103 rights groups call on SC, Justice to review search warrant issuance, implementation

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
103 rights groups call on SC, Justice to review search warrant issuance, implementation
Leaders and members of progressive groups and activists' kin on Tuesday filed a report before the Supreme Court detailing incidents where they said the rule of law has been weaponized against them.
JUCRA pool photo

MANILA, Philippines — More than 100 groups of human rights defenders from across the globe are urging the Supreme Court and Department of Justice to review the rules on issuance and service of warrants that, they claimed, “appears to be routinely used to judicially harass and arbitrarily detain” rights workers.

103 civil society, religious organizations and individuals wrote an open letter to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressing concern over the “recent extrajudicial killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention and threats through red-tagging against human rights defenders.”

Local rights alliance Karapatan is one of the signatories.

In their open letter, the groups cited the bloody Calabarzon raids in March where nine activitsts were killed, the harassment of petitioners’ lawyers in the legal fight against Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, filing of charges —  which they claim are spurious — against rights workers and trade unionists, and rampant red-tagging.

“These recent attacks are the latest in the alarming and ongoing pattern of criminalization and violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines,” they said.

RELATED: 'A threat on a lawyer is an assault on the Judiciary,' SC says amid rise in lawyer killings

'Weaponization' of search warrants

The groups are calling on the SC and the DOJ to “review and revise rules on the service of search warrants and issuances of arrest warrants against human rights defenders, which appears to be routinely used to judicially harass and arbitrarily detain them.”

They pointed out that in the implementation of search warrants police and military used the “nanlaban” (violent resistance) narrative to explain the deaths. “We note that these were the same reasons given by the Philippine National Police in the conduct of drug war operations in the Philippines, and we find it deeply disturbing that the same lines are being increasingly used now in the deaths of activists,” they said.

“Arbitrary arrests and detention using the same pattern of questionable search warrants and through cases perfunctorily filed against human rights defenders without due process were also reported,” they added.

The DOJ, under its Administrative Order 35 mechanism for extrajudicial killings, is leading the investigation into the Calabarzon raids and other similar incidents.

The SC, amid mounting calls in March, issued a rare statement condemning the attacks on lawyers and said they will promulgate rules on use of body cameras during service of search and arrest warrants.

The groups also echoed the calls of domestic groups to review and revise rules on the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data.

This is “to ensure that human rights defenders are afforded timely, relevant and comprehensive legal protection from threats to their lives, security and liberty, including red-tagging and gendered threats received by women and queer human rights defenders,” they said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and domestic rights groups including Karapatan in 2019 sought but failed to obtain protection writs from the Court of Appeals.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said they and other victims of human rights violations will participate in collecting information on threats on lawyers and their clients. She added they believe it is crucial for the SC to act in a timely manner, recalling their own petition

It is unclear whether the SC statement issued six months later is the opening for such a review, but the high court said they will look into whether rules may be amended.

“Based on the information provided, the Court will then decide on the next courses of action, including the amendment of the relevant rules, or if necessary, the creation of new ones,” the SC said in March.

vuukle comment






  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with