Supreme Court issues writ of amparo in favor of rights groups

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of 3 groups tagged by the government as alleged fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

In a resolution made public on Thursday, May 30, the High Court directed the government to respond, through a verified return, to the petition filed by human rights group Karapatan, religious group Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and women's group Gabriela on or before June 13. 

“Whereas, considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the petition, it is necessary and proper to…issue a writ of amparo and habeas data,” the resolution read.

The High Court referred the petition to the presiding justice of the Court of Appeals for immediate raffle among the CA justices. It also directed the CA to hear the petition on June 18

Protection vs threats

The petitioners want court protection against threats to the lives, liberty, and security of their members through a writ of amparo. They also want the government to disclose and destroy all files or records gathered against their members through a writ of habeas data.

A writ of amparo is a legal remedy seeking a protection order, while a writ of habeas data asks the Court to compel the respondent to delete or destroy damaging information. 

The petitioners cited the killings of human rights workers and paralegals from 2002 up to the present administration. They also said that from 2001 to 2019, at least 48 Karapatan human rights defenders were killed by state forces. 

The petitioners also said that since the Duterte administration accused the groups of being communist fronts, their officers and members have been threatened, harassed, and intimidated.

Among the respondents are President Rodrigo Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana,  Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, military chief General Benjamin Madrigal Jr, and Armed Forces  Deputy Chief of Staff  Major General Antonio Parlade Jr.

The other respondents are:

Karapatan National Chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi welcomed the SC decision. She said the petitioners were "aware that this is just the beginning of an arduous battle, but we take courage from all the human rights defenders who withstood the worst of this repressive government, and all those who have been killed in the cause for human rights."

"The Duterte administration has poured effort, resources and time into undermining our work but unfortunately for them, we will always assert our right to continue human rights advocacy. As they attack us from all fronts, we fight back in the same persistent and determined manner,” she added.

The Department of National Defense (DND), for its part, expressed confidence that the government can disprove the allegations of the petitioners in court.

"The DND is confident that the allegations by Karapatan and Gabriela in connection with the writ of amparo and habeas data will be proven false before the courts," the DND said in a statement.

"The DND and its bureaus fully adhere to the rule of law, and we will address Karapatan and Gabriela following the legal process. There is certainly no threat to their members’ lives, liberty, and security coming from the Defense and military establishments, and we will comply with the writ of habeas data as ordered by the court," it added.

The SC had earlier granted  a similar petition filed by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). – Rappler.com