Businessman, activist get habeas data from SC

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2008 11:38 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2008 07:38 AM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued two writs of habeas data to a businessman and an activist as it sided with the petitioners in their cases against government authorities.

The Court en banc decided to grant both writs of habeas data and amparo which were filed separately by businessman Guillermo Luz, the executive vice-president of the Ayala Foundation, on March 3, and Anakpawis party-list member Francis Saez on March 5.

The high court said this marks the first issuance of the Rule on Habeas Data -- an independent remedy to enforce the right to informational privacy and the complementary “right to truth” as well as an additional remedy to protect the right to life, liberty, or security of a person--since its promulgation on Feb. 2, 2008.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon and other government officials who were included as respondents in both cases were ordered to make verified returns of the writs before the Court of Appeals within five working days from the service of the writs.

The appellate court was also ordered to separately hear and decide on the petitions on March 18 at 1:30 p.m. The cases will then be raffled by the CA’s presiding justice among its members.

In his petition, Luz asked the court that Esperon and government agents involved appear before the high court to state whether or not the military has been conducting surveillance operations on him for his suspected link in the plot to oust President Arroyo and his alleged participation in the failed Peninsula Manila hotel coup last November 29 which was by led by members of the Magdalo group and civilians in Makati City.

He also wants the respondents to submit to Court and disclose to him any photographs, reports, data or information gathered in the “case buildup” against him.  

In his petition, Luz said, "...Petitioner (Luz) seeks for the opportunity to demonstrate utter lack of basis to put him under any form of surveillance."

Luz also said he wants respondents to leave him alone and stop "any ongoing case buildup, and to suppress or destroy any database of information" gathered against him.

The lack of response to his denials and unanswered letters of inquiry which he believed had been received by the AFP chief constitute “an unwarranted disturbance of [his] peace of mind and an unjustified incursion on [his] right to security and privacy.”

Activist's case upheld

Meanwhile, in his petition for the writ of amparo and for the writ of habeas data, with prayers for temporary protection order, inspection of place, and production of documents, Saez asked that respondents including the President produce before the Court the “Order of Battle” containing his name.

He also appealed to have his name removed from the “list of persons who are considered as targets for neutralization by the [AFP]” and at the same time urged for the destruction of documents he claims the military had forced him into signing that stated that he is a rebel returnee and that he has agreed to become an intelligence asset.

In a related development, the SC also granted the petition for amparo filed by "Traveler’s News" publisher Nilo Baculo, Sr. that urged the Court to protect him from an alleged murder plot by respondents Mayor Paulino Salvador Leachon and other government officials of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.  

Baculo claimed that the plot is the result of his efforts as a journalist to inform the public of the “acts of public officers which he believes to be illegal, fraudulent, and morally reprehensible.”

The CA was directed to hear Baculo’s petition on March 18 at 2 p.m. and likewise ordered the respondents to respond to the appellate court within five working days from service.

A total of 23 writs of amparo have been issued by the court since it was implemented on Oct. 24, 2007.

The writs of amparo and habeas data are additional remedies to protect the constitutional rights of the people.

Both were created by the Court pursuant to the rule-making power vested upon it by the Constitution and as a result of the recommendations from the July 16 to 17, 2007 National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances called by Chief Justice Reynato Puno.