NUPL seeks UN help as more PH lawyers killed
MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Monday asked a United Nations special rapporteur to look into the spate of killings of lawyers in the Philippines.
In a letter to Diego García-Sayán, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the NUPL urged the international organization “to immediately form a team for the conduct of investigative mission to the Philippines, inquire intensively into the attacks against Filipino lawyers, uncover the perpetrators and prosecute them, and to recommend measures to prevent their further occurrence.”
“Given the prevailing situation in the Philippines, … we earnestly plead your office to undertake more aggressive and concrete measures on these matters,” the group said.
According to NUPL and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), 61 lawyers, prosecutors and judges have been killed during the almost five years that President Rodrigo Duterte has been in office.
Data collated by FLAG said this figure was higher compared to the combined number of those killed in the legal profession in a span of 44 years, covering six administrations.
Seven lawyers disappeared or were killed during Ferdinand Marcos’ two-decade rule; nine in the administration of Corazon Aquino; none in Fidel V. Ramos’ term; two in Joseph Estrada’s two-year rule; nine in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s decadelong administration; and one during the term of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
The NUPL said victims of attacks were defense lawyers who either handled drug cases or were involved in promoting human rights or other areas of public interest.
“The continuing, increasing and more brazen killings and attacks on lawyers and judges have been going for many years now but we noticed a sharp increase since Duterte came to office and has made our profession one of the most dangerous in the world,” the group said.
Duterte himself is a member of the legal profession, as his justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, pointed out at a press briefing on Friday when asked about the dangers now facing the legal profession.
“Do you think he will have a policy that will be something that will put his fellow members of the legal profession in personal jeopardy or something to that effect? I don’t think so. That happens because of circumstances prevailing and not because of whoever is the head of the present administration,” said Guevarra, who also urged lawyers under threat to seek the help of authorities, including the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation.
But NUPL said, “Filipino lawyers, right now, fear they might be the next victims of these attacks.”
“These attacks produce a chilling effect, which affects the performance of their sworn duties to the courts, their clients, their colleagues and the society,” it said.
‘Climate of impunity’
“And the prevailing climate of impunity emboldens the perpetrators of these dastardly acts to commit further attacks,” the group said, citing as an example Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr. — the chief of the intelligence unit of the Calbayog City police, who was relieved after asking a local court for a list of lawyers representing so-called communist terrorist groups.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he would file a resolution calling for a House inquiry into that controversy.
On top of the killings under the Duterte administration, four lawyers have also survived violent attacks, NUPL said.
The latest victim is Angelo Karlo Guillen, a public rights defender who survived an assassination attempt in Iloilo City earlier this month.
—WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, JULIE M. AURELIO AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING
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