Military says 'no basis' for amparo petition for missing activists

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2022 01:23 AM

Activists’ kin not buying military’s ’blanket denial’

MANILA — The Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard the writ of amparo petition filed by the families of 2 missing activists allegedly abducted by members of the military.

Petitioners presented 2 witnesses — Rutsi Manglalan, the partner of Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua,” and Maureen Juat, the daughter of Alipio “Ador” Juat.

Loi and Ador, both labor activists, were last seen attending a meeting of Kilusang Mayo Uno in Valenzuela City on May 3.

While Ador was able to call and visit some of his family members for some time, there was no information as to the whereabouts of Loi.

Ador himself also ceased communicating or visiting his daughters, prompting them to file a petition for protection from the Supreme Court which, among others, also seeks to compel security and intelligence forces to surface the missing activists and authorize the search of 2 military camps in Quezon City and Nueva Ecija.

During Tuesday’s hearing, both witnesses testified as to the circumstances of the disappearance of the 2 activists.

Their lawyer, Armando Teodoro of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, said government lawyers from the Office of the Solicitor General tried to discredit the testimony of the witnesses but they stuck to their statements.

“Buong-buo yung testimonya ng witness lalo na si Maureen. Damang-dama yung kung paano niya inilahad yung kanyang circumstances kung paano nawawala yung kanyang tatay…Nakakasagot siya ng diretso,” he said.

MILITARY’S DENIAL

In contrast, the military supposedly denied having any information about the 2 missing activists, according to lawyer Minerva Lopez of Gabriela Legal Services, who also represents the petitioners.

But Lopez said the “general denial” fell short of the standard for denying allegations in writ of amparo cases.

“Sa cases for writ of amparo, a requirement for public officers is for them to prove extraordinary diligence and what is extraordinary diligence? Ito yung, one, nag-conduct sila ng thorough inquiry at investigation. And second, na meron silang ginawa to address and to protect life, liberty and security ng mga nawawala,” she said.

ABS-CBN News tried to get the side of the military. But Judge Advocate General Serme Ayuyao, who represented the respondents, refused to grant any interview except to say “Wala namang basis” (there’s no basis).

“I think the proper one is the SolGen because they were the one who represented the respondent,” he said, referring to a representative of the OSG who also refused to comment saying he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the OSG.

Pressed for comment, Ayuyao said the matter is “sub judice” and cannot be discussed publicly.

None of the respondents — the heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of National Defense, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Philippine Army, and the intelligence and civil-military operations units of the AFP — were present on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court had earlier issued a writ of amparo and a temporary protection order prohibiting respondents from coming within a 1-kilometer radius of the petitioners and their immediate family.

NOT BUYING

The petitioners however were no longer surprised at the military’s denial.

“Hindi naman siya nakakagulat. Dati nang ganyan ang response nila sa lahat ng mga inaakusa sa kanila na human rights violations. Wala namang iba pang kukuha o magkakainteres na kunin sila,” Manglalan said shortly after the hearing.

Ador’s daughter, Maureen, meanwhile, appealed to whoever is holding her father to release him.

“Kung sino man yung nasa likod nito, maging militar man o pulis, nasa camp man siya o kung nasaan mang Crame siya, kung maaari lang po pakawalan niya na si Tatay. Pauwiin niyo na nang buo. Walang surveillance, walang kahit na ano. Free will. Yun lang yun,” she said.

Manglalan, for her part, is hanging on to a sliver of hope that her long-time partner Loi is still somewhere out there, waiting to be reunited with her.

“Hangga’t walang closure, hangga’t walang definitive na fact o makikitang ebidensya na wala na siya, patay na siya, one always hopes to see yung minamahal sa buhay,” she said.

Both parties are given until Friday to submit their respective memoranda.

The Court of Appeals, meanwhile, has 10 days from Tuesday’s hearing to render a ruling.

Petitioners are hoping that the timing of the hearing — on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances — will somehow be providential in their bid to be reunited with their missing loved ones.

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