CASE DIGEST: Ampatuan v. Puno (G.R. No. 190259)

G.R. No. 190259 : June 7, 2011 | DATU ZALDY UY AMPATUAN, ANSARUDDIN ADIONG, REGIE SAHALI-GENERALE, Petitioners, v. HON. RONALDO PUNO, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government and alter-ego of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and anyone acting in his stead and on behalf of the President of the Philippines, ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES (AFP), or any of their units operating in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, or any of their units operating in ARMM, Respondents. ABAD, J.:

FACTS: On November 24, 2009, the day after the gruesome massacre of 57 men and women, including some news reporters, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation 1946, placing "the Provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato under a state of emergency." She directed the AFP and the PNP "to undertake such measures as may be allowed by the Constitution and by law to prevent and suppress all incidents of lawless violence" in the named places.Three days later or on November 27, President Arroyo also issued AO 273 "transferring" supervision of the ARMM from the Office of the President to the DILG. But, due to issues raised over the terminology used in AO 273, the President issued Administrative Order 273-A (AO 273-A) amending the former, by "delegating" instead of "transferring" supervision of the ARMM to the DILG.

Claiming that the President's issuances encroached on the ARMM's autonomy, petitioners Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, Ansaruddin Adiong, and Regie Sahali-Generale, all ARMM officials, filed this petition for prohibition under Rule 65. They alleged that the proclamation and the orders empowered the DILG Secretary to take over ARMMs operations and seize the regional government's powers, in violation of the principle of local autonomy under Republic Act 9054 (also known as the Expanded ARMM Act) and the Constitution. The President gave the DILG Secretary the power to exercise, not merely administrative supervision, but control over the ARMM since the latter could suspend ARMM officials and replace them.

Petitioners alleged that the deployment of troops and the taking over of the ARMM constitutes an invalid exercise of the Presidents emergency powers. Hence, petitioners prayed the nullity of Proclamation 1946 as well as AOs 273 and 273-A and respondents, DILG Secretary, the AFP, and the PNP be enjoined from implementing them.

In its comment for the respondents, the (OSG) insisted that the President issued Proclamation 1946, not to deprive the ARMM of its autonomy, but to restore peace and order in subject places. She issued the proclamation pursuant to her "calling out" power as Commander-in-Chief under the first sentence of Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution. The determination of the need to exercise this power rests solely on her wisdom.10 She must use her judgment based on intelligence reports and such best information as are available to her to call out the armed forces to suppress and prevent lawless violence wherever and whenever these reared their ugly heads.

On the other hand, the President merely delegated through AOs 273 and 273-A her supervisory powers over the ARMM to the DILG Secretary who was her alter ego any way. These orders did not authorize a take over of the ARMM. They did not give him blanket authority to suspend or replace ARMM officials. The delegation was necessary to facilitate the investigation of the mass killings. Further, the assailed proclamation and administrative orders did not provide for the exercise of emergency powers.

[1] Whether the aforementioned issuances are constitutional 
[2] Whether or not President Arroyo invalidly exercised emergency powers when she called out the AFP and the PNP to prevent and suppress all incidents of lawless violence in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City
HELD: The AO Nos 273 and 273-A are constitutional.

The deployment is not by itself an exercise of emergency powers as understood under Section 23 (2), Article VI of the Constitution, which provides:

SECTION 23. x x x (2) In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.

The President did not proclaim a national emergency, only a state of emergency in the three places mentioned. And she did not act pursuant to any law enacted by Congress that authorized her to exercise extraordinary powers. The calling out of the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence in such places is a power that the Constitution directly vests in the President. She did not need a congressional authority to exercise the same.

The President's call on the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence springs from the power vested in her under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, which provides -

SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. x x x

On the other hand, the President, as Commander-in-Chief has a vast intelligence network to gather information, some of which may be classified as highly confidential or affecting the security of the state. In the exercise of the power to call, on-the-spot decisions may be imperatively necessary in emergency situations to avert great loss of human lives and mass destruction of property. Indeed, the decision to call out the military to prevent or suppress lawless violence must be done swiftly and decisively if it were to have any effect at all.

Here, petitioners failed to show that the declaration of a state of emergency in the Provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City, as well as the President's exercise of the "calling out" power had no factual basis. They simply alleged that, since not all areas under the ARMM were placed under a state of emergency, it follows that the takeover of the entire ARMM by the DILG Secretary had no basis too.

Considering the fact that the principal victims of the brutal bloodshed are members of the Mangudadatu family and the main perpetrators of the brutal killings are members and followers of the Ampatuan family, both the military and police had to prepare for and prevent reported retaliatory actions from the Mangudadatu clan and additional offensive measures from the Ampatuan clan.

In other words, the imminence of violence and anarchy at the time the President issued Proclamation 1946 was too grave to ignore and she had to act to prevent further bloodshed and hostilities in the places mentioned. Progress reports also indicated that there was movement in these places of both high-powered firearms and armed men sympathetic to the two clans. Thus, to pacify the peoples fears and stabilize the situation, the President had to take preventive action. She called out the armed forces to control the proliferation of loose firearms and dismantle the armed groups that continuously threatened the peace and security in the affected places. The Petition is dismissed for lack of merit.