SC prohibits police from surveilling family of alleged NPA member

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020   •   426

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has banned the Philippine National Police (PNP) from monitoring or surveiling the family of an alleged member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who was killed in San Jose, Antique in 2018.

The Supreme Court en banc, voting 8-5-1, granted the petition for review on certiorari filed by Vivian Sanchez assailing the 2018 decision of the San Jose Regional Trial Court (RTC) to deny her petition for writ of amparo.

In a 19-page ruling promulgated on October 15, 2019, the SC issued a permanent protection order prohibiting members of the PNP to monitor Sanchez and her children, and reminded respondent police officers to uphold the citizens’ rights, and conduct investigations according to their manuals.

In August 16, 2018, Sanchez learned that her estranged husband, Eldie Labinghisa, was among the seven alleged NPA members who were gunned down by the police in Barangay Atabay.

She said that when she first went to the funeral home to verify the news, she was unable to identify her husband’s body as police officers stationed there took her photos without her permission.

When she went back the next day, police allegedly threatened to arrest and charge her if she refused to answer their questions. She claimed that police officers even showed up at her house and tailed her even after confirming that the body was of Labinghisa.

The court also said that Sanchez’s 15-year old daughter categorically stated that police cars have frequently driven by their house.

On August 24, 2018, Sanchez filed a petition for writ of amparo before the San Jose RTC, alleging that the police officers’ constant surveillance of her and her family made them fear for their safety.

The RTC issued the writ of amparo and a temporary protection order but was later lifted after the judge found during summary hearing that she was unable to specify acts that threatened her security and liberty.

The lower court’s decision prompted her to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the SC concluded that Sanchez did not merely imagine the threats against her and her family.

“The totality of obtaining circumstances likewise shows that Vivian and her children were the subject of surveillance because of their relationship with a suspected member of the New People’s Army, creating a real threat to their life, liberty or security,” the court said in a decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

The court considered Sanchez’s apprehension at being targeted as a suspected NPA member as palpable and understandable, causing her to “act suspiciously” as claimed by the respondent police officers, who subjected her to threats and accusations.

In deciding whether or not Sanchez was able to prove with substantial evidence her entitlement to the privilege of a writ of amparo, the SC found that the totality of her evidence undoubtedly showed that she became a person of interest after she had first visited the funeral home, where her photo was taken.

“Whether [Vivian]’s photo was actually posted and distributed at the police station or was just taken for future reference, the taking of the photo bolsters [Vivian]’s claims that she was being monitored by the police,” the court said.

“While pursuing rebels is a legitimate law enforcement objective, the zeal of our police must be bound by the fundamental rights of persons, especially the loved ones of persons in interest. After all, the values we have in our Constitution are what differentiate us from lawless elements,” the court further stated.

Application for SC, Court of Appeals posts now open – JBC

Robie de Guzman   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has announced the opening of applications or recommendations for positions at the Supreme Court (SC) and the Court of Appeals (CA).

In an announcement posted on SC Public Information Office’s Twitter account, the JBC said applicants who will be selected in the process will occupy the position to be vacated by SC Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who will retire on September 18, and former CA Presiding Justice Romeo Barza, who retired on August 2, 2019.

In its advisory, the JBC said interested applications must visit its official website, and access the online application scheduler.

After filling out the computer-generated letter of intent, they must submit it along with the documentary requirements to this JBC e-mail on the selected date and time of appointment in the online application scheduler.

The JBC emphasized that the digitized versions of the letter of intent they will submit must be “complete” and “accurate.”

“The documentary requirements should be in Portable Document Format (PDF) and e-mailed in a single file only, following the order of documents as enumerated in the Announcement posted on the JBC website,” it said.

“The date of actual receipt of the complete documentary requirements (sent through e-mail) shall be deemed as the date of filing,” it added.

The JBC further said that applicants are also required to submit two complete sets of the documentary requirements through courier service not later than 4:30 p.m. of July 7, 2020 to its office along Padre Faura Street in Manila.

It warned that applicants who will fail to comply with the requirements of online and physical submission of the documentary requirements will not be considered for nomination.

The JBC likewise announced it has set on May 28 at 10 a.m. an online public interview of candidates for the SC Associate Justice position vacated by former Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., who compulsorily retired on May 11, 2020.

The candidates are as follows:

  • Ramon Bato Jr.
  • Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla
  • Edwin Sorongon
  • Nina Antonio-Valenzuela

The JBC said that the following are also candidates for the said judicial position, but whose previous interviews are still valid:

  • Manuel Barrios
  • Amparo Cabotaje-Tang
  • Ramon Cruz
  • Japar Dimaampao
  • Jhosep Lopez
  • Jose Midas Marquez
  • Eduardo Peralta Jr.
  • Pablito Perez
  • Rizardo Rosario

The JBC is a constitutional office that accepts, screens, and nominates appointments to the judiciary.

It will then submit a list of nominees to President Rodrigo Duterte for selection, and whoever is appointed will complete the membership in the SC composed of 15 justices.

SC directs NTC, Congress to answer ABS-CBN vs closure order

Robie de Guzman   •   May 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and Congress to comment on the petition filed by the ABS-CBN Corporation, challenging the cease and desist order that forced the network to go off the air earlier this May.

In a statement, the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said the magistrates gave the NTC 10 days from receipt of the notice to respond to the petition.

The NTC was named as the only respondent to ABS-CBN’s petition but the SC said it separately impleaded the Senate and the House of Representatives as parties to the case and required them to comment on the petition, stated the press briefer posted by the SC on its Twitter account.

The High Court also gave the NTC five days to reply to the comments to be filed by the Senate and the House.

The SC PIO said these actions were unanimously approved by the 14 SC Justices during an En Banc session on Tuesday.

The SC did not issue a temporary restraining order, as requested by the ABS-CBN in its petition, against the implementation of NTC’s closure order which it claims was issued without notice and hearing.

The NTC issued a shutdown order against ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4.

In its petition, the media company argued that the NTC acted with grave abuse of discretion and violated its rights to equal protection and due process by issuing the order.

The company claimed that the NTC should have deferred to Congress that have earlier sent a formal letter asking the agency to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating while bills seeking for its franchise renewal remain pending in the House of Representatives.

It also asked the SC to nullify and set aside the cease and desist order which directed the network to stop the broadcast operations of its television and radio stations on May 5.

The SC PIO also confirmed that the High Court denied the motion of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon to consolidate his petition – which sought for the NTC to be prevented from issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN – with the plea of the network.

Duterte offers P2-M bounty for the capture of NPA commanders

Marje Pelayo   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a P2-million bounty to anyone who can provide information on the whereabouts of leaders or commanders of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Aside from this, the President promised to protect the informant and also to provide him or her with a livelihood package. 

“Kung sino ang makakapagturo (To anyone who can report to us [their location]),” he said.

Tapos doon sa Army o pulis, kapag ikaw ang nagturo at nahuli ang komander na mabigat, may hati ka diyan sa pera pero aalisin kita sa lugar mo. Kung taga-Abra ka, ihatid kita sa Mindanao. Bibigyan kita ng lupa at doon ka na lang,” he added.

(Then to a member of the Army or police, if you are the one who could capture a high-profile commander, you will have a share in the bounty but I will reassign you somewhere else. If you are in Abra, I will send you to Mindanao. I will give you a land and you can stay there.)

The President’s offer comes after the recent attacks by the NPA against government forces that were providing security in the distribution of aid in provinces affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. MNP (with information from Rosalie Coz)

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