“The Solicitor General’s allegation is nothing but a desperate attempt to discredit groups that stand firm in opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that is broadly criticized for the threats it poses against dissenters.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights defenders called on the Supreme Court to reprimand Solicitor General Jose Calida for his “actions that are unethical and reflective of both moral vacuum and the vicious character of the law that he defends.”
In a statement, Fides Lim, spokesperson of KAPATID, the support group for families and friends of political prisoners, said, The Solicitor General should be castigated and even made to resign because no People’s Tribune should be allowed to get away with what he has been doing to debase a high position of trust.”
The group is referring to Calida’s claim during the second oral arguments on the Anti-Terror Law that Aeta farmers Jasper Gurung and Junior Ramos were forced into signing a petition for intervention seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.
KAPATID pointed out that Calida’s claim goes against logic. “Gurung and Ramos are being prosecuted for alleged violation of the ‘terror law.’ When they were arrested last year, they were tortured to force them to admit that they are members of the New People’s Army. Why would they refuse to question a law that is being used by government forces to imprison them?” Lim said.
“The Solicitor General’s allegation is nothing but a desperate attempt to discredit groups that stand firm in opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that is broadly criticized for the threats it poses against dissenters,” Lim added.
The KAPATID official said that the high court should investigate and take action on the tactics of Calida, citing how the solicitor general also reportedly coerced fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales and Palawan to withdraw their petition for a writ of kalikasan in the West Philippine Sea last July 2019.
Lim added that the Supreme Court should remember how it reprimanded Calida for interfering in the electoral case between Vice President Leni Robredo and defeated candidate Bongbong Marcos as if he was the latter’s private counsel.
In similar vein, human rights alliance Karapatan also urged the Supreme Court to “scrutinize every single word and detail of Calida’s tale.”
“We cannot let meticulously constructed lies stand as facts before the highest court of the land, more so to justify the invalidation of the people’s opposition to a draconian law that brazenly tramples upon our hard-won rights and freedoms,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Who coerced the Aetas?
Lim asserted that if there are lawyers who are capable of coercing the two Aeta farmers into signing a document, they are not certainly the counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
“Calida should cease from discrediting well-respected rights lawyers who put their lives on the line for defending the poor and defenseless. Who has a history of making suspicious acts? Certainly, they are not the lawyers from NUPL because they are not the ones who were able to win a new 78 million peso contract for a family firm on top of the 330 million pesos that they already garnered from government security contracts,” Lim said, pertaining to the security firm reportedly owned by Calida.
NUPL’s integrity is solid
Palabay maintained that NUPL’s integrity is solid.
“In terms of integrity and ethics, NUPL lawyers are way above their accusers,” Palabay said in Filipino.
Palabay said NUPL successfully defended Aeta farmer Edgar Candule who was arrested without warrant and was charged with terrorism under the Human Security Act of 2007. Charges against him were dismissed by the court in 2010.
She added that NUPL also served as private lawyers of Mary Jane Veloso whose recruiters were convicted by the court, the Morong 43, the disappeared UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, Dutch missionary Willem Geertman, Kidapawan farmers, and many other victims of human rights violations.
NCIP ‘has disgraceful track record’
Meanwhile, the Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination criticized the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for its reported role in convincing Gurung and Ramos to sever ties with the NUPL.
The group said they know the veracity of the torture and injustice they experienced and that “they will not change their position without external pressure.”
Sandugo said the NCIP “has a disgraceful track record regarding one of its core tenets: free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC).”
“Many communities and their ancestral lands have fallen to the hands of destructive corporate interests due to the NCIP’s deceitful and complicit maneuverings to secure FPIC. We remember the Dumagat displacement for Kaliwa Dam, the B’laan’s bloody struggle against Sagittarius Mines’ Tampakan project, the Tumandok people’s resistance against the Jalaur Megadam project, among others,” the group said in a statement.
The group said they stand with the NUPL lawyers who have represented indigenous peoples facing trumped-up charges.
“Unlike the NCIP, the NUPL understands not just genuine free, prior and informed consent, but also truth, justice, national patrimony, and basic human rights, including the right to self-determination. The NUPL will never coerce Ramos and Gurung into signing a petition for intervention. If there is any formation with a history of coercion and duplicity, it is the State,” the group said.