The International Verification and Fact-Finding Mission (IVFFM) on Attacks against Filipino Lawyers and Judges will begin tomorrow, November 4.
Judges and lawyers from the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) will conduct an eight-day follow-up verification and fact finding mission in Manila and Mindanao regarding cases of harassment and killing of lawyers and judges.
This is the second fact finding mission L4L will hold in the country. The first took place two years ago, from June 15 to 20, 2006. In its statement, the L4L said the findings of the first mission were alarming.
“Philippine lawyers and judges were on a large scale threatened, intimidated or murdered because of their practice. Notwithstanding the serious allegations that Philippine government military troops were involved, effective government measures were not taken,” the group said.
Participating in this year’s mission are judges Thea Gijsberts, Nol Vermolen, and Gerrard Boot and lawyers Judith Lichtenberg, Adrie van de Streek, Angela Meijer, Hein Karskens, and Jo Dereymaeker.. On the first day tomorrow, they are scheduled to meet with Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) expressed gratitude to the L4L and said that the organization’s continuing interest in the issue of repression in the legal profession in the Philippines greatly helped in bringing the matter to the attention of the international community.
The NUPL, together with the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) will serve as the National Host Committee to the L4L mission.
Since 2001, there have been 22 lawyers and 15 judges killed.
Colmenares said, “There’s a dire need to continue ventilating this issue of killings of lawyers and judges because it’s intrinsically connected to the over-all worsening state of human rights in the Philippines. The Macapagal-Arroyo government can be predicted to respond to the issue of political killings when members of the international community have spoken; otherwise, it maintains a cold-blooded policy of denial and refusal to admit accountability and command responsibility.”
“Filipino human rights lawyers and judges remain in the line of fire because of their advocacy and their firm refusal to back down in the face of threats from the powers that be. They are being persecuted for the practice of their profession and for the same reasons that their clients are being hunted down: because they also expose and oppose the deteriorating state of civil, political and human rights in the country and the abuses of those ironically tasked to protect them,” he said.
Lawyers without Boundaries is also participating in the Mission, which is supported by the Dutch, Flemish, and Amsterdam Bar Associations, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Dutch Association voor the Administration of Justice, the Judges for Judges Foundation and Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada. (Bulatlat.com)