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CA rulings prove state lawyers hard at work: SolGen.

Militant groups have no one to blame but themselves after the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed separate petitions for writ of amparo and habeas data against President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials.

In a statement Wednesday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) described these decisions of the court as a victory, which "further proves that the OSG is constantly hard at work in all its cases, notwithstanding the misinformation of a select few".

The agency made the remarks in responding to critics, who cited its supposed backlog of cases.

The OSG added that in the case of the amparo petition filed by the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), "it is thus beyond cavil that the petition is merely for political theatrics meant to harass the Government, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, and his military generals, barren of any factual and legal bases".

It also pointed out that NUPL lawyers knew that this is the second time that the CA denied a similar case filed by left-leaning groups, led by Karapatan, against the president "for being devoid of any merit worthy of judicial consideration".

"The NUPL's allegation that there is a violent attack by state forces against the legal profession, as its member-lawyers are vilified and red-tagged, is proved to be far more imaginary than real. The Court of Appeals (CA) in its decision, ruled that despite the liberality afforded to petitioners in submitting the judicial affidavits of witnesses and other documentary evidence, and the fact that the state opted not to present any evidence, the petitioners miserably failed to discharge their burden of proof," the OSG added.

In a 26-page decision dated July 26 by Associate Justice Pedro Corales, the appellate court's Former Special Fifteenth Division denied the militant group's suit, stressing that the Court "cannot issue the privilege of the writ of habeas data when the grounds invoked in support of the petition are vague or doubtful".

Associate Justices Stephen C. Cruz and Germano D. Legaspi concurred.

The ruling said even without considering the immunity from suit of the Chief Executive, there is "(no) evidence of President (Rodrigo) Duterte's involvement in the alleged violations".

"We arduously examined the records and the evidence presented but found nothing that would point to a specific act committed by Pres. Duterte which violates or tends to violate petitioners' right to life, liberty or security, Petitioners (NUPL) failed to prove that the president's declaration of his intention to kill suspected NPA (New People's Army) members and communists was directed to them," the tribunal said.

The court, in its decision, said that while individual petitioners have locus standi (right to appear in a court), "NUPL has no legal standing to file the instant petition on behalf of its members" and underscored that there is no substantial evidence of alleged violations or threats of violations of rights to life, liberty and security.

The writ of habeas data will not be issued on purely property or commercial concerns, or "when the grounds invoked in support of the petition are vague and doubtful."

The CA added and explained that "as the writ of amparo is sought individually and granted individually, the Court is tasked to assess the situations of the petitioners individually, rather than lumping together various individual experiences which may produce an inaccurate and misleading impression of merit."

"In this case, petitioners failed to show how their right to privacy was violated given that their names, membership and particular position in or affiliation with NUPL, their photographs, and even the locations of their offices are already of public knowledge and readily accessible even to civilians," the CA explained.

The petitioners, the CA noted, "are known personalities often featured in news reports."

"There is also no evidence that respondents are keeping records of investigations and other reports about the petitioners or their alleged ties with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA. At the point of being repetitive, petitioners merely submitted copies of the flyers and posters with their photographs but failed to prove that respondents had access to such materials. The actions and recourses taken by the petitioners to secure the data including the location of files and the person in possession of the information are not also specified in contravention of the requirements under Sec. 6 of the rule on the writ of habeas data," it said.

The court also pointed out that the 500 or so NUPL members, for whom the special protection of the writ is sought and who remain completely unidentified in these proceedings, "have not even shown any cognizable manner by which they supposedly clothed NUPL, or its officers with authority to represent them before us".

'Strong points'

The tribunal also noted that the OSG, under Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Villanueva-Miranda, made a strong case in pointing out the shortcomings of the NUPL suit.

The OSG, for one, noted in the case that the alleged harassment to one of the petitioners happened before President Duterte's assumption of office and, in any event, the Chief Executive should be 'excluded from the case in view of his presidential immunity from suit.'

"The Office of the Solicitor General said the petitioners' failure to allege specific facts, attribute actual unlawful acts, threats or omissions to respondents, and attach supporting affidavits or otherwise substantiate their claims with independent and credible evidence,' the ruling stated.

The CA also noted that the Solgen pointed out that NUPL "failed to show that the purported (anti-communist) vandalism, flyers, posters, graffiti, or anonymous list were perpetrated by government agents, under government direction or with respondent's participation.'

The petition was originally filed last April 15 before the Supreme Court and was later remanded to the CA.

Aside from President Duterte, named respondents in the suit were National Security Adviser Gen. (Ret.) Hermogenes Esperon Jr.; Defense Secretary, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Delfin Lorenzana; Armed Forces of Philippine Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal; Armed Forces of Philippine Deputy Commander for Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad; ISAFP Chief, Maj. Gen. Erwin Neri; Phil. Army Commanding Gen., Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto; and Armed Forces of Philippine Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade.

NUPL accused the state security agencies of harassment and surveillance.

The group also complained of a vilification campaign against its members, including the printing of posters and leaflets identifying them as members and sympathizers as of Communist terrorist group. NUPL claimed it was first identified by the army as an enemy front organization in 2013.

Last February, the group also denounced a report identifying a certain Mario Laude, describing that National Democratic Front negotiator Fidel Agcaoili is directly in command of NUPL
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Publication:Philippines News Agency
Date:Jul 31, 2019
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