“We strongly condemn this heartless attack against our sister in the profession. We staunchly urge government authorities to act swiftly in the apprehension of the perpetrators.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Lawyers groups condemned the killing of Maria Saniata Liwliwa Gonzales Alzate on Sept. 14 in Bangued, Abra.
According to the Baguio Midland Courier, Alzate was inside her parked car in front of her residence in Santiago Street, Zone 3, Bangued when the suspects shot her at close range.
Alzate reportedly died while being treated at Dr. Petronilo V. Seares Sr. Memorial Hospital.
“We strongly condemn this heartless attack against our sister in the profession. We staunchly urge government authorities to act swiftly in the apprehension of the perpetrators,” the Integrated Bar of the Philippines- Northern Luzon Region said in a statement.
“When will the killings stop? When will lawyers be allowed to perform their duties in accordance with their lawyer’s oath without fear of reprisal?” said National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) President Ephraim Cortez in a statement, adding that Alzate is the second lawyer killed in less than a month, after the murder of lawyer Elmer Mape on Aug. 22 in Leyte.
Cortez cited a case handled by Alzate that was favored by the Regional Trial Court of Abra.
According to IBP, Abra RTC granted a writ of amparo in favor of Excel Billedo, Alzate’s client, on Feb. 20 this year. Allegedly, Billedo had been abducted, detained and tortured by Philippine National Police personnel in Bangued, Abra.
The court also granted a protection order for Billedo and his mother.
The IBP commended not only the judge who promptly resolved the case but also the efforts of Alzate.
“Her able representation of her clients aided them in their quest for justice despite great risks to herself. It is a sterling example of lawyering for the public interest,” the IBP said.
Cortez lamented that after the Supreme Court’s issuance of a joint statement to address the issue on attacks against the legal profession and the issuance of the Rule on the Use of Body Worn Cameras, “no other positive action was made to address the issue on the attacks on the members of the legal profession. Several lawyers have since been killed, harassed and intimidated.”
“Time and again, we have called the attention of authorities to do something about these killings. We have been knocking on doors till the morning light so to speak,” Cortez said.
Meanwhile, Edre U. Olalia, transitional president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) asserts that the killing of Alzate is “enabled by impunity engendered by passive, token and ningas kugon responses from state authorities whose single most important job, mandated even by international law, is to protect its citizens from harm.”
“That it happened again against those who push the tide against injustice speaks volumes on the incompetence, negligence and even complicity of governmental institutions ironically overpopulated by her fellow lawyers,” Olalia said.
He added that the international legal community has “never seen such cold-blooded murders occurring with such frequency and impunity as in other countries where lawyers are also under attack.”
“As the annual Bar in the Philippines is again around the corner, can we tell our future colleagues that lawyering, especially those fighting for the rights of the poor and oppressed, is worth all the risks despite the body count in our ranks?” Olalia asked.
The IBP-Northern Luzon said Alzate dedicatedly and selflessly served as chapter president for two terms. She also sat as Commissioner of Bar Discipline since 2015.
“A strong principled lady lawyer and an epitome of valor, she readily heeded to the call for help of the underprivileged, oppressed and downtrodden,” the IBP-Northern Luzon said.
According to NUPL, Alzate had also been providing pro-bono legal service to indigent litigants and has been serving as private prosecutor in the slaying of a teacher allegedly by a barangay chairperson.
Alzate is the third lawyer killed since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office, the group said.
“The NUPL firmly urges all law enforcement agencies to rigorously investigate this incident and, subsequently, bring to justice its perpetrators, echoing its earlier calls made in the wake of attacks on lawyers: Stop the Attacks!” the NUPL said in a statement. (RTS, RVO)