Caravana Filipina: Culture of Impunity Prevails in PH

Photo by Altermidya

By ALTERMIDYA

In commemoration of International Fair Trial Day, a 12-member international lawyers’ group named ‘Caravana Filipina’ released their findings from their recently concluded independent fact-finding mission, revealing a prevailing culture of impunity in the Philippines. Their 10-day mission involved studying numerous attacks on Philippine lawyers, prosecutors, and judges since 2016.

The members of ‘Caravana Filipina’ collected testimonies from various regions across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. They emphasized four key points in their findings: the unprecedented scale of attacks on the legal profession, the culture of impunity and the climate of fear, red-tagging, and the repression of civil society and freedom of speech.

“The Philippines has long been recognized as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for legal professionals,” said Herman Verbeek, a Dutch lawyer and representative of the Foundation of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer.

Since September 2007, the National Union of People’s Lawyers has documented 94 profession-related killings of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. Sixty-three of these occurred between July 2016 and June 2024.

Read:Lawyers’ group raises alarm against killings, attacks
Read: A look at the attacks against lawyers and judges

According to their findings, most of these cases have remained unresolved. The Commission on Human Rights confirmed to them that many of the killings result in impunity due to a failure to identify the perpetrators. This impunity deters witnesses to come forward, and often leads to hesitate or refrain from filing complaints.

Hans Gaasbeek of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation (Photo by Altermidya)

The delegation also discovered that red-tagging significantly contributes to attacks on legal professionals. In the majority of the cases they examined, the victims had been subjected to red-tagging before being killed or attacked.

The cases included the killing of Atty. Ben Ramos in Negros and the attack of Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen in Iloilo. Both lawyers, known for their staunch advocacy for human rights, were falsely branded as ‘terrorists’ and linked to the New People’s Army.

Read: Human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen: Committed, unshaken
Read: Rights lawyer gunned down in Negros

While welcoming the Supreme Court ruling on red-tagging, international lawyers emphasized the need for action to implement the Court’s decision. They expressed deep concern about the trend of targeting civil society organizations, community activists, and journalists accused of terrorism, terrorist financing, and other non-bailable offenses.

Hans Gaasbeek of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation, also recommended the Philippine government to reconsider the Anti-Terror Act, which they found to have resulted in increased threats and attacks on lawyers and civil society organizations.

Despite the attacks, the delegation observed that the Philippines has a robust, highly active, and engaged civil society and human rights movement committed to strengthening democracy and justice.

The Caravana will send these recommendations to the local and national authorities for their response. Reposted by (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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