Remedial Law

Noriel Rodriguez vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

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G.R. No. 191805 – 676 Phil. 84 – 660 SCRA 84 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Writ of Amparo – The President, as Commander-in-Chief, may be impleaded in an amparo case

Writ of Habeas Data – Nature of the Writ – Purpose of the Writ

On 06 September 2009, Noriel Rodriguez, a suspected member of the NPA, was abducted in Cagayan. On 16 September 2009, Wilma Rodriguez, Noriel’s mother, sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights. The CHR contacted several military detachments until it was found out that Noriel was in the custody of the 17th Infantry Battalion in Alcala, Cagayan. On 17 September 2009, Noriel was presented to the CHR. On 18 September 2009, Noriel was accompanied by soldiers to his house. The soldiers took pictures of the interior and the exterior of his house.

On 19 September 2009, a doctor examined Noriel and the doctor concluded that he was a victim of torture.

In November 2009, Noriel and his girlfriend observed that several suspicious individuals were following them.

On 07 December 2009, Noriel filed a petition for habeas data and amparo with the Supreme Court. He prayed for the following:

a. The issuance of the writ of amparo ordering respondents to desist from violating Noriel’s right to life, liberty and security.

b. The issuance of an order to enjoin respondents from doing harm to or approaching Noriel, his family and his witnesses.

c. Allowing the inspection of the detention areas of the Headquarters of Bravo Co., 5th Infantry Division, Maguing, Gonzaga, Cagayan and another place near where Noriel was brought.

d. Ordering respondents to produce documents submitted to them regarding any report on Noriel, including operation reports and provost marshal reports of the 5th Infantry Division, the Special Operations Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), prior to, on and subsequent to 6 September 2009.

e. Ordering records pertinent or in any way connected to Noriel, which are in the custody of respondents, to be expunged, disabused, and forever barred from being used.

On their part, the military officers averred that Noriel surrendered to them in May 2009 because he was tired of living as a NPA rebel; that they were able to convince him to act as a double agent for the military; that Noriel, while being a double agent, however suspected that the NPA are close to finding his work for the military; that in order to abate the NPA finding his double-agent status, the military and Noriel agreed to make it appear that he was abducted.

The writs were issued and the respondents were directed to file a return with the Court of Appeals. After hearing, the CA granted the petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not the writs should be granted.

HELD: Yes. The version of the military is inconsistent. Why would a rebel who is tired of living with the NPA agree to become a double agent? Further, the findings of torture by a medical expert was given weight by the SC.

The order of the CA directing the military to expunge all information gathered with respect to Noriel to be expunged was affirmed.

What is the purpose of the writ of habeas data?

The writ of habeas data provides a judicial remedy to protect a person’s right to control information regarding oneself, particularly in instances where such information is being collected through unlawful means in order to achieve unlawful ends.

What is the nature of proceedings resolving a petition for writ of habeas data?

It is a special proceedings. As an independent and summary remedy to protect the right to privacy – especially the right to informational privacy – the proceedings for the issuance of the writ of habeas data does not entail any finding of criminal, civil or administrative culpability.

May the President of the Philippines be impleaded in an amparo case?

Yes, as commander-in-chief and under the principle of command responsibility.

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