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REFERENCE AND RESEARCH BUREAU

LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH SERVICE

COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY: ITS ELEMENTS, PRINCIPLES,


AND EXISTING PHILIPPINE LAWS

I.

INTRODUCTION
This report presents the historical background of command responsibility
and the elements to consider in order to cite a military commander as criminally or
civilly responsible.
Furthermore, this report also cites the principles of command
responsibility in the Philippines and the different laws and issuances citing the
principle of command responsibility.

II.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND1
In 1439, King Charles VII of Orleans promulgated an ordinance which
states that his military commanders were to be held liable should those under their
command commit crimes against the civilian population, irrespective of the
commander's participation in the crimes.
In the early 1860s, in order to control the behavior of armies in the field,
the United States government worked with Alfred Lieber, a professor at Columbia
University to codify the rules governing warfare. The United States adopted the
results, a document known as the Lieber Code. At the end of World War II, the
doctrine of command responsibility was redefined into todays recognized
standard.

Anne E. Mahle, Command Responsibility in the United States, a:\JUSTIC 1.htm.

III.

ELEMENTS TO
COMMANDER 2

PROVE

THE

LIABILITY

OF

MILITARY

In order to hold a military commander either criminally or civilly liable


under the doctrine of command responsibility, the prosecution/plaintiff must
prove three elements, namely:
1)
2)

3)

those committing the atrocities/war crimes were under the command of the
defendant;
the commander knew or should have known, based on the surrounding
circumstances at the time, that the subordinates were engaging
impermissible conduct; and
the commander failed to prevent or punish those responsible for the
commission of such crimes.

In the United States this legal standard was first articulated by the
Supreme Court in the case of Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1(1946). In Yamashita, the
court held that under the laws of war, a commander was responsible for the
actions of his subordinates even if he did not directly order them to commit the
crimes, provided that he knew or should have known that troops under his
command were engaged in wrongful acts. As part of its holding, the court
recognized that military commanders, by virtue of their position, were under an
affirmative duty to act and that a failure to prevent or punish their subordinates
could lead to personal criminal liability.

IV.

PRESIDENTIAL ISSUANCES
COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY
A.

CITING

THE

PRINCIPLES

OF

AS PRACTICED AT ALL LEVELS OF COMMAND IN THE


PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
Executive Order No. 226 dated February 15, 1995, entitled,
Institutionalization of the Doctrine of command responsibility in all
government offices, particularly at all levels of command in the Philippine
National Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Anne E. Mahle

Section 1 of Executive Order 226 provides that,


Section 1. Neglect of Duty Under the Doctrine of
Command Responsibility. Any government official or
supervisor, or officer of the Philippine National Police or
that of any other law enforcement agency shall be held
accountable for Neglect of Duty under the doctrine of
command responsibility if he has knowledge that a crime
or offense shall be committed, is being committed, or has
been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his
area of responsibility and, despite such knowledge, he did
not take preventive or corrective action either before,
during, or immediately after its commission.
Based on the Order, several Memorandum Circulars were
formulated by the National Police Commission, namely:
1)

Memorandum Circular No. 2002-004 - April 12, 2002


"Defining and prescribing the Duties and Responsibilities
of the Provincial Governors and City/Municipal Mayors, as
Deputies of the National Police Commission in the Campaign
Against Jueteng and Other Illegal Gambling Activities in their
Respective Areas of Responsibility" (Annex "A")

2)

Memorandum Circular No. 2002-005 - April 12, 2002


"Directing the Chief, Philippine National Police, Police
Regional Directors, Police Provincial Directors, Police District
Directors, City Police Directors, Chiefs of Police and Station
Commanders to Immediately Undertake an All-out Campaign to
Stop and Eradicate Jueteng and other Illegal Gambling Activities"
(Annex "B")

3)

Memorandum Circular No. 2003-001 - January 10, 2003


"Amending Napolcom Memorandum Circular No. 2002005, Relative to the Relentless and All-out Campaign of the PNP
to Stop and Eradicate Jueteng and Other Illegal Gambling
Activities" (Annex "C")

4)

Memorandum Circular No. 2003-005 - March 6, 2003


"Directing the Philippine National Police to Undertake an
Intensified and Unrelenting Campaign and Operation Against
Bank Robbery" (Annex "D")

5)

Memorandum Circular No. 2003-006 - March 6, 2003


"Directing the Philippine National Police to Undertake an
Intensified and Unrelenting Campaign and Operation Against
Carnapping" (Annex "E")

6)

Memorandum Circular No. 2003-007 - March 6, 2003


"Directing the Chief, Philippine National Police, Regional
Directors, Police Provincial Directors, Police District Directors,
City Police Directors, Chiefs of Police and Station Commanders
and All PNP Officers Assigned in Illegal Drugs Operations to
Undertake an Intensified and Continuous Campaign Against Illegal
Drugs" (Annex "F")

7)

Memorandum Circular No. 2003-008 - March 6, 2003


"Directing the Philippine National Police to Undertake an
Intensified and Unrelenting Campaign and Operation Against
Kidnapping" (Annex "G")

B.

AS PRACTICED
PHILIPPINES

IN

THE

ARMED

FORCES

OF

THE

The following law and executive issuances cite the principle of


command responsibility as practiced in the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, namely:
1.

Commonwealth Act No. 1, known as the National Defense Act


(December 21, 1935) as amended, states that:
SEC. 23.(a) The Chief of Staff shall be
directly subordinate to the President of the
Philippines."

The above cited provision of law states that the Chief of


Staff shall have direction, authority, and control over the Armed
Forces of the Philippines subject only to the authority of the
Secretary of National Defense and the President, including full and
final authority over preparation of the planning, development, and
execution of the national defense program as prescribed by the
Secretary of National Defense, pursuant to his command function
as authorized by the President of the Philippines.
2.

Executive Order No. 94, dated October 4, 1947, providing for the
reorganization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It states,
among other things, the following:
"SEC. 97. The President of the Philippines
is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines. He exercises command through the
Secretary of National Defense who directly
represents him."
"SEC. 98. The Chief of Staff executes the
President's command functions in relation to
strategy, tactics and operations.
He is the
immediate advisor of the Secretary of National
Defense and is responsible for the planning,
development and execution of the National Defense
program as prescribed by the Secretary of National
Defense. He has command of all elements of the
Armed Forces, and in the discharge of this
responsibility, the Headquarters of National
Defense Forces shall function as a field
Headquarters and prescribe the functions, duties and
powers of the various staffs, services, installations,
and other units of the Armed Forces."

3.

The subject of "Command Responsibility" is specifically contained


in Circular No. 28, Series of 1956, Armed Forces of the
Philippines, thus:
3.a.

In the military service it is an axiom that the state of


discipline of a command is an infallible index of the
efficiency of its commander. The behavior of the members
of a military unit is nothing more than a reflection of the
qualities of their leader and the kind of influence he has
over them. This is so because unlike other leaders, the
military commander is vested with a high degree of

authority over his men extending to matters normally


considered individual and personal.
3.b.

V.

Responsibility in the military hierarchy belongs to the


commander alone and whatever his unit does or fails to do,
he is solely responsible.

OTHER RELEVANT MATERIALS


1.

War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Command Responsibility by


Leslie C. Green, file://A:\Green.htm (ANNEX H)

2.

Command Responsibility Under the Law of War by A.P.V. Rogers


(ANNEX I)

3.

Command Responsibility, A:\COTED'~1.HTM COTE D'IVOIRE


(ANNEX J)

(ARMED FORCES: COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY)


RRB/LRS
RHAB/JIB/toe
5-16-03