By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The 14th Division of the Court of Appeals dismissed the petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela, June 28.
In the decision penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez, the appellate court said “there is no substantial evidence to establish the petitioners’ allegations.”
The court argued, “The similarity between the circumstances attending the alleged killings such as victims receiving death threats before they were shutdown (sic) by unidentified assailants does not carry sufficient weight to prove that the government orchestrated such murder and abduction.”
In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the CA’s decision “is a gross disservice to all human rights defenders of Karapatan who have been killed and to those who continue to remain in the line of fire.”
“In doing so, the appellate court has refused protection for defenders at risk. This is tantamount to complicity on the attacks perpetrated against us,” she said.
According to Karapatan, 145 activists have been killed since Duterte assumed office until March this year. The three organizations filed the petitions with the Supreme Court May 6 amid the relentless red tagging by military officials, and death threats and harassment perpetrated against human rights defenders.
Palabay said that she was not at all surprised, noting that the CA justices did not allow the petitioners to present testimonial evidence and other documents to prove their allegations in the June 18 hearing. On that day, the court held a three-hour summary hearing and heard the arguments of both parties on procedural and substantive issues related to the petition.
Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said he was disappointed when the CA justices refused to consider their testimonies.
In its decision, the CA said the petition did not conform with the requirements of the rules of the writs of amparo and habeas data. The court said the petition does not contain material facts, and the circumstances of the persons responsible and how the violation or threat is committed are not adequately described.
“They intend to rule by mere technicality while the issue encompasses beyond this. The threats to the lives, liberty and security of human rights defenders should not be assessed by mere technicalities, but also in consideration of the strong and compelling testimonies from the ground. Do they fear our voices?” Clamor said.
Clamor further said, “To say that there is no evidence of killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and all attacks is mere parroting of the respondents’ line. It is as if the CA is acknowledging the attacks but absolving the government’s role in all of it.”
The CA also maintained that there is no evidence to show that the respondents violated or threatened the right to privacy of the petitioners. “The distribution of propaganda materials like posters, flyers and tarpaulins relative to the petitioners’ alleged ties with the CPP and NPA cannot be simply ascribed to the respondents,” the decision read.
Lawyers of the petitioners from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also decried earlier that the CA did not conduct preliminary conference, which they said was a deviation from previous cases of amparo petitions they handled.
Palabay said that they will continue to exhaust all legal processes to appeal and overturn the decision.
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.