MANILA – The Office of the Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to junk the petition for writs of amparo and habeas data filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), claiming the petition is nothing but a “frantic and desperate cry for undue attention.”
“[T]his case is not calibrated to exact justice, but merely the posturing of rabid causelessness. It should not be dignified,” the OSG said in its 44-page Return of the Writ filed on Wednesday in response to the high court’s order requiring respondents to comment on NUPL’s petition.
OSG filed the return on behalf of respondents President Rodrigo Duterte, national security adviser and National Security Council director Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, deputy commander for intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Intelligence Service chief Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, and AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade.
Petitioners NUPL and some of its member-lawyers had claimed, in their petition filed in April, that their lives and security are in danger because of statements linking them to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), and depicting them as terrorists.
They urged the high court to issue a writ of amparo, a remedy available to a person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened to be violated whether by a public official or a private individual or entity.
But the OSG said petitioners failed to allege facts that show respondents committed acts constituting enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings or threats to commit these acts.
“These alleged threats are, however, a mere amalgamation of facts based on newspaper clippings and unverified statements, threats more imagined than real, and exaggerated to create the ghost of a cause of action,” the OSG said.
It also invoked the president’s immunity from suit.
The OSG noted that the basis of some of the petitioners for seeking protection from the high court is mere membership in the NUPL, which is not enough to warrant the issuance of a writ of amparo.
It scored petitioners for relying on newspaper clippings and a report of an international NGO, without attaching a copy, as proof of their claim of attacks and threats against their lawyers.
NUPL had said that since July 2016 or in less than 3 years, at least 36 lawyers have been killed (including 2 judges and 6 prosecutors) and 4 have survived attempts on their lives. These figures almost equal the 57 lawyers attacked and 43 killed over a 15-year period from 2001 to 2015.
“[E]ven if such report exists, there is no evidence to show that it is reliable and accurate,” the OSG argued.
“Even assuming without admitting that the numbers given by Petitioners are accurate, it merely displays that lawyering as a profession carries a certain risk not exclusive to NUPL members, but the whole of the Bench and the Bar,” it added, insisting no specific acts were attributed to respondents.
The OSG also invoked a provision under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo prohibiting the filing of a petition if a criminal case had been previously filed. Three of the petitioners, it said, already filed criminal cases.
The OSG also claimed NUPL’s plea for a writ of habeas data was a mere afterthought. A writ of habeas data requires respondents to disclose all information they might have on petitioners and to order them to destroy their databases, if necessary.
“[A]ny supposed threat to Petitioners’ right to privacy in life, liberty and security lack corroborations and are not supported by independent and credible evidence,” it said.
“In sum, this Petition is utterly bereft of merit that deserves an outright dismissal,” the OSG said.