Ocampo v. Abando (G.R. No. 176830; February 11, 2014)

CASE DIGEST: SATURNINO C. OCAMPO, Petitioner, vs. HON. EPHREM S. ABANDO, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Hilongos, Leyte, Branch 18, CESAR M. MERIN, in. his capacity as Approving Prosecutor and Officer-in-Charge, ROSULO U. VIVERO, in his capacity as Investigating Prosecutor, RAUL M. GONZALEZ, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice, Respondents.

FACTS: On 26 August 2006, a mass grave was discovered by elements of the 43rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army at Sitio Sapang Daco, Barangay Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte.1The mass grave contained skeletal remains of 67 individuals believed to be victims of "Operation Venereal Disease" (Operation VD) launched by members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army/National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP/NPA/NDFP) to purge their ranks of suspected military informers.P C/Insp. Almaden of the (PNP) Regional Office 8 and Staff Judge Advocate Captain Allan Tiu (Army Captain Tiu) of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army sent 12 undated letters to the Provincial Prosecutor of Leyte through Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Rosulo U. Vivero (Prosecutor Vivero).The letters requested appropriate legal action on 12 complaint-affidavits attached therewith accusing 71 named members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army/National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP/NPA/NDFP) of murder, including petitioners herein along with several other unnamed members.

Also attached to the letters were the affidavits of Zacarias Piedad,Leonardo C. Tanaid, Floro M. Tanaid, Numeriano Beringuel, Glecerio Roluna and Veronica P. Tabara. They narrated that they were former members of the CPP/NPA/NDFP.According to them, Operation VD was ordered in 1985 by the CPP/NPA/NDFP Central Committee.Allegedly, petitioners Saturnino C. Ocampo (Ocampo),Randall B. Echanis (Echanis),Rafael G. Baylosis (Baylosis),and Vicente P. Ladlad (Ladlad)were then members of the Central Committee.

From 1985 to 1992, at least 100 people had been abducted, hog-tied, tortured and executed by members of the CPP/NPA/NDF pursuant to Operation VD.

On the basis of the 12 letters and their attachments, Prosecutor Vivero issued a subpoena requiring, among others, petitioners to submit their counter-affidavits and those of their witnesses.Petitioner Ocampo submitted his counter-affidavit.Petitioners Echanisand Baylosis did not file counter-affidavits because they were allegedly not served the copy of the complaint and the attached documents or evidence. Counsel of petitioner Ladlad made a formal entry of appearance on 8 December 2006 during the preliminary investigation. However, petitioner Ladlad did not file a counter-affidavit because he was allegedly not served a subpoena.

In a Resolution, Prosecutor Vivero recommended the filing of an Information for 15 counts of multiple murder against 54 named members of the CPP/NPA/NDFP, including petitioners herein

Prosecutor Vivero also recommended that Zacarias Piedad, Leonardo Tanaid, Numeriano Beringuel and Glecerio Roluna be dropped as respondents and utilized as state witnesses, as their testimonies were vital to the success of the prosecution.

The Information was filed before the (RTC) of Hilongos, Leyte, Branch 18 (RTC Hilongos, Leyte) presided by Judge Ephrem S. Abando (Judge Abando).

On 6 March 2007, Judge Abando issued an Order finding probable cause "in the commission by all mentioned accused of the crime charged." He ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest against them with no recommended bail for their temporary liberty.

On 16 March 2007, petitioner Ocampo filed a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeking the annulment of the 6 March 2007 Order of Judge Abando and the Resolution of Prosecutor Vivero.The petition prayed for the unconditional release of petitioner Ocampo from PNP custody, as well as the issuance of a temporary restraining order/ writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the conduct of further proceedings during the pendency of the petition.

Petitioner Ocampo argued that a case for rebellion against him and 44 others (including petitioners Echanis and Baylosisand Ladlad) was then pending before the RTC Makati, Branch 150 (RTC Makati).Putting forward the political offense doctrine, petitioner Ocampo argues that common crimes, such as murder in this case, are already absorbed by the crime of rebellion when committed as a necessary means, in connection with and in furtherance of rebellion.

While the proceedings were suspended, petitioner Echanis was arrested by virtue of the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Abando. On 1 February 2008, petitioners Echanis and Baylosis filed a Motion for Judicial Reinvestigation/ Determination of Probable Cause with Prayer to Dismiss the Case Outright and Alternative Prayer to Recall/ Suspend Service of Warrant.

Judge Abando issued an Order denying the motion.Petitioners Echanis and Baylosis filed a Motion for Reconsideration but before being able to rule thereon, Judge Abando issued an Order transmitting the records of Criminal Case to the Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC Manila.

Petitioner Ladlad and Baylosis filed an Urgent Motion to Fix Bail and a Motion to Allow Petitioner to Post Bail respectively.The OSG interposed no objection to the grant of aP100,000 cash bail to them. The Court granted the motions of petitioners Ladlad and Baylosis and fixed their bail in the amount ofP100,000, subject to the condition that their temporary release shall be limited to the period of their actual participation in the peace negotiations

ISSUE: [1] Were petitioners denied due process during preliminary investigation and in the issuance of the warrant of arrest?

[2] Should the murder charges against petitioners be dismissed under the political offense doctrine?

HELD: "The essence of due process is reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit evidence in support of one's defense." What is proscribed is lack of opportunity to be heard. Thus, one who has been afforded a chance to present ones own side of the story cannot claim denial of due process.

Majority of the respondents did not submit their counter-affidavits because they could no longer be found in their last known address, per return of the subpoenas. On the other hand, Saturnino Ocampo @ Satur, Fides Lim, Maureen Palejaro and Ruben Manatad submitted their Counter-Affidavits. However, Vicente Ladlad and Jasmin Jerusalem failed to submit the required Counter Affidavits in spite entry of appearance by their respective counsels.

Section 3(d), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, allows Prosecutor Vivero to resolve the complaint based on the evidence before him if a respondent could not be subpoenaed. As long as efforts to reach a respondent were made, and he was given an opportunity to present countervailing evidence, the preliminary investigation remains valid.

In this case, the Resolution stated that efforts were undertaken to serve subpoenas on the named respondents at their last known addresses. This is sufficient for due process. It was only because a majority of them could no longer be found at their last known addresses that they were not served copies of the complaint and the attached documents or evidence.

Petitioner Ladlad, through his counsel, had every opportunity to secure copies of the complaint after his counsels formal entry of appearance and, thereafter, to participate fully in the preliminary investigation. Instead, he refused to participate.

Neither can we uphold petitioner Ocampos contention that he was denied the right to be heard. For him to claim that he was denied due process by not being furnished a copy of the Supplemental Affidavit of Zacarias Piedad would imply that the entire case of the prosecution rested on the Supplemental Affidavit. The OSG has asserted that the indictment of petitioner Ocampo was based on the collective affidavits of several other witnesses attesting to the allegation that he was a member of the CPP/NPA/NDFP Central Committee, which had ordered the launch of Operation VD.

Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that "no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce."

Petitioner Ocampo alleges that Judge Abando did not comply with the requirements of the Constitution in finding the existence of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioners.

Probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest has been defined as "such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed by the person sought to be arrested." Allado v. Diokno, G.R. No. 113630, May 5, 1994.Although the Constitution provides that probable cause shall be determined by the judge after an examination under oath or an affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses, we have ruled that a hearing is not necessary for the determination thereof. In fact, the judges personal examination of the complainant and the witnesses is not mandatory and indispensable for determining the aptness of issuing a warrant of arrest.

It is enough that the judge personally evaluates the prosecutors report and supporting documents showing the existence of probable cause for the indictment and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or if, on the basis of his evaluation, he finds no probable cause, to disregard the prosecutor's resolution and require the submission of additional affidavits of witnesses to aid him in determining its existence. Delos Santos-Reyes v. Montesa, Jr. 317 Phil. 101

The determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioners is addressed to the sound discretion of Judge Abando as the trial judge.

Under the political offense doctrine, "common crimes, perpetrated in furtherance of a political offense, are divested of their character as "common" offenses and assume the political complexion of the main crime of which they are mere ingredients, and, consequently, cannot be punished separately from the principal offense, or complexed with the same, to justify the imposition of a graver penalty." People v. Hernandez, 99 Phil. 515

Any ordinary act assumes a different nature by being absorbed in the crime of rebellion.Thus, when a killing is committed in furtherance of rebellion, the killing is not homicide or murder. Rather, the killing assumes the political complexion of rebellion as its mere ingredient and must be prosecuted and punished as rebellion alone.

But when the political offense doctrine is asserted as a defense in the trial court, it becomes crucial for the court to determine whether the act of killing was done in furtherance of a political end, and for the political motive of the act to be conclusively demonstrated.


Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Zamboanga Del Norte v. CA, 401 Phil 905 if during trial, petitioners are able to show that the alleged murders were indeed committed in furtherance of rebellion, Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court provides the remedy of Amendment or substitution.

Thus, if it is shown that the proper charge against petitioners should have been simple rebellion, the trial court shall dismiss the murder charges upon the filing of the Information for simple rebellion, as long as petitioners would not be placed in double jeopardy.