What to charge rebel leaders?

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By Kelvin Lee

Question of Law

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


THE newspapers have been talking about the recent capture of two prominent leaders of a communist insurgency group.

One issue that popped up was what to charge these leaders with in Court. According to the news, they were charged with illegal possession of firearms during their inquest. This, among other reasons such as jurisdictional matters, caused the leaders to walk out of the inquest, with their lawyer claiming that the leaders only had puppies and cats during the time of their arrest.

In my opinion, rebellion may have been the more appropriate charge to file against the leaders. Under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, rebellion is committed "by rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purposes of removing from the allegiance of said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines..."

The news strongly imply that these crimes are applicable. For one, the leaders, who are married to each other, have been leading a communist group with the stated goal of overthrowing the legitimate government of the Philippines.

In fact, the couple is considered the "big fish" or decision makers of that particular organization. The male leader is the chairman of the communist group, while his wife, the female leader, is the secretary general and finance officer of the communist group. Thus, it can be argued that their leadership positions may be sufficient basis to charge them with rebellion.

Charging these leaders with rebellion for simply being members of an insurgency organization is not without precedent. In several cases, it has been held that the "mere fact that the accused knowingly associated himself with the Huk organization that was openly fighting to overthrow the Government was enough to make him guilty of the crime of rebellion." (People v. Perez, C.A. G.R. No. 8186-R, 30 June 1954, cited by Justice Reyes, II Criminal Law p. 82). In fact, it has been opined that those "merely acting as couriers or spies for the rebels are also guilty of rebellion." (Id.)

It must also be noted that "the crime of rebellion is completed the very moment a group of rebels rise publicly and take up arms against the Government, for the purpose of overthrowing the same by force. It is not necessary, to consummate rebellion, that the rebels succeed in overthrowing the Government." (Justice Reyes, II Criminal Law, p. 83). Thus, it can be argued that there are sufficient grounds to charge the leaders with rebellion.

In any case, it must also be remembered that these leaders are currently facing other charges. They are also facing charges for murder and homicide, among others.

One interesting thing to remember about rebellion is the application of the Hernandez case doctrine. In People v. Hernandez (99 Phil. 515), the Supreme Court specifically held that other crimes committed in the course of rebellion is absorbed by the crime of rebellion. Thus, any other offense committed on the occasion of rebellion, either as a means to its commission, or as an unintended effect, constitutes rebellion. (See Enrile v. Salazar, 186 SCRA 217). This would include murder, homicide, illegal possession of firearms, etc.

It is therefore possible that the Government chose to file separate cases against the leaders as a matter of strategy, so as to increase the number of charges that can be brought against the couple. Whether or not this is a wise move remains to be seen.

***

The opinions expressed herein are solely of Atty. Lee. This column does not constitute legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship with any party. You can reach Atty. Lee at lvlawoffices@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 27, 2014.

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