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Rights group calls on high court to protect rights defenders ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL

29 April 2021

MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan once again asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals decision which rejected its petition for writ of amparo and habeas data in 2019.

The group filed their second manifestation with the Supreme Court last Monday, April 26.

In a statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay asked the SC to immediately resolve their petition and grant them legal protection, “considering its recent statement on attacks (against) 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.”

In May 2019, Karapatan, together with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela, filed a petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data.

The petition was granted by the SC but in June 2019, the appellate court dismissed the petition claiming that it did not conform with the requirements of the rules of the writs of amparo and habeas data.

The court claims that 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.”

The danger is real

The group filed the petition for review in July 2019 at the SC. The next year, human rights worker Zara Alvarez was killed. She was scheduled to stand witness on the petition of Karapatan amid continuing attacks against rights workers. This prompted Karapatan to file their first manifestation with the high court on September 1, 2020.

In its second manifestation, the group stressed that the SC should revisit the CA ruling as their leaders and members continue to experience judicial harassment, threats, and red-tagging by military and police authorities, including those perpetrated by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson and Southern Luzon Command chief Antonio Parlade Jr.

Karapatan also cited trumped-up charges filed against several human rights defenders from Karapatan including 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 Renaly Tejero and Southern Tagalog paralegal Nimfa Lanzanas, arbitrarily arrested during the March 7 “Bloody Sunday” police and military raids against activists in the region.

They also cited the perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon against the officers of Karapatan in retaliation to the group’s petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data where Esperon is named as a respondent.

“The service of highly questionable search warrants has authorized law enforcers to intrude upon the homes and offices of human rights defenders in order to plant false evidence of crimes and cause their unlawful arrest,” the group stated in the manifestation.

It added that “In remote areas, trumped-up criminal cases have also cropped up and have been filed 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.”

The group said that Parlade’s statements against their organization are among the “alarming developments” that warrant the SC’s action 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’s right to life, liberty and security.”

They said that the extrajudicial killings, red-tagging, terrorist-labeling, and other forms of harassment against human rights workers affiliated with Karapatan have not relented even after the killings of their colleagues such as Alvarez.


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