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Describes ruling as ‘gross disservice’ to slain human rights defenders

Rights group slams CA dismissal of amparo petition

/ 03:06 PM June 29, 2019
Rights group slams CA dismissal of amparo petition

Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. (Photo from her Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines — A human-rights group on Saturday slammed the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissing the amparo and habeas data petition for the protection of its members.

The CA on Friday dismissed the petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela.

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Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela in May filed a petition for writs of amparo (protection) and habeas data (access to information).

READ: 3 more groups seek writs of amparo

According to the decision, the groups “impleaded President Rodrigo Duterte and several officials of the Office of the President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of National Defense, and the Philippine National Police” for allegedly threatening and violating the groups’ rights “to life, liberty, security, and privacy with acts of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, malicious prosecutions and defamations because of their advocacy in various fields of human rights work.”

The decision to dismiss the petition however, Karapatan said, “is a gross disservice to all the human rights defenders of Karapatan who have been killed and to those who continue to remain in the line of fire.”

“In doing so, the appellate court has refused protection for defenders at risk. This is tantamount to complicity on the attacks perpetrated against us,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay said the court also “disallowed” supporting their claims such as testimonies and documents before releasing its decision to dismiss the petition.

“The result is deplorable, but not altogether surprising. In the June 18 hearing, even as we were set to submit our judicial affidavits and additional documentary evidence after what should have been the preliminary conference, the denial of our counsel’s plea to include our testimonies was already telling,” Palabay said.

She added that this move seemed like the court was serving as “legal counsels of the respondents, instead of impartial adjudicators.”

“The Court will not be disadvantaged in any way if they hear our testimonies, but they nonetheless chose to ignore it. In that instance, we felt like they were acting as legal counsels of the respondents, instead of impartial adjudicators,” Palabay said.

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Palabay then questioned the need to go through democratic process if “there is already a pre-agreed result.”

“We give the courts the benefit of the doubt. However, if they never meant to hear us out, if they are in cahoots with the military, if they merely wanted to tire us out and use the decision to delegitimize our cause and realities, then there is no honor in the ‘honorable’ court,” Palabay said.

“We certainly hope personal ambitions were not entangled in all of this because lives are on the line,” Palabay added.

Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor, meanwhile, pointed out that the issues the petition sought to address encompass the technicalities that were noted — such as that “the petition did not conform to the requirements and rules on the filing of the writs and that substantial evidence.”

“As one of the petitioners, I was disappointed when the CA justices refused to consider our testimonies. They intend to rule by mere technicality while the issue encompasses beyond this. The threats to the lives, liberty and security of human rights defenders should not be assessed by mere technicalities, but also in consideration of the strong and compelling testimonies from the ground. Do they fear our voices?” said Clamor.

Clamor also noted that the appellate court is “acknowledging the attacks but absolving the government’s role in all of it.” (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)

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