By KIMBERLIE N. QUITASOL
BAGUIO CTIY — Counsel of the petitioners for a writ of amaparo for disappeared activist James Moy Balao expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court enbanc decision reversing the granting of the said writ by Branch 63 of the Benguet Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Jennifer Asuncion, lawyer of the petitioners in an interview stressed that the SC ruling brought the search for Balao back to square one after reversing the granting of the petition for the writ of amparo. She however welcomed the SC’s decision to order the AFP and PNP to continue the investigations.
Asuncion reiterated that the SC decision only affirmed what the petitioners had been asserting, that the PNP and AFP investigations were insufficient. But she pointed out that it is not the petitioners fault that the investigations were insufficient nor is it their task to provide substantial evidence.
“It is like going back to September 17, 2008. We have to do it all over again. It is like losing Manong James again,” Asuncion reiterated.
She further said that the ruling defeats the very essence of the writ of amparo. She added that substantial evidence is a gray area, especially in the case of James where it is hard to pin point the perpetrators.
“What we can do now is monitor the progress of the AFP and PNP investigations to ensure that they are abiding by the SC decision,” Asuncion said. Adding that filing a motion for reconsideration would have a bleak chance for the SC enbanc to reverse itself. She also explained that filing a motion would put the order on hold and might take the SC a few more years to decide.
The Supreme Court in its recent ruling reversed the historic first decision in the region on the petition for writ of amparo for enforcedly disappeared activist James Balao issued by Branch 63 of the Benguet regional trial court (RTC) for lack of substantial evidence.
After three years, the SC finally issued an enbanc decision on the said petition last January, reversing the lower court’s decision to grant the petition for a writ of amparo. In the said decision the SC ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to continue the investigations. It also dropped former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as respondent to the case. It also remanded the case to the Benguet RTC for the monitoring of the said order.
The SC also ordered the AFP and PNP to periodically report to RTC Branch 63 on the progress of their investigation.
It can be recalled that the petition for the writ of amparo for Balao was filed October 2008 and the RTC decision came out January 2009.
Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) who was abducted on September 17, 2008 along a busy highway a few meters away from the PNP Cordillera regional headquarters. He remains disappeared to date. # nordis.net