Posted by: nupl | November 22, 2007

Human rights lawyers laud Supreme Court Initiative to Promulgate Writ of Habeas Data: Another Legal Tool in the Battle Against Impunity

November 21, 2007

Press Release

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers [NUPL] lauds the Supreme Court initiative to promulgate the rule on Habeas Data as spearheaded by Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The NUPL is cautiously hopeful that the new writ, together with the writ of amparo, would be an important legal tool in curbing the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. At this juncture, the NUPL takes this opportunity to admonish the Macapagal-Arroyo government, particularly the Inter-agency Legal Action Group, (IALAG), the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself to desist or refrain from thwarting the effective availment by the victims and implementation of the writ of Habeas Data and Writ of Amparo by the courts.

The concept of habeas data, which was first enacted through Law No. 824 on December 28, 1984 in Brazil, pertains to the right of a person (i) to access registries [data banks], (ii) the right to complement information contained in the registries and (iii) the right to rectification of said registries. It is a legal process by which an individual may petition, through the courts, that government present to the petitioner all information gathered by government on his person, and demand that said data be corrected if erroneous, or totally destroyed if malicious and false.

A major part of the pattern in many of the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances is the public vilification of the victim or the victim’s organization by the military as ‘terrorist, communist or enemy of the state’. An individual may now demand, through habeas data, that the military present before the court the basis for such allegations and correct any false information maliciously gathered by intelligence units. The fact that many of the victims were actually in the order of battle of the AFP could be used to prove motive in any criminal case subsequently filed against the perpetrators of the killings and disappearances.

Public officials such as Sec. Raul Gonzales and Sec. Norberto Gonzalez have been known to publicly malign opponents of Pres. Gloria Arroyo as ‘destabilizers’. With habeas data in place, they will now be forced to provide the basis for their accusation or retract their statements should it be proven in court that their allegations were not based on any credible information. Media personalities publicly called ‘terrorists’ or terrorist coddlers, such as Julius Babao, may ask government to present the information which formed the basis for the name-calling.

Habeas data may also be used to expose illegal information gathering methods by the PNP and the AFP such as unauthorized wiretapping in violation of the constitutional right to privacy. Once government is forced to submit before the petitioner any and all information in his “dossier”, it is easy for the petitioner see instances of illegal interception of communication.

The writ of habeas data, together with the writ of amparo, is an important legal tool in the battle against impunity. Members of the NUPL have filed five amparo cases nationwide. The NUPL will also file habeas data petitions on behalf of human rights violations victims once the rule is officially promulgated.

The NUPL fully supports the initiatives of the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court in promulgating rules to protect and promote human rights. The NUPL also supports the Supreme Court’s assertion of its constitutional powers to promulgate rules that seeks to end impunity in the country. As in the writ of amparo, the NUPL announces that it will be among the first organizations of lawyers to invoke and utilize to the fullest extent possible the mantle of protection of the writ of habeas data for victims of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, political persecution, false labeling and demonization.

More significantly, the NUPL offers its pro-bono legal services for such victims of human rights violations who will avail themselves of the writ of amparo and habeas data. #

 

Atty. Romeo Capulong – Chairperson

Atty. Frederico Gapuz – President

Reference: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares – Secretary-General

 

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The speech of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno on the Writ of Habeas Data is available here.

*****

Read the article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Human rights lawyers hail SC promulgation of habeas data”

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