By MARY ANN MANJA BAYANG
In still another unprecedented move, the Supreme Court en banc finally approved the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data which will take effect during the commemoration of the ratification of the 1987 Constitution on February 2, 2008. According to Justice Reynato Puno, this is another way of making the judiciary effective as the last bulwark of defense against the violations of the constitutional rights to life and liberty.
The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party. This will be very helpful especially to those who have dossiers of persons suspected of criminal acts.
Many activists and persons critical of the government have been alluding to the existence of an order of battle of the government against them. Now will be their chance to demand for the production of these dossiers and correct or confirm whatever information it contained with the objective of protecting their life, liberty and security and that of their families.
This writ supplements the long existing Writ of Habeas Corpus and the recently passed Writ of Amparo. These three libertarian writs, if maximized, will greatly abet in the prevention of the spate of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.
The Supreme Court again proved its sincere concern with the defense of fundamental freedoms. It has shown its determination, making most of its authority, to uphold its mandate to safeguard democratic rights. The enumeration of fundamental rights in our Constitution has no meaning without any law ensuring the respect of these rights and penalizing violations thereof.
The Supreme Court can only do so much. The burden of giving life to the democratic rights of the people should start with the legislative department who has the power to pass laws to protect these rights, and then for the executive department to faithfully implement the laws protecting the basic rights of the people. In a span of four months, the Supreme Court has issued the Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Habeas Data in response to the worsening human rights situation in the country. What has Congress done? What has the Executive department done except to deny the commission of human rights violations?
Again, like the Writ of Amparo, the Writ of Habeas Data is not an absolute remedy to protect the people from any threat or violation to their life, liberty or security. Congress and the executive department should be challenged to do their part in putting to reality the spirit of democratic rights in the country. #