Karapatan protests the killings of two of its members: Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala.
Hearing on rights workers' plea for protection wrapped up sans witnesses presentation
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - June 18, 2019 - 12:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals on Tuesday wrapped up its hearing on rights workers’ plea for protection without the groups presenting their witnesses to the court.

In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay expressed disappointment that they were not allowed to present testimonies and evidence to support their case.

“As a petitioner, I am deeply disappointed with what transpired in the hearing at the Court of Appeals, especially since we as petitioners have not been granted space to present our testimonies and evidence, as victims seeking legal protection of the court, over paltry procedural issues,” she said.

The CA held a hearing on the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela. The groups said state agencies and agents’ accusations that they are “fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines bring threats to their life, liberty and security.

READ: SC gives rights workers writ of protection vs 'red-tagging', harassment

But Palabay said the CA, on its first hearing on the plea, did not allow them to present their witnesses due to lack of judicial affidavit. She said they would file a motion for reconsideration on this action of the court.

“We support our legal counsels’ view that a preliminary conference should have been conducted first to parse through the issues, witnesses and evidence (which includes judicial affidavits) that will be presented and heard,” she added.

The court deemed the petition submitted for ruling.

Supposed witness killed

The hearing was held days after two rights workers were slain by unidentified persons in Sorsogon.

Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala of Karapatan-Sorsogon were killed by unidentified gunmen in Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City on Saturday morning while riding a tricycle. Karapatan said the killing happened after their members in the province were subjected to “periodic surveillance by elements of the military intelligence company.”

Hubilla, a 22-year-old senior high school student, and three other Karapatan-Sorsogon staff were supposed to serve as a witness as they were subjected to periodic surveillance by the military, said Karapatan.

READ: Karapatan calls for probe into killings of rights activists, farmer

“How can Ryan now serve as a witness? He has been killed. Even providing mere humanitarian assistance for political prisoners and their kin has now become an act that may [result in] a person’s death. Such has become possible with the direct threats and slanderous red-tagging campaign that no less than President Duterte and his generals have instigated,” Palabay said.

She also said the killing of Hubilla and Bagasala showed the threats rights workers face “in the context of increasing attacks by State forces.”

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