The Supreme Court has declared that guaranteed rights to life, liberty, and security cannot be disregarded or trampled upon by law enforcers even if a person is arrested for an alleged criminal offense.
In a decision, the SC stressed that for persons whose rights to life, liberty, and security are threatened by law enforcers, their proper remedy before the courts is to file a petition for a Writ of Amparo.
Writ of Amparo “is a special writ to protect or enforce a constitutional right other than physical liberty.”
The rules on the Writ of Amparo were approved by the SC in September 2007.
The SC through Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez upheld the issuance of a Writ of Amparo in favor of widow Christina Gonzales whose husband was killed in the alleged illegal drugs operation conducted by the Antipolo City police.
The high court denied the petition for review filed by the Antipolo City law enforcement officers, who challenged the Nov. 26, 2018 ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA), which issued the Writ of Amparo with a permanent protection order (PPO) in favor of Christina.
The CA decision recommended the filing of civil, criminal, and administrative charges against the police officers as it issued a PPO that barred the law enforcers from entering within a radius of one kilometer from Christina’s residences and work addresses.
In denying the petition, the SC “explicitly recognized the death of Christina’s husband, Joselito Gonzales, as an extralegal killing, and upheld the finding of the CA that Christina had reason to fear her life would be met with the same fate as that of her slain husband.”
The high court noted the couple had been previously arrested for using and selling illegal drugs, “but were eventually released after paying the amount of ₱50,000 demanded by the police.”
In granting the writ, the SC acknowledged the various threats to Christina’s life, liberty, and security, including the allegations prior to the issuance of the Writ of Amparo in 2017.
“Christina and Joselito were both solicited by law enforcement agents to sell illegal drugs and were threatened on several occasions that they would be entrapped or killed,” the SC said.
“The Court also gave credence to the claim that following Joselito’s death, there were several unknown and suspicious-looking individuals who attended his funeral asking for Christina’s whereabouts,” the SC added.
Christina filed on Feb. 17, 2017 a petition before the SC for a Writ of Amparo with a plea for a temporary protection order. On Jan. 21, 2017, the SC granted the plea for protection and ordered the CA to conduct a hearing.
On Nov. 26, 2018, the CA issued a PPO prompting the Antipolo City police officers to challenge the ruling before the SC.
After examining the totality of evidence, the SC found that threats to the life of Christina were indeed present, and that the CA’s issuance of the Writ of Amparo was proper.
The high court also noted major lapses in the conduct of the police operation that resulted in Joselito’s death, raising doubts as to whether a legitimate buy-bust operation really took place.
The SC observed how the law enforcement agents failed to follow several directives to reopen the investigation of Joselito’s case.”
The tribunal said that no documentation was provided to show that the usual procedure under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, was observed when the illegal drugs were seized.
“The fact that respondent (Christina) and Joselito were previously arrested for selling illegal drugs is beside the point. As stated earlier, even if the respondent committed a crime, the petitioners, as law enforcement agents, are not at liberty to disregard the respondent’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to life, liberty, and security,” the high court added.