The Court of Appeals has dismissed the petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data filed by rights watchdog Karapatan, women's group Gabriela, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
In a decision signed by CA Associate Justice Mario Lopez on June 28, 2019, the appellate court ruled that there is no substantial evidence to establish the petitioners' allegations.
Karapatan, Gabriela, and RMP said their petition was a "response to the worsening attacks, terrorist-tagging by the Philippine military and the ongoing smear campaign against human rights defenders."
The writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is threatened or violated by public officials or private persons.
On the other hand, the writ of habeas data covers similar threats or violations by persons who are gathering, collecting, or storing data or personal information of the aggrieved party.
Without hearing witness testimonies, the CA declared submitted for decision the said petition.
The CA heard the case on orders from the Supreme Court, which issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of the petitioners in response to their request for protection from what they said were "worsening attacks, terrorist-tagging by the Philippine military and the ongoing smear campaign against human rights defenders."
14th Division justices prohibited Karapatan and its co-petitioners, women's group Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines from presenting witnesses during the first scheduled hearing because they did not have judicial affidavits.
In its June 28 decision, the appellate court that it found the allegations in the petition and documents submitted did not fulfill the evidentiary standard to establish that petitioners' right to life, liberty, security, and privacy were violated or threatened.
"There is no evidence of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, malicious prosecutions and defamation," the CA said.
Karapatan slammed the CA decision as a "gross disservice to all the human rights defenders."
“The dismissal of our petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data is a gross disservice to all the human rights defenders of Karapatan who have been killed and to those who continue to remain in the line of fire. In doing so, the appellate court has refused protection for defenders at risk. This is tantamount to complicity on the attacks perpetrated against us,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
According to her, the groups will continue to exhaust all legal processes to appeal and overturn the decision.
“The result is deplorable, but not altogether surprising. In the June 18 hearing, even as we were set to submit our judicial affidavits and additional documentary evidence after what should have been the preliminary conference, the denial of our counsel’s plea to include our testimonies was already telling," she said.
"The Court will not be disadvantaged in any way if they hear our testimonies, but they nonetheless chose to ignore it. In that instance, we felt like they were acting as legal counsels of the respondents, instead of impartial adjudicators,” she added. —LBG, GMA News