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Court Ruling: Arroyo and Her Men Liable for Abduction, Disappearance of Activist

posted Jan 24, 2009, 5:44 AM by Diego S. Maranan   [ updated Jan 24, 2009, 6:18 AM ]

Quoted from PinoyPress:

The National Union of People’s Lawyers, in a statement, described as a “bold decision” a Cordillera court’s decision finding “substantial evidence” to link President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several of her men to the abduction and disappearance of activist James Balao.

The NUPL’s statement reads in full:

In a bold decision promulgated on January 19, 2009, the first on the writ of amparo in the Cordillera Region, the Regional Trial Court-Branch 63 in La Trinidad, Benguet found substantial evidence to link President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano, PNP Chief Jesus Versoza, Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, P/Dir. Edgardo Doromal, Maj. Gen. Isagani Cachuela and Senior Supreintendent Eugene Martin, to the abduction and continued disappearance of activist James Balao. These government officials were the respondents in a petition for the issuance of the writ of amparo filed by the family and co-workers of James Balao in September 2008. Judge Benigno M. Galacgac penned the Decision in this case.

The Court’s thirteen (13)-page Decision directed the respondents to “(a) disclose where James Balao is detained or confined, (b) to release James Balao considering his unlawful detention since his abduction and (c) to cease and desist from further inflicting harm upon his person.” In reaching this Decision the Court found that James Balao disappeared because of his “activist/political leanings.” The Court also chided respondents for its “very limited, superficial, and one-sided” investigation on James Balao’s enforced disappearance, and for using “technicalities and evidentiary jargon to thwart [the] Petition to surface the activist.”

Equally important, in an unprecedented move, the Court has recognized the need for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to respond to a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo. The Court brilliantly supported this tack on the President’s own duty to be informed of the goings-on around her and to enforce the rule of law. This ruling of the Court provides substance to the otherwise empty statement that “no one is above the law.” By this Decision the President can be held accountable for every case of human rights abuse, especially enforced disappearances, even simply on the level of ensuring the reappearance of the disappeared.

Through its independence and commitment to the rule of law, the Court has pinned the responsibility for James Balao’s disappearance and reappearance upon President Arroyo and her cohorts.

However, the fight is not over. The bottom line is we need to find James Balao. We thus deplore the Court’s ruling to deny the interim reliefs prayed for, especially the issuance of an inspection order. An inspection order would have saved much time and effort in locating James Balao. Still, we are hopeful that the process of executing the Decision pending appeal, with all ancillary reliefs, would reverse an otherwise empty victory. The Court has found – and rightly so – that James Balao is in the hands of the Respondents. The Court must exercise its vast powers so that justice be done though the mighty respondents fall. As the Court has rightfully quoted,

The tribunals are the palladium of the civil liberties of the people. They are the sanctuary where the fundamental human rights are safeguarded. Shall we fail in the crucial hours of actual test? Shall we disappoint the unfortunate victim? This is the last asylum where the victim can resort to. Shall we reject him with freezing indifference? Here comes for salvation a drowning man. Shall we throw him to his doom? From the deepest bottom of our souls surges a powerful No, as an overpowering answer. No. We cannot do that. We must protect the victim. It is our unavoidable duty. It is an imperative mandate of the conscience.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
CAR Chapter