Military generals snub hearing on rights lawyers’ plea for protection

Human rights lawyers Czarina Golda Musni and Edre Olalia testified how red tagging of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) endangers their lives. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

NUPL President Edre Olalia pointed out that Duterte himself publicly threatened human rights defenders and all supposed communist fronts.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Military officials tagged as respondents in the writ of amparo petition filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) did not show up at the hearing this afternoon, June 6 at the Court of Appeals (CA) Special 15th Division.

Even Major General Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, who has been consistent in publicly red tagging the NUPL was a no-show.

Justice Stephen Cruz asked the Office of Solicitor General why the respondent generals were not present despite being notified by the court. Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda said Parlade was attending a meeting at the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

AFP Spokesperson Edgar Arevalo said Parlade did not know he is required to attend the hearings.

Cruz asked Arevalo why did he come to the hearing. The military spokesperson said he just saw the information about the hearing in their communication group.

Cruz then turned to Miranda, and asked, “How could they hear the charges against them?”

Miranda said she will inform her clients that they are required to attend the hearings.

Besides Parlade, named respondents in the writ of amparo petition were: President Rodrigo Duterte, as the commander-in-chief of the AFP; National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; AFP Chief of Staff Benjamin Madrigal, Jr.; AFP Deputy Commander for Intelligence Brigadier General Fernando Trinidad; AFP Intelligence Service Chief Major General Erwin Bernard Neri; and, Army Commanding General Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto. Only Duterte is not required by the appellate court to attend the hearings.

NUPL President Edre Olalia told the media immediately after the hearing, “They don’t even show up, they don’t have the audacity to even show up and stand on their ground,” referring to the military respondents.

Red tagging as a form of attack

Olalia and Czarina Golda Musni, a member of the NUPL and Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), took the witness stand and testified how the military’s red tagging constitute a violation of their rights to life and liberty.

Olalia said red tagging in the country is “a license for attacks.” He cited the assassination of Benjamin Ramos, who was labeled as a communist and threatened before he was killed.

Musni, meanwhile, told the court that she, her mother Beverly and her sister Beverly YR were labeled as communist members/sympathizers in leaflets distributed by state agents in Cagayan de Oro City and Malaybalay City.

During cross-examination, Assistant Solicitor General Marlon Bosantog, asked Musni how could a leaflet be considered a threat.

Musni replied, “If you study the case of Ben Ramos and other victims of extrajudicial killings, they were identified, vilified and tagged as members or sympathizers of the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] before they were killed.”

Bosantog asked if Musni’s family members are still alive. To which Musni replied, “Yes, they are. Thank God.”

Olalia pointed out that even former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston, in his mission to the Philippines in 2008, also noted that the pattern of red tagging of activists without any basis at all and without any logic.

Olalia said some of their members suffer from fear and anxiety because of the “vicious labeling.”

“It hampers our mobility. It’s not easy going to court every day with the demonization [done against us] in public places,” Olalia said.

Command responsibility

Bosantog asked Olalia to specify the unlawful acts of each respondent amounting to a threat of being killed or abducted.

Olalia pointed out that Duterte himself publicly threatened human rights defenders and all supposed communist fronts. Olalia said Duterte also issued Executive Order No. 70 for the creation of national task force to end the communist insurgency. These, Olalia said, are considered as policy statements and signals to attack all perceived enemies of the state.

One of counsels for the petitioners, Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), maintained that the president and his military officials should be held liable under the principle of command responsibility.

The respondents are given five days to file their comment to the temporary protection order issued by the Supreme Court to the NUPL.

The SC has granted the petitions for writ of amparo and habeas data filed by NUPL last May 3.

The next hearing is set July 11. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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