“When lawyers, prosecutors, and workers in the justice sector are murdered with impunity and alarming regularity, no one feels safe; our people lose trust and faith in our government and its justice system, and the unscrupulous are emboldened to take the law in their criminal hands.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers trooped to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dec. 23, to reiterate their call to stop the killings of lawyers and judges.
In a letter addressed to SC Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, they asked that the SC act on the increasing number of killings of the members of legal profession by urging the “executive department and the authorities to make immediate action to protect lawyers in the Philippines as they perform their function to protect their clients’ rights and uphold the rule of law.”
Under the Duterte administration, 54 lawyers and judges have been gunned down. The group also noticed a sharp increase on the number of killings under the administration of President Duterte and “has made the legal profession one of the most dangerous careers in the country.”
“We fear that the state of impunity in the country today will further fuel the spate of killings not against members of the legal profession but also ordinary people and we ask the government to act and put a stop to this continuing violence,” they said in the letter.
In particular, the lawyers asked the SC to:
– Take appropriate steps to ensure a thorough, prompt, impartial and independent investigation;
– Convene a dialogue between the SC, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the state forces, civil society organization, lawyers organizations to discuss safety and security of the lawyers;
– Demand accountability and justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings and violence against members of the legal profession.
The letter had more than 70 signatories including former SC Spokesperson Theodore Te, Evelyn Ursua, Howard Calleja, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, NUPL President Edre Olalia, Dean Tony La Viña and Dean Mel Sta. Maria.
They said that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments must ensure that lawyers can perform their duty “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; able to travel and consult with their clients freely and both within their own country and abroad; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”
The IBP has also sent separate appeals to the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President Leni Robredo and other lawyer-government officials.
In the letter, IBP President Domingo Cayosa said, “When lawyers, prosecutors, and workers in the justice sector are murdered with impunity and alarming regularity, no one feels safe; our people lose trust and faith in our government and its justice system, and the unscrupulous are emboldened to take the law in their criminal hands.”
The IBP called on all “brother-lawyers in all branches of government who occupy positions of great authority and power to take concerted action to decisively address the attacks on lawyers.”
The group also asked public prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges to do justice quick and finish the cases fairly and with dispatch. “Aside from addressing its root causes, IBP believes that certainty and timeliness of accountability and punishment is a proven antidote to criminality and impunity,” Cayosa added.