Marlon Bosantog, who represented President Rodrigo R. Duterte and seven other respondents in a petition for writs of Amparo and habeas data filed by NUPL in April, said the lawyers' group is a juridical entity that cannot be the subject of physical harm.
"No lawyer should be encumbered in the performance of their duty," said Bosantog appearing for the state as he questioned NUPL president Edre Olalia's allegations and the legal standing of the alleged left-leaning group to bring the suit.
Bosantog started his cross-examination of the witnesses during a hearing at the Court of Appeals with assurances of the government's commitment to the rule of law and due process.
Sparks flew during the hearing attended by state lawyers and counsels of NUPL that is identified by the military to have links to the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
The exchange between Bosantog and Olalia became tense after Bosantog described the lawyer as having "split personality" and Olalia, in turn, accusing the government of "coverups" and "victim blaming".
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, who attended the hearing, formally informed the court that pressing commitments conflicted with the schedule of AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, Major General Antonio Parlade Jr. thus, preventing the latter from attending the hearing.
The Special 15th Division led by Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, with Associate Justices Pedro Corales and Hermano Legaspi as members, said there was no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to attend even if he had been named as a nominal respondent.
"We are not requiring the presence of the President, that is clear," the magistrates clarified.
Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Villanueva-Miranda assured that the generals led by Parlade will be informed that their absence in the subsequent hearings will constitute a waiver to be present there.
The government was also asked to comment on the request for a temporary protection order sought by the parties. Aside from Olalia, also testifying was lawyer Zsarina Musngi.
The CA set the next hearing on July 11.
The appellate court was tasked by the Supreme Court to conduct hearings on the petition and to submit its report to the high court.
In its petition, NUPL sought for the issuance of the writs of amparo and habeas data for their protection, claiming that their rights to life, liberty and security have been violated and continue to be violated through the persistent threats and harassment and red tagging allegedly done to vilify and intimidate them and prevent them from pursuing their profession as members of the Bar and from practicing their advocacy as peoples’ lawyers serving the poor and the marginalized.
Also named as respondents were National Security Adviser (Ret.) Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr.; National Defense Secretary (Ret.) Gen. Delfin N. Lorenzana, AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr., AFP Deputy Commander for Intelligence Brig. Gen. Fernando T. Trinidad, AFP Intelligence Service of the Philippines (ISAFP) Chief Major Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, and Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto.
The government, through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), is working to uncover organizations used as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.