“Labeling, discrediting, threatening, and attacking lawyers are against the basic principles of lawyering, the State’s duty to protect them and the delivery of justice.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Prominent Filipino and foreign lawyers have issued a statement throwing their support behind the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) amid what they called as “heightening attacks.”
Members of the NUPL, an organization of pro bono lawyers taking up cases of the poor and marginalized sectors, have been the subject of different forms of attacks ranging from red tagging, surveillance, harassment, trumped-up charges to physical violence and killings.
Several Filipino and foreign lawyers defended the NUPL, saying, “[T]heir track record of character, competence, and courage is beyond question. Their passion and the advocacies they pursue against all odds give their poor, persecuted and powerless clientele hope.”
Recently, the NUPL has been linked to several media organizations in a matrix released by Malacañang supposedly plotting the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The lawyers said the red tagging of NUPL is contrary to basic rules of evidence, due process and fairplay. “Dissent and criticism are an exercise of democratic rights. Political harassment undermines the rule of law and substitutes it with the law of rulers,” the statement read.
“ An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us,” they said.
Among the signatories were former Senator Rene Saguisag, senatorial candidates Lorenzo Tanada III, Jose Manuel Diokno, Florin Hilbay, former members of the government peace panel Alexander Padilla and Pablito Sanidad.
Adamson law dean Ada Abad, former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin, former dean of Ateneo School of Government Antonio Gabriel La Viña, Constitutional expert Christian Monsod, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te were also among those who signed the statement.
“Labeling, discrediting, threatening, and attacking lawyers are against the basic principles of lawyering, the State’s duty to protect them and the delivery of justice,” read the solidarity statement. “More importantly, these attacks beg the fundamental question of whether there are valid reasons to dissent, criticize and advocate change and how to address them for the people’s benefit.
Foreign lawyers from 21 countries all over the world were also among the signatories. They include officers of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Lawyers Guild, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, among others.
NUPL’s colleagues vowed to cooperate and collaborate in all fora to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks.
The NUPL filed a petition for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data last April 15 seeking protection from the high court.