State workers appeal dismissal of protection bid

Posted on January 07, 2016

GOVERNMENT UNIONISTS led by the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) have appealed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) dismissal of their request for protection from state-sanctioned harassment.

In a statement, COURAGE said they filed their motion for reconsideration Monday to appeal the appellate court’s Dec. 11 decision denying them the full privileges of the writs of amparo and habeas data.

“They will not stop until they get the justice they deserve and the threats to their life and liberty finally end,” read a statement issued following the filing of the appeal.

The 22 union leaders representing government workers said they have been repeatedly harassed, threatened, tailed and accused of ties with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

But the CA Fourth Division, in its 26-page decision, dismissed their plea for the writs for insufficiency of evidence. It said that while the petitioners were able to obtain evidence such as photographs and surveillance footage, they should have been “more vigilant” in confirming which persons have been harassing and tailing them.

COURAGE National President Ferdinand Gaite said in the statement they were not surprised with the decision because during the preliminary hearing, “we were lectured on having suspicious minds and just being paranoid.”

He said he could not understand why the court would not consider their evidence as enough despite being cognizant that the harassment would be “done in a meticulous and clandestine manner to avoid apprehension.”

“Why wait for more of our members to be hurt, arrested on trumped-up charges, or killed before they see the urgency of our situation,” said Mr. Gaite, as he noted that six COURAGE leaders have been killed under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, and that two organizers have been jailed since 2012.

Another petitioner, president Rosalinda Nartates, said the harassment did not stop even after they filed their case in July. She said fake Facebook accounts have cropped up to taunt them with red-tagging and threaten them to “submit our plans and programs” to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

The case was first filed with the SC in July. In August, the high court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to determine if they should be granted the full privileges of the writs, while ordering the government respondents to submit a verified return explaining their side.

Named as respondents were President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Hernando Delfin Carmelo A. Iriberri, AFP Chief of the Intelligence Service Arnold M. Quiapo, recently retired Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Leonardo A. Espina, National Capital Region Police Office Regional Director Carmelo E. Valmoria, Manila Police District Acting Director Rolando Z. Nana, Manila Police Station 8 Commander Nicolas S. Piñon, and Manila Police Station 8 Intelligence Section Chief Alfredo F. Agbuya. -- Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato