“We reiterate that activism and the full exercise of our civil and political rights is not a crime. While we continue with our everyday human rights work, we are also resolute in our commitment to see this through.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The Supreme Court granted the petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data filed by human rights alliance Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in an en banc session, May 24.
The groups have sought protection from the high court on May 6 citing the “intensifying attacks on their members” ranging from death threats, surveillance, red tagging and vilification to killings.
The petition for a writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity. It covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof. The writ of habeas data, meanwhile, 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, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.
The high court directed President Rodrigo Duterte and military respondents to file their comment to the petition before June 13. It also ordered the Court of Appeals to hear the petition on June 18, and to resolve the case within ten days after the case is deemed for decision.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay welcomed the decision. “The Court has seen the merit of our petition, and we see this as an acknowledgment of the perilous environment that human rights defenders work in.”
According to Karapatan’s documentation, 58 human rights workers of Karapatan have been subjected to extrajudicial killings, 7 of which were killed under the Duterte regime. This includes Elisa Badayos, coordinator of Karapatan Central Visayas, Mariam Acob, paralegal of Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance, Atty. Benjamin Ramos of Karapatan-Negros, and Bernardino Patigas of Karapatan-Negros.
“We reiterate that activism and the full exercise of our civil and political rights is not a crime. While we continue with our everyday human rights work, we are also resolute in our commitment to see this through,” she said.
Other respondents include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Maj. Gen. Erwin Neri, Lt. Gen. Macairog Sabiniano Alberto, NICA Director Gen. Alex Paul Monteagudo, Deputy Dir. Gen. Vicente Agdamag, Senior Supt. Omega Jireh Fidel, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., Executive Director Jole Sy Egco, Undersecretary Severo Catura, and PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.
Palabay said the high court’s decision is “a reminder to the government that sectors and defenders under attack, despite the orchestrated bullying, will find ways to demand and exact accountability.”
Karapatan National Chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi said that even as the Duterte administration has poured effort, resources and time into undermining their work, they will always assert their right to continue human rights advocacy.
“As they attack us from all fronts, we fight back in the same persistent and determined manner,” Lubi said.
On May 3, the SC also issued writ of amparo and habeas data for the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).