Lawyers ask UN rapporteur to act on Duterte tirades vs Sereno

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Lawyers ask UN rapporteur to act on Duterte tirades vs Sereno
Diego Garcia-Sayan, United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, was asked to act on President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Agência Brasil / Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyers' groups, headed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, have asked a United Nations special rapporteur to take action on President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks against the judiciary.

The groups submitted a report to Diego Garcia-Sayan, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, narrating the actions of the Duterte government that would "impact negatively" on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The report described how the government failed to adhere the basic principles on the independence of the judiciary.

"The recent tirades of the president against the chief justice do not sound at all foreboding. They rather expectedly punctuate the long-winded attacks on judicial independence that began almost two years ago, when the chief justice dared resist an apparent intrusion into judicial power," the groups said.

Earlier this month, Duterte publicly threatened Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, head of the co-equal judicial branch.

In a speech before departing for China on April 9, Duterte declared that he is Sereno's "enemy" and that she will have to be "out" of the Supreme Court.

The president then called on the Congress, the co-equal legislative branch, to fast track the impeachment proceedings against Sereno.

The president's supporters have said that he was only reacting to Sereno's accusation that he is involved in petitions to oust her. Both were initiated by vocal supporters of Duterte.

On April 13, Duterte called Sereno  "ignorant," "dumb" and a "coward" and recalled how the chief justice told judges allegedly involved in illegal drug activities not to surrender unless served warrants of arrest. 

"Give way. If I were you, I will resign," Duterte said upon arriving from a four-day trip to China.

'Harassment of lawyers'

The lawyers' groups also narrated how the government failed to adhere to the basic principles on the role of lawyers.

"Lawyers who criticize government policies, as well as those whose clients have been tagged as 'dissenters' or 'activists,' are harassed. The lawyers are labelled 'rebels' and 'criminals' and consequently subjected to intense surveillance," the report read.

In September 2017, Duterte called out Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, national president of the IBP, after commenting on the president's plan to investigate corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Fajardo said that the Ombudsman must be "insulated from political pressure" as an independent body.

Duterte, however, publicly berated Fajardo in a speech during an event of the IBP.

"Who the fuck are you to tell me [not to be onion-skinned] in the face of fabricated evidence?" Duterte said.

The IBP also noted that the practice of law has become very dangerous in the country, forcing it to create a task force to handle cases involving murder or violent assault against members of the Bar and their families.

"The IBP noted that there is a rise in the number of cases of lawyers, prosecutors and even judges being murdered or killed through violent and treacherous means," the lawyers' groups said.

Garcia-Sayan was appointed special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. Before becoming a UN rapporteur, he was Minister of Justice and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Peru. He is also known a highly respected lawyer specializing in human rights.

As special rapporteur, Garcia-Sayan is mandated to inquire into any substantial allegations transmitted to him and report his conclusions and recommendations.

He is also mandated to "identify and record not only attacks on the independence of the judiciary, lawyers and court officials but also progress achieved in protecting and enhancing their independence, and make concrete recommendations, including the provision of advisory services or technical assistance when they are requested by the State concerned.

The UN special rapporteur may conduct country visits upon the invitation of the concerned government.

He will then submit his findings to the Human Rights Council.

vuukle comment









  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with