PNP, AFP snub foreign delegation probing attacks vs lawyers
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine military and police have ignored the request for a dialogue of an international delegation of lawyers conducting a fact-finding mission on attacks against members of the legal profession in the country.
The nine-member delegation of foreign lawyers representing various international law organizations arrived in the country last week to gather data on the reported attacks targeting lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and paralegals in the exercise of their profession.
The delegation conducted interviews with victims or their relatives as well as met with concerned government agencies to determine compliance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as well as to monitor international accountability.
“We attempted to meet with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines but up until the time we concluded our schedule they did not give us an audience,” said Suzanne Adely, of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) from the United States, during a press conference.
The delegation reviewed 13 incidents of attacks against members of the legal profession, met with survivors, relatives of victims, officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Quezon City Prosecutors League, Commission on Human Rights, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) from March 14 to 18.
Aside from the murders, the delegation also looked at reported harassments received by lawyers handling drug cases as well as lawyers being tagged as communists or linked to the leftist movement. Red-tagged lawyers are those representing human rights victims, political prisoners, and indigenous peoples such as Lumads.
Upon review of the findings, the delegation discovered recurring elements in the cases that they have investigated. Before the killings, members of the international mission said, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and paralegals have been tagged, harassed, and subjected to surveillance.
Perpetrators are masked killers operating on crowded streets as they are skilled shooters using .22 caliber guns with silencers, the delegation noted. These perpetrators are on motorbikes, it added.
Further, the delegation said there is no inventory of the used guns, no documented files about the killings linked to the judiciary, and no protection for witnesses as there are even reports that police and military harass witnesses to crimes against members of the legal profession.
“We have learned that only a few identified perpetrators have been prosecuted and no masterminds have been found,” the group also said.
To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte, in one of his speeches, had said lawyers obstructing justice – especially the government-sanctioned war on drugs – should be shot.
“President Duterte and his administration should refrain from publicly attacking lawyers and instead publicly condemn all attacks against lawyers, prosecutors and judges at all levels and in strong terms,” the delegation said.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President should not be blamed for the deaths of lawyers and judges.
“The killing could be personally motivated. What do they mean by their statement that the Administration should refrain from attacking lawyers? The Administration has not attacked any lawyer in any way and /or manner. Coming as it does from lawyers who should know better, blaming the Administration for the lawyers’ deaths is gross intellectually challenged,” he said. /kga
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