During the first hearing of the amparo case filed by our clients Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines yesterday, the 14th Division of thd Court of Appeals unfortunately disallowed them from fully presenting evidence and supporting their legitimate claims.

The Court, over the vigorous objections from petitioners’ counsel led by NUPL Secretary General Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez, ruled that they have already waived their submission of their judicial affidavits because they failed to attach them at once in their petition and were unable to present them yesterday,. The Court reasoned that it is bound to hear the case summarily and proceeded to hold oral arguments between the parties, notwithstanding that petitioners have not even received respondents’ verified return (it was sent via the snail-paced registered mail).

The first hearing turned out to be the last too as the Court quite precipitously deemed the case already submitted for decision even without hearing the petitioners’ testimonies and receiving its supporting documents.

We respectfully take exception. And we are compelled to state our position for the record on a matter of public interest and import to correct misimpressions generated by spinmasters

While the Court, under the Rules on the Writ of Amparo (AM No. 07-9-12-SC) is indeed mandated to hear the case in a “summary” manner, nowhere in the said Rules are petitioners proscribed from fully presenting evidence. Neither are they required to already attach judicial affidavits to their petition or present the same during the first scheduled hearing. In fact, it is respondents government officials who must submit supporting affidavits to their verified return.

Petitioners have nonetheless begun feverishly preparing their judicial affidavits in the face of constant security threats to their witnesses, one of whom, Karapatan-Sorsogon member Ryan Hubilla, was murdered by suspected military elements only last June 15. Thus, what respondent Lorraine Badoy would pompously describe as “sloppy work” are actually earnest efforts on the part of petitioners to prove their case, and in the process, to brave the very perils that they are seeking protection from.

It must be noted that only a few weeks ago, the NUPL, which also filed its own petition for writs of amparo and habeas data, has begun submitting and presenting the testimonies of its petitioners and their witnesses before the Special 15th Division of the same Court.

In a number of other cases where petitioners were actually granted protective writs (e.g. NUPL client Raymund Manalo, the key witness in the conviction of Gen. Jovito Palparan, and NUPL officer Atty. Catherine Salucon, who continues to be under attack), they were able to testify before the Court and undergo a full-blown, albeit expedited, trial similar to a habeas corpus proceeding.

This lack of uniformity and consistency in the amparo proceedings before our courts seems to put petitioners at an unfair disadvantage even if they are seeking essentially the same redress and are suffering from even more vicious attacks, under similar circumstances of intensifying political repression and relentless red-tagging (which is a legally actionable wrong and a crime in itself).

As long as the petition is sufficient in form and substance which the Supreme Court recognized when it remanded it to the Court of Appeals “to hear,” we respectfully but firmly submit that there is no onus on petitioners to establish their full array of evidence at the get-go, much less when they are the ones being harassed, chased and killed in broad daylight.

To hold otherwise based on arguable procedural nuances is essentially a denial of due process and would defeat the very purpose of the protection of the extraordinary writs and to exact less from a State that threatens the lives and liberties of its very own citizens.

We thus ask our courts to be more sensitive and forebearing to victims who come before them for judicial protection and redress.#

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General
Atty. Josalee S. Deinla
NUPL Spokesperson 

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers was founded September 15, 2007 as a nationwide association of human rights lawyers as well as law students, paralegals and legal workers in the Philippines united by a commitment to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights especially of the poor and the oppressed. nupl2007@gmail.com | 02 9206660