SC to review 2007 Rules on Writ of Amparo

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will review its rules on the writ of Amparo, or protection writ, first issued in 2007, Court Administrator Midas Marquez said.

“We will review the procedure of the writ of amparo and we will see how we can strengthen the writ of amparo to, in effect, strengthen those who come before the courts... and ask for protection,” Midas told the House panel on Thursday.

The writ of amparo is a protection extended to petitioners when threats to their life, liberty and security emanate from the military, police and other state security forces. It covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof.

During the House of Representatives’ deliberations on the Judiciary’s budget, Rep. Carlos Zarate (BAYAN Muna party-list) asked Marquez on possible changes on the Rule on the Writ of Amparo.

The lawmaker mentioned the case of slain rights worker Zara Alvarez whose organization, Karapatan, sought protection from the court against perceived State-sponsored harassment.

READ: Slain rights worker Zara Alvarez laid to rest

Fifteen months from when they first ran to the court for protection, Alvarez was gunned down in a private village in Bacolod City. She was the 13th rights worker of Karapatan killed since the start of the Duterte administration.

“What the ordinary citizens are thinking is to seek the courts, but if the courts can no longer protect them, where will they run?” Zarate said in Filipino.

Marquez said that Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, who chairs the rules committee, will welcome a review of the rules for the petition for the writ of amparo.

“Our rules are ever evolving and are subjected to constant review... I am very certain that [Peralta] will welcome the review of the writ of procedure for filing petition for writ of amparo and to see how we can strengthen this remedy given by the court more than ten years ago,” he added.

The case of Zara Alvarez

Zarate, who disclosed that he was part of two group of petitioners who sought protection from courts, narrated how it has become difficult to secure a writ of amparo from the courts.

“Wag sana yung burden nasa petitioner. Nahihirapan ang mga petitioner to prove, so it defeats the purpose of the writ of amparo that is a protective writ,” he said.

(I wish we do not place the burden on the petitioner. The petitioners are having a difficult time to prove, so it defeats the purpose of the writ of amparo that is a protective writ.)

“Let us not wait for another case of Alvarez,” Zarate added.

Under the 2007 Rules, the petition must contain personal circumstances of the petitioner; name and personal circumstances of the respondent; the right violated and how the threat or violation is committed; the investigation conduct, if any; actions and recourse taken by the petitioner to determine the fate of the aggrieved party and the identity of the person responsible for the threat; and the relief prayed for.

When the Court of Appeals junked Karapatan’s petition, it held that they did not conform to the requirements of the rules on writs of amparo and habeas data, such as absence of judicial affidavits and failure to establish that their rights were violated or threatened.

Karapatan has since elevated the court’s dismissal to the SC’s Third Division.

In a manifestation filed on September 1, Karapatan detailed the fate of Alvarez, who was supposed to be one of their witnesses to shed light on the red-tagging and harassment that human rights workers receive.

"Alvarez could have been given protection by the privilege of amparo and habeas data, had the same been granted by the Court a quo. It is too late now," Karapatan said.

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