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Int’l team to bare findings on lawyers’ killings

A six-nation delegation dispatched to the Philippines to probe the killing of lawyers under President Rodrigo Duterte is set to present its initial findings on March 18.

The team of nine lawyers will likely look into the way the government has responded to the killings, 38 of which have occurred during the President’s term — a clear signal to Malacañang that the controversial International Criminal Court (ICC) withdrawal would not spare it from sustained international scrutiny.

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Independent lawyers

“The ICC is not the be-all and end-all of our avenues or arenas of legal redress,” Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, told the Inquirer.

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The findings will be shown at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines headquarters in Pasig City.

The delegation, composed of lawyers from Belgium, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and the United States, have been conducting marathon interviews with survivors, victims’ relatives and government agencies, among others, since Friday.

A mix of legal groups are also represented in the team, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Association of Lawyers and Day of Endangered Lawyers Foundation.

“We want them to be independent, so the meetings are confidential,” Olalia said.

He expected, however, that the scope of their investigation would include the following: who perpetrated the killings; how many of them were identified; whether the government had responded and if there was an overarching connection between all the attacks.

Lawyers have been at the forefront of assisting victims of the President’s brutal antinarcotics campaign, even as Mr. Duterte had previously said he would ask police to shoot human rights advocates who meddled in police operations.

Comprehensive report

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After the delegation’s initial findings are bared, they will piece together a more comprehensive report that could be submitted to various international organs, such as the ICC, UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.

Diego Garcia-Sayan, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, was told to “go to hell” by the President last year.

Olalia had previously said the delegation had come of their own volition, spurred by the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Tarug Ramos in Negros Occidental last year.

The night before they arrived in Manila, another lawyer, Rex Jasper Lopoz, was shot dead in Davao del Norte.

They were tasked with conducting an independent investigation of 15 recent killings that had occurred throughout Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

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TAGS: Edre Olalia, ICC, NUCP, Rodrigo Duterte, slain lawyers
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