MANILA - The Supreme Court has granted the request of a group of human rights lawyers for protection against alleged threats and intimidation from state security forces.
In a special en banc session Friday, the high court issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), its public information office said in a statement.
A writ of amparo is a remedy available to a person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened to be violated by a public official or a private entity.
A writ of habeas data covers the same threat or violations but by those who gather, collect or store the data of the aggrieved party.
The court also ordered the respondents, among them President Rodrigo Duterte, the commander-in-chief, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., to "make a verified return of the writ of amparo and habeas data on or before May 8, 2019, and to comment on NUPL, et al.’s petition before the said date."
The high court also referred the plea to the Court of Appeals, who was told to immediately raffle the case to a handling sala. The SC said the appellate court should hold a hearing on May 14 and decide on the case within 10 days after its submission for decision.
NUPL members, in a petition filed on April 15, had claimed their lives are in danger because of statements linking them to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
The group's petition cited statements made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, who allegedly tagged the lawyers' group as part of the international network of communist rebel groups.
The government considers the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations.
The plea also cited a statement by the President lumping lawyers together with their clients who are drug lords.
In a statement, the NUPL said the court's decision "sends a strong and clear signal to the military and government officials."
"That there are certain well-defined rules of evidence not incompatible with basic fairness, decency, common sense and logic that must be observed," it said.
NUPL President Edre Olalia added: "It is a first positive and significant step in the process to determine whether our prayers should be granted in the end." -- With reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News