Solicitor General asks SC to junk lawyers’ group bid for protection

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to junk the petition of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) for court protection, calling the progressive lawyers’ group plea “a frantic and desperate cry for undue attention.”

In a 35-page return of the writ to the SC, the OSG said the lawyers’ group failed to substantiate their claims that their right to life, liberty and security are threatened and that their privacy in life, liberty or security have been violated or threatened.

“These alleged threats are, however, a mere amalgamation of facts based on newspaper clippings and unverified statements, threats more imagined than real, and exaggerated to create the ghost of a cause of action,” the OSG said in their filing on Wednesday.

The NUPL sought last month writs of amparo and habeas data from the SC against President Rodrigo Duterte and other high-ranking defense officials because of their "participation and position in the implementation of the government's all-out war policy" against progressive groups, political activists, and those they perceive as supporters or sympathizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army.

The SC granted their bid last week and asked the respondents to file a return of the writ.

But the OSG said the lawyers’ group failed to show that the high-ranking government officials were directly behind the alleged threats against them.

The OSG also said that the acts of BGen. Antonio Parlade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) complained by the NUPL do not constitute extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof.

Parlade, who is AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, was accused by the NUPL of “wild red-tagging.” He previously said the CPP is recruiting in universities by screening films on martial law and that the European Union is unwittingly funding communist rebels through their fronts.

The OSG also invoked Duterte’s immunity from suit as the sitting president.

“They impleaded the highest public official without basis but for mere shock and political value, and without honestly ascertaining who are the real indispensable parties,” the OSG said.

The OSG added that the mere linking of the NUPL to communist rebels is not a sufficient basis for a grant of a writ of amparo.

Government lawyers also assailed the NUPL’s legal standing to apply for writs of amparo and habeas data. They said the writs could only be granted on natural persons and not juridical persons, like organizations like the NUPL.

Any citizen can head to any court and ask for a writ of amparo, which, if granted, would give court protection from threats to the person's life, liberty and security committed by government actors.

Any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security has been violated by government actors may head to the SC, the Court of Appeals or the Sandiganbayan to seek a writ of habeas data which would order relief including the deletion, destruction or correction of data gathered about the petitioner.

In issuing the writs in favor of the NUPL, the SC referred the NUPL’s petition to the Court of Appeals, which will hear the case on May 14. It will issue a decision 10 days after the case is submitted for resolution.

Other respondents in the petition include Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and other military officials.

Recently, Malacañang said the NUPL was also tagged as part of a ploy to kick Duterte out of power. The plot also allegedly involved some journalists working for online news website Rappler, non-profit news site VERA Files, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

This surfaced following the PCIJ’s report on the Duterte family’s finances and their “token” and “opaque” declaration of these in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.