Guevarra: No state-sponsored killing of lawyers, foreign delegation’s report reckless
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said reports by a delegation of foreign lawyers that blamed the Philippine government for the spate of attack against members of the legal profession are “preposterous” and “reckless.”
The nine-man delegation from various international law organizations arrived in the Philippines and has taken a case study of 13 incidents involving the killing and harassment of lawyers, judges, prosecutors and paralegals.
The foreign lawyers cited and slammed a speech of President Rodrigo Duterte where he said that lawyers of drug peddlers should also be killed, as well as insufficient investigations.
The foreign lawyers noted that no mastermind behind the attacks has been identified.
Burden of proof
“With all due respect, I find their conclusion that lawyers’ deaths are state-sanctioned preposterous, unless they can back it up with some credible evidence. Of all people, they as lawyers, should be the first to show proof of facts before making reckless public statements,” Guevarra said told reporters.
He challenged the foreign lawyers to provide concrete evidence to support the preliminary findings in their investigation, which only took three days.
“It is my opinion that this is a very sweeping statement and should be backed up by competent proof before being made public,” Guevarra lamented.
“I commiserate with the families of my fellow lawyers who got killed in the course of practicing their profession, but I am not ready to impute the blame on the government unless I have clear evidence to support such a serious accusation,” he pointed out.
Guevarra likewise denied the claim of the group that there’s “no structural remedy” for victims, citing arrests and indictment of suspects in several cases of killings of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
He noted that three police suspects have been arrested and have been charged with murder before the DOJ for the killing of Quezon City deputy city prosecutor Rogelio Velasco.
“There are so many reasons why lawyers get killed – work-related, personal, business, political, etc. and pinning the blame on government may be pushing it too far,” he pointed out.
The DOJ chief assured that legal remedies are available and the criminal justice system is working to provide justice to the victims.
“The DOJ will always do its part in protecting members of the legal profession, who comprise the very heart and soul of our department,” he assured. / gsg
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