Groups ask SC to review CA dismissal of amparo case
MANILA, Philippines — Several human rights groups on Monday filed a petition for review before the Supreme Court (SC) over the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to dismiss for their petition for writs of amparo and habeas data for the protection of their members.
The CA earlier dismissed the petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela.
“The dismissal of our petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data was already tantamount to the CA’s complicity in the attacks perpetrated against us,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
“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,” Palabay added.
Writ of Amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or under threat.
Meanwhile, the writ of habeas data 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.
Palabay said the court also “disallowed” supporting their claims such as testimonies and documents before releasing its decision to dismiss the petition.
This move, Palabay said, was “truly disappointing”, pointing out that the ruling “favored the perpetrators and masterminds behind the policies that have led to the crackdown on human rights defenders.”
“The dismissal of our petition by the CA is outrageous. It is a decision that will worsen the impunity in the country and will further enable state forces to continue terrorizing communities and individuals critical of the government,” Palabay said.
“The court justices’ refusal to hear our testimonies was truly disappointing. They disallowed us to present testimonial evidence and they struck down the petition on the basis of technicalities. This was not an impartial procedure determined to hear the aggrieved party,” she added.
In the groups’ Petition for Review, they noted President Rodrigo Duterte’s contribution to the threats that human rights defenders in the country are receiving with the president’s red-tagging of the groups in his speeches.
Palabay said that five of their members were slain only during the duration of their amparo petition process.
“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,” Palabay said.
“This is akin to explicitly identifying us as targets, thus making human rights work even more dangerous in the country,” she added.
Palabay then challenged the SC “to 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.”
“For the sake of all human rights defenders who have been killed, and those who continue to remain in the line of fire, we urge the Court to stand alongside rights defenders. While we are pursuing other platforms for protection and accountability, the SC’s decision will mark its position between the victims and the militarists,” she said.
Esperon’s perjury complaint
In early July, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also filed a perjury case against the groups before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
Esperon said the groups issued false statements in their writs of amparo and habeas data petition.
He said that RMP’s certificate of registration had long been revoked, while the petition read that the group was a registered organization.
“Contrary however to the verification and certification executed by petitioners, the SEC already revoked the certificate of registration of RMP on Aug. 20, 2003 for its failure to submit the required General Information sheets and Financial Statements from 1997 to 2002,” Esperon said in his complaint.
Palabay said, however, that Esperon’s complaint only added merit to their petition.
“This is indicative of how this government is geared towards destroying the credibility of vocal organizations which have raised concerns on issues that this regime bury,” Palabay explained.
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