Writ of amparo: More light to find the disappeared

“How can we produce [Jonas]? We will try, we will try producing him, but I don’t know how,” National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales was quoted by the Phil. Daily Inquirer as saying in relation to the Supreme Court’s order of habeas corpus for the military. Likewise, the military claims that it will appear before the Court of Appeals but without any trace of Jonas Burgos.

That situation places everyone in great doubt as to whether the State will really resolve the problem. Jonas has given a face to the thousands of desapericidos in the Philippines that have not yet been found up to this time. Whether he knows it or not, wherever he is, he has made a great sacrifice for bringing the unresolved problem of disappearances at the crosshairs. (It’s sad, though, that a disappeared person has to be associated with known people, much less, the media, if only to hug the headlines and catch the State’s attention.)

Gonzales’s impuissance, or at least his sounding powerless, reaffirms the need for the Supreme Court to intervene. (Involuntary and forced disappearance is not yet considered a crime, which makes it very difficult for victims’ families to seek justice against the perpetrators. Petitions for habeas corpus have been the hope for the families to find their disappeared. But writ of habeas corpus is incapable of effectively mandating government to produce the disappeared.)

In fact, the Court has recently launched a summit amidst the unabated extrajudicial killings. Human rights groups have found their hopes rekindled in that initiative from Chief Justice Reynato Puno. It was only then that the idea of writ of amparo was seen as an alternative to writ of habeas corpus. Mainly used in the totalitarian states, the writ of amparo compels state agents to look for the missing person. In case they are not able to do so, the Court will hold them to account.

Although not yet enforced in the Philippines, writ of amparo may serve as the Court’s alternative, given its Constitutionally-granted power to promulgate rules to protect constitutional rights.

Writ of amparo sheds more light to find the disappeared despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. Likewise, that feeds into the perseverance of the victims’ families to go out on a limb and hold the State accountable.

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  1. This writ of Amparo is a rather new concept in the Philippines. We should have more literatures about it. Kudos for adding up to the discourse!

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