They cited the case of Atty. Trixie Angeles, defense lawyer of soldiers facing court martial, including Capt. Nicanor Faeldon who is currently considered by the government as a fugitive. The NUPL and CODAL account stated that, “Atty. Angeles has been constantly tailed, her phones bugged and emails tampered. Philippine Army personnel constantly ‘visit’ her office. Sometime in September, while Atty. Angeles was driving along Aurora Boulevard in San Juan City, Metro Manila, a Ford Expedition with no license plate surged ahead of her car. The driver rolled down his window, looked and pointed at her. He then swerved to block her path, prompting Atty. Angeles to stop. The man pointed at her and said, ‘Mag-iingat ka’ (Be careful.).”
The groups also mentioned the attacks on Atty. Jobert Pahilga, a pro-bono lawyer for poor farmers. The NUPL and CODAL said suspected intelligence agents went to Pahilga’s house in Navotas, to his office in Quezon City and to his mother’s house in Antique.
UN recommendations ignored
Colmenares lambasted the Arroyo government for continuing to ignore important recommendations by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston.
Alston’s recommendations include the abolition of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). In his final report, Alston maintained that the reason that such an ad hoc mechanism was established for bringing charges against members of these civil society organizations and party list groups is that they have seldom committed any obvious criminal offence.
He said, “The IALAG should be abolished, and the criminal justice system should refocus on investigating and prosecuting those committing extrajudicial executions and other serious crimes.”
“The IALAG should have been gone by now if only the Arroyo government was serious in putting an end to rights violations. The continuing existence of this body only shows that the Arroyo government’s skewed sense of justice remains in place,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares also noted that the Arroyo government did not heed Alston’s proposal regarding the order of battle.
In his final report, Alston said, “The Government should immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies…They must be based on transparent criteria, and conform with the human rights provisions of the Constitution and relevant treaties.”
Alston also said that transparency must be introduced to the “orders of battle”, “watch lists”, and similar lists of individuals and organizations maintained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and other elements of the national security system.
Colmenares said, “An attack 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 it aims to discourage lawyers from providing the people their legal services with utmost integrity and independence.”
“There is … a need for the continuing vigilance of peoples abroad over the continuing repression and the IVFFM [International Verification and Fact-Finding Mission] plays an important role in informing the international community of the human rights conditions in the country.”
The NUPL and CODAL hosted the recently concluded IVFFM of the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L Foundation). The mission sought to verify the status of cases of killings of Filipino lawyers and judges and to investigate new cases of attacks.