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LT. (SG) EUGENE GONZALES, ET AL. V. GEN. NARCISO ABAYA, ET AL.

G.R. No. 164007, August 10, 2006


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

FACTS:

On July 27, 2003, more than 300 heavily armed junior officers and enlisted men of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) entered the premises of the Oakwood Premier Luxury
Apartments on Ayala Avenue, Makati City. They disarmed the security guards and planted
explosive devices around the building. Then troops then, through broadcast media, announced
their grievances against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. They declared
their withdrawal of support from their Commander-in-Chief and demanded that she resign as
President of the Republic. They also called for the resignation of her Cabinet members and the top
brass of the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP).

After several hours of negotiation, the government panel succeeded in convincing them to
lay down their arms and defuse the explosives placed around the premises. A total of 321 soldiers,
including herein petitioners, surrendered to the authorities.

Both the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ)
recommended the filing of information for coup d’état against the soldiers while the AFP, for its
part, created a Pre-Trial Investigation Panel tasked to determine the propriety of filing with the
military tribunal charges for violation of the Articles of War, specifically Articles 63, 64, 67, 96
and 97.

Proceedings in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) led to the dropping of the charge of coup
d’état against 290 of the 321 accused, while review by the Judge Advocate Generals Office
(JAGO) of the findings of the Pre-Trial Investigation Panel led to the recommendation that 29 of
the officers involved in the Oakwood incident, including petitioners, be prosecuted before a
general court martial for violation of Article 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a
Gentleman) of the Articles of War.

AFP top brass approved the JAGO’s recommendation and petitioners were directed to
submit their answer to the charge. Instead of complying, they filed with the Supreme Court a
Petition for Prohibition praying that respondents be ordered to desist from charging them with
violation of Article 96 of the Articles of War.

Petitioners maintain that the military tribunal cannot compel them to submit to its
jurisdiction since the RTC, in its Order of Feb. 11, 2004, has determined that all charges before
the court martial against the accused are not service-connected but rather absorbed and in
furtherance of the crime of coup d’état.

The Solicitor General, representing the respondents, counters that under Republic Act No.
7055, violation of Article 96 of the Articles of War is a service-connected offense and falls under
the jurisdiction of the court martial.

ISSUE:

WHETHER OR NOT petitioners are entitled to the Writ of Prohibition.


HELD:

NO. the office of Prohibition is to prevent the unlawful and oppressive exercise of authority
and is directed against proceedings that are done without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave
abuse of discretion, there being no appeal or other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the
ordinary course of law. In the instant case, respondents have the authority in convening a court
martial and in charging petitioners with violation of Article 96 of the Articles of War.

Section 1 of R.A. No. 7055 is clear and unambiguous. First, it lays down the general rule
that members of the AFP and other persons subjected to military law who commit crimes or
offenses penalized under the Revised Penal Code (like coup d’état), other special penal laws or
local ordinances shall be tried by the proper civil courts. Next, it provides the exception to the
general rule, i.e., where the civil courts, before arraignment, has determined the offense to be
service-connected, then the offending soldier shall be tried by a court martial. The same provision
further identifies the service-connected crimes or offenses as limited to those defined in Articles
54 to 70, 72 to 92, and 95 to 97 of the Articles of War. (insert text here)
The violation with which petitioners are charged clearly being properly cognizable by the court
martial, a Writ of Prohibition cannot issue.