Case Digest: Navia, et al. v. Pardico

G.R. No. 184467 : June 19, 2012

EDGARDO NAVIA,RUBEN DIO,and ANDREW BUISING, Petitioners, v. VIRGINIA PARDICO, for and in behalf and in representation of BENHUR V. PARDICO, Respondent.



A vehicle of Asian Land Strategies Corporation (Asian Land) arrived at the house of Lolita M. Lapore. The arrival of the vehicle awakened Lolitas son, Enrique Lapore (Bong), and Benhur Pardico (Ben), who were then both staying in her house. When Lolita went out to investigate, she saw two uniformed guards disembarking from the vehicle. One of them immediately asked Lolita where they could find her son Bong. Before Lolita could answer, the guard saw Bong and told him that he and Ben should go with them to the security office of Asian Land because a complaint was lodged against them for theft of electric wires and lamps in the subdivision. Shortly thereafter, Bong, Lolita and Ben were in the office of the security department of Asian Land also located in Grand Royale Subdivision.

Exasperated with the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Virginia filed a Petition for Writ of Amparobefore the RTC of Malolos City. A Writ of Amparo was accordingly issued and served on the petitioners. The trial court issued the challenged Decision granting the petition. Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied by the trial court.

Petitioners essentially assail the sufficiency of the amparo petition. They contend that the writ of amparo is available only in cases where the factual and legal bases of the violation or threatened violation of the aggrieved partys right to life, liberty and security are clear. Petitioners assert that in the case at bench, Virginia miserably failed to establish all these. First, the petition is wanting on its face as it failed to state with some degree of specificity the alleged unlawful act or omission of the petitioners constituting a violation of or a threat to Bens right to life, liberty and security. And second, it cannot be deduced from the evidence Virginia adduced that Ben is missing; or that petitioners had a hand in his alleged disappearance. On the other hand, the entries in the logbook which bear the signatures of Ben and Lolita are eloquent proof that petitioners released Ben on March 31, 2008 at around 10:30 p.m. Petitioners thus posit that the trial court erred in issuing the writ and in holding them responsible for Bens disappearance.

ISSUE: Whether or not the issuance of A Writ of Amparo is proper?

HELD: RTCs decision is reversed and set aside.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: writ of amparo

A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC or The Rule on the Writ of Amparo was promulgated to arrest the rampant extralegal killings and enforced disappearances in the country. Its purpose is to provide an expeditious and effective relief "to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity."

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes every human beings inherent right to life, while Article 9 thereof ordains that everyone has the right to liberty and security. The right to life must be protected by law while the right to liberty and security cannot be impaired except on grounds provided by and in accordance with law. This overarching command against deprivation of life, liberty and security without due process of law is also embodied in our fundamental law.

The budding jurisprudence on amparo blossomed in Razon, Jr. v. Tagitis when this Court defined enforced disappearances. The Court in that case applied the generally accepted principles of international law and adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances definition of enforced disappearances, as "the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law."

From the statutory definition of enforced disappearance, thus, we can derive the following elements that constitute it:
(a) that there be an arrest, detention, abduction or any form of deprivation of liberty; 
(b) that it be carried out by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, the State or a political organization; 
(c) that it be followed by the State or political organizations refusal to acknowledge or give information on the fate or whereabouts of the person subject of the amparo petition; and, 
(d) that the intention for such refusal is to remove subject person from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
As thus dissected, it is now clear that for the protective writ of amparo to issue, allegation and proof that the persons subject thereof are missing are not enough. It must also be shown and proved by substantial evidence that the disappearance was carried out by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, the State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the same or give information on the fate or whereabouts of said missing persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time. Simply put, the petitioner in an amparo case has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the indispensable element of government participation.

But lest it be overlooked, in an amparo petition, proof of disappearance alone is not enough. It is likewise essential to establish that such disappearance was carried out with the direct or indirect authorization, support or acquiescence of the government. This indispensable element of State participation is not present in this case. The petition does not contain any allegation of State complicity, and none of the evidence presented tend to show that the government or any of its agents orchestrated Bens disappearance. In fact, none of its agents, officials, or employees were impleaded or implicated in Virginia's amparo petition whether as responsible or accountable persons.51 Thus, in the absence of an allegation or proof that the government or its agents had a hand in Bens disappearance or that they failed to exercise extraordinary diligence in investigating his case, the Court will definitely not hold the government or its agents either as responsible or accountable persons.

We are aware that under Section 1 of A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC a writ of amparo may lie against a private individual or entity. But even if the person sought to be held accountable or responsible in an amparo petition is a private individual or entity, still, government involvement in the disappearance remains an indispensable element. Here, petitioners are mere security guards at Grand Royale Subdivision in Brgy. Lugam, Malolos City and their principal, the Asian Land, is a private entity. They do not work for the government and nothing has been presented that would link or connect them to some covert police, military or governmental operation. As discussed above, to fall within the ambit of A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC in relation to RA No. 9851, the disappearance must be attended by some governmental involvement. This hallmark of State participation differentiates an enforced disappearance case from an ordinary case of a missing person.