Another legal remedy vs. HRVs
BAGUIO CITY (Sept. 26) — Families of the victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances may have another strand of justice to cling to now with the Supreme Court issuance of the writ of Amparo yesterday, Cordillera-based lawyers said as they welcome the high tribunal’s latest ruling.
Local lawyer groups welcome the Supreme Court rule claiming it provides stronger “coercive” power to the courts to order government and its military and police to act on cases towards the resolution of any human rights violations.
These rights groups, however, urge citizens to be vigilant in the assertion of their human rights and closely monitor the government as the present administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has adopted the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA).
Anchored on the United States global “war on terror”, the HSA with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bantay Laya is considered a threat and continuing violation of people’s rights and freedoms.
“The rule (on the writ of Amparo) adds strength to the powers of the court in ordering concerned government agencies not only to act on any (rights) violations but also to show to the court that they have exerted all efforts in relation to any filed cases on human rights violations, particularly enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings,” explained lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas, the national vice-president of the newly formed National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
At least the rule, an improvement from the past, could be exercised by any court to acquire information that would shed light on any case like forced disappearances, aid in finding the whereabouts of the missing, and for the acquisition of evidence for the prosecution of a human right case, added Molintas.
In another interview, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chairperson lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno similarly greeted with relief the Supreme Court rule on the writ of Amparo as it “gives teeth for the enforcement of constitutional rights”.
The rule is a big improvement from that remedy of habeas corpus where any government official or employee or private individual or entity cannot be forced to do anything after they (government officials etc.) admit in court that a (missing) person is not in their custody, Diokno said in an interview.
The rule (on writ of Amparo) is a remedy for any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity. The rule covers extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance and its force will be retroactive.
Recognition of unabated extra-judicial killings
The Supreme Court’s move is a recognition of the existence of unabated extra-judicial killings and the move shows that the existing judicial remedies for such cases are not enough, said lawyer Randy Kinaud, an NUPL member and secretary-general of the human rights watchdog Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).
Kinaud said that the issuance of the rule is one aspect which he welcomes reiterating that its implementation is another aspect.
With a judicial system which is so rigid and tedious, Kinaud hoped “that the rule on the writ of Amparo would work” with the numerous cases of human rights violations committed by the present administration.
Karapatan, a national human rights watchdog, has recorded more than 800 cases of extra-judicial killings and nearly 200 cases of enforced disappearances since GMA took to the presidency in 2001.
The rule provides for relief upon filing in court of a petition for writ of Amparo or any time before a judgment on a petition.
The writ of Amparo allows a court to grant relief which include temporary protection order for the petitioner, an inspection order for a place or property in relation to the whereabouts of the aggrieved party; a production order to a person who has in possession of any evidence relevant to the petition, and protection order for the witnesses.
The rule provided that a petitioner for a writ of Amparo is exempted from the payment of docket and other lawful fees.
The 14-page rule takes effect on October 24 as its draft form will still need approval of the Supreme Court en banc. It has been published in three major newspapers of general circulation before the date of its effectivity.
The writ of Amparo started in Mexico and other countries in South America. Amparo is a Spanish word which means to shelter or to protect. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS