“This series of attacks, bigoted and fantastic as they are, is not only disturbing but can be ominous of even worse things to come.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chairperson Fidel Agcaoili has set the record straight amid allegations that he is part of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) to cover up the “legal complaints filed against the New People’s Army.”
Agcaoili released a statement after a group called No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition (NCTGC) accused him of “handling” the legal affairs of the NUPL which the group also accused as front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Mario Laude, the coalition’s spokesperson, said that NUPL is under Agcaoili’s command to “use it as the shield of the Party against complaints of human rights abuses, legal complaints filed in courts so that top level officials of the CTG (communist terrorist group) could be spared of.” He added that Agcaoili should be held accountable to what they call as “criminal acts” of the revolutionary forces.
“For the record, I am not a lawyer, never had the ambition to be one despite coming from a family of lawyers,” Agcaoili said adding that he has nothing to do with the lawyers’ group.
He said some NUPL lawyers are legal consultants of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and also serve as legal counsels of the detained NDFP consultants and political prisoners. However, Agcaoili said, this does not mean that the NUPL is a so-called front of the CPP or its lawyers are members of the Party.
“In accordance with due process, it is for any court of law, be it revolutionary or reactionary, to determine the truth of such allegations through competent and admissible evidence and not through manufactured witnesses or planted evidence like what is brazenly happening now,” he said in a statement.
Agcoaili meanwhile warned that such red-tagging of the people’s lawyers is “meant to set them up for the kill.”
“But red-tagging has a more sinister objective. It is meant to smear any organization or individual to set them up for the kill, as has been shown in many cases in the past such as those of NDFP consultant Randy Malayao and NUPL lawyer Benjamin Ramos,” he said.
Intensified attacks against people’s lawyers
The NUPL also cried foul over the allegation of Laude and the recent red tagging of lawyers and organizations affiliated with the NUPL. For the past two weeks, the group said, their members have been consistently red-tagged and labeled as members of the underground group Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New People’s Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Last week, Feb. 22, a list was circulated around Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao tagging NUPL, its affiliate Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and three women lawyers; Beverly Ann Musni Yr. and her two daughters, Czarina and Beverly Musni as members of the CPP-NDFP-NPA.
With the three women lawyers, 19 individuals and four organizations were tagged as communists. The Musnis are actively involved in human rights cases and public interest advocacies.
The Daily Tribune publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares also blatantly tagged the NUPL and NUPL president Edre Olalia as leftists and “commies” in her column also published on Feb. 22, where she wrote about the Supreme Court’s recent decision to the third extension of martial law in Mindanao. Olivares hit the NUPL for criticizing the SC in its decision to uphold the constitutionality of the extension of martial law.
NUPL represented the Makabayan bloc in the petition against martial law.
And recently, Laude accused NUPL as CPP front organization. “Aside from this ridiculous and baseless link, the shady group is inciting reprisal,” Olalia said.
“This series of attacks, bigoted and fantastic as they are, is not only disturbing but can be ominous of even worse things to come. It remains a challenge and clarion call though for human rights and public interest lawyers to stay the course and serve those who have less in life who have even lesser in law,” Olalia added.
Under President Duterte there were already 36 lawyers, judges and prosecutors who have been killed, said Olalia.
The most recent was the killing of Ramos, a human rights lawyer killed on Nov. 6, 2018 by two unidentified men in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. He was the secretary-general of NUPL-Negros Island chapter.
They were also not spared from trumped up charges for assisting their poor clients. Another NUPL lawyer Kathy Panguban, head of the NUPL Women and Children Committee was charged with kidnapping for assisting a mother in getting custody of her minor son in Sagay.
“Red-tagging may be viewed as a badge of honor for those who appreciate the value and role of being lawyers for the people. But in the real world out there, it is a stampmark that one can be fair game for vicious attacks from the intolerant, bigoted and despotic,” Olalia said.