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Court of Appeals junks amparo petition of jailed MILF leader

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked a petition for the release of Eduard Guerra, a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was arrested last September after being tagged by the military as an alleged financier and facilitator of the international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

In a 10-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Michael Elbinias, the CA’s Second Division dismissed the writ of amparo petition filed by Guerra’s wife Jocelyn seeking the immediate release of her husband from the custody of the Army’s Intelligence Service Group.

The CA ruled that Guerra, alias Abraham Lonto, could no longer be accorded relief under a writ of amparo since the criminal charges against him have already been filed with the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 in Maasim, Sarangani.

“The reason why the pendency of a criminal action bars the filing of a petition for amparo is, as the Supreme Court explains in its annotation to the writ of amparo, ‘to avoid the difficulties that may be encountered when the amparo action is allowed to proceed separately from the criminal action, wherein two courts trying essentially the same subject may issue conflicting orders,” it said.

The CA also said Guerra’s case, specifically the criminal act alleged against him, is not covered by the writ.

It said the unlawful acts contemplated by the rules on the writ of amparo are those similar to extralegal killings and enforced disappearances, which would endanger one’s life, liberty or security.

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The SC, according to the CA, clarified in its annotation to the writ of amparo that it is only when the aggrieved party’s whereabouts are unknown that a petition may be filed by qualified persons or entities.

The appeals court said Guerra and his wife should have instead filed appropriate motions before the RTC to avail themselves of the relief provided for under Section 22 of the rules on the writ of amparo.

Records show that Guerra, together with 62 others, was charged last June 28 before the Sarangani RTC for his alleged participation in the attack on the Maasim police station, an electric sub-station and a military detachment that left two civilians dead.

Last Sept. 1, an arrest warrant was issued for Guerra, along with the other accused, and he was immediately apprehended.

Police asked the Army’s Intelligence Service Group to take custody of Guerra at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, as he is considered a high-profile detainee being an alleged major facilitator and financier of the Jemaah Islamiyah in purchasing and smuggling large quantities of weapons and ammunition from North Korea and other parts of East Asia.

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