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Lawyers group: 'EJKs have not worked before, will never work now'

Nanette Castillo grieves next to the dead body of her son Aldrin, an alleged drug user killed by unidentified assailants, in Manila on October 3, 2017. Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A new alliance of lawyers, judges, legal practitioners and law students has "joined the ever-growing voices of protest against rampant killings" in the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Extrajudicial killings have not worked before and will never work now," the group said in a statement Thursday..

The group, headed by former Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Viña, held a news forum in Quezon City on Thursday  to formally launch the Mga Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings or Manlaban sa EJK group.

"Members of the legal profession and law students who value the sanctity of human rights and equitable rule of law, cannot stand idly by in the midst of these attacks on the right of life, liberty, dignity and security of the people," the group said.

Chilling effect

The group also warned of the "chilling effect" brought about by President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncements on human rights groups that he deemed critical of the government's human rights policies.

"The Duterte administration has also launched vicious attacks against individuals, groups and institutions, including international human rights advocates, that it perceives to be critical of its human rights policies which not only instill a chilling effect on, but is a threat to freedom of expression," the group added.

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The tough-talking president has repeatedly launched tirades against the Commission on Human Rights, and threatened to shoot them for "obstructing justice."

The lawyers' alliance said that the chief executive's order "not only endangers human rights defenders but is an outright attack on human rights and freedoms."

READ: Duterte urged: Recall order to shoot human rights activists

Drug war

The group also said that the "governmental policy of violent approach" on the combatting illegal drugs, the administration should instead  focus on cleaning its own ranks.

"The effective solution to the drug problem in the Philippines is cleaning up government of officials, including the police and politicians, who protect drug syndicates, effective prosecution of all involved especially big drug lords to dry up the supply chain, and inclusive economic development to uplift the people from penury and thus stem the demand for antisocial vices like drugs," Manlaban said.

It pointed out that there is reportedly "over 12,000 casualties" under the government's bloody drug war. The "casualties" also come mostly from poor communities.

The group added: "In a blatant disregard of the right to life, thousands of victims who are poor and powerless have been targeted and brutally, nay mercilessly, executed by the State, its agents and proxies with blatant contempt and disregard of due process."

Advocacies

Manlaban said that it will conduct forums and create platforms to discuss extrajudicial killings and how the legal community can help shed light on the issue.

It will also issue statements and legal opinions and statements on human rights issues and "use our legal skills to provide concrete legal assistance to victims and help in putting a stop to extrajudicial killing and rampant human rights violations engulfing the country today."

Among Manlaban sa EJKs convenors are former Sen. Rene Saguisag, Dean Pacifico Agabin, De La Salle University Dean Chel Diokno, former Bayan Muna Rep and lawyer Neri Colmenares and National Union of Peoples' Lawyers President Edre Olalia.

READ: Human rights should be a concern to all Filipinos - Gascon

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