NUPL dismayed by NTF-ELCAC’s ‘hateful’ tags to lawyers
MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Tuesday expressed its dismay at the “hateful and gratuitous” labels that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) allegedly used on its members as it dismissed calls for a probe on the death of couple Benito and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon.
The NUPL was referring to the statement of the NTF-ELCAC Legal Cooperation Cluster that the “burden of proof lies on those who assert” and that “the mere fact that “these two CTG [communist terrorist group]-affiliated groups are calling for a probe” is “a clear proof that they are lying and can’t prove their perverted claim.”
“These types of comments are non-sequitur, unduly placing the burden on human rights lawyers and defenders to conduct a probe, which the government is bound to do, gather evidence, and initiate prosecution of the reported war crimes,” the NUPL said in a statement.
“They also sidestep the fact that the military claimed at the first instance and for the longest time a ‘waterborne interdiction operation conducted against a hostile motorized boat’ that likely included the Tiamzon spouses,” it added.
On April 24, the Philippine Army responded to NUPL’s claim that the killing of the Tiamzon couple pointed to the commission of war crimes by the military, saying that no war crime had been perpetrated during the operation that resulted in the couple’s death.
Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, former commander of the 8th Infantry Division, said government troops would only attack legitimate targets, saying that the couple in the motorboat fired at the soldiers before their vessel exploded.
Meanwhile, the NUPL said that the task force legal cluster should welcome the call for a probe to settle the contrary statements from various groups instead.
“It is regrettable that colleagues in the legal profession and co-officers of the court – coming from the top officer of the government’s legal arm no less – would need to resort to hateful and gratuitous name-calling against fellow lawyers by casually labeling us as ‘CTG-affiliated’ or ‘CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front] front’ sans competent, credible and admissible evidence,” the NUPL said.
Though both sides may differ in opinions, the NUPL said they should keep their professional dealings civil and fair and use dignified language as mandated to them by law.
“This has unfortunately endangered our lives and impeded the independent discharge of our professional duties, especially since we in NUPL are compelled to handle cases that most of our colleagues in the profession cannot, would not, or do not – for reasons we respect – handle,” the lawyers’ group said.