CA deals Duterte gov't another loss, orders solon's name stricken off narco-list

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2021 12:54 PM

MANILA — The Court of Appeals has dealt the Duterte government another loss, this time ordering government agencies to strike out the name of Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III from the government’s list of narco-politicians.

The CA Former Special Eighth Division, in a ruling dated June 8, granted the privilege of the writ of habeas data prayed for by Veloso, who sought to be excluded from the list the President himself released in March 2019, just ahead of the midterm polls.

The appellate court just recently upheld the ruling of a Makati court dismissing the coup d’etat charge against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and denying the Duterte administration’s bid to arrest him after the President revoked his amnesty in 2018.

“Accordingly, the respondents are hereby ordered to destroy all documents, records, and information which pertain to the person of the petitioner obtained in relation to the 14 March 2009 narco-list. They are further ordered to rectify the said narco-list and delete the name of the petitioner therein,” said the 5-page ruling penned by CA Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr.

His fellow-justices Germano Francisco Legaspi and Ruben Reynaldo Roxas concurred.

A writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information about the person. 

A favorable ruling can order the destruction or correction of erroneous data.

The CA also warned respondents — the heads of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) — not to include Veloso’s name in “any publicized derogatory list that fails to follow due process” and from taking other actions in relation to documents, records and information which led to the issuance of the March 2019 narco-list.

The only exception is if it will be to “commence appropriate criminal proceedings, which should have been done, to begin with, as a matter of due process."

Veloso, the current House justice committee chair and a former CA justice, filed the petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas data in March 2019 shortly after he was included in government’s narco-list. 

He denied the allegation and said PDEA had cleared him of any drug links.

Duterte would later distance himself from the narco-list.

NO ‘NATIONAL SECURITY’ INVOLVED

In granting the privilege of the writ of habeas data to Veloso, the CA said Veloso was able to establish the existence of his right to informational privacy and show an actual or threatened violation of his right to privacy in life, liberty or security.

It also rejected the government’s defense that the documents involved matters of national security.

“…[W]hile there is no universally-accepted definition of national security, there are generally-accepted principles attached to it — mainly, that it is related to the protection of a nation’s existence, its territorial integrity, and its national sovereignty against the use or threat of force, such as a military threat or attempts to violently overthrow the government,” it said.

“The documents and information that pertained to the petitioner and which were provided by the respondents to the Court hardly hurdle the above standards. They merely related to the petitioner’s purported involvement in illegal drug trade. There is nothing therein that could have affected or potentially affect the territorial integrity or national sovereignty of the country,” it explained.

The same court had earlier ruled in October last year that Veloso’s right to informational privacy was violated because he was not informed of, nor was given the chance to refute the information gathered about him by government agencies.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

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DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION'S LOSSES AT CA

The CA ruling granting Veloso the privilege of the writ of habeas data was penned by CA Justice Apolinario Bruselas, Jr., who had also junked the revived rebellion case vs ex-Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in March.

Bruselas, incidentally, is vying for a Supreme Court post, where the President makes appointments.

A third CA ruling, penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon, affirmed the ruling of a Makati court dismissing the coup d’etat charge against Trillanes and denying the Duterte administration’s bid to arrest him after the President revoked his amnesty in 2018.