The Court of Appeals has granted the Filipino-American activist’s amparo and habeas data petitions, saying that Melissa Roxas’s story was credible. But it also pointed out that Roxas failed to show that the military was behind her abduction and torture, hence President Arroyo and elements of the armed forces cannot be made respondents in the case.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The Court of Appeals granted on Wednesday the petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data filed by Filipino-American activist Melissa C. Roxas, pointing out in its decision that Roxas is “credible and worthy of belief” and that the government did not have evidence to support its assertion that she fabricated or stage-managed her abduction and torture by members of the military.
Roxas filed the petition to seek the court’s protection after she was abducted on May 19 along with two companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc in La Paz, Tarlac. In her testimonies, Roxas said she was tortured and asserted that state security agents were responsible for her torture and abduction.
A week after her release from captivity on May 25, Roxas filed a petition for writ of amparo and habeas data, asking the court for protection and an “order of inspection of place and production of documents” before the Supreme Court, which in turn referred the case to the Court of Appeals.
In its decision dated Aug. 26, the appellate court’s Former Special 16th Division found substantial evidence that there is a “threatened violation” of Roxas’s right to security and tasked the government to prevent such a threat.
The court said that while it is true that Roxas had been released from captivity, Roxas’s movements are restricted as there remains a threat to her and her family’s life, liberty and/or security from her abductors.
Contrary to the respondents’ claims that the abduction was stage-managed, the court said that pieces of evidence on record prove that Roxas was, indeed, abducted.
“We have carefully reviewed the evidence on record and came to the conclusion that petitioner was, indeed, abducted,” it said. “As former Regional Court judges, we have had extensive experiences with perjurers and prevaricators falsely testifying in our courts. However, in this case, we are not prepared to accept the insinuation that the physical injuries sustained by the Petitioner [Roxas] are self-inflicted,” Associate Justices Noel Tijam said in the decision concurred in by Associate Justices Arturo Tayag and Normandie Pizarro.
The justices said Roxas’s testimony is “credible and worthy of belief” because despite the grueling cross-examination by the Office of Solicitor General and clarificatory inquiries from the court, Roxas was unwavering in her affirmation of the ordeal she went through.
“There is no doubt,” they said, “that petitioner’s claims of abduction, detention and torture are factual and true.”
The court, on the other hand, said that “there is no evidence that the whole incident was concocted or fabricated. Respondents could only offer the argument that the abduction was stage-managed without offering any credible proof to substantiate said allegation.”
The appellate court noted that even before the “investigations” on petitioner’s abduction have been concluded, the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) led by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and the Office of Solicitor General had already prejudged the abduction as “stage-managed” or a fabrication done at the expense of the Philippine government. “This is an unfortunate mental lapse or slip of the tongue,” the court said.
The court also affirmed that Roxas’s exercise of her political rights, beliefs and aspirations forms part of the freedom of speech and expression. Citing Section 18 of Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that “no person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations,” the court said that in the absence of proof that Roxas has engaged or is engaged in criminal acts in pursuit of her ideals, she is entitled to protection.
“Petitioner’s being an ‘activist’ per se does not justify the infliction of any punitive act against her, let alone, the imposition of any form of restraint on her freedom to life, liberty and security such as her abduction and torture,” the court explained.