FLAG report found almost half of lawyers killed linked to legal practice

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
FLAG report found almost half of lawyers killed linked to legal practice
Lawyers submit a letter to the Supreme Court on December 22, 2020 urging action on the killings of lawyers.
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers

MANILA, Philippines — The Free Legal Assistance Group flagged the 26 work-related lawyer killings in the 61 cases they reviewed as an indicator of “growing danger” in their profession in the country.

FLAG tallied 61 killings since 2016, based on news reporters and Lawyer Rights Watch Canada. Of these, 26 are tagged as work-related, 15 as drug-related, 12 due to personal motives while motive in 15 other cases remain unknown.

“Out of the 21 incidents which killed incumbent public officials, 57% (12/21) were work-related or possibly work-related, while 28.5% were drug-related or possibly drug-related according to investigators,” FLAG said.

“The fact that almost half of the killings were due to work-related or possibly work-related motives is an indicator of the growing danger of practicing the legal profession in the country,” it added.

RELATED: IBP: With lawyers killed and murders unresolved, people will lose trust in justice system

FLAG explained that they tagged a killing as work-related if the victim was killed because of his/her legal practice, while the murder is deemed drug-related when the victim was known to represent alleged drug personalities or was alleged to have been a drug personality.

But it noted that “there are instances these categories overlap, such as when the work of a prosecutor involved handling illegal drug cases or when the victim was known to handle drug cases.”

In five killings, the victim was either a drug personality or was branded as protector of the drug trade while two of other killings, victims were found to be romantically linked to an alleged drug personality.

Killings under personal motives may be due to personal debts or robbery.

Almost half of killed lawyers from public practice

In the killings FLAG tallied, 32 were lawyers from private practice, 21 were incumbent public officials, eight as retired or former public officials and four from public interest.

In the 32 killed lawyers in the private practice, seven of them were known to handle illegal drug cases.

Of the 29 from public practice, 21 were incumbent officials when they were killed. Five were judges, eight were prosecutors while others were working as public attorney and staff of local government unit offices. At least three retired judges or justices and three former prosecutors were also killed.

The four public interest lawyers, two were known to represent political prisoners, activists and peasants, and were both red-tagged prior to their killing. One was an advocate of Bangsamoro Basic Law, while the other is an environmental lawyer, although motive was not due to her practice, FLAG said.

NUPL’s Guillen is also a known public interest lawyer.

SC orders inventory

Several noted lawyers and groups have been pressing the government, particularly the Judiciary, for more action amid the continued killings and attacks on the members of the legal profession.

The latest victim is National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers member Angelo Karlo Guillen, one of the legal counsels for petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and of activists and peasant workers. He was stabbed in Iloilo last week and is currently recuperating.

Amid the mounting pressure on the SC, the Office of the Court Administrator on Tuesday directed judges of first and second level trial courts to accomplish its survey for the crafting of its inventory of cases involving violence against lawyers.

The circular dated March 9 came two months since Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta’s memorandum to address the “growing concern over the continued attacks against lawyers and judges.”

RELATED: With more than 50 lawyers killed since 2016, legal institutions meet on security issues

The Department of Justice is also creating its inventory, based on information from prosecution offices across the country.

The Senate, meanwhile, resumes it legislative inquiry on lawyer killings on Thursday, since weeks since its first hearing.

FOLLOW: LIVE: Senate hearing on unlawful killings




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