Militants seek Supreme Court help vs 'state agents' (Philippines Daily Inquirer)

A number of militants on Friday ran to the Supreme Court for protection, saying their lives were in danger after being subjected to surveillance and harassment by state agents.

A group of 11 petitioners asked the high court to issue writs of amparo and habeas data to secure protection and compel government, particularly military officials, to disclose and destroy information gathered about them, including dossiers and photographs.

They also asked the court to immediately issue a temporary protection order.

The acts of the respondents and their agents violate the petitioners’ rights to life, liberty and security, they said in their petition.

[The] pattern is clear: Petitioners are harassed not for their individual actions, but for being members of militant organizations which are known to be vocal critics of the Aquino administration, the petitioners said.

Court protection

Those who sought court protection were: Dr. Darby Santiago and Imelda Gerali of the Health Alliance for Democracy; Kilusang Mayo Uno officers and members Rebecca Abelong, Neil Ambion, Renato Asa, Maritess Garte and Loreto Victoriano; Josephine Carlos Betana of Migrante; Lovely Carbon of the National Union of Students of the Philippines; Polytechnic University of the Philippines student regent Jessica Ferrera; and Kabataan party-list member John Paul Lapid.

They impleaded President Benigno Aquino III, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces; AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri; Maj. Gen. Virgilio Hernandez, deputy commander for intelligence; Brig. Gen. Arnold Quiapo, chief of the AFP Intelligence Service; and two unnamed officials, the one who will succeed Iriberri as Army commanding general and the deputy commanding general for personnel.

Also named in the suit are Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez and the acting Metro Manila police chief, Chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao.

The petitioners accused the military of sending threatening text messages, mostly accusing them of being members of the New People’s Army, the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines against which the government has continuing anti-insurgency operations.

The messages, they said, indicated that the anonymous senders were watching and following them. One message sent to Gerali read: I even accompanied you on your way home. Did you notice?

Other petitioners told of alleged visits of military men near their homes and places of work, and of being enticed to apply for jobs, only for them to be asked about their political affiliation.

Taken together, the threats and surveillance activities portend a pattern: threats are made, often sent through text messages or anonymous correspondences alleging that the recipient is a member of either the New People’s Army or the Communist Party of the Philippines and urging them to cooperate with the military in ambiguous terms, the petition read.

People are spotted asking bystanders or neighbors [for] information about the petitioners near his/her residence or place of work. Surveillance of the victim is conducted, but it is carried out indiscreetly so as to constitute a threat rather than actual surveillance, it said.

Last month, the leaders and staff of government labor unions under the Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees filed a similar suit at the Supreme Court, accusing government spies of harassing and stalking them.