Makabansa (TFM) were ordered by respondents then Maj. Gen. Fabian Ver to conduct pre-emptive strikes against known communist-terrorist underground houses in view of increasing reports about plans to sow disturbances in Metro Manila. The TFM raided several places, employing in most cases defectively issued judicial search warrants. During these raids, members of the raiding TFM confiscated a number of purely personal items belonging to the twenty petitioners. The petitioners were then arrested without proper arrest warrants issued by the courts.
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled on various issues. First, the Court held that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not destroy the 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. Their right and cause of action for damages are explicitly recognized in the amended Art. 1146 of the Civil Code regarding injuries arising from acts of government officials. However, even assuming that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus suspends one’s right of action for damages for illegal arrest and detention, it does not suspend their rights and causes of action for injuries suffered because of the confiscation of their private belongings, the violation of their right to remain silent and to counsel and their right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and against torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment.
Second, Article 32 of the Civil Code renders any public officer or employees, or any private individual, liable in damages for violating the constitutional rights and liberties of another, does not exempt the respondents from responsibility. This is thus an exception to the immunity of suit that the State enjoys. As such, the involved public officer or employees may be sued for damages arising from their actions. This is not to say that military authorities are restrained from pursuing their assigned task or carrying out their mission with vigor. What the Court emphasized is that in carrying out this task and mission, constitutional and legal safeguards must be observed.
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