Melo Commission Report: Conclusion

Feb. 23, 2007

Back to Table of Contents


In ancient Sparta, life was dictated by war. In those turbulent times, city states were almost constantly at war with other neighboring city states and with marauding invaders. Thus, a strong military was absolutely necessary to the survival of the state.

All male Spartan citizens were automatically warriors, and had to train and eventually fight as such. Such militarism gave Sparta its greatness. The valor of its warriors and their unflinching military discipline are legendary, even to this day. They were the strands with which was woven the fabric of Spartan society. Everything revolved around the Spartan warriors. Indeed, it was stated that, unlike other ancient city-states such as Athens or Rome, one can no longer see great temples, palaces or buildings in what was once Sparta, but still the valorous deeds of Spartans are recalled and remain standards of military organizations.

Spartans, as they are legendary now, were probably awe-inspiring then. So great was their military prowess that a mere three hundred of them, reinforced by only a handful of allies, held off the invading Persian hordes at Thermopylae, thus allowing precious time for the rest of the Greek allies to organize a defense. History shows that it pays to have a mighty armed force The Persians were eventually defeated.

In modern times, the importance of the armed forces cannot be taken lightly. In the Philippines, the lack of a cohesive and disciplined armed force allowed the colonization of the country by Spain. The same reason led the Americans to simply take the country away from Spain, and quell the Filipino resistance. In the early stages of World War II in the Pacific, Japans military might overwhelmed its enemies, including the Philippines, though bolstered by American troops and ordnance. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the colonizers is that the Philippines occupies a strategic military location in this part of the globe.

Today, the importance of the military is not lost upon this Commission. It is absolutely necessary because of the threat to the nation posed by communist insurgency. The Constitution provides that [t]he Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State.[102] The Armed Forces of the Philippines, as protector of the people, is mandated to rid the country of such insurgency. Verily, the AFP as a whole remains loyal to the Constitution.

While communist insurgency must be addressed, the fight against it must not be at the expense of the Constitution and the laws of the nation, and it hardly needs emphasizing, not at the expense of innocent civilians. The armed forces is not a state within a state, nor are its members outside the ambit of the Constitution or of the rule of law. Ours is a government of laws, not of men. On the pervading reach of the rule of law, a legal luminary opined thus:

The rule of law is supposed to pervade our legal system.

The rule of law has been considered, in a government like ours, as equivalent to the supremacy of the Constitution. It is generally recognized that the Constitution sets the limits on the powers of government; it prevents arbitrary rule and despotism; it insures government by law, instead of government by will, which is tyranny based on naked force.[103]

In the Philippines, just like in any rule-abiding society, there exists a hierarchy of human positive laws, the highest of which is the Constitution, being the highest expression of the sovereign will of the Filipino people.[104] The principle of Constitutional supremacy was explained by an eminent authority in Constitutional law in this wise:

[The Constitution] is the written instrument agreed upon by the people as the absolute rule of action and decision for all departments and officers of the government and in opposition to which any act or rule of any department or officer of the government, or even of the people themselves, will be altogether void. It is, in other words, the supreme written law of the land.[105]

The Philippines, declares the Constitution, is a democratic and republican State.[106] An essential characteristic of such State is the rule of law, which principle is expressly mentioned in the Constitutions Preamble. According to the previously cited authority, the rule of law expresses the concept that government officials have only the authority given them by law and defined by law, and that such authority continues only with the consent of the people[107] Thus, without any hesitation, the Supreme Court in Callanta v. Office of the Ombudsman[108] declared that [i]n our jurisdiction, the rule of law, and not of men, governs, while in Villavicencio v. Lukban,[109] it upheld the primacy of law by declaring that [n]o official, no matter how high, is above the law.

The rationale for this rule of law was probably best expressed by Brandeis in this wise:

In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes the law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means . . . . would bring terrible retribution.[110]

In fact, the Supreme Court is not unfamiliar with the present situation. Of particular interest is the case of Aberca v. Ver.[111] In ruling that pre-emptive strikes by the military against suspected communist safehouses violated the civil rights of the victims, and thus made the perpetrators thereof liable for damages, the Supreme Court, through Justice Pedro L. Yap, stated.

Its message is clear; no man may seek to violate those sacred rights with impunity. In times of great upheaval or of social and political stress, when the temptation is strongest to yield borrowing the words of Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee to the law of force rather than the force of law, it is necessary to remind ourselves that certain basic rights and liberties are immutable and cannot be sacrificed to the transient needs or imperious demands of the ruling power. The rule of law must prevail, or else liberty will perish. Our commitment to democratic principles and to the rule of law compels us to reject the view which reduces law to nothing but the expression of the will of the predominant power in the community. “Democracy cannot be a reign of progress, of liberty, of justice, unless the law is respected by him who makes it and by him for whom it is made. Now this respect implies a maximum of faith, a minimum of idealism. On going to the bottom of the matter, we discover that life demands of us a certain residuum of sentiment which is not derived from reason, but which reason nevertheless controls.

comments powered by Disqus