Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Three lawyers whose names were in the military Order of Battle list filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Regional Trial Court to preempt impending threats to their lives.

Davao lawyers Carlos Isagani Zarate, Lilibeth Ladaga and Angela Librado-Trinidad filed the petition before the RTC clerk of Court on Tuesday, June 16, asking the Court to order the respondentsmostly top military and police officers in the regionto produce all documents related to the inclusion of their names in the OB list and to suppress or destroy these information. They also asked the military to make a public apology to rectify the damages to their reputation and to explain why their names were put in the list.

The petition was directed against Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commanding officer of the Philippine Armys 10th Infantry Division; Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia, chief of the 10th ID Public Affairs Office; Col. Oscar Lactao, head of the Task Force Davao; Sr. Supt. Ramon Apolinario, Davao City police office director and several John Does, known only as police and military intelligence personnel who made the list.

The lawyers were in the military OB list that Bayan Muna partylist Satur Ocampo leaked to the media last month. Entitled JCICC Agila, 3rd Qtr 2007 OB Validation Report the document, tagged some 106 individuals and groups as either targeted, organized or dominated and linked them with the communist movement.

Ocampo said that the document, marked secret, was handed to him by a conscientious soldier.

Included in the list were organizations of the religious and professionals, medical practitioners, teachers and journalists, workers, farmers, students and non-government organizations.

Meant to instill fear

In separate petitions, the three lawyers said they feel that their lives and liberty have been threatened, especially in the light of the extrajudicial killings and disappearances of activists and perceived government critics in the country.

FIGHTING BACK. Lawyers Carlos Isagani Zarate and Eduardo Estores (right) prepare the petition for writ of amparo they filed at the Regional Trial Court here on June 16. Zarate is one of the three lawyers seeking relief from the Courts. He believes that the inclusion of his name in the military’s order of battle (OB) list puts his life in danger. Estores is one of the five counsels handling the case.( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

The document is meant to instill fear. It is tantamount to a death warrant, said Zarate who is identified in the list under human rights, under the organization Coalition Against Summary Execution, and as a legal Counsel of FLAG/IBP/TFD.

Zarate believes that he was included in the list because of his advocacies as a human rights lawyer.

He is currently the secretary general of the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and the Davao coordinator of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). He handles numerous cases of human rights violations that pointed to the military as perpetrators.

Zarate questioned why civilian names were in an Order of Battle when it (OB) should only be for combatants. Clearly, this is another direct and blatant attack on the people’s civil and political rights, Zarate said.

Librado-Trinidad, identified in the document under politicians and legal counsel, called the listing a malicious persecution of lawyers.

I have not committed any act that would justify my inclusion in the list, said Librado-Trinidad, a City Councilor and a member of Bayan Muna. Librado had been subjected to surveillance several times last year. She calls the act unlawful and illegal.

Meanwhile, Ladaga, another human rights lawyer said she is a victim of false accusations. In the document she was alleged to have presided a November 2007 meeting at a Davao beach resort that called for unity against Arroyo.

According to the document, she also urged for stepped-up protests and armed offensives at the height of public calls for Arroyo to resign.

Ladaga said that as a human rights lawyer she may have been invited to various forums but she has never been to the venue mentioned in the document.

Hit list

The military denied the existence of the document. But the petitioners showed copies of local newspapers, where military officials explained what targeted, organized, and dominated in the document were supposed to mean.

The military also clarified that the document was not a hit list.

But Manuel Quibod, lead counsel of the petitioners, said two persons in the hit list were already killed. This validates the fact that it was indeed a hit list, Quibod said, referring to Celso Pojas, the peasant leader assassinated in May last year and Ludenio Monzon, a member of the organization Alyansa sa mga Magbubukid sa Sidlakang Dabaw (Almasid) which appeared in the document.

The court gave the respondents 72 hours to reply to the charges.

The military however on Wednesday stood pat on its denial.

Colonel Lysander Suerte, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 10th Infantry Division said in a Sunstar report that no such 0rder of Battle exists, hence there is no need for a writ. The petition, to me, just shows their lack of understanding because they did not care to analyze the document, Sunstar quoted Suerte.

The case, which is the third writ of amparo filed in the city, is now in the jurisdiction of Judge Jose Emmanuel Castillo of the RTC 10.

The writ of Amparo took effect in October 2007 as a Supreme Court response to the alarming increase of human rights violations and cases of disappearance and extrajudicial killings in the country. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

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