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SC grants writs of amparo, habeas data to activists Tamano, Castro

Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, two environmental activists who claimed they were kidnapped by state forces, were granted a temporary protection order as well as writs of amparo and habeas data by the Supreme Court.

The SC en banc granted the petition filed by Tamano and Castro against Lieutenant Colonel Ronnel Dela Cruz and members of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army; Police Captain Carlito Buco and members of the Philippine National Police Bataan; National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and others under them.

“In granting their petition, the Court found that petitioners were able to prove by substantial evidence the allegations in their petition meriting the protection of their freedoms through the writs of amparo and habeas data,” the Court said in a statement on Thursday.

The SC directed the respondents to comply with the rules under Section 9 of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo and Section 10 of the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data.

The respondents were also prohibited from entering within a radius of one kilometer from the persons, places of residence, school, work, or present locations of the petitioners, as well as those of their immediate families.

The SC directed the Court of Appeals to conduct a summary hearing on the petition and other reliefs sought by Tamano and Castro within five days of receiving the decision.

Both Malaya and the NTF-ELCAC declined to comment on the development, saying they had not yet read the decision.

''We shall make a comment at the appropriate time once we have consulted with our lawyers on our future legal steps,'' the NTF-ELCAC said.

The writ of amparo is available to persons whose right to life, liberty, and security are being threatened or violated by public officials or employees or private individuals or entities.

It covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances, or threats.

Meanwhile, the writ of habeas data is a remedy available to a person whose right to privacy, liberty or security is violated or threatened with violation by a public official or a private individual who gathers, collects, or stores information on the aggrieved party, their family, home, and correspondence.

In September 2023, the NTF-ELCAC claimed that Tamano and Castro surrendered to the 70IB in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, in the same month.

It presented the two at a press conference, ostensibly to debunk reports of their abduction. However, the activists said they were abducted by the military.

According to the Court, it found that the elements of enforced disappearance were present, specifically that Tamano and Castro were taken as evidenced by the affidavit of a member of Karapatan Gitnang Luzon on accounts of witnesses to the abduction; petitioners’ remarks that they left their footwear during their struggle; and photos of the footwear left at the scene of the abduction.

The high court said that it was also established that Rosielie, Castro’s mother, tried to locate her and tried to coordinate with Justin Gutierrez, who introduced himself as a member of the military.

It said Rosielie also tried to coordinate with the Orion Municipal Police Station but received no response from both agencies.

Meanwhile, the SC said that Malaya’s statements in a television interview that they would expose all the information they have on Tamano and Castro and that the two would be charged were “open and express threats” to their right to life, liberty, and security.

“There was an established violation or threat to the life, liberty, or security of petitioners by respondents. The writs are called to be issued for reasons so obvious on the mere face of the petition,” the Court said.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently recommended that Tamano and Castro be separately charged for grave oral defamation under Article 385 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). The initial complaint against them was for perjury.

Tamano and Castro have asked the DOJ to reconsider its resolution. — VBL, GMA Integrated News