With the exigent hope of ending problems of extra-legal killings and enforced disappearance in the Philippines, the Supreme Court introduced the concept of the Writ of Habeas Data.
The Writ of Habeas Data seeks to protect the right of an individual to find out what information is kept, what is the use of such information and why these data about him are collected. The Writ gives the petitioner the opportunity to question the data and to demand for its updating, rectification or destruction.
In some countries, the Writ of Habeas Data is an excellent human rights tool against military dictatorship. It is filed to view police and military records of victims of extralegal killings which were previously made confidential and off-limits to the families of victims. And in order to establish a right to truth, some use this Writ to view government records in cases of atrocities committed by the latter.
The introduction of the Writ of Habeas Data into Philippine Justice System complemented several writs used in the Philippines. These writs which protect the rights of the individual against the state are as follows:
1. The Writ of Habeas Corpus – a writ ordering a person who detained another to produce the body and bring it before a judge or court. Its purpose is to determine whether the detention is lawful or not;
2. The Writ of Mandamus – a writ ordering a governmental agency to perform a ministerial function;
3. The Writ of Prohibition – a writ ordering a person to prohibit the commission of an illegal act;
4. The Writ of Certiorari – a writ ordering a person to correct an erroneous act committed with grave abuse of discretion; and
5. The Writ of Amparo – a writ designed to protect the most basic right of a human being. These are the right to life, liberty and security guaranteed by the Constitution.
With these writs, the Supreme Court fervently hoped that the problems of extralegal and extrajudicial killings and the disappearance of activists and other persons shall come to a halt especially in the midst of Martial Law lurking in the horizon.