MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Fabian Ver and several of his subordinates, including then Lt. Col. and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson, were deprived of procedural due process in a case filed by suspected subversive detainees.
In a 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, the high court's Third Division affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) on the case for damages filed by Rogelio Aberca, et al., denying the detainees' appeal.
Aberca and 18 others filed a case before a Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Ver, Lacson, Colonels Fidel Singson, Rolando Abadilla, Gerardo Lantoria, Galileo Kintanar, Maj. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, 1Lt. Pedro Tango, and M/Sgt. Bienvenido Balaba on Jan, 25, 1983. Aberca's group was suspected of being subversives and was arrested and detained by the military at the height of Martial Law.
Aberca's group won their case at the trial court in Feb. 1993. In 2003, the appellate court ruled that petitioners did not follow the trial court's Aug. 17, 1990 order that they should report the addresses of Ver, Lacson and the other respondents in order that they be properly notified by the court. The court eventually dismissed the case but was reversed a year later and allowed petitioners to serve the notice to Ver, et al. via publication.
The high court ruled that Ver, et al. had been completely deprived of due process when they were declared by the trial court in default based on a defective mode of service.
The high court held that the appellate court acted correctly when it reversed the findings of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1993 that Ver, Lacson, and the other respondents should pay damages to petitioners.
“Procedural due process is that which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial. It contemplates notice and opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered affecting one’s person or property,” the high court said.
Ver died while in exile on November 21, 1998.