THE Court of Appeals (CA) has denied a petition for issuance of the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data filed by several physicians and health workers against President Benigno Aquino 3rd and other military and police officials for allegedly conducting surveillance operations against them.
In a 22-page decision written by Associate Justice Victoria Isabela Paredes and concurred in by Associate Justices Magdangal de Leon and Elihu Ybanez, the CA’s Seventh Division dismissed the petition filed by Dr. Darby Santiago, chairman of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD); Imelda Gerali, registered nurse and administrative officer of the Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS), member of HEAD; Rebecca Abelong, member of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU); Neil Ambion, media liaison officer of KMU; Renato C. Asa, member of KMU; and other health advocates.
The remedy of the writ of amparo is an equitable and extraordinary remedy to safeguard the right of the people to life, liberty and security as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, among others.
Santiago alleged in the petition that in June 2015 while he was attending the HEAD National Council meeting, he received a threatening text message from a cell phone reading “Isang bala ka lang. Ingat ka doc.”
He showed the text message to Gerali who, apparently, also received a message that mentioned him.
It was revealed that some members of progressive groups allegedly received similar messages and were also subjected to surveillance operations.
They claimed that Aquino is the author of the “Oplan Bayanihan,” which supposedly targets groups engaged in monitoring and documenting incidents of human rights violations committed in the Philippines.
On December 10, 2015, the appellate court ruled that “the allegations failed to mention [Aquino’s] involvement in any incident narrated by the petitioners.”
“It is settled in jurisprudence that the President enjoys immunity from suit during his or her tenure of office of actual incumbency,” the CA pointed out.
“Courts cannot follow one every step of his life and extricate him from bad bargains, protect him from unwise investments, relieve him from one-sided contracts, or annul the effects of foolish acts.”
“We are constrained to deny petitioners’ application for the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data,” the court said.