Marcelo Montenegro vs Gen. Mariano Castañeda

G.R. No. L-4221 – 91 Phil. 882 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Suspension of the Privilege of the Writ Habeas Corpus as a Political Question being a Prerogative by the President

On 18 October 1950, Maximino Montenegro was arrested for alleged communistic activities (alleged sedition, rebellion, and insurrection). On 22 October 1950, then President Elpidio Quirino, through Proclamation No. 210, suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Marcelo Montenegro, father of Maximino, filed a petition for habeas corpus for the release of his son. In the same petition, he questioned the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 210 as he alleged, among others, that the Proclamation is a bill of attainder, hence prohibited by law, and that the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was groundless as there is no state of invasion, insurrection, rebellion or imminent danger at the time of its issuance.

General Mariano Castañeda admitted custody over the person of Maximino. Castañeda averred that the suspension of the writ is valid pursuant to the ruling in a Barcelon vs Baker.

ISSUE: Whether or not Montenegro’s petition should be granted.

HELD: No. As ruled by the Supreme Court in the Barcelon case, the constitutional authority of the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in case of imminent danger of invasion, insurrection or rebellion under the Constitution may not correctly be placed in doubt.

To the untrained eye of Montenegro, there may not be an apparent invasion, rebellion, or imminent danger, but the officers charged with the Nation’s security, analyzed the extent and pattern of such violent clashes and arrived at the conclusion that they are warp and woof of a general scheme to overthrow this government vi et armis, by force and arms. Thus, the authority to decide whether the exigency has arisen requiring suspension belongs to the President and “his decision is final and conclusive” upon the courts and upon all other persons.

Side Issue: Proclamation No. 10 also includes the suspension of the writ as against persons charged with sedition. Is the inclusion of sedition valid?

No. There is no doubt it was erroneous to include those accused of sedition among the persons as to whom suspension of the writ is decreed. Under the Constitution the only grounds for suspension of the privilege of the writ are “invasion, insurrection, rebellion or imminent danger thereof.” Obviously, however, the inclusion of sedition does not invalidate the entire proclamation.

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