SC asked to reverse CA decision on Karapatan’s plea for writs of amparo, habeas data

In its second manifestation filed today at the Supreme Court (SC) appealing the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ (CA) dismissal of its petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data, human rights watchdog Karapatan cited the judicial harassment, threats, and continuing red-tagging of itsleaders and members by military and police authorities, including National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson and Southern Luzon Command chief Antonio Parlade Jr., as among the urgent reasons why the SC should revisit the CA ruling.

The manifestation was submitted nearly two years after Karapatan, together with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela, filed the petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data at the SC. Karapatan said that in June 2019, the CA perfunctorily and summarily dismissed their petitions. In July 2019, the group filed for apetition for review of the CA’s decision at the SC. After the killing of Zara Alvarez, Karapatan filed its first manifestation to the SC on September 1, 2020.

In its second manifestation, Karapatan, in asking the High Court to urgently resolve its petition, said that before it is too late, the SC should “act swiftly to protect the rights of human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

“It has been nearly two years since we filed apetition for legal protection against State-perpetrated rights violations. We once again ask the Supreme Court to immediately resolve our petition and togrant us legal protection, considering its recent statement on attacks and lawyers and judges and possible amendment of relevant rules or creation of new ones and the increasingly dangerous environment for our human rights workers who contribute substantially in the work of human rights lawyers,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay urged.

Karapatan also cited the recent cases of attacks against several human rights defenders from Karapatan,including those involving its National Chairperson Elisa “Tita” Lubi; Jayvee“Jay” Apiag, secretary-general for Southern Mindanao; Daisy “Jackie” Valencia, regional council member for Cagayan Valley; Caraga paralegal Renalyn Tejero and Southern Tagalog paralegal Nimfa Lanzanas, who was arbitrarily arrested during the March 7 “Bloody Sunday” police and military raids against activists in the region. The rights group also cited the “trumped-up” perjury case filed byNational Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon against its officers in retaliation to the group’s petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data where Esperon is named as a respondent.

The group stated that “the service of highly questionable search warrants has authorized lawenforcers to intrude upon the homes and offices of human rights defenders inorder to plant false evidence of crimes and cause their unlawful arrest. In remote areas, trumped-up criminal cases have also cropped up and have beenfiled in courts without Petitioner’s members being afforded due process during preliminary investigation.” They also lamented that “human rights violations have intensified with impunity, especially with the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act.”

Karapatan like cited statements of NTF-ELCAC’s Parlade against the organization as among the “alarming developments” that warrant the SC’s actions to “revisit its view of red-tagging and terrorist-labeling and to see the same for what they truly are: imminent and actual threats to the people’sright to life, liberty and security.”

“To this day, the extrajudicial killings, red-tagging, terrorist-labeling, and other forms of harassment of human rights workers affiliated with Karapatan that had occurred prior to the murders of Bernardino Patigas on April 22, 2019, Nelly Bagasala and Ryan Hubilla on June15, 2019, and Zara Alvarez on August 17, 2020 have not relented,” Karapatan stated in its latest Manifestation.

“Because of the clear pattern of State-perpetrated attacks – vilification, filing of fabricated cases, and brutal killings, the Supreme Court should act swiftly, before a killing of another Zara Alvarez happens,” Palabay concluded.