Whatâ€™s the significance of a declaration of a “state of rebellion”? Legally, none. It is a legal superfluity. In the 2003 Sanlakas vs. Executive Secretary, case, the Supreme Court ruled that:
xxx in calling out the armed forces, a declaration of a state of rebellion is an utter superfluity. At most, it only gives notice to the nation that such a state exists and that the armed forces may be called to prevent or suppress it. Perhaps the declaration may wreak emotional effects upon the perceived enemies of the State, even on the entire nation. But this Courtâ€™s mandate is to probe only into the legal consequences of the declaration. This Court finds that such a declaration is devoid of any legal significance. For all legal intents, the declaration is deemed not written.
The case involves Proclamation 427, declaring a “state of rebellion” and calling out the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to quell the “Oakwood mutiny”. The SC sustained the validity of Proclamation 427, which is based on the Commander-in-Chief powers of the President.
The Commander-in-Chief powers of the President provides a “sequence” of “graduated powers”. From the most to the least benign, these Commander-in-Chief powers are: (1) the calling out power; (2) the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; and (3) the power to declare martial law. In the exercise of the latter two powers, the Constitution requires the concurrence of two conditions, namely, an actual invasion or rebellion, and that public safety requires the exercise of such power.
These powers, in turn, are provided under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, which reads:
Sec. 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. xxx
The same issue again emerged in the 2006 case of David vs. Macapagal-Arroyo (G.R. No. 171396). This case involves Presidential Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency (issued on 24 February 2006, as the nation celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Edsa People Power I). PP 1017 reads:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, [calling-out power] by virtue of the powers vested upon me by Section 18, Article 7 of the Philippine Constitution which states that: â€œThe President. . . whenever it becomes necessary, . . . may call out (the) armed forces to prevent or suppress. . .rebellion. . .,â€ and in my capacity as their Commander-in-Chief, do hereby command the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion [“take care” power] and to enforce obedience to all the laws and to all decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by me personally or upon my direction; and [power to take over] as provided in Section 17, Article 12 of the Constitution do hereby declare a State of National Emergency. (Phrases in brackets added)
The operative portion of PP 1017 may be divided into three important provisions, as noted in the brackets above.
1. Calling-out power
The validity of this power is already settled in Sanlakas. However, there is a distinction between the Presidentâ€™s authority to declare a â€œstate of rebellionâ€ (in Sanlakas) and the authority to proclaim a state of national emergency. In declaring a state of national emergency under PP 1017, President Arroyo did not only rely on Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution. She also relied on Section 17, Article XII, a provision on the Stateâ€™s extraordinary power to take over privately-owned public utility and business affected with public interest. Indeed, PP 1017 calls for the exercise of an awesome power. Obviously, such Proclamation cannot be deemed harmless, without legal significance, or not written, as in Sanlakas.
2. â€œTake Careâ€ Power
PP 1017 states in part: â€œto enforce obedience to all the laws and decrees x x x promulgated by me personally or upon my direction.â€ The first part is valid. As the Executive in whom the executive power is vested, the primary function of the President is to enforce the laws as well as to formulate policies to be embodied in existing laws. This is based on Section 17, Article VII which reads:
SEC. 17. The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed.
However, the President cannot issue decrees similar to those issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos under PP 1081 (declaring martial law). Presidential Decrees are laws which are of the same category and binding force as statutes. PP 1017 is, therefore, unconstitutional insofar as it grants President Arroyo the authority to promulgate â€œdecrees.â€
3. Power to Take Over
PP 1017 authorizes the President to call the military not only to enforce obedience to all the laws and to all decrees, but also to act pursuant to the provision of Section 17, Article XII:
Sec. 17. In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.
What could be the reason of President Arroyo in invoking the above provision when she issued PP 1017? According to the Supreme Court, the answer is simple – during the existence of the state of national emergency, PP 1017 purports to grant the President, without any authority or delegation from Congress, to take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.
However, Section 17 must be understood as an aspect of the emergency powers clause. When Section 17 speaks of the â€œStateâ€, it refers to Congress, not the President. The exercise of emergency powers, such as the taking over of privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest, requires a delegation from Congress in accordance with Section 23, Article VI of the Constitution, the requirements of which are:
(1) There must be a war or other emergency.
(2) The delegation must be for a limited period only.
(3) The delegation must be subject to such restrictions as the Congress may prescribe.
(4) The emergency powers must be exercised to carry out a national policy declared by Congress.
Nevertheless, a distinction must be drawn between the Presidentâ€™s authority to declare â€œa state of national emergencyâ€ and to exercise emergency powers. The President is authorized to declare a state of national emergency. However, without legislation, he has no power to take over privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. The President cannot decide whether exceptional circumstances exist warranting the take over of privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. Nor can he determine when such exceptional circumstances have ceased. Likewise, without legislation, the President has no power to point out the types of businesses affected with public interest that should be taken over. In short, the President has no absolute authority to exercise all the powers of the State under Section 17, Article VII in the absence of an emergency powers act passed by Congress.