Only July 27, 2003 at around 1:00am, more than 300 heavily armed junior officers and enlisted men of the AFP entered the premises of Oakwood Apartments in Makati. They then announced their grievances against the Arroyo Administration, corruption in the Military; illegal sale of arms and ammunitions to the enemies; they demanded for the resignation of the President, the Cabinet and AFP and PNP top brass. The President issued G.O. No. 4 declaring a state of rebellion. Negotiates were sent to the place and the soldiers finally laid their arms. After investigation, they were charged with coup d’ etat penalized under Article 134-A, RPC. They were likewise charged under the Articles of War, specifically Article 96 for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. They filed a motion with the RTC where the coup d’etat case was pending to take over jurisdiction over all the cases pending with the military tribunal following the doctrine of absorption. The RTC ruled that the cases before the military tribunal were not service-connected but rather absorbed in furtherance of the crime of coup d’etat. When they were charged under Art. 96 of the Articles of War, they filed a petition for prohibition praying that the respondents be ordered to desist from charging them with violation of Article 96 of the Articles of War. They maintained that Article 96 is not service connected, hence, absorbed by coup d’etat, thus, within the jurisdiction of the RTC. The OSG contended that under RA 7055, violation of Art. 96 is service-connected, hence, within the jurisdiction of the military tribunal. They further contended that the offense has already prescribed since they were not arraigned within 2 years from the date of the commission of the offense.
Q – Are they entitled to the writ of prohibition? Explain.
Answer: No. RA 7055 identifies the service-connected crimes including violation of Article 96 of the Articles of War. It is triable by the court martial. The charge against the accused concerns the alleged violation of their solemn oath as officers to defend the Constitution and the duly-constituted authorities. Such violation caused dishonor and discredit to the military profession. The charge has a bearing on the professional conduct and behavior as military officers. Equally indicative of the service-connected nature of the offense is the penalty prescribed by the same, that is, dismissal from the service, imposable only by the military court. Such penalty is purely disciplinary in character, evidently intended to cleanse the military profession of misfits and to preserve the stringent standard of military discipline.
Q – Are the crimes defined by the Articles of War, like that of Article 96 absorbed by the crime of coup d’etat? Explain?
Answer: No. RA 7055, Sec. 1, specifically specifies what are considered as service-connected offenses or crimes, and vests upon the military courts jurisdiction. In fact, it mandates that they be tried by court-martial. (Navales v. Abaya, G.R. Nos. 162318 and 162341, October 25, 2004, 441 SCRA 393).
Q – When is the doctrine of absorption of crimes applicable?
Answer: The doctrine applies to crimes punished by the same statute, not where the crimes are punishable by different statutes. It applies also if the trial court has jurisdiction over both offenses. Sec. 1, RA 7055 deprives civil courts of jurisdiction over service-connected offenses, including Article 96 of the Articles of War.
J. Callejo’s Opinion.
- Service-connected acts defined and penalized by the Articles of War are sui generis offenses not absorbed by rebellion perpetrated by the officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP or coup d’etat. This is so because such acts or omissions are merely violations of military discipline, designed to secure a higher efficiency in the military service.
- Common crimes committed in furtherance of a political crime, such as rebellion, are absorbed.
- A political crime is one directly aimed against the political establishments.
(People v. Hernandez, 99 Phil. 515 (1956). Such common offenses assume the political complexion of the main crime of which they are mere ingredients, and, consequently, cannot be punished separately from the principal offense, or complexed with the same to justify the imposition of the graver penalty. (People v. Hernandez, supra.).
- The principle of absorption of common crimes by the political crimes applies to crimes defined and penalized by special laws, such as PD No. 1829, otherwise known as Obstruction of Justice. (Enrile v. Amin, G.R. No. 93335, September 13, 1990, 189 SCRA 573). However, in Baylosis v. Chavez, Jr., G.R. No. 95136, October 3, 1991, 202 SCRA 405, it was held that the rulings in People v. Hernandez; Enrile v. Amin; Enrile v. Salazar, G.R. No. 92163, June 5, 1990, 186 SCRA 217, do not apply to crimes which, by statutory fact, are sui generis.
- Service-connected punitive acts defined and penalized under the Articles of War are sui generis offenses not absorbed by rebellion perpetrated by officers of the AFP.