On the occasion of the “Day of the Endangered Lawyer”
Let the Facts Speak for Themselves: First Thing They Do, Attack the Rights Lawyers
Today, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), together with their clients and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), trooped to the Supreme Court as part of its parallel activity for the “Day of the Endangered Lawyer” contemporaneous with the simultaneous pickets and dialogues before various Philippine embassies, consulates and other public plazas in 23 cities in 11 countries in Europe.
Three solidarity groups of European lawyers’ organizations, the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), the European Democratic Lawyers (AED-EDL), and the European Bar Human Rights Institute (IDHAE), will mobilize later today lawyers donned in their traditional court attires or togas in Austria (Vienna); Belgium (Brussels, Antwerpen); England (London); France (Paris, Montpellier); Germany (Berlin, Essen); Greece (Athens); Italy (Rome, Milano); Netherlands (The Hague); Spain (Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid); Switzerland (Bern); and Turkey (Adana, Alanya, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, İzmir, Istanbul) to highlight the issue of attacks on lawyers in the Philippines. This activity is supported by the UN-accredited International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation.
The NUPL led by its President Neri Colmenares and adviser Carlos Zarate – who are also partylist representatives together with fellow NUPL member Terry Ridon, – had an audience with the Court’s spokesperson, Atty. Theodore Te. Atty. Te was officially designated by the Chief Justice to represent her considering the importance of the subject matter. They submitted documentation of the various incidents of attacks on lawyers and concrete proposals to address them. NUPL Secretary General Edre U. Olalia himself will take the chance to join the activities and speak in public forums in The Hague and Amsterdam (Netherlands), Dusseldorf and Berlin (Germany) and Brussels and Antwerp (Belgium) while he is in Europe for other matters.
During the audience and solidarity program in the Supreme Court, NUPL members, victims and victims’ families presented the situation of the attacked lawyers and judges and reiterated calls for protection and for justice for lawyers under attack especially those who have been killed.
Indeed, the importance of tackling the alarming and continuing attacks on Filipino lawyers, many of them are people’s lawyers from the NUPL who have chosen to forego the more lucrative aspects of law practice in order to devote more of their time to its clientele who are from the marginalized and oppressed sectors of our society, cannot be over-emphasized.
Let the facts speak for themselves
Since 1977 when data started to be recorded, 100 lawyers have been attacked (57 since 2001) while 50 lawyers have been killed (41 since 2001). Nineteen judges have been murdered, 18 since 2001.
Nine (22%) of the lawyers killed since 2001 came mostly from our ranks who were directly involved in handling human rights cases or issues. Of the other 57 lawyers who have been threatened, harassed, intimidated, surveilled, labelled and attacked in other forms, a sizable 43 (76%) were directly involved in human rights cases or advocacies. There were more lawyers under surveillance (35) and maliciously labelled (37) during the period 2001 to the present than in the prior years since 1977.
Of the known perpetrators recorded, 65% were identified to be members of the military while 20% were from the police service. More than half of all attacks have no known perpetrators to date.
The records would show that under the present administration of President Aquino, the situation appears to have deteriorated. Documented reports show no abatement, but in fact, an apparent increase in the number of attacks. Thence, only very scarcely is a perpetrator arrested; and none of them fully prosecuted. Since June 2010, 15 lawyers and 3 judges have already been killed, 13 other lawyers have been attacked in other forms, including 6 maliciously labelled and 4 threatened, harassed and intimidated. Of all the attacks (including murders), 15 lawyers are engaged in human rights, accounting for more than half of the victims – the single biggest group of targets.
By joining their foreign colleagues in marking the “Day of the Endangered Lawyer,” the NUPL hopes to generate public awareness on the situation of Filipino lawyers, particularly those who have been murdered on account of their profession and of the human rights defenders who constantly face the risk of also being forever silenced or harassed.
As NUPL – and the Counsels for the Defense of Lawyers (CODAL) before – had previously articulated, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the government as it is expressly duty-bound by international covenants to protect also the members of the legal profession.
Government must simply do its job: protect its citizens, categorically condemn these attacks on lawyers as human rights defenders; seriously and credibly investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators; and uphold human rights because the attacks on lawyers is not only an attack on the individual lawyer, it is an attack on the legal profession, and most fundamentally – in the context of the targeted assaults on human rights and public interest lawyers – an attack itself on the rights & interests of the mostly poor and oppressed in our country.
If officers of the court and supposed pillars of the justice system who are symbols of the so-called majesty of justice and the so-called rule of law are gunned down like headless chickens in broad daylight, then who is safe out there?#
Alnie G. Foja
NUPL Assistant Secretary General for Protection of Lawyers
Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General
Photo gallery: Members and officers of the NUPL are discussing with Public Information Officer Theodore Te of the Philippine Supreme Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) the continuing attacks on judges and lawyers in the Philippines while clients and supporters of the NUPL troop outside the Court to ask for action and solidarity and attacks on lawyers, most of whom are human rights defenders.
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