MANILA—The wife of murdered lawyer Ben Ramos expressed disappointment over the absence of the 7 generals that the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) impleaded in their plea for protection against state agents pending before the Court of Appeals (CA).
The NUPL had filed a petition for a writ of amparo and habeas data against Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Council director Hermogenes Esperon, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, deputy chief of staff for civil military operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, and 3 other generals, accusing them of imposing a policy of threats and red-tagging against the lawyers’ group.
The other generals are deputy commander for intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Intelligence Service chief Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri and Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto.
All 7 generals were a no-show during Thursday’s hearing despite having been required to attend by the CA Special 15th Division during the previous hearing last month, which they also missed.
Instead, Lorenzana was represented by a lawyer and the others by AFP Judge Advocate General Serme Legaspi Ayuyao.
“Disappointed kasi, bakit, takot ba silang magpakita sa amin para marinig 'yung mga kuwento namin, marinig 'yung case. Nakaka-disappoint na wala sila,” Clarisa Ramos told reporters after the hearing on Thursday afternoon.
(I’m disappointed. Are they afraid of showing up to hear our statements? I’m very disappointed they were not here.)
Clarisa was called to the witness stand to affirm the contents of her judicial affidavit, where she described the various threats her husband received since he started handling public interest cases as a member of NUPL.
Among them are the inclusion of her husband’s photo in a poster tagging Ben as part of “CNN personalities” – CNN for Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples’ Army and National Democratic Front; threatening text messages; and military assets and agents allegedly taking photos and videos of Ben while speaking at forums.
She said her husband was also identified in an internal security operations orientation as secretary-general of NUPL in September 2018.
Two months later, Ben was gunned down in Negros Occidental on Nov. 6, shot in his abdomen, chest and thigh by 2 men riding a motorcycle.
“Masyadong deliberate, systematic 'yung pag-attack kay Ben saka sa NUPL doon,” she told reporters.
(The attacks on Ben and NUPL were deliberate and systematic.)
Clarisa said her husband’s death had something to do with cases he handled, which involved military personnel. Among the cases Ben handled were those of the Sagay 9 massacre, Mabinay 6 and Grace Delicano, which took place months before his death.
The generals’ absence, according to Clarisa, shows how little they regard the case.
“Parang di nila tiningnan na importante 'yung kaso ng NUPL na finile. So 'yun, talagang disappointed ako na wala sila,” she added.
(It’s as if they didn’t give importance to the case that the NUPL filed against them. I’m really disappointed they’re not here.)
Clarisa’s lawyer, Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center, expressed regret over the generals’ absence.
“This is an opportunity sana for the respondents to confront the witnesses against them kasi 'yun 'yung allegations sa kanila . . . Kaya lang by waiving their appearance, they missed the chance na sagutin 'yung mga allegations against them,” she said.
(This would have been an opportunity for the respondents to confront the witnesses against them . . . But by waiving their appearance, they missed the chance to answer the allegations.)
The Office of the Solicitor General told CA justices that the generals are waiving their appearance for the entire trial, a move Pastores is contesting, insisting the court can always require the generals’ presence.
She acknowledged it is the respondents’ call whether or not they will put the generals on the stand.
Pastores is confident that despite the recent dismissal of rights group Karapatan’s similar writ of amparo and habeas data petition, the NUPL’s petition will stand.
The CA 14th Division junked Karapatan’s plea because it failed to present substantial evidence. It had earlier prevented the group from presenting witnesses because of the absence of judicial affidavits.
“Masaya kami dahil nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon na mag-present ng aming witnesses hindi katulad du'n sa nangyari sa Karapatan,” Pastores said.
(We’re happy because we were given the chance to present our witnesses, unlike what happened to Karapatan.)
“Sana kami ay madinig at ma-consider 'yung plea ng mga lawyers na sila ay hayaang makapag-practice sa kanilang chosen field of practice at hindi ma-subject sa threats sa kanilang buhay, sa kanilang security at sa kanilang liberty,” she added.
(We hope the court will hear and consider the plea of lawyers to allow them to practice their chosen field of practice and not be subjected to threats to their lives, security and liberty.)