MANILA - Various organizations, lawyers, and members of the legal profession on Monday urged the Duterte administration to protect Filipino lawyers from increasing attacks associated with the government's war against drugs.
Lawyers for Lawyers, along with 76 international lawyers' groups, and 76 lawyers from 49 countries called on the Philippine government to take necessary steps to stop the attacks against Philippine lawyers.
"We, the undersigned organizations, lawyers, and members of the legal profession, express deep concern over the increasing attacks against lawyers in the Philippines and the oppressive working environment they face since the start of President Duterte’s administration. We call on the Duterte Government to adequately protect the safety and independence of lawyers and end the culture of impunity in which these attacks occur," the statement said.
Among the signatories are lawyers' groups from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, who all expressed deep concern over the prevailing condition of lawyers in the Philippines.
According to the signatories, at least 41 lawyers and prosecutors were killed between July 2016 and September 5, 2019. Of this number, 24 are practicing lawyers.
At least 5 judges and retired judges have also been murdered in the same period, bringing the total to at least 46.
The signatories said the attacks against lawyers happen because of their work. They are also highly at risk because of the ongoing war on drugs.
"Most killings and attacks of lawyers took place as a result of discharging professional duties or are believed to be otherwise work-related. Especially at risk are lawyers representing people accused of terrorist or drug related crimes, or government critics, such as journalists, political opposition leaders, and human rights defenders. Lawyers providing legal representation in high-profile cases impacting established interests, such as land reform, or
lawyers taking part in public discussion about human rights issues, also face reprisals," the statement said.
The signatories also pointed out that some of the slain lawyers were labelled as "communists" or "terrorists" by state agents.
"Prior to being attacked, some lawyers were labelled as “communist” or “terrorist” by state agents. The practice of labelling (i.e. classifying persons as “enemies of the state” or otherwise) combined with the culture of impunity was identified by national and international fact-finding missions as one of the main root causes of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the past and continues unabated," it said.
With the current environment in the Philippines, the signatories urged the government to promptly and effectively investigate the attacks against lawyers and other legal practitioners.
They also urged the government to ensure the safety of lawyers, as well as to "consistently condemn all forms of threats and attacks against lawyers publicly, at all political levels and in strong terms." - with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News