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Court of Appeals denies NUPL request for temporary protection order

The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers' request for a temporary protection order (TPO) that would have prohibited military officials from threatening and harassing its members.

In a July 11 resolution, the Special 15th Division denied the NUPL's application for the issuance of a TPO on three grounds, even as the union's petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo remains pending before the appeals court.

The NUPL had sought a TPO that would prohibit the respondent military officials from threatening to violate or violating its members' right to life, liberty and security.

It alleged its member-lawyers have been wrongfully accused of links to communist rebels, experienced heavy surveillance, harassment, threats, and that some have been killed and falsely charged of crimes.

However, the CA said the Supreme Court has already issued a writ of amparo in favor of the NUPL. "There is no need to issue a TPO independently of the former," the CA ruled.

The court said the writ of amparo may serve to "prevent a threat from becoming an actual violation against the aggrieved party."

"The remedy of the writ of amparo includes in its coverage even threatened violations of the aggrieved party's right to life, liberty, or security," the CA said. 

"Even threat and intimidation that vitiate the free will, albeit not involving any invasion of bodily integrity, may constitute a violation of the right to security in the sense of 'freedom from threat,'" it added.

The CA also found that the NUPL failed to submit a list of individual NUPL members that would have benefited from the protection order and to identify a person or institution capable of providing the protection they sought.

The court likewise ruled that the privilege of the writ of amparo only covers extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances. It said it cannot grant a TPO in the context sought by the NUPL, which is an order prohibiting the military officials from "issuing public statements maligning petitioners and their activities as human rights lawyers."

Associate Justice Pedro Corrales penned the ruling with concurrences by Associate Justices Stephen Cruz and Germano Francisco Legaspi.

The CA will resume hearing the NUPL's pending petition on Thursday afternoon. NUPL chairperson Neri Colmenares is expected to take the witness stand. 

NUPL laments decision

In response, NUPL president Edre Olalia said the organization regrets the CA’s decision, which he said left them with no “effective and immediate domestic remedy to legally protect” them from attacks allegedly perpetrated by state forces.

“Lamentably, these attacks are matched by parallel vile language and arrogant innuendos from their swaggering defenders who mock us with utter contempt,” he said in a statement.

He said an ancillary remedy like the TPO can be granted “at anytime before final judgment” of their petition for the privilege of the writ of amparo, the final legal remedy they are seeking.

Olalia said that while the High Court issued a writ of amparo, it only mandated the respondent officials to answer the allegations, and left the CA to decide whether or not to grant the privilege.

He also said their reading of the rules says they are not currently required to list the members seeking protection or name an entity who will provide it. “That can come as a matter of course,” he said.

“More importantly, the orchestrated labelling, ‘red-tagging’ and villification we continue to endure must be seen in the context of a proven pattern that they can and have led to  the extreme - extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,” Olalia said.— RSJ/LDF, GMA News