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KILLINGS OF LAWYERS

No freedom under fear, says IBP

“Our country cannot attain true independence and freedom when conformity is extracted by fear, and criticism silenced by force,” the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Friday as it demanded government action on the killings of lawyers.

Burt Estrada, president of the IBP, who was elected only last July by more than 70,000 lawyers, issued the statement as the country’s mandatory bar association lamented the latest killing of another member of the legal profession.

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Estrada said the IBP grieves and was appalled by the killing in Surallah, South Cotabato, on Wednesday of human rights lawyer Juan Macababbad, a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), Bayan Muna party and vice chair of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao.

Police said Macababbad, 68, was shot dead at the gate of his home in Barangay Poblacion by still unidentified gunmen aboard motorcycles around 5 p.m.

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Estrada, a Tagoloanon tribal leader from Malaybalay City, lamented that Macababbad was the 65th lawyer to be killed under the Duterte administration.

The IBP already said in July that the number of murdered lawyers increased by 500 percent since President Duterte, who is also a lawyer, was sworn into office in 2016.

In comparison, the IBP said there were only about 10 killings for each of the six previous administrations, including the 20-year administration of President Ferdinand Marcos.

“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,” the IBP added.

In the House of Representatives, the six-member Makabayan bloc proposed a congressional inquiry into Macababbad’s killing.

“It is imperative for members of Congress, as representatives of our people, to defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations, especially in this time of crisis,” the lawmakers said in their bill.

The bill added: “It must bring perpetrators to account to put a stop to the killings and rights violations against its people. Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people, and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights and oppress them.”

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The bill cited the IBP statement on June 23 that it is “appalled by the increasing and sheer number of assassinations of lawyers, judges and prosecutors with impunity,” and that such killings under the Duterte administration have “alarmingly increased.”

The bill also cited the Supreme Court’s March 23 statement condemning the killings of lawyers, judges and prosecutors, and its commitment to make institutional changes to protect members of the legal profession.

The Makabayan lawmakers noted that Macababbad was the third NUPL member to be killed under the Duterte administration.

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TAGS: Burt Estrada, Freedom, IBP, Lawyer, Macababbad
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