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PH officials ask SC to recall protection order for environmental activists Tamano, Castro

Government officials have asked the Supreme Court to recall the temporary protection order (TPO) granted to Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, the environment activists who were charged with grave oral defamation over their claims that they were kidnapped by state forces.

The petitioners, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), argued that the TPO raises a challenge in the serving of the arrest warrants recently issued against Castro and Tamano and in maintaining law enforcement within specific zones.

Through the TPO, the petitioners have been prohibited from entering within a radius of one kilometer of the persons, places of residence, school, work, or present locations of the petitioners, as well as those of their immediate families.

The petitioners are 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, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and all individuals acting under their direction.

"A literal interpretation of the TPO ostensibly restricts all Philippine National Police personnel from accessing areas within a one-kilometer radius of the petitioners and their families," the motion read.

"It is respectfully submitted that this interpretation inadvertently establishes areas where police presence is markedly absent, not by design, but because of the TPO's broad sweep. Such an outcome has far-reaching implications for public safety and the effective administration of justice," it added.

Further, the petitioners said that the TPO would prevent the arrest warrant against Tamano and Castro from being implemented.

"In light of these considerations, it is therefore imperative to beg the indulgence of the Honorable Court to ask for a reassessment of the TPO, with an aim to provide clear guidance on its enforcement, particularly in scenarios where protective measures intersect with law enforcement actions," the officials said.

In granting Tamano and Castro the TPO and writ of amparo and habeas data, the Supreme Court said the two proved "by substantial evidence the allegations in their petition meriting the protection of their freedoms through the writs of amparo and habeas data."

However, the petitioners argued that the determination of substantial evidence is a post-hearing activity, citing Section 17 and 18 of the Rule on Writ of Amparo.

"The Honorable Court's initial determination that [Tamano and Castro's] evidence surpasses the threshold of substantial evidence, before the conduct of the summary hearing, inevitably undermines the Court of Appeal's independent assessment of the sufficiency of evidence in its determination of the propriety of granting the privilege of the writs," the petitioners said.

They also asked the Court to clarify its finding that there is more than sufficient factual and legal basis to grant the protective writs sought by Tamano and Castro.

Aside from this, the petitioners asked the Supreme Court to consolidate the case in the CA with the case filed against Tamano and Castro before the Doña Remedios Trinidad municipal trial court in Bulacan.

In September 2023, the NTF-ELCAC claimed that Tamano and Castro surrendered to the 70th Infantry Battalion in Doña Remedios Trinidad town 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.

The initial complaint filed against Tamano and Castro were for perjury, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended that they both be charged separately for grave oral defamation. — VDV, GMA Integrated News