MANILA - The Supreme Court has junked the plea for protective writs filed by the parents of an allegedly “missing” activist after it found that she was not missing after all.
In a decision dated September 15 penned by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, the high court dismissed the petition for the issuance of writs of amparo and habeas corpus filed by Francis and Relissa Lucena, the parents of the supposedly missing activist, Alicia Jasper Lucena, for lack of merit and for asking the wrong remedy.
A writ of amparo protects a person from threats or violations to life, liberty and security committed by a public official or employee or by a private individual or entity, while a writ of habeas corpus compels respondents to present the illegally-detained person in court.
The Lucena couple had claimed their daughter was brainwashed by leftist group Anakbayan into joining their organization and could not have given her consent because she was not yet 18 years old.
But the Court said the writ of amparo is currently confined to cases of extralegal killings or enforced disappearances, which is not the case with AJ.
“AJ is not missing and her whereabouts are determinable and is staying with the Anakbayan and its officers,” the SC Public Information Office said in a press statement, citing the SC ruling. SC has yet to provide a full copy of the decision.
SC also clarified that a writ of habeas corpus is only proper in cases of illegal confinement or detention or where the rightful custody of any person is withheld, which it said was not the case here.
“Since the petitioner’s daughter has already attained the age of majority, which is 18 years old, AJ, in the eyes of the State, has earned the right to make independent choices with respect to the places where she wants to stay, as well as to the persons whose company she wants to keep,” the court said.
The parents of AJ, represented by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and assisted by the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) filed the petition in May naming as respondents Anakbayan leaders Alex Danday, Jayroven Balais, Chary Delos Reyes and Bianca Gasos, as well as Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and lawyer Maria Kristina Conti.
In response to the petition, the respondents included an affidavit earlier submitted by AJ herself before the Department of Justice, where kidnapping and other raps were also filed against some of the respondents by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), also assisted by the NTF-ELCAC.
“Hindi ako ‘missing.’ Umalis ako talaga sa bahay dahil hindi ko na kinakaya ang ginagawa niyang pang-aabuso, pagkulong at pangre-repress sa akin," AJ was quoted as saying in her affidavit.
In her affidavit, AJ turned the tables on her parents, accusing them of detaining her twice.
AJ also appeared at a press conference at the House of Representatives in August 2019 to refute her mother’s claims at a Senate hearing a week earlier.
Her supposed disappearance became the subject of a Senate investigation.
Activists have accused the NTF-ELCAC of exploiting a family matter to go after leftist groups.
NTF-ELCAC announced the filing of the petition and the release of the SC show cause order on its Facebook page in May.
No less than National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice-chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. touted the show cause order as a "milestone against the ongoing campaign against communist terrorists."
The respondents complied with the show cause order and 4 months after, the high court junked the petition.
The respondents had also sought to hold Topacio in contempt of court for “bringing a manifestly inane and palpably frivolous suit that is completely bereft of merit."
The Supreme Court has yet to disclose how it resolved this issue.