CA junks Red-linked groups’ amparo, habeas data plea vs. gov’t

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MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) junked the petition for writs of amparo and habeas data filed by three groups against various government officials making up the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In a 24-page decision dated June 28, the appellate court’s 14th Division, through Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, stated President Rodrigo Duterte’s duty to uphold national interests and the general welfare of the people, noting that “the petitioners failed to establish (the) accountability of the President, as commander in chief directly under the doctrine of command responsibility.”

The groups and individuals led by the Karapatan Alliance Phils., Inc., Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Inc. and the General Assembly of Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action (Gabriela) had sued a number of military and Palace officials, along with the Chief Executive before the Supreme Court (SC), which in turn remanded the case to the CA to hear and decide the suit.

“The petitioners merely included President Duterte as a party respondent without showing that he exhibited involvement in or can be imputed with knowledge of the violations, or had failed to exercise reasonable diligence in conducting the necessary investigations required by the rules,” the CA said in its decision.

“It is presumed that the President acted pursuant to his constitutional obligation to protect the people, promote their welfare and advance the national interest,” the CA said.

The CA also said “there was no unlawful act or omission on the part of the respondents (government) that violated or threatened the petitioners’ rights.”

CA Associate Justices Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguiles and Tita Marilyn B. Payoyo-Villordon also concurred to the ruling, which among other things, said “the writs (of amparo and habeas data) cannot be issued on amorphous and uncertain grounds lest their purpose be undermined by the indiscriminate filing of petitions on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.”

The groups are denouncing what it said was harassment against them being undertaken by the government.

Meanwhile, the CA, in its decision, turned down the government lawyers’ theory that the petitioners are guilty of forum shopping since similar cases are pending before other courts.

The CA pointed out that since the President is immune from suit, he is dropped as a party in the case and is presumed to be acting lawfully.

The court noted that the distribution of propaganda materials, such as posters, tarpaulins, flyers linking the petitioners to communist rebels cannot be simply ascribed to the government.

“The origin of such materials (was) unexplained. Hence, the government cannot be ordered to refrain from distributing something that, in the first place, it was not shown to have,” it said.

The CA added that the alleged surveillance activities are a “mere impression based on the petitioners’ personal assessment of the circumstances”.