The Supreme Court, in a special En Banc session held on Friday, issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
The Court also referred the petition of NUPL, et al. to the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals, who was directed to cause the immediate raffle of the said case among the appellate justices. The CA was further directed to hear the petition on May 14, 2019 and to decide the case within 10 days after submission of the case for decision.
The Court also ordered respondents President Rodrigo Duterte, who was impleaded in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Security Adviser (Ret.) Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., et al. 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.
In its petition, NUPL, et al. sought for the issuance of the writ of amparo and habeas data for their protection, claiming that their rights to life, liberty and security have been violated and continue to be violated through the persistent threats and harassment and red tagging allegedly done to vilify and intimidate them and prevent them from pursuing their profession as members of the Bar and from practicing their advocacy as peoples’ lawyers serving the poor and the marginalized. They claimed that some NUPL members have died in the line of duty.
The petitioners are likewise asking the Court to compel the respondents, under the writ of habeas data, to provide them with copies of all the facts, information, statements, records, photographs, and other evidence, documentary or otherwise, pertaining to each of them in the respondents’ files and records.
In particular, NUPL alleged that it was branded as an “enemy” by the Philippine Army in 2013. In 2014, NUPL-Vice President Atty. Catherine Salucon allegedly experienced heavy surveillance and harassment and that her paralegal, William Bugatti, was killed hours after they had parted ways after a court hearing. In 2018, NUPL-Negros Secretary General Atty. Benjamin Ramos was killed in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. They cited other several incidents of threats, harassment and intimidation due to their work and advocacy.
Also named as respondents were National Defense Secretary (Ret.) Gen. Delfin N. Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr., AFP Deputy Commander for Intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando T. Trinidad, AFP Intelligence Service of the Philippines (ISAFP) Chief Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, and AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Maj. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr.
(G.R. 246175, NUPL, et al. v. President Duterte, et al., May 3, 2019)