MANILA – Rights activists and a religious group have sought protection from the Supreme Court over threats against their lives, liberty and security allegedly committed by state forces.
Human rights group Karapatan, women’s rights group Gabriela and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Inc. (RMP) and some of their members filed a 44-page petition on Monday asking the high court to issue a writ of amparo, claiming they were "constantly threatened and harassed, red-tagged and maliciously terrorist-labeled only because of their advocacies in various fields of human rights work."
They also asked the high tribunal to issue a writ of habeas data ordering respondents to produce and, if necessary, to rectify or destroy any information in their database concerning the petitioners.
Named as respondents in the petition are: President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, several heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the Philippine National Police investigation unit.
Also included in the petition are Presidential Task Force on Media Security Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura and Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary for New Media and External Affairs Lorraine Badoy.
In their petition, Karapatan cited several incidents under the current administration: the killings of 3 of its members by unidentified gunmen on board motorcycles, the filing of trumped-up charges against their members, and statements by the President himself and propaganda materials in public places accusing Karapatan of being a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
Some of Karapatan’s members also reported receiving threats from unidentified persons and state forces.
The petition said Karapatan has reported these incidents to several United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs.
RMP, a non-governmental organization of priests and lay people, claimed one of its members became a victim of extrajudicial killing while some members have been detained, including Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox, who was eventually forced out of the country.
It also said it has been identified as a terrorist front in flyers handed out by suspected military personnel in Cagayan de Oro City.
Gabriela, for its part, pointed to statements of top military officials tagging it as a front for the CPP-NPA, including that of Esperon who wrote to European Union (EU) counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove naming 3 Belgian NGOs that allegedly partnered with communist front organizations in the Philippines like Gabriela.
The petitioners claimed the attacks intensified with the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF) under Executive Order No. 70. The NTF supposedly met with different UN and EU bodies tagging them as fronts of the CPP-NPA and even the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“Petitioners, who are legitimate organizations, recognized both here and abroad, including their officers and members, have become open targets of human rights violations. The glaringly numerous incidents of threats, harassment, and killings are aimed at curtailing their rights to freely exercise their advocacies,” petitioners said in their petition.
“Moreover, the red tagging and labeling which emanated from the NTF, further aggravated the threats against the life, liberty and security of the petitioners because it is an expression of a government policy directed against legitimate civil society organizations, activist and human rights defenders like the petitioners in this case. The adverse effect of such red tagging has been recognized, since it has resulted in the harassment, intimidation, killings, abductions and even the filing of trumped up charges against them,” they added.
Aside from the writs of amparo and habeas data, petitioners also asked the high court for a temporary protection order for the protection of their members.
They are represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
The petition comes a few days after the high court issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of NUPL.