By Joel R. San Juan, April 16 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Philippine Star

THE National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), an organization of human-rights lawyers, law students and legal workers in the country, has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking the issuance of a writ of amparo and a writ of habeas data against President Duterte along with top police and military officials.

Through the issuance of a writ of amparo, the petitioners hope to get protection for its members whose rights to life, liberty and security are said to be in peril due to persistent threats, harassment and red-tagging by some government officials.

On the other hand, the petitioners said the issuance of a writ of habeas data is necessary to compel the respondents to produce, correct or to destroy files in their possession or under their control that are being used to threaten their safety.

The petition was filed by NUPL chairman, lawyer Neri Colmenares, who is also a senatorial candidate in the May elections, and other officials of the group, namely, lawyers Edre Olalia, president; Catherine Salucon, vice president; Ian Anthony Sapayan, vice president for NUPL-Visayas; Ephraim Cortez, secretary-general; Edgar Carmona, auditor; and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate

Aside from Duterte, named respondents in the petition were National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Seretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., AFP Deputy Commander for Intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP Chief of the Intelligence Service Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto and AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.

The NUPL handles cases and issues of public interest like power and public transport rate hikes, environmental cases, extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers, and other cases pertaining to human-rights violations.

In their petition, the group noted that some of its members had been killed, harassed, placed under surveillance and criminally charged since the military tagged them as having links with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

They noted that while the killings, harassments and surveillance of its members have been happening since 2001, these attacks significantly increased under the present administration.

From 2001 to 2015, the group recorded more than 43 lawyers killed and 57 attacked.

On the other hand, under the Duterte administration, 36 lawyers had been killed from July 1, 2016, to January 2, 2019.

On the other hand, 55 lawyers had been attacked and threatened due to their work.

“Despite the increasing number of attacks against lawyers and members of the legal profession, apparently no case has been filed in court against any perpetrators,” the petition read.

The petitioners claimed that the killings and threats made against them violate the United Nation’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which mandates governments to guarantee the functioning of members of the legal profession.

“These threats and intimidation, including the fact that petitioners are being subjected to surveillance, are clear indicia that respondents are in possession of information, which they have unlawfully compiled and are using as basis in the cited spate of attacks,” the petitioners said.

“These data information, including continued surveillance, not only violate the petitioners’ right to privacy but also negate the constitutionally protected and inviolable right of every person to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects,” they added.