February 1986, Ferdinand E. Marcos was deposed from the presidency via the non-violent "people power" revolution and forced into exile. In his stead, Corazon C. Aquino was declared President of the Republic under a revolutionary government.
Now, Mr. Marcos, in his deathbed, has signified his wish to return to the Philipppines to die. But Mrs. Aquino, considering the dire consequences to the nation of his return at a time when the stability of government is threatened from various directions and the economy is just beginning to rise and move forward, has stood firmly on the decision to bar the return of Mr. Marcos and his family.
Petitioners assert that the right of the Marcoses to return to the Philippines is guaranteed under the following provisions of the Bill of Rights, to wit:
Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
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Section 6. The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.
Furthermore, they contend that the President is without power to impair the liberty of abode of the Marcoses because only a court may do so "within the limits prescribed by law." Nor may the President impair their right to travel because no law has authorized her to do so. They advance the view that before the right to travel may be impaired by any authority or agency of the government, there must be legislation to that effect.
The petitioners further assert that under international law, the right of Mr. Marcos and his family to return to the Philippines is guaranteed.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:
Article 13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Likewise, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which had been ratified by the Philippines, provides:
1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
3) The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (order public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
4) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.
- Whether or not the President has the power under the Constitution, to bar the Marcoses from returning to the Philippines.
- Whether or not the President acted arbitrarily or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when she determined that the return of the Marcose's to the Philippines poses a serious threat to national interest and welfare and decided to bar their return.
SC well-considered opinion that the President has a residual power which justifies her act of banning the return of the Marcoses and she did not act arbitrarily or with grave abuse of discretion in determining that the return of former President Marcos and his family at the present time and under present circumstances poses a serious threat to national interest and welfare and in prohibiting their return to the Philippines.
It must be emphasized that the individual right involved is not the right to travel from the Philippines to other countries or within the Philippines. These are what the right to travel would normally connote. Essentially, the right involved is the right to return to one's country, a totally distinct right under international law, independent from although related to the right to travel. Thus, the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treat the right to freedom of movement and abode within the territory of a state, the right to leave a country, and the right to enter one's country as separate and distinct rights. The Declaration speaks of the "right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state" [Art. 13(l)] separately from the "right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." [Art. 13(2).] On the other hand, the Covenant guarantees the "right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence" [Art. 12(l)] and the right to "be free to leave any country, including his own." [Art. 12(2)] which rights may be restricted by such laws as "are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or enter qqqs own country" of which one cannot be "arbitrarily deprived." [Art. 12(4).] It would therefore be inappropriate to construe the limitations to the right to return to one's country in the same context as those pertaining to the liberty of abode and the right to travel.
The right to return to one's country is not among the rights specifically guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which treats only of the liberty of abode and the right to travel, but it is our well-considered view that the right to return may be considered, as a generally accepted principle of international law and, under our Constitution, is part of the law of the land [Art. II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution.] However, it is distinct and separate from the right to travel and enjoys a different protection under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, i.e., against being "arbitrarily deprived" thereof [Art. 12 (4).]
Although the 1987 Constitution imposes limitations on the exercise of specific powers of the President, it maintains intact what is traditionally considered as within the scope of "executive power." Corollarily, the powers of the President cannot be said to be limited only to the specific powers enumerated in the Constitution. In other words, executive power is more than the sum of specific powers so enumerated.
To the President, the problem is one of balancing the general welfare and the common good against the exercise of rights of certain individuals. The power involved is the President's residual power to protect the general welfare of the people. It is founded on the duty of the President, as steward of the people.
The Constitution declares among the guiding principles that "[t]he prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people" and that "[t]he maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy." [Art. II, Secs. 4 and 5.]
More particularly, this case calls for the exercise of the President's powers as protector of the peace. The power of the President to keep the peace is not limited merely to exercising the commander-in-chief powers in times of emergency or to leading the State against external and internal threats to its existence. The President is not only clothed with extraordinary powers in times of emergency, but is also tasked with attending to the day-to-day problems of maintaining peace and order and ensuring domestic tranquility in times when no foreign foe appears on the horizon. Wide discretion, within the bounds of law, in fulfilling presidential duties in times of peace is not in any way diminished by the relative want of an emergency specified in the commander-in-chief provision. For in making the President commander-in-chief the enumeration of powers that follow cannot be said to exclude the President's exercising as Commander-in- Chief powers short of the calling of the armed forces, or suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or declaring martial law, in order to keep the peace, and maintain public order and security.
The Court cannot close its eyes to present realities and pretend that the country is not besieged from within by a well-organized communist insurgency, a separatist movement in Mindanao, rightist conspiracies to grab power, urban terrorism, the murder with impunity of military men, police officers and civilian officials, to mention only a few. The documented history of the efforts of the Marcose's and their followers to destabilize the country, as earlier narrated in this ponencia bolsters the conclusion that the return of the Marcoses at this time would only exacerbate and intensify the violence directed against the State and instigate more chaos.
The State, acting through the Government, is not precluded from taking pre- emptive action against threats to its existence if, though still nascent they are perceived as apt to become serious and direct. Protection of the people is the essence of the duty of government. The preservation of the State the fruition of the people's sovereignty is an obligation in the highest order. The President, sworn to preserve and defend the Constitution and to see the faithful execution the laws, cannot shirk from that responsibility.
We cannot also lose sight of the fact that the country is only now beginning to recover from the hardships brought about by the plunder of the economy attributed to the Marcoses and their close associates and relatives, many of whom are still here in the Philippines in a position to destabilize the country, while the Government has barely scratched the surface, so to speak, in its efforts to recover the enormous wealth stashed away by the Marcoses in foreign jurisdictions. Then, We cannot ignore the continually increasing burden imposed on the economy by the excessive foreign borrowing during the Marcos regime, which stifles and stagnates development and is one of the root causes of widespread poverty and all its attendant ills. The resulting precarious state of our economy is of common knowledge and is easily within the ambit of judicial notice.