MANILA, Philippines - A Manila trial court has granted former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Magtanggol Gatdula's plea for issuance of a Writ of Amparo enjoining the Department of Justice (DOJ) and NBI to cease and desist from "further threatening" his life and security and that of his family's.
Gatdula was able to secure the Writ in a decision handed down today by Judge Silvino Pampilo, Jr. of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 26.
Gatdula filed a petition seeking issuance of the extraordinary writ following the alleged 'ambush me' incident involving NBI Dep. Dir. Reynaldo Esmeralda which, he claimed, he was being framed up for.
In his 4-page decision, Judge Pampilo held that the Writ of Amparo may be issued in favor of citizens who are threatened of deprivation of their liberty, "even if the subject has not been actually arrested or has not disappeared."
"[T]he mere communication to petitioner (Gatdula) of an intent to inflict harm should already bring about the issuance of a Writ of Amparo. As testified to by petitioner's witnesses, armed men have been looking for petitioner in his neighborhood, as well as on places he visits," the decision read.
Gatdula presented before the court the affidavits of two witnesses to prove there are threats to his life.
One of the witnesses alleged that one of the supposed armed men uttered, "andiyan naman pala eh, kaya na nating tirahin yan."
DOJ, NBI to question issuance of writ
Speaking to reporters, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, one of the respondents in Gatdula's petition, expressed dismay at the RTC's decision. De Lima said the DOJ and NBI will be filing a motion for reconsideration before the trial court. Should the motion be junked, the justice chief said they will elevate the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) on petition for certiorari.
"We will definitely question this. I find this an abuse, i find this as a misuse or a clear abuse of the extraordinary Writ of Amparo... masyado naman yata nagiging paranoid pareho yung petitioner and the court, with due respect. Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ang pananaw ng korte ,with due respect of course to the judge, hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ang findings is may basehan ang Writ of Amparo," De Lima said.
"Witnesses who claim to be Iglesia [ni Cristo] ang nagsasabi nga na hinahanap daw si former Dir. Tanggol (Gatdula) and claiming to be NBI agents... hindi naman napatunayan na tootong mga NBI yun and lalong hindi napatunayan na ang nag-utos sa mga yun ay kami... so its so far out. wala ako nakikitang koneksyon dun sa sinasabi nilang threat to the life of the petitioner dyan sa iniimbestigahan na ambush kay Dep. Dir. Esmeralda," she added.
De Lima said there was no evidence that any threat to Gatdula's life, if any, comes from the DOJ or NBI.
"Ang premise dito ay galing sa amin Yung threat... ang premise dito ay may iligal o may unlawful act na ginawa o gnagawa ang respondents. May ebidensya ba dun? Iligal ba o hindi ba tama na iniimbestigahn namin yung supposed ambush kay Dep. Dir. Esmeralda? Ano ang masama dun at parang pini-preempt nila sa pamamagitan ng Writ of Amparo na 'to [na] huminto kayo sa imbestigasyon ninyo?" she said.
Writ of Amparo sought as a "proactive" action
In his decision, Judge Pampilo, however, pointed out that Gatdula's move was anticipatory and preemptive.
"Petitioner cannot be expected to wait until such time that he is already shot at or illegally detained to file a petition for the issuance of a Writ of Amparo. Besides, the rule is proactive, it is anticipatory, serving to prepare or control an expected occurrence or situation," the decision read.
"Moreover, constitutional rights require utmost protection. The right to life, liberty and security are the most primal and basic form of rights which can be found in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution," the decision read.
The trial court also retained the effectivity of a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) it issued last March 8, and directed the Police Security and Protection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) "to give protection to the petitioner and his immediate family."
An Inspection Order was also issued by the RTC to allow Gatdula "to inspect and photograph" Esmeralda's vehicle which was allegedly ambushed "in order to preserve the evidence... and to avoid any possible tampering."
A Production Order was also issued to allow Gatdula to secure certified true copies of medical reports, forensic reports and ballistic reports in relation to the alleged ambush "in order to prevent such reports from being tampered and/or changed."
The Production Order directed the Manila Doctors Hospital, where Esmeralda was brought following the alleged ambush, to produce medical reports and all documents relevant to the treatment received by Esmeralda and his brother, SPO1 Nilo Esmeralda. The Order also directed the DOJ and NBI to produce ballistic reports, report on the reenactment of the alleged ambush by the Manila Police District (MPD) and NBI investigation teams and all records on their respective investigations.
To this, De Lima asked what Gatdula would be doing next.
"What is that for? If they inspect the vehicle or get all those documents like ballistics record or medical record, ano gagawin sunod ng petitioner, siya na mag-iimbestiga? Nakakatawa 'to," she said.
Gatdula was sacked as NBI chief by Pres. Aquino last January after a DOJ fact-finding investigation found him involved in the alleged kidnapping and extortion of a Japanese undocumented alien. Gatdula had vehemently denied this.