Lawyers group seeks SC help, protection from military harassment
MANILA, Philippines — An organization of human rights lawyers on Monday sought the Supreme Court’s protection from alleged continuing harassment and “red tagging” of their members by the military and the police.
In a 23-page petition, the officers and members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) sought the Supreme Court’s help by filing a petition for writ of amparo and writ habeas data.
A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or under threat. The writ of habeas data, on the other hand, is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security has been violated or under threat by the unlawful gathering of information about the person, his or her family, and home.
Both writs serve as preventive and curative roles to curb extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“The petitioners, bearing only their legal skills, compassion for the underprivileged, dedication to justice and a mighty pen, have no recourse but to ask for the Honorable Court’s protection from harassment, intimidation, and violence committed against them by State forces and their agents,” the petitioners said.
The petitioners are led by NUPL chairman and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares and NUPL President Edre Olalia together with Catherine Salucon, vice president; Ian Anthony Sapayan, vice president for NUPL-Visayas; Ephraim Cortez, secretary-general; Edgar Carmona, auditor; and Bayan Muna Partylist Carlos Isagani Zarate.
Aside from President Rodrigo Duterte, also named respondents in the petition were National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., AFP Deputy Commander for Intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP Chief of the Intelligence Service Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, and AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.
Through the issuance of a writ of amparo, the petitioners are hoping to get protection for its members who are currently tagged as supporters of communists movements.
On the other hand, the petitioners said the issuance of a writ of habeas data is necessary to compel the respondents to produce, correct or to destroy files in their possession or under their control that are being used to threaten their safety.
The NUPL cited in their petition specific incidents when their officers and members experienced the alleged harassment by military officers and were “tagged, threatened, vilified or subjected to surveillance.”
“A number are tailed, some receive threatening text messages, some are publicly vilified in radio programs, and still a few were even included in a shotgun petition to declare the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations, maliciously labeling them as members of these rebel organizations,” they stressed.
“In the instant case, the pattern is crystal clear: Petitioners are harassed not for their individual actions as lawyers per se, but for being members of the NUPL and the cases, clients and issues they take on. Given the context, history and contemporaneous statements and events,
Petitioners have a well-founded belief that the respondents herein and their agents are responsible in many ways for the attacks against NUPL and its members,” petitioners added.
Twenty-four lawyers were killed from June 2016 to 2018. The figure is higher compared to the 27 lawyers who were killed in a span of eight years, from 2006 to 2014, based on data from the international organization Lawyers for Lawyers
A separate data showed that 55 lawyers were attacked or received threats from July 2016 to January 2019.
“Despite the increasing number of attacks against lawyers and members of the legal profession, apparently no case has been filed in court against any perpetrators,” the petition read.
They also maintained that they are merely fulfilling their mandate of representing the underprivileged and taking a stand on various issues.
The NUPL handles cases and issues of public interest like power and public transport rate hikes, environmental matters, extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers, and other cases pertaining to human rights violations. /ee
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