SC asked to reconsider reversal of case vs Lacson, Fabian Ver
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – A group of lawyers asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling that affirmed the 2003 decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the award for damages against now Senator Panfilo Lacson and several others arising from a torture conducted during the martial law era.
In an Omnibus Motion, the Free Legal Assistance Group, counsel for petitioners Marco Palo, Joseph Olayer, Manuel Mario Guzman, Rolando Salutin and Rodolfo Benosa urged the high court to reverse its March 14, 2012 decision, elevate the case to the court’s en banc (full court) and that an oral argument be conducted.
This case is the longest running human rights case in the country being already 29 years old and counting.
It was the high court’s third division which issued the appealed decision. The high court ruled that the Court of Appeals did not err when it reversed the findings of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1993 that Lacson, the late Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Fabian Ver and several others should pay damages to suspected subversives they allegedly arrested and tortured at the height of the martial rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
The high court said Lacson, Ver together with Colonels Fidel Singson, Rolando Abadilla, Gerardo Lantoria, Galileo Kintanar, Maj. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, 1Lt. Pedro Tango, M/Sgt. Bienvenido Balaba were deprived of procedural due process when they were ordered by the Quezon City Court to pay damages without giving them the chance to give their side.
But the group of human rights lawyers said the lower court did not err in making the ranking police officials liable for human rights violation because the officials themselves voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the court when they, through the Office of the Solicitor-General appeared and filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The Court of Appeals, in 2003 said that petitioners Rogelio Aberca, Rodolfo Benosa, Nestor Bodino, Noel Etabag, Danilo Dela Fuente and 14 others did not follow the Quezon City Court’s August 17, 1990 order that they should report the addresses of Lacson and the other respondents in order that they be properly notified by the court. The court eventually dismissed the case but was reversed a year later and allowed petitioners to serve the notice to Lacson and the other via publication.
The notice to Lacson and the others were published in Balita in 1991. However, Lacson and the others failed to answer the complaint for damages thus they were declared in default and allowed petitioners to submit evidence. The court ruled based on the evidence they have presented and ordered Lacson and the others to pay jointly P350,000 each as damages to petitioners.
This ruling was reversed by the appeals court in 2003 and remanded the case to the lower court.
“The rules on service of pleadings, motions, notices, orders, judgments and other papers were not strictly followed in declaring the respondents in default,” the high court said.
FLAG, however pointed that the parties cannot comply with the rules on service of pleadings, motions, notices because at that time, such rule does not exist.
“It is unreasonable for this Court to insist that petitioners should now be made to comply with a rule of procedural due process that was not in existence at the time of the trial,” FLAG said.
It added that the lower court gave Lacson and the other respondents ample opportunity to respond to the case, instead, they sought the dismissal of the case against them.
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