By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed a Court of Appeals (CA) decision to grant the petition of a human rights lawyer Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon for the issuance of the writs of amparo and habeas data as it junked the petition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) seeking the reversal of the 2015 CA ruling in favor of the lawyer.
In the said ruling written by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the SC ruled that Salucon established that “the threats to her right to life, liberty and security were niether imaginary nor contrived, but real and probable”. The SC cited as “immediate proof of the threat” the murder of her paralegal, William Bugatti after he had relayed to Salucon his observations that they had been under surveillance.
The military argued that such proof was based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay testimonies but the SC pointed out that in the decision that in proceedings related to the issuance of a writ of amparo circumstantial evidence is allowed.
“Verily, proceedings related to the issuance of the writ of amparo should not only allow direct evidence but also circumstancial evidence. The Rules of Court has made no distinction between direct evidence of a fact and evidence of circumstances from which the existence of a fact maybe inferred,” the SC decision stated.
It can be recalled that Bugatti was shot while on his way home on board his motorcycle along Bolog, Kiangan, Ifugao on March 25, 2014. He went to the Ifugao provincial jail to visit two political detainees being represented by Salucon on the day he was killed. The political detainees; Rene Boy Abiva, an employee of the Department of Social Worker and Development (DSWD) and Virgilio Corpuz, a coordinator of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (Piston) Cagayan, were released on August 1, 2017 after the courts dismissed charges filed against them by the AFP.
The SC also backed the CA’s granting Salucon’s petition for a writ of habeas data. It ordered the AFP and PNP to produce and disclose to the court all information, records, and evidence pertaining to Salucon for possible destruction upon orders of the court.
Salucon, filed a petition for writs of habeas data and amparo before the CA in April 2014 after she received information that she was under military surveillance for representing prisoners alleged to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
A writ of amparo is a remedy available to anyone whose right to life, liberty and security is perceived to be in danger. A writ of habeas data protects a person’s right to privacy when threatened by an entity or individual gathering and storing information especially when such information was obtained illegally.
In her petition, Salucon cited that apart from the killing of her pralegal in Ifugao, military personnel were allegedly surveilling her and asked her about her daily activities. She also said that she was being tagged as a “Red lawyer” being listed in the military watchlist as among lawyers who are communist supporters.
The SC said that it was established that a civilian asset of the PNP Intelligence Section relayed to Salucon that there was standing order to conduct a background investigation on her to confirm if she was a “Red lawyer.” The order was issued by the PNP Isabela Provincial Office to its Burgos municipal office.
“These and other established circumstances fully warranted within the context of the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data the directive of the CA for the handing over and destruction of all information and data on her in order to protect her privacy and security,” the Court said. # nordis.net