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Free legal aid for EJK victims eyed

MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is set to tap lawyers to provide free legal services to victims of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the war on drugs of the Duterte administration.

In a press conference in their headquarters in Pasig City yesterday, IBP national president Abdiel Dan Elijan Fajardo called on their members to uphold the rule of law, access of justice and human rights amid extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.

“While many lawyers decry these atrocities, no concrete actions are being taken either due to lack of of channels to reach out to victims or lack of capacity to take on the peculiarities that accompany the handling of these kind of cases,” Fajardo stressed.

The mandatory organization of lawyers in the country cited as reason for such move the death of 91 people – including teenager Kian delos Santos – in the “One Time Big Time” anti-narcotics operations in the National Capital Region, Bulacan and Cavite last August.

They said the extrajudicial killings under the war on drugs of the administration, which human rights groups have pegged at 13,000 since last year, are a “proof of the increasing societal violence.”

“Now, more than ever, the legal profession is behoved not only to participate, but to actively intervene in the perceived disregard of the rule of law and seeming attack on democratic institutions,” Fajardo pointed out. 

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In the case of Delos Santos, the victim’s family was given free legal assistance by the Public Attorney’s Office.

The IBP head cited Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which provides that lawyers are bound to “uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.”

He also referred to Rule 2.01 of Canon 2 of CPR, which requires lawyers not to reject – except for valid reasons – the cause of defenseless or repressed.

Fajardo announced in the same press conference that the IBP will hold a Human Rights Summit this Thursday and Friday (Nov. 23 and 24) in cooperation with other human rights groups.

He said the forum to be held at a convention center of a popular mall in Taguig City aims to “provide a platform for ideas and venue for collaboration amongst legal professionals and service providers to help address the legal concerns relating to the war on drugs and its impact on the marginalized and powerless sectors of the society.”

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