THE Supreme Court (SC) granted the petition of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), issuing a writ of amparo and habeas data for the protection of its members against “red-tagging” and alleged attacks by the government.

The SC, in a special en banc session held Friday, referred to the Court of Appeals NUPL’s petition as well as the writ of amparo and habeas data.

“The CA was further directed to hear the petition on May 14, 2019 and to decide the case within 10 days after submission of the case for decision,” the SC said in a press release.

The Court also ordered the respondents in the petition, including President Rodrigo R. Duterte and National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., among others, to make a “verified return” of the writ of amparo and habeas data on or before May 8, 2019 and comment to the NUPL petition.

The NUPL members on April 15 asked the SC to issue a temporary protection order to prohibit the government from threatening them and the conduct of surveillance of its members, following “red-tagging” incidents of its members.

NUPL members, including its President Edre U. Olalia and senatorial candidate and Chairperson Neri J. Colmenares, asked the SC to order the state agents to disclose all the information gathered about them and have them destroyed.

They cited, among others, the accusation of Brig. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for operations, in April that their group is associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples’ Army.

“In the instant case, the pattern is crystal clear: Petitioners are harassed not for their individual actions as lawyers per se, but for being members of the NUPL and the cases, clients and issues they take on,” they stated in the petition.

They also raised the tagging of the organization in the alleged ouster plot of the President.

In a statement, Mr. Olalia said the decision sends a “strong signal” to the military and the government that “there are certain well-defined rules of evidence not incompatible with basic fairness, decency, common sense and logic that must be observed.”

“While this is just a start of an intense judicial battle and tedious procedure, we are grateful that the Court heeded our supplication to be given judicial shield and a potential relief from reckless accusations, malicious labelling and vicious attacks in different forms and guises,” he said.

“Its subtext is as unequivocal — incessant red-tagging, personal mudslinging and contrived narratives will be subjected to judicial restraint and accountability,” he added. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas