The Writ of Amparo and its Implications on Impunity:

A Forum to discuss the Scope of the Rule and other relevant issues

UP Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman campus


October 17, 2007



Atty. Rodolfo Urbiztondo
Deputy General Counsel
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)

Hon. Adolfo Azcuna
Associate Justice
Supreme Court

Main speaker

Atty. Neri Colmenares
Secretary General
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers

Sonny Burgos, brother of abducted  Jonas Burgos

NUPL  condemns the recent attempt of Pres. Gloria Arroyo to undermine the rule on the writ of amparo by issuing Administrative Order 197 which contains, inter alia, an order directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to draft legislation to protect “disclosure of military secrets and undue interference in military operations”.  (from the NUPL statement)


Photos courtesy of the NUPL Secretariat

Former VP Tito Guingona, IAPL President Atty Edre Olalia,

and Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic.





NUPL  condemns the recent attempt of Pres. Gloria Arroyo to undermine the rule on the writ of amparo by issuing Administrative Order 197 which contains, inter alia, an order directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to draft legislation to protect “disclosure of military secrets and undue interference in military operations”.


            The intent of AO 197 is to preempt any production order issued by the judiciary in response to a writ of amparo petition by shielding from that production order alleged “military secrets”.  Section 6 of the Amparo Rule provides that :


(c) Production Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon verified motion and after due hearing, may order any person in possession, custody or control of any designated documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects or tangible things, or objects in digitized or electronic form, which constitute or contain evidence relevant to the petition or the return, to produce and permit their inspection, copying or photographing by or on behalf of the movant.


            AO 197 intends to nullify the power of the court to issue such order through the passage of a law that will give the military the discretion to decide whether or not the subject of inspection is a ‘military secret’ thereby shielding suspected perpetrators of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance from court processes.


AO 197 also intends to preempt “inspection orders” issued under the Writ by the mere claim that an inspection of military camps to look for the victims of enforced disappearance is “undue interference in military operations”. 


            Pres. Arroyo also prepared the ground to preempt an Amparo court’s subpoena for military officers to testify on the ground of “executive privilege” by inserting the strangely unrelated provision on human rights violations in Par. 1 of AO 197,  to wit:


1. The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shall work closely with Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) subcommittee on killings and disappearances for speedy action on cases and effective reforms to avoid abuses with regular reports to the Commander-in-Chief   x x x


            Due to the express requirement to “report” to the commander-in-chief, military officers can claim ‘executive privilege’ since their testimony is the subject of a confidential “report” to the chief executive.  Pres. Arroyo’s latest attempt to subvert judicial powers by disregarding inspection and production orders issued in a writ of amparo petition is another impeachable offense committed by the Chief Executive.  The NUPL will not allow this blatant contemptuous attempt to undermine judicial power, particularly in the implementation of the powerful writ of amparo. 


            NUPL  urges the judiciary to protect its powers to issue subpoena on witnesses and documents under Sec. 1, Art. VIII to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”   NUPL also urges Congress not to pass a law that directly negates the jurisdiction of the judiciary and preempts its constitutional powers to “[P]romulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts x x x”.  The writ of amparo will be an important legal tool in putting a stop to the extra judicial killings and enforced disappearance as long as the judiciary asserts its constitutional powers to stamp out grave abuse of discretion by government officials.


Involve Human Rights groups in witness protection


            NUPL also urges the Supreme Court to allow active participation of human rights organizations in the protection of witnesses.  Section 14 (a) of the Amparo rule provides:

(a) Temporary Protection Order. – The court x x x may order that the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family be protected in a government agency or by an accredited person or private institution capable of keeping and securing their safety.   x x x


The Supreme Court shall accredit the persons and private institutions that shall extend temporary protection to the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family x x x .


            This rule is an indictment of the government’s witness protection program’s lack of credibility and capacity to provide protection to witnesses. Human rights organizations which have gained the trust of victims and families of the victims of human rights violations must be the main criteria in selecting such accredited institutions considering that trust and confidence, not just resources, play a large part in the success of any witness protection program.   The military must be prohibited by the judiciary, on pain of contempt, from harassing and arresting refugees in sanctuaries. 


            The NUPL also asks the Supreme Court to condemn the continuous attacks against lawyers for the exercise of their profession, including those who act as counsel for human rights victims.  The active participation of human rights lawyers in the serious prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations is one of the main legal tools in the battle against impunity. NUPL will pursue its commitment to human rights, made during its founding congress, and continue with more vigor its active participation in the battle against impunity by filing criminal and administrative complaints against and the prosecution of top military officers guilty of human rights violations.


Reference         : Atty. Neri Colmenares—Secretary General

                           Tel: 09178350459

Date                 : October 17, 2007


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Atty Emiliano Bermas
Atty Greg Fabros
Atty Alnie Foja
Atty. Richard Pascual
Poet composer Jess Santiago
Linda Cadapan, mother of abducted UP student Sherlyn

Mrs. Mylene Guerrero, wife of

abducted/tortured/detained UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero










National Organization of Human Rights Lawyers Formed:

Vows to Battle Impunity


            Human rights lawyers from various regions in the Philippines recently formed the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers [NUPL], in response to the escalating human rights violations in the country. 


One hundred forty one [141] lawyers, law students and paralegals attended its  Founding Congress, marking it as one of the largest gatherings of human rights lawyers since martial law.  Thirty-eight [38] lawyers from Luzon, twenty-three [23] lawyers from the Visayas,  twenty [20] lawyers  from Mindanao, and [8] guest lawyers attended the Congress together with [18] law students from the law schools of UP, Ateneo, Adamson, Aquinas University, FEU, Arellano and DVOREF of  Eastern Visayas, Cebu University,  St. Ferdinand College of Cagayan Valley and San Pablo College in Laguna. 


Chief Justice Reynato Puno announced the impending approval of the Writ of Amparo in his message of support to the NUPL delivered by SC Spokesman Atty. Jose Midas Marquez. He also  and stressed the importance of human rights lawyering. Vice-President Teofisto Guingona discussed the legal and economic implications of the JPEPA treaty, reminding lawyers that human rights include social, cultural and economic rights.   Former Judge Ad Litem of the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia [ICTY] Romeo Capulong discussed the philosophy of peoples’ lawyering as well as the relevant response of lawyers in the face of escalating human rights violations. Atty. Frederico Gapuz detailed the challenges ahead in his closing address as the newly elected NUPL President. Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares delivered a paper on the Writ of Amparo, Habeas Data and the legal notion of Command Responsibility.  Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao [UPLM] gave a general overview of the human rights situation and reported on the increasing attacks against lawyers.  Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Loren Legarda, Rep. Satur Ocampo, Atty. Hilario Davide Jr., and IBP Cebu City President Boholst, among others, expressed messages of support for the NUPL.  ►►►


Click here to go to the webpage of the Founding Congress of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers



Law Professor Osamu Niikura, from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers [IADL] one of the oldest and largest international lawyers organizations and Belgian lawyer Jo Dereymaeker of the Progress Lawyers Network [PLN] delivered the messages of support from the international community of lawyers.  The Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers, the International Association of People’s Lawyers [IAPL], the US National Lawyers Guild [NLG] and the Lawyers without Borders, as well as, inter alia and the National President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Atty. Feliciano Bautista and various peoples organizations  also sent solidarity messages to the NUPL.


The NUPL passed resolutions on various national issues notably, a resolution opposing JPEPA, one supporting the ratification of the International Criminal Court and other resolutions on peace, attacks against lawyers, extra judicial killings and enforced disappearance, mining and a call for the state prosecutor’s immediate resolution of the complaint filed against the military involved in the Palo massacre.


The delegates affirmed NUPL’s orientation as a national lawyers association of individual human rights lawyers that will coordinate, collaborate and facilitate legal assistance and services for victims of human rights violations.  In line with this, the NUPL will conduct research and education activities on important legal and other national issues.  The NUPL will also be a strong advocate for the protection, promotion and defense of human rights, including the protection and welfare of members of the legal profession.  


Elected as Officers of NUPL were Judge Romeo Capulong [Nueva Ecija] as Chairman, Atty. Frederico Gapuz [Cagayan de Oro] as President, Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares [NCR] as Secretary General, Atty. Noemi Truya [Cebu] as Treasurer and Atty. Janne Baterna [Iloilo] as Auditor.    Atty. Jose Molintas [Baguio City], Atty. Alfonso Cinco IV [Cebu City] and Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate [Davao City] were elected Vice-Presidents for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao respectively.  Thaddeus Tuburan was nominated Law Student representative while Roneo Clamor was nominated Paralegal representative.


The NUPL aims to actively participate in the battle against impunity by filing criminal and administrative complaints  against top public officials who violate human rights and civil liberties.  The NUPL, whose members mainly come from the various organizations of human rights lawyers all over the country, can play an effective role in this ‘legal counter offensive’ because it has members in many provinces nationwide.


Reference       : Atty. Neri Colmenares—Secretary General

                           Tel: 09178350459

Date                : October 17, 2007 


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