Print Version    Email to Friend
Protection for rights and Church groups rejected

MANILA (UCAN): Church and human rights groups in the Philippines condemned a ruling by the Court of Appeals rejecting a petition seeking legal protection from military harassment.
The petition calling for writs of amparo (protection) and habeas data (access to information) came from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), human rights group, Karapatan, and the women’s organisation, Gabriela.
In its decision, the court said it found “no evidence of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, malicious prosecutions and defamations” as alleged by the organisations.
The Supreme Court introduced the writ of amparo in 2007 as a legal remedy for any person who felt their life, liberty and security were threatened by an unlawful act or oversight by a government official.
The writ of habeas data was also introduced to give individuals the right to find out what information was being kept about them by the government and to demand its updating, rectification or destruction.
If the petition had been granted to the Church and rights groups it would have resulted in a court order halting alleged surveillance of them by state agents and the destruction of information about them that is believed to be held by the military.
The court, however, said there was no evidence to show that state agents or the military had “violated or threatened the right to privacy of the petitioners.”
In a statement, Karapatan said the petition’s dismissal was a “gross disservice to all human rights defenders who continue to face perilous conditions.”
Cristina Palabay, group’s secretary-general, said, “This is tantamount to complicity in attacks perpetrated against us.” 
The RMP, meanwhile, condemned what it described as “vilifying remarks” made by the government’s top security official who accused the religious organisation of being “run by communists.”
Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the National Security adviser of the president, Rodrigo Duterte, made the alleged allegation when he lodged a perjury complaint against the RMP and the other groups on July 2, accusing them of issuing false statements in their writ applications.
The military accused the groups of serving as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
RMP was named as one of several groups using financial assistance from the European Union and Belgium to radicalise children in rural areas.
Esperon said the certificate of registration of the RMP, a group of Catholic priests, nuns, and lay people had long been revoked.
In a statement, the RMP said the government official’s claims were “a blatant lie. They’ve been spreading these lies. They’ve been red-tagging, harassing and threatening us.” 
Good Shepherd Sister Elenita Belardo, national coordinator of the RMP, said, “These are the reasons why we filed the petitions … in the first place.” 
Palabay said the rights groups will continue to “exhaust all legal means to appeal and overturn the appeal court’s decision to reject the petitions. 

More from this section