Political Law

Eduardo Olaguer vs Military Commission No. 34

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G.R. No. L-54558 – 150 SCRA 144 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Habeas Corpus

In 1979, Olaguer and some others were detained by military personnel and they were placed in Camp Bagong Diwa. Olaguer and his group are all civilians. They were charged with (1) unlawful possession of explosives and incendiary devices; (2) conspiracy to assassinate President and Mrs. Marcos; (3) conspiracy to assassinate cabinet members Juan Ponce Enrile, Francisco Tatad and Vicente Paterno; (4) conspiracy to assassinate Messrs. Arturo Tangco, Jose Roño and Onofre Corpus; (5) arson of nine buildings; (6) attempted murder of Messrs. Leonardo Perez, Teodoro Valencia and Generals Romeo Espino and Fabian Ver; and (7) conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, and inciting to rebellion. On August 19, 1980, the petitioners went to the SC and filed the instant Petition for prohibition and habeas corpus.

ISSUE: Whether or not the petition for habeas corpus be granted.

HELD: The petition for habeas corpus has become moot and academic because by the time the case reached the SC Olaguer and his companions were already released from military confinement. When the release of the persons in whose behalf the application for a writ of habeas corpus was filed is effected, the Petition for the issuance of the writ becomes moot and academic. Inasmuch as the herein petitioners have been released from their confinement in military detention centers, the instant Petitions for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus should be dismissed for having become moot and academic. But the military court created to try the case of Olaguer (and the decision it rendered) still continues to subsist.

ISSUE2: The issue is then shifted to: Whether or not a military tribunal has the jurisdiction to try civilians while the civil courts are open and functioning.

HELD: The SC nullified for lack of jurisdiction all decisions rendered by the military courts or tribunals during the period of martial law in all cases involving civilian defendants. A military commission or tribunal cannot try and exercise jurisdiction, even during the period of martial law, over civilians for offenses allegedly committed by them as long as the civil courts are open and functioning, and that any judgment rendered by such body relating to a civilian is null and void for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the military tribunal concerned.

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