Thursday, June 18, 2009

Filipino lawyers listed as military targets seek judicial protection

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to inform you that the three human rights lawyers, whose names were included in the list of targets in a leaked document reportedly created by the military, have filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo to seek judicial protection.

The writ is a remedy for persons whose liberty and security are threatened.


On 16 June 2009 three human rights lawyers Carlos Zarate, Angela Librado-Trinidad and Lilibeth Ladaga, filed their petition for a Writ of Amparo before the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Davao City. The writ is a remedy promulgated by the Supreme Court (SC) on 25th September 2007 and is ‘available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened’.

Those named as respondents of the petition were Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, chief of the 10th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army; Colonel Lysander Suerte, chief of staff of 10th ID; Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Decapia, chief of the 10th ID Public Affairs Office; Colonel Oscar Lactao, chief of Task Force Davao; Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario, director of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO); and other members of the intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The petition was submitted with regard to the leaked PowerPoint presentation which listed the names and identities of 105 persons, including human rights defenders. The document was marked ‘secret’ and was described as the ‘3rd Quarter 2007 OB Validation result’ purportedly prepared by the JCICC ‘Agila’ under the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the 10th Infantry Division.

In their petition the lawyers sought for the documents used in preparation of the PowerPoint presentation to be produced immediately; that all the facts, information, statements, records, photographs, dossiers and other evidence, documentary or otherwise, pertaining to the petitioners be fully disclosed, and that a temporary protection order be granted to them.

Others who were also included in the list of targets are also in the process of making similar Writs and a Writ of Habeas Data. The latter is another judicial remedy for any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a person or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information.

Brief details of those in the list:

In our previous appeal AHRC-UAU-011-2009, we released information about the backgrounds and work of those persons included in the list. We also raised the concern that these persons are being targeted due to their involvement in the campaign against extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and providing legal and other assistance to victims of violations of their rights. We are sharing with you further details of the persons listed as targets:

Carlos Isagani Zarate is the former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippine (IBP) in Davao City Chapter; he is secretary general of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM) and previously a coordinator for the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in Davao City. He also writes a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national daily newspaper. In his article ‘O.B.-jections’ he had expressed strong objections to the inclusion of his name and his fellow colleagues in the document.

The UPLM is an organisation of lawyers’ groups in Mindanao. It also provides pro bono service and legal assistance to the victims of human rights violations and likewise issued a statement on this matter: The AFP’s ‘Order of Battle’: Witchhunting and adulterated lies. The group has also been vocal of campaigns, not only amongst the killings of lawyers and judges, but also against the vigilante killings in Davao City.

One of the numerous cases Carlos has represented in the past is that of Luisito Bustamante, a farmer whom a paramilitary group had illegally arrested, held and tortured in a military camp in November 2007. Carlos and two other lawyers also assisted Luisito’s relatives in filing a Writ of Amparo which prompted his release from the custody of the military. For details about this case, please read: UP-158-2007.

Angela Librado-Trinidad is a human rights lawyer and an activist on women’s rights. She is an incumbent councilor of the First District of Davao City. She also worked with a local non-governmental organisation which provides legal aid to abused women and children. Angela lobbies in Davao City and neighbouring areas.

Beverly Musni is a human rights lawyer. She is the chairperson of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (KARAPATAN) in Northern Mindanao, a regional office of this alliance of human rights organisations. She is also an officer of the UPLM for the Northern Mindanao Chapter.

In July 2008, her organisation, UPLM, raised concerns over the surveillance activities she has been subjected to, noting in a statement that Beverly had been closely monitored by a man they described to be ‘burly-looking’ whenever she entered and left her office. At that time the surveillance activities lasted continuously for a month, however she has repeatedly encountered people following her over the last two years.

The 1503 Complaint Procedure of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is now a Complaint Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council, had previously conducted an inquiry and took up her case and the cases of other lawyers who had experienced threats and attacks in the Philippines.

Lilibeth Ladaga is also a member of the UPLM. She is the present coordinator of the Davao City chapter of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

Noreen Manatad is also a lawyer who had worked in Davao City but has been based in New York, the United States since 2002.

Benjamin de Guzman is a former mayor of Davao City. He was the former president of the IBP Davao City chapter.

Luz Ilagan is a member of the House of Representatives. Luz is a lawmaker representing Gabriela Party List, a political party advocating for the welfare of women. There have also been targeted killings and systematic threats made amongst the members and organisers of her political party. One of whom was Liezelda Estorba-Cuñado who was killed on April 3, 2006 in Candijay, Bohol. See the following UA for details: UA-118-2006

Joel Maglungsod is a representative of the Anakpawis Party List, a political party which advocates the rights and welfare of peasants. Similar to Luz Ilagan’s political party, there have also been numerous targeted killings staff members, organisers and members of his political party.

Among them were Federico de Leon, their former chairperson in Bulacan; Victoria Samonte, the party’s nominee in Congress during May 2004 elections; Isaias Manano Jr., the party’s former secretary-general in Mindoro Oriental; and Rodrigo Siacor, party member. The complete details of each of these cases can also be found in this campaign website: Stop Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Carlos H. Conde has been a journalist for 15 years and is now based in Manila. At present he works as a freelance correspondent for US-based publications, namely The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and He also contributes stories and reports to other foreign and local publications. After the PowerPoint presentation was made public, Carlos wrote a statement expressing concern about and demanding an explanation for his place on the list.

Carlos was formerly a coordinator at the Davao City and Southern Mindanao chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an association of journalists based in the Philippines. He was also the former secretary-general of the NUJP from 2004 to 2006. The NUJP has since been actively involved in campaigning against the extrajudicial killings of journalists.

During the fact finding missions of the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) in 2006 and in 2007, the NUJP were among those who took active part. The HKCAHRPP is a group of persons and a coalition of Hong Kong-based organisations, including the AHRC, which campaign against extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Rita M. Melecio (described as Marietta Mulato y Maring in the PowerPoint Presentation) is a staff member of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) in Mindanao, a human rights non-governmental organisation. She is a native of Toril in Davao City. Mulato is Rita’s maiden name. She has been involved in documenting cases of human rights violations, providing legal assistance to victims and of helping them in pursuing cases for prosecution in local courts.

According to her, before this PowerPoint presentation was made public, whenever she went to visit her place in Toril she had faced considerable interest in her work from certain people in the community, and was often questioned about it. She later discovered that the people questioning her were from the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), and known former rebel of the New People’s Army. During her last visit her questioner asked where she was currently based, and this person, according to Rita, was the only one whom she had told of her present area of assignment. However she later came to know that the local police had this information.

Her organisation, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is also listed as a target in the same PowerPoint presentation.

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