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AFP respects SC grant of writ of amparo, habeas data to NUPL

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) respects the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) granting a writ of amparo and habeas data to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), one of the progressive groups that claimed being "red-tagged" by the military.

"We take notice through a news report that the Supreme Court has resolved to issue the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data and thereupon referred the case to the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals to hear the petition," AFP spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a message to reporters late Friday.

He added that this a prerogative of the SC and that the AFP is an institution that submits to the rule of law and bows don to the majesty of the courts.

"This is not yet the decision on the merits of the case but the procedures of the writs," Arevalo said.

He added that the military is committed to tell the truth when the time comes to present their side and will present the pieces of evidences that will readily dismiss the allegations made by the NUPL.

"We have communicated with the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) as our statutory counsel and prepared the refutations of all the baseless claims of NUPL," he added.

Arevalo, however, maintained the AFP is the protector of the people and the state, and that national security is of paramount interest.

In a special en banc session on Friday, the High Court issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of the NUPL.

It also referred the petition of NUPL to the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals (CA) 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 and to decide the case within 10 days after submission of the case for decision.

The SC 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, and to comment on NUPL's petition before the said date.

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 Major Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, and AFP Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations Major Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr.

In its petition, NUPL 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.

The petitioners likewise asked 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.

President Duterte, on Dec. 4, 2018, signed a ‘whole-of-nation‘ Executive Order 70 that formed the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which would work out a mechanism to help end the decades-old communist group by harmonizing “the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and [conflict]-vulnerable communities” and facilitating societal inclusivity. (PNA)

Priam Nepomuceno / PNA