Delegates of an independent international mission who visited the Philippines, Nov. 4 to 12, said the attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges continue.
The International Verification and Fact-Finding Mission (IVFFM) of the Dutch Laywers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L Foundation) issued its initial findings at a press conference in Quezon City this morning.
Members of the mission are Dutch lawyers Judith Lichtenberg, Adrie van de Streek, Hein Karskens, Angela Meijer, Dutch court judges Nol Vermolen and Gerrard Boot and Belgian lawyer Jo Dereymaeker representing the Flemish Bar Association.
The IVFFM maintained that intimidation continues to this day. Lichtenberg, head of the mission, read the initial findings. “We observed that among lawyers and judges, feelings of fear and insecurity still exist; [death] threats and other forms of harassments, including fabricated charges, were mentioned.”
Based on the monitoring and documentation of National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), five lawyers and judges survived attempted murder; 12 received death threats; 15 have been victims of labeling or were included in the military’s order of battle; and, 15 have been under surveillance.
The NUPL and CODAL hosted the independent IVFFM.
Lichtenberg said that although the number of the killings has declined, they still occur.
According to the NUPL and CODAL, 22 lawyers have been killed since 2001 and 15 judges have been murdered since 1999.
The IVFFM interviewed 19 lawyers, judges and relatives of slain lawyers and judges. The mission also met with representatives of 11 government agencies, including the Task Force Usig, Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
This is the second mission of the L4L Foundation in the Philippines. In its first mission in June 2006, the L4L concluded that ‘Filipino lawyers and judges were threatened, harassed or even killed while carrying out their legal profession.’
Lichtenberg said, “In the cases we investigated in 2006, little or no progress has been made so far.”
“Apparently, only one person has been convicted for these killings and that it was in 2006. So impunity still seems to exist,” said Lichtenberg.
The IVFFM also noted there seems to be little or no coordination between the various Task Forces and agencies concerned as regard to the way of investigating or prosecuting the killings. The mission observed that different data were seen in the presentations of government agencies.
The IVFFM said further, “The willingness to investigate upon serious allegations of involvement of state agents in these killings is lacking by the government authorities concerned.”
The IVFFM will come out with its final report soon. Lichtenberg said they intend to submit a copy of their report to the United Nations, international human rights organizations and civil society groups.
In a statement, NUJP Secretary General Neri Javier Colmenares said, “Attacks against lawyers and judges is an attack against the legal profession itself and the independence of the judiciary, and the constitutional right of the people to access to justice because they aim to discourage lawyers from providing the people their legal services with utmost integrity and independence.”
The IVFFM welcomed the initiative of the Supreme Court in adopting the writ of amparo. The mission also observed that the principle of command responsibility cannot be used in criminal cases.(Bulatlat.com)