Karapatan: Dismissal of amparo petition is a gross disservice to all human rights defenders who continue to face perilous condit

On June 28, 2019, 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.

“The dismissal of our petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data is a gross disservice to all the 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,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

 

Palabay said that the groups will continue to exhaust all legal processes to appeal and overturn the decision.

 

Prior to the decision, the Court of Appeals 14th Division held a three-hour summary hearing on the petitions for the writs of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, RMP, and Gabriela on June 18, 2019. The CA justices disallowed the petitioners to present testimonial evidence and other documents to prove the allegations and incidents cited in the petition. On June 28, ten days later, the appellate court dismissed the petitions filed by the said groups.

 

“The result is deplorable, but not altogether surprising. In the June 18 hearing, even as we were set to submit our judicial affidavits and additional documentary evidence after what should have been the preliminary conference, the denial of our counsel’s plea to include our testimonies was already telling. The Court will not be disadvantaged in any way if they hear our testimonies, but they nonetheless chose to ignore it. In that instance, we felt like they were acting as legal counsels of the respondents, instead of impartial adjudicators,” the Karapatan official recalled.

 

The decision of the appellate court, dated June 28, conceded that petitioners Karapatan, RMP, and Gabriela all have legal standing to file the said petitions and are not forum shopping, contrary to what the respondents are alleging. However, it struck down the petition on the basis of technicalities, particularly that the petition did not conform to the requirements and rules on the filing of the writs and that substantial evidence on several allegations raised were not established.

 

“As one of the petitioners, I was disappointed when the CA justices refused to consider our testimonies. 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?” asked Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor.   

 

Clamor further added that “we are seriously contesting this decision. 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. Referring to our petition as “amorphous and uncertain”, “having no probative value”, or “not carrying sufficient weight” is designed to delegitimize and whitewash the very real threats experienced by rights defenders.

 

Certainly, the pronouncements and policies of respondents Duterte et al. gave rise to the grim situation that we are all steeped in.”

 

“As the CA moved to dismiss our petition, the crooks behind this elaborate plan would say that there was never a threat against us, conveniently omitting the fact that we were deprived of the chance to fully air our side. What is the point of going through a democratic process if there is already a pre-agreed result? We give the courts the benefit of the doubt. However, if they never meant to hear us out, if they are in cahoots with the military, if they merely wanted to tire us out and use the decision to delegitimize our cause and realities, then there is no honor in the “honorable” court. We certainly hope personal ambitions were not entangled in all of this because lives are on the line,” Palabay concluded.

 

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