SC prohibits police from surveilling family of alleged NPA member

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020   •   715

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.

Oral arguments on Anti-Terrorism Law suspended, to resume on March 2

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Law has been moved to March 2.

In an advisory, the Supreme Court announced that several justices are undergoing self-quarantine as a safety precaution against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to a source, one of the justices tested positive for COVID-19.

The en banc session set for Tuesday (February 23) is also suspended.

Meanwhile, petitioners want to raise new developments to the SC regarding their request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

One of the petitioners’ lawyers, Atty. Edcel Lagman said they want to include the alleged ‘red-tagging’ of one of the generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“For the first time in history petitioners and their counsel before this honorable court are seriously threatened with persecution under the challenged statute by no less than military general who is part of the state enforcing the controverted ATA,” he said. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Marcos can still appeal PET decision on poll protest vs Robredo — CJ Peralta

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. can still file a motion for reconsideration on the decision of the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said.

Peralta said Marcos may still appeal the decision as part of his legal remedies.

The camp of Marcos earlier said it has yet to decide on whether to file a motion pending the release of the copy of the ruling.

Peralta said the copy of the decision has yet to become available for the public as they are still awaiting other magistrates to submit their written opinions on the matter.

“We are still waiting for the others who might explain their votes because if it is in the result the effect is that those who voted in the result should have explain their votes that’s the rule,” the chief justice told reporters.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously junked the election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo over the results of the 2016 vice presidential race.

The SC said seven of the 15 justices present during the meeting “fully concurred” in the dismissal while the rest “concurred” in the result.

Peralta has refused to elaborate on the reasons for the dismissal citing confidentiality of court deliberations.

“That I cannot divulge, the deliberation is confidential. What can I only say is that as usual there was deliberation, there were debates, there were several opinions raised but eventually as what the chief justice usually does is to call for a vote and that what happened,” he said.

When asked about the possible effect on the protest should Marcos push through with his plan to run for public office in the 2022 elections, Peralta replied with: “That’s another question. That’s not tackled in our deliberation.”

“If he wants to run then that’s his choice. As to whether or not that will abandon his protest, that’s another thing,” he added. RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

SC dismisses Bongbong Marcos’ poll protest vs Robredo

Robie de Guzman   •   February 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on Tuesday junked the election protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo over the results of the 2016 vice presidential race.

In a statement, the Supreme Court Public Information Office (PIO) announced that the court unanimously voted to dismiss the protest of Marcos against Robredo.

Of the 15 magistrates present during Tuesday’s meeting, seven justices “fully concurred” in the dismissal while eight “concurred” in the result, the SC PIO said.

SC Spokesperson Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka could not say if the decision can be appealed.

“The deliberation of the tribunal is highly confidential, this is our announcement. This is the first time we are announcing this. The parties will be provided a copy of the resolution as usual,” he said.

A copy of the resolution detailing the reason or reasons for the dismissal will be uploaded in the high court’s website once available, the SC PIO said.

Marcos filed the protest in June 2016, claiming that the vice-presidential race was marred by fraud. He lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 elections.

Part of Marcos’ protest sought for a recount, revision and re-appreciation of ballots from three provinces he chose: Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Marcos also sought the annulment of election results in three provinces in Mindanao – Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao – due to alleged terrorism, intimidation, voter harassment and pre-shading of ballots.

Both camps of Marcos and Robredo said they have yet to receive a copy of the ruling, but assured they will issue their statements on the matter as soon as they have established the facts based on PET’s official pronouncement.

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