Militant lawyers group gets Supreme Court protection
The Supreme Court has granted the petition of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) for judicial protection for its members against alleged harassment and attacks by government security forces.
In a special full court session on Friday, the court issued a writ of amparo and a writ of habeas data in favor of the NUPL and ordered the Court of Appeals to immediately raffle the case.
The assigned Court of Appeals division was told to hear on May 14 the NUPL’s petition for a protection order, and to decide the case within 10 days after it had been submitted for decision.
“While this is just a start of an intense judicial battle and tedious procedure, we are grateful that the court heeded our supplication to be given judicial shield and a potential relief from reckless accusations, malicious labeling and vicious attacks in different forms and guises,” NUPL president Edre Olalia said in a statement.
The tribunal ordered President Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Armed Forces of the Philippines top brass led by Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. to formally comment on the NUPL’s petition by May 8.
“It sends a strong and clear signal to the military and government officials alike, as well as their proxies or agents, that there are certain well-defined rules of evidence not incompatible with basic fairness, decency, common sense and logic that must be observed,” Madrigal said.
Olalia also said the Supreme Court decision “came at a propitious time” with the release of the results of the 2018 bar exams.
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson for the AFP, said the military respected the high court’s decision.
“We are committed to convince the honorable court when we present our answer that the acts attributed to the AFP are mere imputations and allegations. We have pieces of evidence to prove our accusations,” Arevalo said.
The NUPL last week reiterated their petition asking the Supreme Court for a writ of amparo and habeas data, after Malacañang implicated it and several media groups in a supposed plot to oust the President.
Writ of amparo
The writ of amparo was instituted by the Supreme Court under then Chief Justice Reynato Puno in September 2007 as a legal remedy to any person who felt that his life, liberty and security was threatened by an unlawful act or omission by a government official.
On April 22, Malacañang released a diagram it had called an oust-Duterte “matrix” showing the web-like linkages among the NUPL, the online news outfit Rappler, fact-checker Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
The NUPL said the “baseless” accusation standing on a mere matrix proved that its members remained under “persistent threats and harassment and Red-tagging” since the military first identified the lawyers’ group as an “enemy” in 2013.
In asking for a writ of habeas data, the NUPL urged the Supreme Court to compel the government to disclose and destroy all the information and evidence gathered about its members.
The NUPL cited the 2014 murder of paralegal officer William Bugatti, who was killed just hours after he and NUPL vice president Catherine Salucon attended a court hearing.
Salucon also was subjected to harassment before Bugatti was killed, the group said.
The lawyers’ group also cited the assassination of NUPL-Negros secretary general Benjamin Ramos in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, last year.
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