SC urged to protect rights advocates from red-tagging, attacks
MANILA, Philippines — Advocacy groups and human rights defenders on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to come up with measures that will also protect not only members of the legal profession but of advocates as well.
In a submission to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, they said based on the report submitted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), 84 of the 147 incidents of attacks or 57 percent were committed against lawyers engaged in human rights and public interest litigation.
“These attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” read the letter.
They urged the high court to also look into the attacks suffered by the clients and know the government policies that caused them.
They said, since the time of the Arroyo administration, the government has been engaged in a “dirty war” against unarmed activists by publicly labeling legal organizations as “communist fronts.”
The high court already came up with the Rule on the Writs of Amparo and Habeas Data. In 2007, the high court also overturned the prosecution of progressive party-list representatives Crispin Beltran, Rafael Mariano, Joel Virador, Teodoro Casiño, Satur Ocampo, and Liza Maza for rebellion.
However, despite the ruling and issuances, advocates are continuously being tagged as having terror ties. Some have been arrested and detained while others have been threatened and attacked.
Review of rules, safeguards, other recommendations
In the letter, they urged the high court to take a second look at existing rules on the writs of amparo, habeas data, habeas corpus, and other pre-detention and pre-trial remedies.
They said labeling or red-tagging being done by the government now has expanded from activists to members of the media and other sectors. They also sought safeguards in the issuance and service of warrants following incidents that lead to the death of nine individuals last month.
The following are the measures sought by the advocates before the Supreme Court:
- A review of existing rules on the writ of amparo, the writ of habeas data, the writ of habeas corpus, and other pre-detention and pre-trial remedies, with an assessment of their efficacy in safeguarding fundamental rights;
- An assessment of how courts have appreciated and ruled upon, in amparo and habeas data proceedings, the discharge of the burden of proof by petitioners as well as compliance with the required standard of diligence by respondents;
- The inclusion of groups or associations of persons sharing common advocacy or cause as aggrieved parties who may file a petition for the writ of amparo or habeas data;
- The mandatory issuance of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) simultaneously with the issuance of the writ of amparo to be served on the respondent/s together with the Writ, which may include an injunction on acts of red-tagging, both online and offline;
- The abandonment of the rule under Ilagan v. Enrile that a habeas corpus petition of a person deprived of liberty is rendered moot and academic by the filing of criminal charges against her or him by law enforcement authorities;
- The promulgation of rules that will ensure the proper and timely receipt of subpoenas and criminal complaints by respondents so as to afford them a fair and reasonable opportunity to present countervailing evidence during a preliminary investigation;
- The establishment of a central repository of criminal charges by which the people can be informed of cases filed against them;
- The promulgation of uniform rules for pre-trial remedies that uphold the accused’s constitutional right to due process, including the mandatory furnishing of records on the application for a search warrant to the accused from the point of arrest;
- The issuance of a reminder to trial courts to pass upon, at the outset, questions of fact on the regularity of a search and seizure or the issuance of a search warrant, as the case may be, and to not allow the prosecution to perfunctorily invoke the disputable presumption of regularity as a matter of default, especially in the face of serious and credible assertions of irregularities in law enforcement operations;
- The amendment of rules on the issuance of search warrants to provide practical and effective safeguards that will ensure strict compliance with constitutional requirements and due regard for constitutional rights, such as requiring the active presence of independent witnesses during the actual search;
- The immediate inventory and investigation of serially issued search warrants by alleged “search warrant factories;” and
The issuance of new rules that are more responsive in providing urgent, immediate, simple, concrete, and practical reliefs for victims of rights violations, particularly of the pernicious and indiscriminate practice of red-tagging and de facto terrorist designation.
The submission before the high court was made by Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr., Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos, ACT secretary-general Raymond Basillo, COURAGE president Santiago Dasmarinas, and Bayan Metro Manila chair Raymond Palatino.
Others who joined in the submission include Marites Asis, the mother of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino who was arrested on the basis of a questionable search warrant in Manila; Rosenda Lemita, mother of Ana Marie Evangelista who was killed during the “Bloody Sunday” raid in Batangas; and Rosalinda Salundanga whose relatives were also killed in the “Bloody Sunday” raid in Rizal.
Also signatory to the submission is Cordillera People’s Alliance chair Windel Bolinget who was the subject of an arrest warrant in a case he was not even notified of and provided preliminary investigation; Beatrice Belen, also a Cordillera activist who was arrested but later released after the trumped-up charges were dismissed; and Jenelle Buan, daughter of peasant leader Joseph Canlas who recently died from COVID-19 after his arrest on another questionable search warrant operation in Angeles, Pampanga.
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