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On 31 January 1905, then Governor-General Luke Wright issued a resolution suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the provinces of Cavite and Batangas due to lawlessness in the said provinces. Some time after the suspension of the writ, a certain Felix Barcelon was arrested without warrant in Batangas upon the orders of Colonel David Baker of the Philippine Constabulary. Barcelon’s lawyers filed a petition for habeas corpus. Barcelon alleged that there was no insurrection in Batangas; that the resolution suspending the writ of Habeas Corpus was invalid.
ISSUE: Whether or not the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was baseless.
HELD: The SC held that the issue is a political question. Only the president can determine the existence of the grounds specified in the Constitution for the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. This power is discretionary and therefore not justiciable.
Before suspending the writ of habeas corpus, two conditions must concur: (1) there exists rebellion, insurrection, or invasion, and (2) public safety may require the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The determination of the existence of the two conditions are lodged in Congress and the executive. And if after investigation by the legislature and the executive of the existence of the two conditions, the judiciary may not judicially inquire upon such findings if the executive shall so suspend the privilege of the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
The president has superior competence to assess the peace and order condition of the country. Hence, the determination held by the president (or in this case the Governor-General) of the Philippines of the existence of any of the grounds prescribed by the Constitution for the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should be conclusive upon the courts. The justification was that the president, with all the intelligence sources available to him as commander-in-chief, was in a better position than the Supreme Court to ascertain the real state of peace and order in the country.