MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday urged the Supreme Court to "take immediate action" amid successive killings of lawyers in the Philippines.
This, after lawyer and AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe was killed on Saturday. Another member, Erfe del Castillo, survived an ambush on Dec. 21 in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, the IBP said.
The group also cited the slay of Benjamin Ramos, Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) in Negros.
Some 78 lawyers urged the high court, through an open online petition, to immediately "take action to protect lawyers in the Philippines as they perform their function to protect their clients' rights and uphold the rule of law," the IBP said.
"We join other sectors in condemning his (Batocabe's) daylight assassination, even as we remain shocked by the audacity of the concerted action that can only find success in an environment that fosters impunity," the IBP said in a statement.
The IBP said the SC should ensure thorough, prompt, impartial and independent investigations into all killings of lawyers since June 2016.
It also asked the SC to convene a dialogue with the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other relevant agencies.
In a separate statement, Supreme Court Associate Justice and Chair of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) Diosdado Peralta urged authorities to apprehend those responsible for Batocabe's murder “at the soonest time possible.”
The murderer’s arrest would show the public that crime never pays and deter those thinking of sowing violence, Peralta said.
Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, urged the PNP to “act swiftly” in resolving the killings that occurred over the last 10 days, which include the slays of Batocabe and Ariel Vicencio, son of former Malabon Mayor Amado Vicencio, among others.
Gordon also called on witnesses to come forward and help stop the culture of violence by giving information to ensure that perpetrators are appropriately punished.
Batocabe, elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, was eyeing the mayoral seat of Daraga in May's midterm elections.