Suits against the State; State Immunity from Suit


Some instances when a suit against the State is proper are:
[1] When the Republic is sued by name;
[2] When the suit is against an unincorporated government agency;
[3] When the suit is on its face against a government officer but the case is such that ultimate liability will belong not to the officer but to the government.

While the Republic in this case is sued by name, the ultimate liability does not pertain to the government. Although the military officers and personnel, then party defendants, were discharging their official functions when the incident occurred, their functions ceased to be official the moment they exceeded their authority. Based on the Commission findings, there was lack of justification by the government forces in the use of firearms. Moreover, the members of the police and military crowd dispersal units committed a prohibited act under B.P. Blg. 880 as there was unnecessary firing by them in dispersing the marchers.
While it is true that nothing is better settled than the general rule that a sovereign state and its political subdivisions cannot be sued in the courts except when it has given its consent, it cannot be invoked by both the military officers to release them from any liability, and by the heirs and victims to demand indemnification from the government. The principle of state immunity from suit does not apply, as in this case, when the relief demanded by the suit requires no affirmative official action on the part of the State nor the affirmative discharge of any obligation which belongs to the State in its political capacity, even though the officers or agents who are made defendants claim to hold or act only by virtue of a title of the state and as its agents and servants. This Court has made it quite clear that even a "high position in the government does not confer a license to persecute or recklessly injure another." (G.R. No. 84607; March 19, 1993)

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