What Crime Is Rebellion | Coup d'Etat and Insurrection
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In this legal discourse, we shall enrich ourselves with the knowledge about what crime is rebellion. What is rebellion in criminal law and its related felonies, such as coup d’etat.

Rebellion has a long history in the Philippines. There have been numerous documented instances of Filipinos revolting against the government. The insurrection against the Spanish colonial administration and the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP) rebellion are two of the most well-known. The Maute rebellion in Marawi City in 2017 was the most recent episode, in which the organization took control of the city and openly attempted to break its ties with the Philippine government.

Rebellion is a serious offense. It is illegal because it disrupts public order. We shall attempt to describe the nature, elements, and methods of revolt in this essay.

What crime is Rebellion?

Under the Revised Penal Code, the felony of rebellion is one of the infamous and egregious Crimes against Public Order. The same is found under Title 3, Book 2 of the Revised Penal Code.

The crime of rebellion, may also be called insurrection, is a type of political crime. In most countries, it is considered to be the most serious form of political offense and has therefore attracted the most detailed legal definition.

Rebellion is an act of violence and an armed resistance to the orders of constituted authorities; a revolt or uprising. The real crime of political rebellion is the type of resistance to an organization’s legitimate authority.

Rebellion is, by definition, a felony mostly perpetrated by masses or multitudes. To put it another way, it is a punishable act committed by a huge group of people. To paraphrase the Supreme Court decision in one of its decided cases:

“The crime of rebellion consists of many acts. It is described as a vast movement of men and a complex net of intrigues and plots. (People v. Almasan [CA] O.G. 1932). Jurisprudence tells us that acts committed in furtherance of the rebellion though crimes in themselves are deemed absorbed in the one single crime of rebellion. (People v. Geronimo, 100 Phil. 90 [1956]; People v. Santos, 104 Phil. 551 [1958]; People v. Rodriguez, 107 Phil. 659 [1960]; People v. Lava, 28 SCRA 72 [1969]).[1]G.R. No. 93335 September 13, 1990

Rebellion is considered a persistent offense, a continuing crime for that matter. As a result, the offender can be arrested at any time as long as he continues to take up arms against the government.

Being in the nature of a continuing crime, this is also an exception to the rule that apprehension should be by virtue of a valid warrant of arrest. The perpetrator is, in effect, arrested in flagrante delicto.

How do you define and explain the crime of rebellion?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, rebellion is a subject’s purposeful, organized disobedience to the government’s laws or operations using force and weaponry.

“Rebellion is the deliberate, organized resistance, by force and arms, to the laws or operations of the government, committed by a subject.”[2]Rebellion

Rebellion is defined in our legal system by Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code [RPC], which states:

Article 134. Rebellion or insurrection; How committed. – The crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Philippine Islands or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives. (As amended by R.A. 6968).[3]Article 134, RPC 

Simply described, rebellion is an attempt to use force and violence to remove the incumbent authority.

For persons to be liable for rebellion, the following elements must be present:

That there be:

1] Public uprising; and[4]Article 134, RPC 

2] Taking of arms against the Government[5]Id.

The objective of such public uprising or movement is either to:[6]Id.

1] Remove from the allegiance to said Government or its laws:[7]Id.

    • The territory of the Philippines or any part thereof; or[8]Id.
    • Any body of land, naval or other armed forces[9]Id.

2] To deprive the Chief Executive or Congress, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.[10]Id.

It is important to highlight that there must be a public revolt or uprising as one of the clear goals or objectives; otherwise, the offender’s actions cannot be classified as a crime of rebellion.

Thus, an armed band of approximately forty men stormed the town of Binangonan, attacked American soldiers, and kidnapped the municipal president, provincial secretary, head of the board of health, and others, with no evidence of the motive or intent for the act, does not constitute insurrection or, more particularly, rebellion. Instead, the perpetrators are guilty of kidnapping.[11]US vs. Constantino, et al. G.R. No. 1186. November 18, 1903

Thus:

“These are the only facts shown in the record. It does not even appear what motive led the defendants to kidnap the persons mentioned. This act of simple kidnapping, without evidence as to previous or attendant circumstances, without data of any kind, in short, to indicate the motive or purpose for which the act was committed, is the one bare fact which we find established in the record.[12]Ibid.

“As to promoting or inciting to rebellion, with which the defendants are specifically charged in the information, not only does the record contain no proof of their guilt of this crime but absolutely no attempt has been made to prove it. It follows, therefore, that the accusation fails in its most essential point — that is, with respect to the act complained of, and which alone could make the defendants guilty of the crime of insurrection with which they are charged.”[13]Ibid.

The Revised Penal Code specifically states that rebellion is committed by rising up in public and taking up arms against the government. Nonetheless, this does not imply that there must be an actual physical confrontation or clash with government forces.

It is sufficient if the person takes part in the rebellion, in whatever categorical and related unlawful capacity, and/or is known or identifiable as a member of a certain group which has been openly fighting to overthrow the government.

Illustrative is the case of People vs. Avila,[14]G.R. No. 84612. March 11, 1992 where the Supreme Court ruled:

“The evidence also disclose that at the time they killed the Governor, they were members of the liquidating squad of the New People’s Army (NPA), and that they killed the Governor upon the orders of their senior officer in the NPA, one Commander Celo. According to them, they were ordered to “liquidate” the Governor because of the latter’s “corruption” in not giving on time the salaries of the employees in the provincial government, and that, instead, he gave the salaries first to the military whom he maintained as his personal bodyguards.[15]Ibid.

x x x Hence, this Court is of the view that the appellants committed the crime of simple rebellion, not murder, punishable under Article 134 and 135 of the Revised Penal Code.”[16]Ibid.

Is rebellion a complex crime?

Rebellion is treated as a single offense or felony. Such is a crime in and of itself. It cannot be combined nor complexed with conventional crimes such as murder, homicide, arson, and so on, because these crimes, when committed simultaneously and in furtherance of rebellion, will lose their distinct appearance and character. They will become incorporated and absorbed into the crime of rebellion.

In People vs. Lovedioro:

“One aspect noteworthy in the commission of rebellion is that other acts committed in its pursuance are, by law, absorbed in the crime itself because they acquire a political character.”[17]G. R. No. 112235 November 29, 1995

In People vs. Hernandez, the High Court has elucidated the reason why there is no complex crime of rebellion:

“Being within the purview of “engaging in war” and “committing serious violence”, said resort to arms, with the resulting impairment or destruction of life and property, constitutes not two or more offense, but only one crime — that of rebellion plain and simple. Thus, for instance, it has been held that “the crime of treason may be committed ‘by executing either a single or similar intentional overt acts, different or similar but distinct, and for that reason, it may be considered one single continuous offense. (Guinto vs. Veluz, 77 Phil., 801, 44 Off. Gaz., 909.)” (People vs. Pacheco, 93 Phil., 521.).”[18]G. R. Nos. L-6025-26.  July 18, 1956

In the case of Enrile vs. Amin, where the petitioner Juan Ponce Enrile was accused with a crime of rebellion and murder, the verdict in the Hernandez case was upheld. The prosecution, however, cannot combine rebellion with murder and repeated failed murders, according to the Court. Hence:

“The prosecution must make up its mind whether to charge Senator Ponce Enrile with rebellion alone or to drop the rebellion case and charge him with murder and multiple frustrated murder and also violation of P.D. 1829. It cannot complex the rebellion with murder and multiple frustrated murder. Neither can it prosecute him for rebellion in Quezon City and violation of PD 1829 in Makati.”[19]G.R. No. 93335 September 13, 1990

Parenthetically:

“This doctrine is applicable in the case at bar. If a person can not be charged with the complex crime of rebellion for the greater penalty to be applied, neither can he be charged separately for two (2) different offenses where one is a constitutive or component element or committed in furtherance of rebellion.”[20]G.R. No. 93335 September 13, 1990

Similarly, the Court concluded in this case that even if common crimes were committed as a result of the rebellion or insurrection, the crime punished was still rebellion. 

Who are liable for rebellion?

The following persons are liable for the crime of rebellion as contemplated in Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code:

  • The leaders — any person who (a) promotes, (b) maintains, or (c) heads a rebellion or insurrection.
  • The participants — any person who participates or executes the commands of others in rebellion, or insurrection.

As a result, a rebel commander is someone who commands and orders a gang of rebels to overturn or remove the current government. However, if the identity of such a person is unknown or not disclosed, the person who directed or commanded the others, signed any documents in their name, or did acts in the rebels’ interest is believed to be the rebellion’s leader.

Does one commit a crime if he or she intentionally conceal, even in bad faith, any knowledge of the plot or plan to commit rebellion?

Rebellion is adequately discussed above. The Revised Penal Code’s Article 134 explains how the same is done. A mere conspiracy to commit a crime against public order constitutes a crime and subjects the co-conspirators to criminal culpability. Hence:

Section 6. Article 136 of the same Act, as amended by Republic Act No. 6968, is hereby amended to read as follows:[21]Republic Act No. 10951, Section 6

“Art. 136. Conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat, rebellion, or insurrection – The conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’etat shall be punished by prisión mayor in its minimum period and a fine which shall not exceed One million pesos (₱1,000,000).[22]Id.

“The conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion or insurrection shall be punished respectively, by prisión correccional in its maximum period and a fine which shall not exceed One million pesos (₱1,000,000) and by prisión correccional in its medium period and a fine not exceeding Four hundred thousand pesos (₱400,000).”[23]Id.

However, it is not a crime for someone who learns of such plot or conspiracy and conceals it, even in bad faith. Therefore, non-reporting to authorities any knowledge of the plot or plan to commit rebellion or insurrection is not punishable.

Only in treason, which is a crime against national security, and in sedition [in certain instance], where concealment of any knowledge or information thereof and failing to report such to the right authorities, where concealment of knowledge of a plan or conspiracy to commit the same may constitute criminal offense, among others.

Is there a crime committed if individuals merely conspire to commit rebellion?

Conspiracy to commit felony is punishable only in circumstances when the law specifically provides a penalty for it, according to Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code.

When two or more people come to an agreement and intend to perpetrate a felony and have decided to commit the same, it is called a conspiracy. Conspiracy is not often penalized under the law.

Yet, the simple conspiracy to commit rebellion or insurrection is declared punishable under Article 136 of the Revised Penal Code, as quoted above. The co-conspirators are held criminally liable if they conspire to commit rebellion.

It occurs when two or more people agree to rise up publicly and take up arms against the government for any number of reasons and resolve to carry it out.

Is there a crime committed if one individual, who is decided to perpetrate rebellion, merely proposes the same to other persons?

According to Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, a proposal to commit a felony is punishable only when the law specifically declared it so and provides for a penalty there for. When a person who has decided to commit a felony recommends or proposes the crime’s execution to another person or persons, this is known as a proposal to commit a felony.

A simple plan to commit a felony with the objective of urging other to do the same, like conspiracy, is not punishable under the law. Nevertheless, a proposal to commit rebellion presented to other persons, on the other hand, is a crime under Article 136 of the Revised Penal Code.

Proposal to commit rebellion occurs when someone, who is determined to rise up publicly and take up arms against the government for any of the goals of rebellion, recommends to another that it be carried out.

To fully grasp, the following are the elements of proposal to commit rebellion:

  • A person who has decided to rise publicly and take arms against the government;
  • For any of the purposes of rebellion; and
  • Proposes its execution to some other person/s.

What are the current penalties imposed by law for the crime of rebellion?

Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code categorically imposes penalty for those individuals who perpetrate the crime of rebellion. The following are the penalties, which the law imposes:

  • Any person who promotes, maintains or heads a rebellion or insurrection shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.[24]Article 135, RPC
  • Any person merely participating or executing the commands of others in a rebellion or insurrection shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal.[25]Id.

How do public officers or employees commit acts of disloyalty during rebellion?

Article 137 of the Revised Penal Code provides provision on how disloyalty of public officers or employees occurs during rebellion.

It occurs when government authorities or public employees fail to oppose a rebellion using all available means, or these public officers shall continue to carry out the duties of their offices while under the control of the rebels, or accept appointment to positions under their control.

The factors that make up acts of disloyalty during a rebellion are as follows:

  1. Failing to resist rebellion by all the means in their power; or[26]Article 137, RPC
  2. Shall continue to discharge the duties of their offices under the control of the rebels; or[27]Id.
  3. Shall accept appointment to office under them[28]Id.

In order to commit an act of disloyalty during rebellion, it needs to be considered that there must be an actual rebellion.

How is inciting to rebellion or insurrection committed?

Article 138 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

Any person who, without taking arms or being in open hostility against the Government, shall incite others to the execution of any of the acts specified in Article 134, by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.[29]Article 138, RPC

The elements that constitute acts of disloyalty during rebellion are as follows:

  1. The offender does not take arms or being in open hostility against the government;[30]Ibid.
  2. The offender incites others to the execution of any of the acts of rebellion; and[31]Ibid.
  3. The inciting is done by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end[32]Ibid.

When inciting to rebellion, the actual insurrection or crime should not be carried out by those who have been supposedly incited or to whom it the same has been offered. If they actually commit rebellion as a result of the incitement, they will be liable as principal by direct participation.

On the other hand, the proponent, or the one who incites, may be made a principal in the crime of rebellion by inducement.

Distinguish Insurrection from Rebellion 

To reiterate what was said previously, the essence of a felony of rebellion is a public uprising accompanied by the taking up of arms, which necessitates the participation of a large number of individuals. Its goal is to destabilize the legally elected and constituted government.

Any member of the military, national police organization, or public officers is not obliged to participate, and the majority of the work is done by civilians. The only way to conduct the crime is to use violence and force.

To clarify, rebellion and insurgency may be two distinct concepts, yet, interrelated concepts. The term “rebellion” refers to a movement whose goal is to entirely overturn and replace the present government. Insurrection, on the other hand, may concern a movement that aims to make a little change in order to impede the exercise of governmental authority over specific matters or subjects.

What is Coup d’etat?

Coup d’etat is a French phrase that has gained popularity among Filipinos as a result of its frequent appearance in the news.

In a report,[33]199010-Fact Finding Report, p. 1 the fact-finding commission that investigated the December 1989 failed coup d’état stated that first of such attempt in the Philippines, indeed, occurred in February 1986, when members of the Reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines Movement attempted to stage one against former President Marcos and his successor, former President Aquino.

The definition for the crime of coup d’etat under the Philippine law is found in under Article 134-A, as an amendment by Republic Act No. 6968, of the Revised Penal Code. It states that:

The crime of coup d’etat is a swift attack accompanied by violence, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth, directed against duly constituted authorities of the Republic of the Philippines, or any military camp or installation, communications network, public utilities or other facilities needed for the exercise and continued possession of power, singly or simultaneously carried out anywhere in the Philippines by any person or persons, belonging to the military or police or holding any public office of employment with or without civilian support or participation for the purpose of seizing or diminishing state power.”[34]Article 134-A, RPC

How is coup d’etat committed?

We can determine its characteristics in terms of elements and how it can be committed based on the definition of coup d’etat. The first criterion is that it is a crime that can be committed by a member of the military, police, or authorities in positions of public trust, among others.

Civilians who collaborated with the aforementioned military, police, public officer, or employee, on the other hand, would be culpable for the crime of coup d’etat.

The second part is an attack against properly constituted government authority or any military camp or installation, communication networks, public utilities, or other facilities required for the exercise and continuous possession of state’s strength in order to seize or diminish its power.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the attack has been carried out quickly and swiftly, accompanied by violence, intimidation, menace, stratagem, or stealth. The speed with which a coup d’etat is carried out is critical.

“The less time spent capturing government authority, the more successful a coup,”[35]Ibid., p. 6 according to the fact-finding panel that reviewed the failed coup d’état of December 1989. The rationale is to use surprise to prevent the administration from consolidating its forces and mounting resistance to the coup forces.[36]Ibid., p. 6

What are the penalties imposed for those who committed coup d’etat?

The crime of coup d’etat is punishable under Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code. It provides punishments based on the offender’s participation. The leader of the coup d’etat will be sentenced to reclusion perpetua.

If a person leads, directs, or commands others to carry out a coup d’etat, he is considered to be the leader thereof. Those who just participated in or carried out the orders of others are likewise guilty of coup d’etat.

If the participant is a government employee, he will be sentenced to the maximum duration of prision mayor. If the participant is a civilian, he will be subjected to a maximum period of temporal reclusion.

Jurisprudence on coup d’etat

In the Philippines, the quantity of jurisprudence on the subject of coup d’etat is still small. Here are some notable pieces of jurisprudence on the subject of coups d’etat.

In this case, Justice Callejo, speaking for the Supreme Court, discussed how the violations of specific provisions of the Philippine Military’s Articles of War, committed during a coup d’etat, fall under the jurisdiction of the military court martial, not the civil court. the reason is that the coup d’etat case is still pending in the appropriate civil court at that time.[37]Navales vs Abaya, G. R. No. 162318, October 25, 2004

In this case, Justice Sandoval-Gutierrez, speaking for the Supreme Court, stated that civil courts have jurisdiction over the military and other persons subject to military law, such as members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units, who commit crimes or offenses punishable under the Revised Penal Code (such as coup d’etat), other special penal laws, or local ordinances.[38]Gonzales vs Abaya, G.R. No. 164007, August 10, 2006

The absorption of violations of particular sections of the Philippine Military’s Articles of War into the crime of coup d’etat, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the proper civil court rather than the military court martial, was also discussed in this case.[39]Ibid.

Distinguish rebellion from coup d’etat

The crimes of rebellion and coup d’etat both include a violent attack on the government and authorities, although they differ in a number of ways.

In terms of the nature of the offense. Rebellion is defined as a public uprising and the taking of arms against the government by a large group of people, which may or may not include public officers and employees. The crime of coup d’etat, on the other hand, necessitates a quick and swift attack on duly formed and constituted authority of the government or state by military or public officials, with or without the cooperation of private persons.

In terms of the crime’s intent and objectives. The goal of the crime of rebellion is to topple the government and install the rebels’ own. While the coup d’etat’s goal is not always to destroy the government, it is to weaken state power and destabilize the administration.

As regards the means by which the crime was committed. Force and violence may be the only ways to commit rebellion, with public uprising. While coup d’etats might be carried out with force and violence, they can also be carried out with intimidation, strategy, threat, or stealth, through swift attack.

To briefly illustrate the differences between rebellion and coup d’etat, consider the following table:

ParticularsRebellionCoup d'Etat
NaturePublic uprising and taking of arms by multitudes of people against the government.A swift attack military officials or public officers against the government.
PurposeOverthrowing and replacing the government.Diminishing state power and destabilizing the government.
MeansThrough force and violence.Not only through force and violence but also by intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth.

Conclusion

Simply described, rebellion is an attempt to topple the government through popular uprising and the use of force. It was discussed that while proposing and conspiring to commit revolt are illegal under our laws, misprision of rebellion is not.

The rebellion, as it the same has also been discussed, encompasses all other offenses committed in connection with the rebellion. In various ways, such as the rebel’s objective, the people capable of performing the crime, and the means of perpetrating the same, rebellion, in these sense, may differ from the commission of the felony of coup d’etat.

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