war on drugs

CA orders Duterte gov’t to remove Leyte congressman’s name from narco list

Lian Buan
CA orders Duterte gov’t to remove Leyte congressman’s name from narco list

HABEAS DATA. Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso wins habeas data case in the Court of Appeals.

File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

In the latest Duterte government loss at the appellate court, the CA says its ruling is not a total censure on the government to act against drug personalities, but 'any action which fails to observe respect for constitutional rights will never be tolerated'

The Duterte government continued its losing streak at the Court of Appeals (CA), which has ordered the security sector to delete the name of Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso from President Rodrigo Duterte’s narco list.

“They are further ordered to rectify the said narco list and delete the name of the petitioner. They are also enjoined from further including the petitioner’s name in any publicized derogatory list that fails to follow due process,” said the CA’s former special 8th Division in a freshly promulgated resolution on June 8.

The court granted the privileges of the writ of habeas data to Veloso in a rare writ victory under the Duterte administration.

Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr penned the resolution, with concurrences from Associate Justices Germano Francisco Legaspi and Ruben Reynaldo Roxas.

The resolution made it clear that the habeas data will not prevent the government from filing a criminal complaint against Veloso if they have evidence, “which should have been done to begin with as a matter of due process.”

“It should not be construed as an absolute censure on the part of the government to take actions against personalities who are involved in illegal drug trade and other criminal activities,” said the court.

“Any course of action, however, which fails to observe respect for constitutional rights will never be tolerated,” said the court.

The court said Veloso has proven, through substantial evidence, that the narco list threatened his right to privacy in life, liberty, or security.

“The [government] failed to establish the presence of any such lawful defense that would bar the availment of the writ of habeas data,” said the court.

The Duterte governmentrecently lost two cases at the CA, both related to its bid to jail former senator and staunch government critic Antonio Trillanes IV for coup d’etat and rebellion charges – for which he had already been granted amnesty by then-president Benigno Aquino III.

National security

Veloso initially lost the petition when in 2019, the same justices deferred action saying that an administrative complaint filed against the lawmaker at the Office of the Ombudsman barred them from taking any action.

It highlighted gaps in the rules of extraordinary writs, and raised questions whether writs were at all effective in protecting rights.

In October 2020, the same justices reversed their earlier ruling and granted the writ – which was to compel the security officials to show proof why Veloso was included in the narco list.

The officials resisted submitting proof, saying this would undermine national security.

When compelled, the CA said “we have carefully scrutinized the documents submitted by the respondents and found no basis to hold them and the information contained therein to be matters of national security.”

The court adopted the definition of national security as “related to the protection of a nation’s existence, its territorial integrity and national sovereignty against the use or threat of force, such as military threat or attempts to violently overthrow the government.”

“The documents and information that pertained to the petitioner and which were provided by the respondents to the Court hardly hurdle the above standards,” said the court.

National security has been repeatedly invoked by the government in the bloody war on drugs, first by the Office of the Solicitor General to resist submitting drug war deaths records to the Supreme Court, and second by Duterte himself to limit the data to be shared to the Department of Justice (DOJ) drug war review panel. – 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.