Karapatan on Duterte's plan to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus

“Amid reports of violations of human and people’s rights, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is treading on dangerous ground with his plan to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.  Such suspension can be conveniently used by the military and police as justification for more abuses,” stated Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, today after Duterte’s remarks over the week-end. 

“As it is, the GRP is already violating its own unilateral ceasefire declaration with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines by continuing the implementation of Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. Suspension of the writ of habeas corpus opens the door for more indiscriminate and blatant human rights abuses by state security forces including paramilitary units,” Palabay added. 

Paraphrasing a human rights lawyer, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy that requires that a person deprived of liberty (usually through an arrest or abduction) must be physically produced in court and the custodian must justify or prove that there is legal basis for the act. If the legal basis is not established, the victim is immediately set free.   
If the privilege is suspended, this legal remedy becomes unavailable and the victim of abduction or arrest remains missing or incarcerated.

“Furthermore, there is no legal ground for the suspension since Section 15 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution specifies that ‘the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it’,” explains Palabay. 

Karapatan recalls that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 preceeded the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972.  Among those arrested after the writ was suspended were Philippine College of Commerce (PCC) President Dr. Nemesio Prudente, Prof. Teodosio Lansang, trade union leader Rodolfo del Rosario, radio commentator Roger Arienda, and then Kabataang Makabayan National Secretary Reynaldo Rimando. 

In the first four months of the Duterte administration, from July to October 2016, Karapatan documented 20 victims of political killings, 20 of frustrated killings, and 27 of illegal arrest and detention, among others perpetrated by the AFP and paramilitary groups. At least 15 political prisoners were arrested and are still detained based on trumped up criminal charges. “Cases of threats and harassment were also documented in communities where military troops are continuously deployed in line with the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. Pres. Duterte should hold his attack dogs on a leash,” she said.  

“Pres. Duterte should be warned that the people will oppose any move to resurrect any Marcosian practice,” Palabay concluded.###