MANILA — Relatives of 2 allegedly abducted activists on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to issue a special protection order for their missing kin, encouraged by a recent Supreme Court ruling.
The families of Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua and Alipio “Ador” Juat filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo on Wednesday, asking the high court for protection from violations or threatened violations of their rights to life, liberty and security, allegedly from members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Petitioners accused the AFP of being behind Magbanua’s and Juat’s disappearance. Both are labor organizers and members of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) who last attended a meeting in Valenzuela on May 3.
Named as respondents are the heads of the AFP, the Department of National Defense, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Philippine Army as well as the heads of the intelligence and civil-military operations units of the AFP.
Aside from a temporary protection order, they also asked for an order to inspect the premises of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija in the hopes of locating the two, and to compel that they “be surfaced and returned safely and immediately…”
Among the petitioners is Magbanua’s long-time partner, Rutsi Manglalan, who last heard from Magbanua that she was on her way to attend the May 3 meeting.
“Mahirap na mawala sa piling ng taong minamahal niya at hindi niya alam kung ano nang nangyayari lalo’t nasa kamay siya ng mga alam mong hindi naman magiging mabait sa kanya,” she told the media during the filing of the petition.
“Ang panawagan namin sa Supreme Court na i-grant nila yung aming writ of amparo at dine-demand namin sa Armed Forces of the Philippines na ilitaw na nila si Loi at si Ador,” she added.
While there were no information on the whereabouts of Magbanua, Juat was supposedly able to visit one of his children thrice and make some calls for the past few months since their alleged abduction.
It was during these visits and calls when he was supposedly able to confirm to her daughters that he and Magbanua were abducted by men on board two vehicles shortly after their May 3 meeting.
Magbanua was allegedly taken to a different car while he boarded another vehicle and was taken to Camp Aguinaldo.
It is unclear why Juat was allowed to visit his children and make some calls but according to his chidlren, he acted strangely and refused their suggestion not to return to Camp Aguinaldo.
In the petition before the Supreme Court, Juat’s daughter Maureen claimed his father’s rights were violated.
“His daughters were correct to presume and conclude that even if he can sometimes visit one of them, he cannot do so freely upon his will. As both Petitioner Maureen and her sister Marielle assert, their father may have the freedom of mobility as he can leave Camp Aguinaldo but he is not actually free, because if he is indeed free to go where he wants to go, he would be out of Camp Aguinaldo and organizing workers as he used to do and as what he has been doing all his life,” the petition said.
'NOVEL' ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE
Lawyer Minerva Lopez of Gabriela Legal Services said what happened to Juat is quite new but can still be considered a form of “enforced disappearance.”
“Basically it’s the same — taking or abducting somebody extrajudicially. Ngayon the difference is before, pagdinisapp(ear) ka, most of the time, di ka na talaga mag-aappear or walang contact sa relatives or members of the family. But dito sa case na to, medyo novel dahil isa sa mga na-disappear dito ay kumokontak doon sa family,” she said.
“Even if may ganun, we believe that nandun siya within the definition of enforced disappearance and violated pa rin ang right to liberty because they are not actually free,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the petition claimed a clear-cut case of enforced disappearance in the case of Magbanua.
“The continued disappearance of Loi (Magbanua) is a clear and an undisputable proof that her rights to life, liberty and security was already violated the moment that she was abducted and eventually ‘disappeared’ on 03 May 2022. The fact that she remains missing up to the filing of this Petition is proof that there is a continuing violation of these immutable rights,” it said.
Petitioners, with the help of the Commission on Human Rights, visited more than 10 detention facilities but could not they either refused to give information or sign inquiry forms.
They also went to about a dozen hospitals but could not find them.
It took petitioners 4 months of searching for the two before they finally decided to seek help from the Supreme Court.
RECENT SC AMPARO RULING
But a recent SC ruling announced on Tuesday is giving them hope.
The high court announced that it affirmed a writ of amparo issued by the Court of Appeals in favor of a widow whose husband was killed in 2016, during the early days of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
The widow had asked the Supreme Court to also issue a writ of amparo after several suspicious-looking men inquired about her whereabouts shortly after his husband’s death, which it considered "extra-legal."
The SC issued a temporary protection order and ordered the CA to conduct a hearing.
The CA then made the protection order permanent. It was this ruling that the high court affirmed.
For Lopez, the SC ruling is a positive development.
“Ako, personally and professionally, that’s a good signal. Tsaka sana, lalong-lalo na sa mga victims of human rights violations…Exactly the writ of amparo was promulgated to benefit the victims of human rights abuses so sana, sana pagbigyan ng court no at ma-grant, mabigyan ng privilege ng writ yung petitioners and also the aggrieved parties,” she said.
But for now, they hope that their petition would be included in the calendar for next Tuesday’s en banc session so the high court can finally consider their plea.