Can a military commander be held liable for the criminal acts of his subordinates?
The Supreme Court touched on that issue in Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010. However, that case did not provide a venue for the Supreme Court to provide a definitive ruling on the matter.
The case involved a petition for a writ of amparo filed against the President, the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others. The petition was originally filed with the Supreme Court, which referred the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals eventually dropped the President as a respondent (based on presidential immunity from suit during her term).
The Court of Appeals also ordered the dismissal of the case against the AFP Chief and the PNP Chief. According to the Court of Appeals, AFP Chief Gen. Esperon and PNP Chief P/Dir. Gen. Razon were included as respondents on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. According to the Court of Appeals, “the privilege of the writ of amparo must be denied as against Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon for the simple reason that petitioners have not presented evidence showing that those who allegedly abducted and illegally detained Lourdes and later threatened her and her family were, in fact, members of the military or the police force.” The Court of Appeals hinted that the two generals would have been accountable for the abduction and threats if the actual malefactors were members of the AFP or PNP.
The Supreme Court discussed the current status of Philippine law regarding command responsibility for criminal acts of subordinates: