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    Branding a human rights lawyers group as “enemy”; AFP back to its old recidivist ways

    Press Statement, 11 July 2013 – We, at the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, express concern and alarm at the statement reportedly given by Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes branding the NUPL and Karapatan as “enemies” in reaction to our comment to the designation of Brig.Gen. Aurelio Baladad -, who faces a string of credible charges for the Morong 43 health workers case in various fora –  as incoming 3rd ID Commander of the Army.

    Gen. Coballes was quoted[1] as saying, “You don’t expect any positive statement from the enemy”. This statement is careless as it is also loaded. It confirms yet again the military’s mindset of treating legal organizations, and a lawyers’ organization at that, as “enemies of the state.” Its is the same line of Gen. Jovito Palparan, the notorious rights violator coddled by former President Arroyo and who is now still in hiding.

    The NUPL is a nationwide aggrupation of human rights lawyers and law students rendering pro bono services to the marginalized and the human rights victims and handles public interest cases including socio-economic issues. It is the Philippine affiliate of the UN-accredited International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and has close professional linkages with various foreign lawyers groups including the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of the US, among others. It is recognized by the Supreme Court, the Justice Department as well as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Today, the NUPL is privilege to have three of its members as duly – elected partylist representatives in the present Philippine Congress as well as officials in the  government, law professors, government lawyers and judges.

    Such a mindset had in the past placed our members and clients in real danger. A number from our ranks had become victims of violence believed to have been perpetrated or abetted by security forces.  And it is precisely this mindset that has bred the continuing attacks on so-called civil society groups that has been categorically pointed out by former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston. And this has also been established by the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation when it conducted two missions to the Philippines.

    In fact, the NUPL which was established in 2007 was never publicly labelled as “enemy of the state” during the time of Mrs. Arroyo when we lost several of our colleagues on top of various attacks on our ranks.

    It is also in open violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and even the Philippine Code of Professional Responsibility that proscribe associating or imputing to the lawyer the cause or case of the client

    This statement from a top military official is dangerous and betrays what various organizations and concerned groups have said all along, that the present counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is no different from the deadly Oplan Bantay Laya. The former, they say, is just another “dagger dipped in honey.”  So we ask, are we, as defenders, “fair game” once again? #af

    Reference: Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General, +63 9175113373

    [1] Visayan Daily Star, 10 July 2013,  “Baladad to assume 3ID command,” by Gilbert Bayoran.

    [2] The NUPL actively handles the cases of missing students Cadapan-Empeno against Gen. Palparan, Morong 43, Jonas Burgos, Rolly Panesa, Melissa Roxas, Raymond Manalo, Benjamin Bayles, Wilhelm Geertman, Ka Lando Olalia, Cybercrime Law, Tubbataha, urban poor demolitions, privatization of government hospitals, tuition fee hikes, and various mass and people’s organizations.

    National Secretariat
    National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
    3F Erythrina Bldg., Maaralin corner Matatag Sts. Central District,Quezon City, Philippines
    Telefax no.920-6660

    Email addresses: nupl2007@gmail.com and nuplphilippines@yahoo.com
    Follow us on twitter @peoples_lawyer
    Visit the NUPL website at http://www.nupl.net/

    “By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”

    – Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

    “After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”

    – Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010

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