Uniformed personnel will not need free legal aid if they act properly – lawyer
MANILA, Philippines — Uniformed personnel qualified to avail of the free legal aid proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte’ would not need it all if they would just do their jobs properly, Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said in a statement issued on Monday.
“In principle, everybody including our military and police are entitled to constitutional and even universal rights to due process which includes the right to counsel,” Olalia said.
“But more fundamentally, such proposed free legal assistance to them will be totally unnecessary if only they perform their jobs properly, regularly and legally, consistent and in accordance with basic rights and freedoms of the people,” he added.
According to Olalia, the supposed victims of abuse by authorities would need the free assistance more as they have less influence and power.
“In fact, with all these rights violations and abuses, it is the victims of security forces that most need free, competent and independent counsel,” he added.
During his final Sate of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to pass a law that would provide free legal assistance to the military and the police and other uniformed personnel. This would enable them to face the charges properly.
Duterte has previously slammed critics for pushing cases against police officers, stressing that they were only doing their jobs.
Last May, he asked rights advocates to sue erring cops instead of those who were merely performing their duties.
Olalia also warned Duterte, who is also a lawyer, that urging and taunting the International Criminal Court (ICC) to record his oft-repeated campaign promise to kill people who would destroy the country might be used as evidence against him.
Duterte was recently put under scrutiny after the ICC prosecutor, at that time Fatou Bensouda, asked for judicial authority to proceed with a full-blown investigation on the administration’s war against illegal drugs.
According to Bensouda’s report, there was a reason to believe that state actors have killed thousands of civilians during the drug war and that vigilante-style killings were perpetrated by police officers themselves, or other private individuals hired by authorities — leading to a death toll of between 12,000 to 30,000 civilians.
“The President’s latest statement to ‘kill’ in relation to the drug war if one destroys the country and the youth – taunting the ICC in the process — might be construed as a virtual extrajudicial confession or practically a plea of guilt of the charges of crimes against humanity,” Olalia said.
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