Melo Commission Report: Findings

Feb. 23, 2007

4. Responsibility for killings is limited to individual officers and requires further proof of a wrongful act or omission.

While State responsibility is possible for private acts, there is no basis to hold liable the entire military leadership, or even the entire leadership of one of its branches, under the doctrine of command responsibility. The findings herein do not justify a ruling that each and every high-ranking officer in the military, or the institution itself, should be held liable for the killings.

In any case, command responsibility should always be coupled with a culpable act or omission. Hence, if it is shown that the officer concerned took the appropriate steps to address the violations of his subordinates, then he cannot be held liable for them under the doctrine of command responsibility. In all, command responsibility simply requires a measure of diligence and integrity on the part of the commander. He cannot simply let his men run amuck without his control or discipline in the same way that he cannot turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by them. If diligence in the performance of duty is shown, then the commander cannot be held responsible.

No evidence was presented to the Commission that, in regard to the activities of General Palparan, he was called upon to account for and to explain the same by his superiors. Indeed, General Palparans public statements alone could have provoked disciplinary action against him, not to mention court martial, for violation of the Articles of War. These offenses are serious and cannot simply be brushed aside. It was, thus, more compelling for the proper officers in the AFP leadership at least to investigate the utterances and behavior of General Palparan and the killings behind them. In the same vein, under the doctrine of command responsibility, it was not proper to contend that no action under the circumstances was taken because no complaint had been lodged against Gen. Palparan and/or that anyway, Task Force Usig could very well have called him to account for his actions and words.

Fortunately, the President was, as usual, on top of the situation. She promptly recognized the need for official state action to address what she felt was a disturbing rise in the number of killings of media men and activists. She recognized that she had the duty to address the situation appropriately. She created Task Force Usig to prioritize the investigation of the killings. While Task Force Usig was plagued with difficulties, this at least showed that the government was seriously going to do its duty to address these killings.

In the same vein, the Presidents creation of this independent Commission is testimony to her commitment to unearth the etiology of these killings and hopefully to prevent further killings, as well as to bring the perpetrators thereof to justice. Sadly, her gesture has been largely misinterpreted by her political opponents as a whitewash, which, as this report itself will show, is not the case.

Back to Table of Contents


[67] Philippine Communists Call for Resumption of Talks, Reuter News, July 3, 2006.

[68] TSN, September 26, 2006, p. 8.

[69] Id. at p. 14.

[70] Id.

[71] Id. at pp. 14-15, TSN

[72] Id. at p. 61.

[73] Id.

[74] Id. at p. 18.

[75] Id. at p. 30.

[76] Id.

[77] Id. at p. 33.

[78] Id. at p. 34.

[79] Id. at p. 32.

[80] Id.

[81] Id. at p. 42.

[82] Id. at p. 57.

[83] Id. at p. 58.

[84] Section 32, Rule 130, Rules of Court.

[85] 327 U.S. 1 (1946).

[86] Cassesse, Antonio, International Criminal Law 203-204 (2003).

[87] Id., citing the Yamashita case.

[88] U.S. v. Medina, 32 C.M.R. 1182 (A.C.M.R. 1973)
[89] Command Responsibility:The Mens Rea Requirement By Eugenia Levine, Global Policy Forum
February 2005, at

[90] Confirmed in the later cases of The Prosecutor v Timohir Blaskic, Case No. IT-95-14-T, Judgment, Trial Chamber, 3 March 2000 par 294; The Prosecutor v Zlatko Aleksovksi , Case. No. IT-95-14/1-T, Judgment, Trial Chamber, 25 June 1999, par 69; The Prosecutor v Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez , Case no. IT-95-14/2, Judgment, Trial Chamber, 26 February 2001, par 401; The Prosecutor v Dragoljub Kunarac and Radomir Kovac, Case No. IT-96-23, Judgement, Trial Chamber, 22 February 2001, par. 395.

[91] In Kuroda v. Jalandoni, G.R. No. L-2662. March 26, 1949; 90 Phil. 70 (1951)

[92] Id., emphasis supplied.

[93] Henckaerts, Jean-Marie and Louise Doswald Beck, I Customary International Humanitarian Law 558 (2005).

[94] Id., at 559, fn. 45.

[95] Under the pronouncement in Kuroda.

[96] 75 Phil. 563, G.R. No. L-129. December 19, 1945.

[97] Case No. 7920, July 29, 1988; quoted by then Justice, now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno in Liberty and Prosperity, Panel Paper delivered at the National Forum on Liberty and Prosperity, Manila Hotel, August 25, 2006. The Convention referred to therein is the American Convention on Human Rights, or the Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica.

[98] Id., emphasis supplied.

[99] 103 F.2d 767.

[100] Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

comments powered by Disqus