Youth groups, lawyer decry ‘harassment case’

The National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for Anakbayan, lambasted the NTF-ELCAC “for capitalizing on a familial conflict and turning it into a witch-hunt for members of Anakbayan and the Kabataan Partylist, which are legitimate organizations advancing the Filipino youth’s aspirations for national democracy.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

(Updated: Sept. 18, 2020, 10:36 p.m.) MANILA – Legal remedies supposedly for the protection of human rights are now being used against human rights defenders.

This in gist is the response of members of progressive youth groups and a human rights lawyer to the petition for writ of amparo and habeas corpus filed against them.

The writ of amparo is a remedy “available to any person whose right to life, liberty or security” is violated or “threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission by a public official or employee or of a private individual or entity.” Meanwhile, the writ of habeas corpus is issued by the SC “to all cases illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, or by which the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.”

Relissa and Francis Lucena, parents of 18-year-old Alicia Jasper, a member of Anakbayan, filed the petition for amparo and habeas corpus with the Supreme Court. The Lucena couple named as respondents Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, Anakbayan national spokesperson Alex Danday, Anakbayan members Chary Delos Reyes, Bianca Gacos and Jayroven Villafuente and lawyer Maria Kristina Conti of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) . The SC ordered the respondents to show cause why writs of amparo and habeas corpus should not be issued in favor of the petitioners.

In a compliance filed by the respondents on May 30, they debunked the couple’s claim that their daughter is missing.

“AJ (Alicia Jasper) is not a missing person or one being held against her will. Neither her fundamental rights to life, liberty and security under threat or violated by the respondents,” the compliance read.

NTF-ELCAC behind the petition

The respondents maintained that the petition is pure harassment instigated by the state’s anti-communist task force.

Behind the petition is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which has been notorious in red-tagging legal organizations, the respondents said. Alicia’s parents are members of the League of Parents in the Philippines (LPP) and Hands Off Our Children (HOOC), which were created by the NTF-ELCAC.

“It is also no coincidence that the criminal complaints filed by petitioner Relissa before the DOJ against respondents is regarded as a ‘highlight’ by the NTF-ELCAC Legal Cooperation Cluster. Even the vitriol written in their placards and social media content merely parrots NTF-ELCAC propaganda that red-tags and maligns respondents and their organization as ‘communist terrorists,’” the compliance read.

The National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for Anakbayan, lambasted the NTF-ELCAC “for capitalizing on a familial conflict and turning it into a witch-hunt for members of Anakbayan and the Kabataan Partylist, which are legitimate organizations advancing the Filipino youth’s aspirations for national democracy.”

In their compliance, the respondents also pointed out that it is Alicia’s parents who have put her at risk whenever her mother publicly red-baits Anakbayan and Kabataan Partylist as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army or “communist terrorist groups.”

The respondents also asked the SC to impose disciplinary action against Topacio who willingly allowed himself to be used by the NTF-ELCAC to file a petition which they said intended only to harass the respondents.

“No lawyer worth his salt will advise the filing of a petition for amparo against private citizens who are not acting on behalf of the State, and habeas corpus for persons who have already lost rightful custody over the subject, while another application for judicial relief on substantially the same issues and circumstances is pending in another tribunal,” the compliance read, adding that this is tantamount to a malpractice.

No rights violated

In 2019, when Relissa testified in the Senate inquiry on the “missing minors allegedly recruited by the leftist groups” and when she filed a complaint against the youth groups Anakbayan, Kabataan Party-list and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Alicia went out to the public to say that she is not missing.

In her previous statements, Alicia stressed that she was not kidnapped by Anakbayan. She went away because her parents locked her up to keep her from joining the youth group. She was also brought by her parents to Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Bagong Diwa to “de-radicalize” her. She was interrogated by members of the police and the military and forced her to provide information about Anakbayan.

This is why the NUPL said that the petition of the Lucena couple has no substantial evidence and is only based on conclusory allegations and “suffer from wild leaps of logic.” The petition is also an attempt to compel Lucena to come home to her parents.

They explained that the writ of amparo which was promulgated during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was meant to address the massive cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of activists.

“The rule aimed to provide expeditious relief to a person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation of an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or of a private individual or entity.”

They added that “while a writ of amparo may lie against a private individual or entity, government involvement ‘remains an indispensable element.’”

“Petitioners’ odious desire to impose their feudal stranglehold over AJ accurately reflects the current dispensation: a repressive regime where the exercise of the freedom of thought, conscience and belief is abhorred and punished,” the compliance read.

Meanwhile, Elago reiterated that Alicia is not under their custody.

“She is an emancipated woman who can make her own decisions, pursue her own dreams and aspirations. She is neither missing nor kidnapped as she herself made that clear in her interviews last year,” Elago said in a statement.

Elago said they are confident that the petition of the Lucena couple will not be granted because there is no truth behind their allegations.

“We are hoping that someday, everything will be fine between Alicia and her parents. My impression of Alicia is that she is a compassionate person who has her heart set to serve the people and to join their calls against poverty, inequality, and injustice,” Elago said.()

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