Lawyers' group appeals CA amparo dismissal to Supreme Court

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2019 07:59 AM

MANILA – The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has asked the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ dismissal of its plea for protection from alleged threats to its members’ lives, liberty and security supposedly by state security agents led by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

NUPL filed a petition for review Monday, urging the high court to reverse the CA ruling and instead issue in favor of the lawyers’ group and some of its officers and members the privilege of the writ of amparo and habeas data.

The appellate court, on July 26, junked the lawyers’ group’s petition citing lack of substantial evidence of alleged violations or threats of violations of rights to life, liberty and security.

The ruling also said there was no evidence of President Duterte’s involvement in the alleged violations.

“How many more lives, Your Honors?” the group asked the high court, noting that a human rights lawyer in Negros was killed shortly after the CA decision.

“If members of the bar cannot avail of these legal remedies, what more for the ordinary victims of state-sponsored violence and impunity. As members of the bar, we do not only serve justice, we also seek it. We do not seek protection for ourselves alone; we seek protection so we can perform our sworn duty to serve our clients effectively,” the group said.

Refuting the CA’s findings, NUPL enumerated numerous incidents of alleged threats experienced by its officers and members.

Among them:

-the inclusion of NUPL President Edre Olalia, NUPL Chair Neri Colmenares and other members in the Oust-Duterte matrix

-the tagging by the military of NUPL officers as supporters and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA)

-harassment allegedly suffered by NUPL officers and members in the hands of the military

The group also claimed that NUPL itself has been identified as a CPP front by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Major General Antonio Parlade Jr, one of the respondents in the amparo petition.

This red-tagging, the group said, could be linked to the threats to its members, even the death of lawyer Ben Ramos, secretary-general of NUPL-Negros Oriental, who was gunned down in November last year.

“[P]etitioners have sufficiently shown that red-tagging is a serious threat to the named or identified officers, at the least, of the NUPL. It was a very serious and direct threat to the life of Atty. Ramos, secretary-general of NUPL-Negros Oriental; his death was reasonably resultant of such red-tagging,” it argued, adding that the threat to the security of an organization necessarily implies threats to its members.

NUPL also questioned CA’s dropping of President Duterte from the case, citing the President’s own words threatening to kill NPA members and shoot female rebels in the vagina, as well as threats to human rights activists and critics of his drug war.

The CA had said that petitioners failed to prove that the President’s intention to kill suspected NPA members and communists was directed to them and that he had actual involvement or knowledge of the complained acts.

According to the lawyers’ group, the President is not just liable for his acts but also for his omissions or failure to “fully investigate and prosecute the killings of lawyers,” noting that 36 lawyers have been killed during the Duterte administration.

The group also wants to hold the President accountable due to command responsibility because of his role in formulating and implementing an “all-out war policy” against progressive organizations, political activists and perceived supporters of CPP-NPA.

“[T]o be linked to the CPP-NPA, considered an enemy of the state, is, for petitioners, equivalent to a carte blanche authority to state forces to “neutralize” them without due regard to their rights. To be considered a combatant, in the context of war, is to be a target in deadly counter-insurgency operations,” NUPL said.

“The continued vilification, harassment and threats to the lives, security and liberty of the petitioners by any act of the respondents, including but not limited to issuing public statements maligning and vilifying the petitioners and their activities as human rights lawyers must STOP NOW. We ask Your Honors to stand by your lawyers,” it added.

The dismissal of NUPL’s amparo petition follows the junking by the CA of a similar amparo and habeas data petition filed by rights groups Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines also due to failure to present substantial evidence.

They were not allowed to present witnesses because no judicial affidavits were attached to the petition.

Karapatan has appealed the dismissal to the SC.