Rights groups ask SC to review dismissal of petitions for writs of amparo, habeas data

Jul. 30, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Rights groups led by Karapatan asked the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ ruling dismissing their petition for writs of amparo and habeas data.

On June 28, the CA dismissed the habeas data and amparo petition filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela last May to seek protection from the attacks said to be perpetrated by the State.

The said groups filed a petition before the SC to challenge CA’s decision.

“The dismissal of our petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data was already tantamount to the CA’s complicity on the attacks perpetrated against us. We now urge the Supreme Court (SC) to grant our petition for review, which challenges the CA’s decision. We maintain that our petition is urgent amid the spate of intensified red-tagging, illegal arrests, and killings perpetrated against us by this government,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general in a statement.

Palabay called CA’s dismissal of their petition “outrageous”, pointing out that its decision “will worsen the impunity in the country and will further enable state forces to continue terrorizing communities and individuals critical of the government.”

During the court’s hearing, Palabay said that they were “disallowed” to present evidence to prove the allegations in their petition, which for the petitioners was “truly disappointing”.

“This was not an impartial procedure determined to hear the aggrieved party, but a ruling that favored the perpetrators and masterminds behind the policies that has led to the crackdown on human rights defenders,” she said.

Karapatan noted that human rights advocates have been “constantly subjected to relentless persecution”, facing trumped-up criminal charges, vilification, defamatory propaganda, and killings “perpetrated by state forces.”

As of June this year, the group has documented 266 killings in line with the government’s counterinsurgency program, 11 of which are human rights workers of Karapatan.

Before the CA’s hearing of the petition filed these groups, Karapatan-Sorsogon staff members Ryan Hubilla, 22, and Nelly Bagasala, 69, facilitating the release of a political prisoner in the region, were gunned down on June 15; while other three rights workers of Masbate People’s Organization were also allegedly killed by soldiers on separate incidents from June 9 to 14.

Karapatan also cited in their petition how President Rodrigo Duterte “contributed” to the threats and harassments against rights defenders, with his “red tagging” and vilification of the organization in his public speeches and conferences.

“When Duterte started and focused his tirades against us, he declared an open season against our officers and members, along with other members of various rights groups by wrongfully tagging us as a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. This is akin to explicitly identifying us as targets, thus making human rights work even more dangerous in the country,” Palabay added.

Palabay challenged the High Court to reverse CA’s decision, and prove that “it is not an instrument of impunity and injustice, and that it can choose to heed the need of human rights defenders for protection.”

The CA recently has also rejected the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data separately filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

Atty. Edre Olalia, NUPL-President in a statement said that CA’s denial of their petition was “not really surprising nor unexpected.”

“It only strengthens impressions that amparo as a legal remedy has time and time again failed expectations of victims for immediate and judicial protection,” Olalia said, adding that domestic remedies for redress of rights violations are “ineffective and unavailing” under the current political situation.

The NUPL, he said, will also question the ruling of CA before the Supreme Court.

“How many more lawyers and human rights defenders need to be killed, vilified, harassed, threatened and labeled before the dots are connected?” Olalia asked. (davaotoday.com)

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