On June 28, 2019, the 14th Division of the Court of Appeals dismissed the petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela. Karapatan assailed the decision and referred to it as “a gross disservice to the human rights defenders who continue to experience perilous conditions in the conduct of their human rights work.”
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay expressed her dismay on the CA’s decision. “The CA’s denial of Karapatan’s writs of amparo and habeas data is among the numerous examples that show that domestic mechanisms for redress and protection are compromised, and are therefore rendered inutile. This was not an impartial ruling where all sides were sufficiently heard,” she added.
Palabay further impressed the need for independent investigations on attacks against defenders and other human rights violations committed against Filipinos. “If the justice system can easily be subverted to turn courts into mere complacent actors and instruments to promote gross impunity, then the participation and intervention of other parties such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is both justified and necessary,” she explained.
For his part, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor reiterated that the decision of the Court of Appeals 14th Division to rule on the basis of mere technicalities is a disappointing move “that stripped and silenced the voices and testimonies of the victims.”
“The Duterte government has built a supermajority in Congress and has significantly eroded the independence of the judiciary. A compromised judiciary will frustrate all efforts to avail domestic mechanisms for the protection of rights defenders, as well as the attainment of justice for human rights violations. We have seen and read how they handled our petition, and the CA’s 14th Division was acting more like the respondents’ counsel rather than as independent adjudicators,” added Clamor.
Karapatan, along with Gabriela and RMP are in communication with their legal counsel to appeal the CA’s decision.
“We will certainly appeal the CA’s decision. We assert that there are existing threats againts human rights defenders, and that the spate of red-tagging have been the pretext for the killings and illegal arrests of many of our colleagues. We have raised these complaints with local courts, police officials and agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights, as well as other international mechanisms. Even as the CA refuses to fully hear and consider these cases, we will nonetheless exhaust all available platforms to seek protection, justice, and accountability,” concluded Palabay.
Featured photo by Lian Buan/Rappler