SC grants bid of lawyers' group for protection from Duterte, gov’t officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 3) — The Supreme Court (SC) granted the bid of a lawyers' group for protection against President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials who tagged the organization as a communist front.

In a statement, the SC said it issued writs of amparo and habeas data in favor of the of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

"[This] sends a strong and clear signal to the military and government officials alike, as well as their proxies or agents, that there are certain well-defined rules of evidence not incompatible with basic fairness, decency, common sense and logic that must be observed," NUPL President Edre Olalia said in a statement.

The group sought last month a writ of amparo from the high court for its members to be shielded from threats to life, liberty and security allegedly committed by Duterte and other government officials, including BGen. Antonio Parlade, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.

The NUPL accused Parlade of “wild red-tagging,” having painted the group as a supporter or sympathizer of the communist rebellion.

The lawyers also sought a writ of habeas data for the court to order the respondents to produce, and if needed, destroy all information about them.

Any citizen can head to any court and ask for a writ of amparo, which, if granted, would give court protection from threats to the person's life, liberty and security committed by government actors.

Any persons whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security has been violated by government actors may head to the SC, the Court of Appeals or the Sandiganbayan to seek a writ of habeas data which would order relief including the deletion, destruction or correction of data gathered about the petitioner.

In issuing the writs, the SC also ordered Duterte and the other respondents to make a verified return of the writ of amparo and habeas data, and to comment on the NUPL’s petition before May 8.

The SC referred the NUPL’s petition to the Court of Appeals, which will hear the case on May 14. It will issue a decision 10 days after the case is submitted for resolution.

Other respondents in the petition include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and other military officials.

The NUPL, along with other progressive organizations, have been accused by security officials of being fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The lawyers’ group has denied the charges.

Recently, Malacañang tagged the NUPL was also tagged as part of a ploy to kick Duterte out of power. The plot also allegedly involved some journalists working for online news website Rappler, non-profit news site VERA Files, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

This surfaced following the PCIJ’s report on the Duterte family’s finances and their “token” and “opaque” declaration of these in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.