MANILA - Veteran human rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Tuesday brushed aside the threat of disbarment after his clients disowned a petition asking the government to protect the marine environment in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday was quoted as saying that lawyers behind the writ of kalikasan plea may face disbarment for violating legal ethics when they allegedly deceived the petitioner-fishermen from Zambales and Palawan provinces.
"Bilang abogado na matagal nang tumutulong sa mga mahihirap, sanay na ako sa mga pagbabanta at pananakot mula sa bibig ng mga may kapangyarihan. Hindi na bago 'yan," Diokno said in a statement.
(As a lawyer who has been helping the poor for a long time, I am used to threats and intimidation from the mouths of those in power. That's not new.)
"In my youth, I saw my father unjustly imprisoned under martial law. He continued to fight for justice, and so will I," added the lawyer, who lost in May Senate race.
Diokno earlier said the 19 petitioner fishermen had “full knowledge and consent” on the filing of the petition before the Supreme Court.
He also expressed doubt on how the Solicitor General supposedly obtained the affidavits of the fishermen, saying it is a violation of legal ethics to communicate with opposing parties' clients without the knowledge of their lawyer.
Calida last week claimed victory in the writ of kalikasan petition, saying both parties have agreed to dismiss the plea.
The Supreme Court, however, denied the petition has been dismissed, saying it could not confirm what was agreed upon by the parties during the closed-door meeting with the justices held Tuesday on the sidelines of oral arguments on the plea.
In affidavits, the fishermen from Palawan and Zambales claimed they were deceived into signing on the petition.
In the petition, the IBP along with fishermen who supposedly agreed to file the plea cited “massive destruction” in the waters allegedly due to Chinese fishing vessels.
China has expansive claims to the South China Sea, encroaching into the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the contested waters.
Filipino fishermen have reported being shooed away from traditional fishing grounds at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales and said the Chinese have been harvesting giant clams in the area.