Maanne Ilagan Lopez
A WORK IN PROGRESS

On Writ of Amparo “Empty cartridge”

Lopez, Maanne I.

Editorial and Opinion Writing

Writ of Amparo

March 2008

Empty cartridge

On September 25, 2007, Chief Reynato Puno officially announced the promulgation of the Writ of Amparo, which is so far the greatest legal weapon of the public to protect their constitutional rights however it correspondingly follows the need for a greater power to wield this weapon. Information that is – for the public to be able to resort for protection in times when their right to life and/or liberty is threatened or violated.

Amparo was formulated to supplement the inefficacy of the Philippine Habeas Corpus, in which relatives of the missing persons usually seek as solution to compel the state to produce persons thought to be victims of disappearances. However the defendants would merely present the accustomed defense of alibi or non-custody of the body sought to be produced. Amparo was conceived to solve the problems of massive extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines, yet it has so far been insufficient to serve as security to human rights since access to information is being impeded through continuous denial of perpetrators.

The government even defied amparo earlier than it can function as a remedy to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act that is very difficult to be escaped by perpetrators – be it a private individual/entity, a public official/employee, or a state agent/authority. Parallel to the writ is the implementation of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Administrative Order No. 197, an act where access to information is again barred. It challenges amparo on the impunity of human rights violations committed by suspected state security forces who conceals behind various mechanisms—such as claims to confidentiality, national security and executive privilege—to anticipate investigation and prosecution. Amaparo can be used by the government to redirect the culpability of killings and disappearances from their constituents accused of human rights abuses towards the New Peoples Army. With these, the remedy is not only defeated before it can serve the public, but the judicial power of the Supreme Court is also undermined.

Legal representatives, has been studying the Writ of Amparo to stimulate discussion and contribute to the efforts in the promotion, protection and defense of human rights in the country even before it has yet to become effective. Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties, said much depend not merely on the provisions of the amparo rule that the Supreme Court has promulgated, but on the judicial who will to implement these rules in the face of a recalcitrant respondent. More than that, the active participation of the victims, their families and human rights advocates in the quest for justice should never be abandoned.

Regardless of the writ’s greatness as legal weapon to safeguard the constitutional rights of the people, the protection of human rights will always depend on how well this weapon will be wielded by the public. It is through knowledge to which one can have the greatest power to use any weapon effectively to protect their individual rights.

The Writ of Amparo will always be substandard to solve human rights violations without the ample information needed to find the missing persons and to penalize the perpetrators. Habeas corpus is formulated to enforce the right to freedom of the person, whereas amparo is to protect those other fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution but not covered by the writ of habeas corpus. What the Constitution lacks now is for a Right to Information Act to be passed in the Philippine Congress that will begets the effectiveness of amparo and any rule. A law that will give the petitioner the right to access the information needed despite of impeding claims akin to confidentiality, national security and executive privilege.

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