Top lawyers revive old group to fight Duterte policies
MANILA, Philippines — To protect civil liberties and people’s rights, top lawyers, law organizations and law students have convened for the revival of a legal initiative to protect the civil liberties and constitutional rights of the public against the Duterte administration.
“Not since the dark years of Martial Law have our civil liberties and fundamental rights have been threatened and blatantly violated with such brazen impunity,” read the statement of unity of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLC).
CLC is broad network of lawyers and law students formed in 2006 during the height of protests against the policies of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo such as emergency rule, Executive Order No. 464, the Calibrated Preemptive Response, extrajudicial killings and the NBN-ZTE deal.
Convenors include members of the Otso Diretso who ran in the May 2019 elections — namely, Neri Colmenares of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada and Chel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
The group also includes Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) National President Domingo Egon Cayosa, Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Groups and Edre Olalia of NUPL.
Other key political figures included as convenors are former Vice President Jejomar Binay of Artikulo Tres and former Sen. Rene Saguisag of Mabini.
Legal luminaries and members of the academe are also among the convenors — Professor Pacifico Agabin of the University of the Philippines College of Law, former Dean of Ateneo School of Government Antonio Gabriel La Viña, Arpee Santiago of Ateneo HR Center, Dean Anna Maria D. Abad of the Adamson University College of Law and Dean Manuel Quibod of the Ateneo de Davao College of Law.
CLC has been responsible for several cases filed at the Supreme Court that questioned the policies of then-President Arroyo. It also became a resource witness for the 2006 International Fact-Finding Mission on attacks against lawyers, judges.
The convenors said they see the need to revive CLC due to threats to the public especially those who kept on voicing their dissents.
Santiago mentioned about the red-tagging of members of cause-oriented organizations including lawyers who represented peasant groups.
“Now, there’s intolerance of dissent…We have to remind the President that there is such a thing as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly,” Colmenares said.
Saguisag, on the other hand. questioned the President’s order to rearrest heinous crime convicts released from 2014 to present.
“What right does Duterte have to order the rearrest [of the 1,914 inmates released from 2014 to present]. They are not escaped convicts. There were released because of stupid record-keeping,” Colmenares said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“Members of the legal profession have the duty to help in the administration of justice, uphold the ‘rule of law’ and defend constitutional rights. All these are under attack today. It is therefore imperative that members of the legal profession and law students unite to defend civil liberties and constitutional rights from relentless onslaught under the current administration,” said the group.
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