CHR wants gov’t action on killings of lawyers after another slay in Nueva Ecija
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has asked the government to resolve the killings of those in the legal profession, after another lawyer in Nueva Ecija was killed in front of his clients last Thursday.
CHR spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline de Guia said on Sunday that the murder of lawyer Bayani Dalangin and the numerous assassinations of those in the legal practice should merit serious attention from law enforcement officials.
“The increasing number of violent attacks against and extra-judicial killings of lawyers in the Philippines demand serious attention and concern from the government and the people,” De Guia said in a statement.
“These grave threats and attacks impair the ability of lawyers and other members of the justice sector to provide effective legal representation and hamper them to freely exercise their profession. Lawyers working on sensitive and high-profile cases face reprisals and are constantly wary of their safety and independence,” she added.
Reports from the police in Talavera, Nueva Ecija said that Dalangin, a 73-year-old lawyer, was shot dead in his office by an unidentified assailant aboard a motorcycle.
Days before Dalangin was killed, the government came under fire from human rights organizations for supposedly allowing a culture of impunity to exist. Just this February 19, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal division chief and lawyer Frederic Anthony Santos was killed on his way to pick up his daughter from school.
Santos was involved in the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) mess, where convicted heinous crimes convicts allegedly bribed BuCor officials in exchange for an early release. He appeared in various Senate hearings about the issue.
According to various lawyer and human rights groups, there were 41 lawyers killed from 2001, but ever since President Rodrigo Duterte — a lawyer by profession — stepped into office, there have been 47 lawyers murdered.
Before Dalangin and Santos were killed, other lawyers handling controversial cases were also silenced, including National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) founding member Benjamin Ramos. Before his death, Ramos was lawyering for the families of nine slain sugarcane farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
De Guia said that the attacks impact the legal situation in the country, as the slain lawyers’ clients are deprived of the right to a fair trial. In the same manner, CHR is also pushing for measures, like Senate Bill 1721, that would ensure the safety of people involved in the judiciary branch.
“Regrettably, the worsening impunity in the country continues to undermine the proper functioning of the rule of law including the right of people to remedies and fair trial,” De Guia said.
“The CHR appeals to the Philippine National Police and other local law enforcement agencies to carry out swift and full investigation of the case to hold perpetrators accountable, and to prevent reoccurrence of such violations,” she added. “Likewise, we call on the government to guarantee the safety and physical integrity of lawyers by providing adequate protection measures.”
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