Milestone or proof case not urgent? Explaining SC's show cause order vs leftists

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr has hailed the Supreme Court's show cause order against leftist groups for the writs of habeas corpus and amparo, but the order actually shows that the case was not considered urgent.

What was issued to leftist groups is a preliminary citation – not the writs itself – when in past cases for habeas corpus, parties including leftist groups were immediately issued the writs.

The lawyer who filed the petition, Ferdinand Topacio, told Rappler in a phone interview on Thursday, May 28, that the reason why they called it a landmark step is because the remedy is being used against leftist groups as opposed to leftist groups using the remedy for themselves.

What's the case? Francis and Relissa Lucena claim that their daughter Alicia was kidnapped and brainwashed by leftist groups Kabataan and Anakbayan. A criminal complaint against these groups is already pending before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Alicia has already faced the media to say she was not kidnapped, and has accused her mother of abuse.

Topacio filed a petition fo the writ of amparo and habeas corpus to get Alicia back to her parents. The writ of amparo is a protective remedy that, in some cases, serve as a sort of a restraining order against groups or invididuals, while habeas corpus or produce the body is a remedy to release somebody from illegal detention.

On May 19, the Supreme Court en banc issued a show cause order and required the leftist groups to show cause why the writs should not be issued.

In a statement, Esperon called it a landmark step. "This legal action is a milestone in the fight against the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG)," said Esperon.

What does it mean? The notice said the Court has "resolved to require the respondents to show cause within 10 calendar days why the peremptory writs of amparo and habeas corpus should not be issued."

Rappler has confirmed with a source that the show cause order is a form of a preliminary citation.

In the past, including in cases where leftist groups are asking for the remedy against state agents, the Supreme Court immediately issued the writs and ordered government agents to file a return.

A writ would require the respondents to answer the accusation before the Court would decide whether it would issue the privileges like a protective order or a release order.

In this case, there is a show cause order only to explain why the writs should not be issued.

In G.R. No. L-16779, the Supreme Court said a preliminary citation is issued "in cases where the necessity for the immediate issuance of the peremptory writ is not manifest," meaning the Court did not find extreme urgency.

When it was pointed out to him that the show cause order is actually short of what the Supreme Court usually does in similar cases, Topacio said, "My reading of that is because this is the case of first impression and that it is a novel one."

"It is a landmark step because the remedy is usually used by leftist organizations against the state but this time a citizen has used it to seek redress against the practices of the leftist groups," Topacio insisted.

While leftist groups have been issued these writs in the past, they were eventually denied the privileges.  This raises the question on whether these extraordinary remedies are even effective especially in the context of an intensified crackdown on these groups.– Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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