Makabayan rep wants to cite Topacio in contempt in Supreme Court writs case

Lian Buan

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Makabayan rep wants to cite Topacio in contempt in Supreme Court writs case

LeAnne Jazul

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio says the contempt request is 'egregious,' as the government crackdown on the Left reaches the High Court

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court found itself caught between the nasty exchanges of leftist groups and the government and its sympathizers, over the intensifying crackdown on activists.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago filed a pleading before the High Court Saturday, May 30, moving to cite in contempt lawyer Ferdinand Topacio for what she called as his degrading the legal systems.

“It is respectfully prayed that the Honorable Court cite the petitioners in contempt for degrading the administration of justice,” Elago said in her pleading.

Topacio had filed petitions for the writs of amparo and habeas corpus in an attempt to bring youth activist Alicia Jasper “AJ” Lucena back to her parents.

AJ had written affidavits accusing her parents of abuse, and said she was not being held against her will by any of the organizations she was associated with.

Elago, as well as other activists and public interest lawyer Krissy Conti, filed their respective compliance Saturday, to the Supreme Court’s show cause order to Topacio’s petition.

Family conflict

Topacio said the move to cite him in contempt is “egregious.”

“Since when has a mother’s attempts to use  all remedies afforded by law to rescue her child from the clutches of evil been a degradation of justice?” the lawyer said.

The activists urged the government to stop using the Lucena family.

“It is improper, nay, insensitive for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTFELCAC) to exploit a personal family matter for their propaganda, sweepingly redtagging organizations and individuals in a malicious attempt to malign and discredit them,” said Conti and youth activist Alex Danday in their compliance.

AJ’s parents claim their daughter has been radicalized and brainwashed by the leftist groups.

The Lucena family conflict has been used by the military as the foremost narrative in their intensifying campaign against the Left.

AJ’s parents earlier filed kidnapping and trafficking complaints against Elago and others before the Department of Justice (DOJ), but these are yet to be resolved.

Topacio helped AJ’s parents file petitions for writs of amparo and habeas corpus, which are extraordinary remedies for protection or release order.

In the compliance, Elago et al cited AJ’s affidavits.

“AJ is 18 years and 10 months old and has voluntarily taken refuge outside her home. She is no longer a minor and can very well decide on her own. In her own assessment of the situation, she expressly stated that she no longer feels safe in their family home,” the compliance read.

Government behind it?

The show cause order was short of issuing the writs which the Supreme Court usually does in these types of cases; meaning the Court found the petition was not so urgent.

This led Elago and other activists to point out that the resort to the writs was an abuse of the legal systems.

Leftist groups usually avail of these extraordinary remedies when activists are arrested and detained by the military.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon hailed Topacio’s petition as a landmark step in the government’s counter-insurgency fight, which Elago’s group called as red-tagging.

Red-tagging, as defined by the Supreme Court, refers to “the act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy…by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”

“By resurrecting the very same arguments raised in the complaint before the DOJ, the Petition trifles with the courts and abuses their processes. It degrades the administration of justice and adds to the already congested court dockets,” the compliance added. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.