CA junks writ of amparo bid of MILF's Guerra

DAVAO CITY (Dateline Philippines through MindaNews/12 December)  The Court of Appeals has junked the petition for a writ of amparo filed by the wife of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) officer who the military claims is an operative of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

The ruling of the CA’s Second Division, penned by Associate Justice Michael Elbinias, said the filing of criminal charges against Eduard Guerra, alias Abraham Alonto, before the regional trial court in Maasim, Saranggani province, prevents the filing of a petition for the writ of amparo.
The MILF protested the arrest of Guerra, who it said was on his way to attend a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council when he was
arrested at the Davao City International Airport on September 22.

Guerra has since been in the custody of the Philippine Army’s Intelligence Service Group.

The MILF Central Committee resolution on October 11, 2010 protested the arrest of Guerra, urged the dropping of charges against him and asked that he be released without delay.

The resolution also said Guerra, a member of the MILF Central Committee, is covered by the safety and security guarantees provided to MILF members who are directly and principally involved in the peace process.

In its ruling the CA explained that “the reason why the pendency of a criminal action bars the filing of a petition for amparo is, as the Supreme Court explains in its annotation to the writ of amparo, ‘to avoid the difficulties that may be encountered when the amparo action is allowed to proceed separately from the criminal action, wherein two courts trying essentially the same subject may issue conflicting orders.”

The appellate court added that the allegations raised by Guerra’s wife, Jocelyn, in her petition are not covered by the writ.

Jocelyn raised the absence of preliminary investigation on the case of her husband, the insufficiency of the information filed against him, the legality of his arrest, the validity of the warrant of arrest issued against him by the trial court, and the mental and physical torture he experienced while in detention.

The CA said the unlawful acts contemplated by the Rules on the Writ of Amparo are those similar to extralegal killings and enforced disappearances, which would endanger one’s life, liberty, or security. It said Jocelyn should have filed appropriate motions before the trial court to avail of the reliefs provided for under Section 22 of the Rules on the Writ of Amparo, which says: “When a criminal action has been commenced, no separate petition for the writ shall be filed. The reliefs under the writ shall be available by motion in the criminal case.”

It also said a petition for a writ of amparo can be filed only when the aggrieved party’s whereabouts are unknown.

Guerra, with 62 other persons, was charged on June 28 this year for allegedly participating in an attack on a town police station, an electric substation and a military detachment that left two civilians dead.

The Sarangani RTC issued the warrant of arrest for Guerra and his co-accused on September 1.

After his arrest, the police asked the court to let the Army intelligence unit take custody of Guerra because of his alleged links to the JI, supposedly as a facilitator and financier in the purchase and supply of arms and ammunition to the MILF.  (Dateline Philippines with additional report from MindaNews)