SC prohibits police from monitoring family of slain suspected communist rebel
The writ of amparo is a protection by the highest tribunal extended to petitioners where threats to their life, liberty and security emanate from the military, police and other state security forces. Cagadas
SC prohibits police from monitoring family of slain suspected communist rebel
Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 27, 2020 - 3:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court prohibited members of the Philippine National Police from monitoring the family of a slain suspected communist rebel.

The SC, voting 8-5-1, issued a permanent protection order, to Vivian Sanchez and her children who ran to the court for protection from surveillance of cops that caused her and her children anxiety.

“The respondent police officers are reminded to uphold the rights of citizens as contained in the Constitution as well as conduct investigations in accordance with their promulgated manuals including Ethical Doctrine Manual,” the SC, in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, said.

The SC granted Sanchez’s petition for a writ of amparo, a protection by the highest tribunal extended to petitioners where threats to their life, liberty and security emanate from the military, police and other state security forces.  

Sanchez sought protection from the courts against the monitoring and surveillance from cops, following the killing of her estranged husband Eldie Labinghisa who was a suspected member of the New Peoples’ Army.

The SC stressed: “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 of interest.”

“After all, the values we have in our Constitution are what differentiate us from lawless elements,” the ruling also read.

Sanchez’s case

According to the court document, Sanchez learned that her estranged husband Eldie Labinghisa, was one of the seven alleged New People’s Army members gunned down by cops in the province of Antique.

When she went to the funeral home to identify her husband, police took photos of her. She later found out that the photos were displayed and distributed at the police station.

The following day, Sanchez returned to the funeral home but was again met by cops who told her they will sue her for obstruction of justice if she refused to answer their questions.

In the next days, “Sanchez noticed frequent drive-bys of a police car in front of her house and a vehicle that tailed her and her family when they went to Iloilo to attend her husband’s wake. She also noticed someone shadowing her house, causing her to fear for her and her children’s safety,” the court document read.

Her 15-year-old daughter also said “the constant police presence” caused her anxiety.

The family sought protection from the court, and an Antique court issued a writ of amparo against Police Supt. Marc Anthony Darroca, Police Senior Supt. Leo Irwin Agpangan, Police Chief Supt. John Bulalacao and the cops under their authority.

This was however later overturned after the police “denied violating or threatening to violate Sanchez and her family’s right to life, liberty and security.”

This prompted Sanchez to elevate her case to the SC. She told the court that police monitoring and surveillance violate her and her family’s right to life, liberty and security. She added that the police’s unauthorized taking and distribution of her photo “caused her great fear and anxiety.”

The SC ruling

The SC said that while the police claimed that Sanchez was only investigated to look into the identity of the Labinghisa, the drive-bys and tailings after she identified her husband “bely” the cop’s assertions “that their investigation was innocuous.”

It also stressed the information that the police may have hoped to extract from the family “are protected by spousal and filial privileges, which continue to exist even after Labinghisa’s death.”

The SC also said that Darroca’s “lack of contrition” over his men’s taking and distribution of Sanchez’s photo “is disturbing.” It enjoined the cops to “respect human dignity and human rights” as held by the PNP’s Ethical Doctrine Manual.

“The police officers’ brusque treatment of petitioner, threatening her with imprisonment and displaying her photo at the police station, does not reflect the professional and courteous image that he [PNP] wishes to convey as an institution,” it said.

The SC also said the Regional Trial Court that denied the Sanchez’s plea for amparo failed to consider gender and power issues in the case, noting that male police officers are investigating the widow and a daughter of an alleged communist.

The SC also said that when the RTC denied their petition, “it could not see, or it refused to see that these actions, together with surveillance done, were actual or imminent threats against petitioner and her children.”

“By advertently or inadvertently ignoring petitioner’s not so unique predicament as the spouse of a labelled communist, the Regional Trial Court created standards that would deny protection to those who need it the most,” the SC also said.

Leonen’s ponencia had concurrences from then-Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Amy Lazaro-Javier and Henri Jean Paul Inting.

Those who dissented are Associate Justices Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Rosmari Carandang and Rodil Zalameda. Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr. was on leave.

The outcome of Sanchez's case was different from when the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers and rights groups sought a writ of amparo from the SC. While the tribunal issued a writ and ordered the Court of Appeals to look into their case, the appeals court junked their pleas and no protection order was issued to them.

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