SC upholds protection order for widow of drug war victim

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) – The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the granting of a protection order for the widow of a drug war victim.

According to the SC decision written by Justice Jhosep Lopez, the high court affirmed the issuance of a writ of amparo for Cristina Gonzales and denied the petition filed by the Antipolo City Police.

Police officers assailed the November 2018 decision and April 2019 resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA), which issued a Permanent Protection Order in favor of Gonzales, prohibiting them to enter within a radius of one kilometer from her home and work addresses.

In its ruling, the SC acknowledged that Cristina’s late husband Joselito Gonzales died from an “extralegal” killing and threats to her life are present.

“The writ of amparo is a protective remedy aimed at providing judicial relief consisting of the appropriate remedial measures and directives that may be crafted by the court, in order to address specific violations or threats of violation of the constitutional rights to life, liberty, or security,” the SC added.

According to the facts of the case, police officers allegedly solicited the Gonzales couple to sell illegal drugs and threatened to kill them. They were arrested, but they were eventually released after paying ₱50,000 to the police.

Joselito was killed in a buy-bust operation on July 5, 2016.

The SC said suspicious persons asked for Christina’s whereabouts during Joselito’s funeral. This prompted Christina to file a petition for a writ of amparo and Temporary Protection Order before the high court on Feb. 17, 2017.

The SC issued a resolution granting Christina a Temporary Protection Order and directing the CA to conduct a hearing on her case.

The CA granted Christina a Permanent Protection Order on Nov. 26, 2018. This prompted police officers to challenge the CA’s decision before the high court.

The SC also took notice of the police officers’ lapses in the buy-bust operation and their failure to follow procedures in reopening the investigation into Joselito’s case.

“The fact that respondent (Christina) and Joselito were previously arrested for selling illegal drugs is beside the point. As stated earlier, even if the respondent committed a crime, the petitioners, as law enforcement agents, are not at liberty to disregard the respondent’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to life, liberty, and security,” the high court said.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) welcomed the SC decision as it recognized the threat being faced by families of drug war victims, and Joselito's death was acknowledged as an "extrajudicial" killing.

"It means there is hope. In this decision, the Supreme Court clearly put it that the killing is an extrajudicial or extralegal killing. With this definition, it means that the State clearly perpetrated or conducted the killing," NUPL member Atty. Krissy Conti told CNN Philippines' The Final Word.

Conti encouraged other family members of those who were killed in the drug war of the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte to seek protection from courts.

"If there is a pending threat against you and if you feel the police are lurking around you as in the case of Cristina Gonzales and her family, you can ask the court to literally stop these law enforcement officers na lumapit sa inyo (from getting near you)," she added.