Militants lose amparo bid

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The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition for the issuance of writs of amparo and habeas data filed by the group led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate against President Benigno Aquino III.

During its en banc session on Tuesday, the SC resolved to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.

“The Court found no basis to issue the two writs prayed for,” SC spokesman Theodore Te said  in a media briefing. 

The case arose from the petition filed by Zarate, Gabriela Women’s party-list Rep. Emmerenciana “Emmie” De Jesus, former Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano, former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Sr. Mary Francis Anover, Rev. Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches, Children’s Rehabilitation Center executive director Dr. Jacquiline Ruiz and the heirs of the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran where they complained that the military and police tagged them as members of “communist front organizations.”

According to them, they were included by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in a “rogues” gallery of photographs presented to the complainants of kidnapping and trafficking in persons filed by certain members of the lumad community following the displacement of some 1, 300 members of the Manobo tribe from Talaingod, Davao del Norte in April last year.

They said the displacement of the members of the Manobo community was due to the military operations in the area where they were living adding that the AFP blamed militant groups and the New Peoples Army for the displacement.   

The petitioners also claimed that their inclusion in the supposed “rogues gallery” indicates that they have been the subject of state surveillance in violation of their rights, as protected by the writ of amparo.

Named respondent in the petition is the President in his capacity as Commander-In-Chief, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff General Hernando Irriberri, PNP chief, Director General Ricardo Marquez, Army Chief Major General Eduardo Ano, Eastern Mindanao Command Chief, Lt. General Aurelio Baladad and CIDG Chief, Chief Supt. Victor Deona.

The  SC, however, junked  the petitioners’ arguments and ruled to dismiss their petition.   

“In the present petition, petitioners fail to show how their right to privacy is violated given that the information contained in the rogues’ gallery is only their photographs, their names, and their position in their respective organizations,” the SC stressed.   

“All these data are of public knowledge, and are readily accessible to anyone as petitioners are known personalities,” the SC said.   

A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or is threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity while a writ of habeas data protects a person’s right to control information especially when the information against the person was illegally obtained. 

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