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Legal community finds reassurance in SC condemnation of attacks – groups

/ 08:57 PM March 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court’s move to condemn threats and assaults against lawyers and judges offers reassurance and refuge for the legal profession, according to progressive organizations and rights activists on Tuesday.

According to the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), the Supreme Court (SC) statement is significant, especially at a time when lawyers are being harassed and many institutions have failed to acknowledge the legal community’s plight.

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“Finally, the Court has spoken. It is generally both comforting and reassuring to the legal community even as it took some precious time to happen and at great cost,” NUPL president Edre Olalia said.

“At this crucial juncture when the other institutions have defaulted on us, we fervently welcome these bold and unequivocal declarations, initial steps and further plans from our very own refuge. We shall cooperate with its directives even as we have been sounding out the clarion call and providing information and concrete recommendations for the longest time,” Olalia added.

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Earlier, the SC released a statement condemning the killings and threats faced by judges and lawyers, emphasizing that such acts are an attack on the Judiciary.

“To assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the Court’s watch,” the Supreme Court en banc said.

READ: SC condemns lawyer killings, threats: These are ‘no less than an assault on the Judiciary’ 

According to reports, more than 60 lawyers have been killed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, which is a higher number than from the administrations of former President Ferdinand Marcos to President Benigno Aquino.

Numerous rights advocacy organizations and academics recently raised the question of harassment of lawyers and judges following reports that the Calbayog City Police Station had requested a list of lawyers representing leftist leaders and alleged members of communist terrorist groups from the city’s Regional Trial Court.

READ: Calbayog police station wants list of lawyers for CPP members; NUPL shocked 

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READ: Cop sacked for asking Calbayog court for list of lawyers in ‘communist’ cases 

Despite the intelligence officer’s dismissal, many organizations, including the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, have urged the SC to speak out against the incident.

Aside from the request for a list of lawyers and judges, controversy erupted when Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio was red-tagged after dismissing the illegal possession of firearms charges against progressive news outlet editor Lady Ann Salem.

READ: UP College of Law asks SC: Address, probe police request for list of leftists’ lawyers 

READ: Illegal firearms charges vs journo dismissed; court says testimonies inaccurate 

READ: Mandaluyong judge gets red-tagged after dismissing case vs 2 activists 

Lawyer and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares said they would support the Court’s stand on these issues.  Also, Colmenares blamed President Duterte for the attacks and threats against the legal community.

“We support the Court’s condemnation in the strongest terms at every instance where a lawyer or judge is threatened and killed.   We also support its strong statement that the Court will not countenance those who brush aside the law in their supposed zealousness of performing their function,” Colmenares said in a separate statement.

“President Duterte is an example of this propensity to disregard the legal rights of others in the conduct of what he perceives to be his executive function. We are glad that the Court has decided to investigate the red-tagging of Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio and would like to ask that it expand its investigation to include the red-tagging of lawyers,” he added.

Several lawyers organizations have called on President Duterte — a lawyer and a former prosecutor — to look into the attacks on lawyers and ensure protection for the whole legal community.

However, several groups have also blamed Duterte for the attacks on the legal profession, alleging that the supposed rights violations in the conduct of the drug war have spilled into politics.

READ: IBP seeks for ‘more effective’ solution on cases of slain lawyers, judges in PH 

READ: Gov’t doing nothing to preserve rights, represses activists instead – Investigate PH 

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TAGS: attacks against judges, attacks against lawyers, Bayan Muna, Edre Olalia, National Union of People's Lawyers, Neri Colmenares, NUPL, Philippine news updates, red-tagging, SC, Supreme Court
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