MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court has affirmed a Court of Appeals decision junking the petition for Writ of Amparo filed by the camp of NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada Jr. against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and several others in connection with the botched $330-million national broadband network project.
In an en banc ruling promulgated on April 24, the high court junked a petition for review filed by Lozada's brother, Arturo, for being "moot and academic by the cessation of the restraint to Lozada’s liberty.”
”The Court of Appeals’ denial of the privilege of the writ of amparo is hereby affirmed,” the ruling read.
In his petition, Arturo Lozada claimed that his brother was kidnapped by government security forces after he arrived from Hong Kong in February 2008 to prevent him from testifying at the Senate investigation hearing into the botched deal.
Arturo had admitted before the appellate court's 17th Division that he had no direct knowledge about the circumstances surrounding his brother arrival from Hong Kong.
Named as respondents in the Writ of Amparo case along with Arroyo are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Avelino Razon Jr., Aviation Security Group (ASG) agent Rodolfo Valeroso and Manila International Airport Assistant (MIAA) General Manager for Security Angel Atutubo.
The appellate court dropped Arroyo as respondent, stressing that a sitting head of state is immune from civil and criminal suits.
In its ruling, the high court said that its decision “has nothing to do with the substance or merits surrounding the aborted deal of the Philippine government with the National Broadband Network and ZTE Corporation....”
“There is only one issue that we decide today – whether circumstances are adequately alleged and proven by petitioner Lozada to entitle him to the protection of the writ of amparo,” the ruling read.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (Blue Ribbon Committee) subpoenaed Lozada to appear and testify on its January 30, 2008 hearing.
Instead of appearing, Lozada flew to Hong Kong en route to London, as announced by then Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.
Lozada alleged that his failure to appear at the scheduled hearing was upon the prodding and instructions of then Executive Assistant Secretary Manuel Gaite.
The Senate cited Lozada for contempt of court and ordered his arrest and detention.
Upon his return to the country, Lozada claimed several men whisked him away.
In its ruling, the high court said, “the writ of amparo is confined only to cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, or to threats thereof. Considering that this remedy is aimed at addressing these serious violations of or threats to the right to life, liberty and security, it cannot be issued on amorphous and uncertain grounds, or in cases where the alleged threat has ceased and is no longer imminent or continuing.”
“[I]n amparo actions, petitioners must establish their claims by substantial evidence, and they cannot merely rely on the supposed failure of respondents to prove either their defenses or their exercise of extraordinary diligence,” the ruling stressed.