Int’l probers blast Duterte over attacks on PH lawyers
President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the legal profession have given perpetrators of the attacks on lawyers a “license to harass and kill,” according to an international delegation that is investigating the killings of lawyers in the country.
After a three-day investigation, the team of nine lawyers said that the lethal mix of the President’s rhetoric and an overall lack of oversight on the part of law enforcement officials had led to a “sharp increase” in “severe human rights violations” that targeted legal professionals.
“The killings, harassment, surveillance and criminalization of lawyers prevent them from fully and freely exercising their profession,” the delegates said in their initial report, which they presented at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) headquarters in Pasig City on Monday.
The delegation — composed of lawyers from Belgium, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and the United States— interviewed survivors, victims’ relatives, civil society groups and government agencies in Metro Manila and Iloilo City.
38 lawyers killed
It said it investigated 13 incidents of attacks on lawyers, judges and prosecutors.
Thirty-eight lawyers have been killed during the President’s term, according to the IBP.
Rex Jasper Lopoz, the most recent victim, was gunned down on the eve of the delegation’s arrival.
The team pointed out the “lack of sufficient investigation” on the part of executive bodies and labeled the violence as “state-sanctioned.”
“There are patterns suggesting a connection between the killings and the actions of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. There are recurrent elements sustaining such connection,” it said.
Among these, it said, were the President’s own public declarations, including his promise to include the lawyers of drug suspects in his bloody war on drugs and comment that he would ask police to shoot human rights advocates who meddled in their operations.
“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 report said.
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