Group asks Chief Justice Peralta: Be a humane, more active court
Kristine Joy Patag ( - October 15, 2020 - 3:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of political prisoners’ bid for temporary release on humanitarian grounds, a petitioner called on Chief Justice Diosdaro Peralta to make the tribunal a humane and active court.

Kapatid’s Fides Lim, petitioner and wife of detainee Vicente Ladlad, said they are happy that petition became an opportunity to open discussions on the plight of Filipino prisoners, and eventually led to the release of more than 33,000 inmates, although not one of them is a political prisoner.

“Now to the Supreme Court we appeal: Do not stand in your own way. Chief Justice Peralta, you have more than two more years to be true to your own words about our petition,” Lim said.

She recalled Court Administrator Midas Marquez, in a report by state-run Philippine News Agency, said that the detainees are not yet convicted and are deemed innocent.

“And yet they are highly at risk of being infected by the deadly virus. It’s already like imposing the death penalty on them even before their guilt can be established beyond a reasonable doubt,” Marquez was quoted in the report.

‘Writ of Kalayaan’

Lim and the 21 other kin of political prisoners, including Marites Asis who is mom of jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino, waited for five months for the SC’s action on their petition, only to learn that they would be redirected to the lower courts.

With the SC’s order to lower courts to resolve the issues in their petition “with dispatch,” came the tribunal’s note that their fight for temporary liberty from the high court is over. “The SC also considered the proceedings before it closed and terminated,” its Public Information Office said then.

“Pinaghintay niyo na nga kami, sinaraduhan niyo pa kami ng pinto (You already made us wait, then you shut the door on us),” Lim said.

“That judicial intervention we hope for never happened. All we got after five moths wait was a 301-page conflicted decision where justices debated with each other whether the Enrile ruling on granting bail to the elderly or the Mandela rules applies to our cases while a baby lay sick and dying,” she added.

READ: Baby River, Enrile's release and the long wait on political prisoners' plea

But Lim pointed out that Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in his separate opinion, introduced a remedy with a Writ of Kalayaan that would be geared toward addressing jail congestion.

Leonen said: “It shall be issued when all the requirements to establish cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment are present” and “provide an order of precedence to bring the occupation of jails to a more humane level.”

Lim urged Peralta to approve the writ, stressing that the issue they raised go beyond political prisoners, but all detainees who are sickly, elderly, and pregnant and nursing mothers. “Don’t be a passive court, be an active, humane court,” she said.

Lim continued: “We ask you especially to grant relief for Reina Mae Nasino to correct the injustice done to her from the time she was falsely arrested with planted firearms to the time she was separated from her baby and her baby died.”

RELATED: With SC yet to resolve pleas, a political prisoner gives birth while ABS-CBN faces another CDO

Red-tagging of petitioners

Lawyer Rey Cortez, National Union of Peoples Lawyers secretary general, meanwhile said he found disturbing Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos’ remarks in his opinion on the petitioners alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines — a point raised by Solicitor General Jose Calida in his comment.

“Red-tagging is not simple... and I believe that, especially coming from an SC decision, that you mention as fact that is not duly proven in any tribunal yet involving petitioners undergoing trial, it looks like they threw out presumption of innocence,” Cortez said in Filipino.

Red-tagging is defined by Philippine jurisprudence as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy... by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”

Cortez said that giving more weight to the OSG’s claim of red-tagging that has not been proven in court is “dangerous and worrisome” especially for a justice of the SC.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores of Public Interest Law Center for her part stressed that the petitioners are leaders of different mass organizations and are performing their functions of legal organizations.

Leonen, in his separate opinion, cautioned on making “premature” pronouncements on the petitioners’ pending cases “based on unverified information.”

Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier also pointed out that these are merely allegations against the petitioners and the issue at hand is their “inability to provide concrete circumstances and bail plan.”

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