Recent SC Decisions Detrimental to Human Rights -– Rights Lawyer


Main story: Rights Defenders Slam SC Decision on Anti-Terror Law; It Will Worsen Abuses, They Say

MANILA — The ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Human Security Act of 2007 is the latest in a series of negative decisions the Supreme Court made with regard to human rights, lawyer Edre U. Olalia said.

Olalia, acting secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), also expressed disappointment over the high court’s decisions on the petitions filed by the ‘Abadilla Five’ and Melissa Roxas.

The so-called ‘Abadilla Five’ were accused of murdering former Colonel Rolando Abadilla, an influential police colonel during the Marcos dictatorship, in June 1996. In a recent ruling, the high tribunal upheld the Court of Appeals’ earlier decision affirming a Quezon City Regional Trial Court ruling that found the following guilty of killing Abadilla: SPO2 Cesar Fortuna, Rameses de Jesus, Lenido Lumanog, Joel de Jesus, and Augusto Santos.

Roxas is an American citizen of Filipino descent who was abducted by state agents in La Paz, Tarlac in May 2009. Roxas filed for a writ of amparo and writ of habeas data from the Court of Appeals. The high court ruled that Roxas “was not able to establish to a concrete point that her abductors were actually affiliated, whether formally or informally, with the military or the police organizations. Neither does the evidence at hand prove that petitioner was indeed taken to the military camp Fort Magsaysay to the exclusion of other places.”

“We fear that these [decisions] might create an impression that the present court is giving premium to the powers of the state as against the rights of citizens,” Olalia said.

In the Abadilla Five decision, Olalia said the majority of the justices did not give weight to the multiple violations to the rights of the accused and to due process.

The second case, Olalia admitted, is a surprise disappointment. “The threat on the life and liberty of Melissa Roxas is very clear. I believe there is credible evidence linking state agents to her abduction and torture,” Olalia said.

He added that “the remedy of amparo is supposed to be an additional tool but it is not only diluted but also circumvented in practice.””Sadly, the high court has taken a very conservative stand.”

Olalia said that the two decisions and the recent ruling on the Human Security Act “might invite a lot of apprehensions, especially to victims of human rights abuses.

“The Supreme Court is supposed to be a court of last resort. When other government agencies traditionally wield the extensive powers of the state, the SC should play its role against abuse of state power,” the human rights lawyer said.

US Jurisprudence

Olalia noted that the recent decisions of the high tribunal seem to be similar to developments in the United States. “It is widely known that the Philippine jurisprudence draws heavily from US jurisprudence.”

Olalia cited the US Supreme Court decision Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project that makes it a crime to provide support, including humanitarian aid, literature distribution, legal advice, and political advocacy to any foreign entity that the government has designated as a “terrorist” group, even when such support is intended solely to promote the lawful and non-violent activities of a designated organization.

He also cited raids conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against activists in the US.
“Instead of upholding human rights, the Obama administration is pursuing the so-called war on terror. Aquino, on the other hand, seems not to be veering away from the track pursued by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Olalia added. (

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