House urged to probe into police ‘profiling’ of lawyers of alleged communist rebels

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
House urged to probe into police âprofilingâ of lawyers of alleged communist rebels
A copy of the letter sent to the Calbayog Regional Trial Court.

MANILA, Philippines — Eight opposition lawmakers are urging the House of Representatives to investigate the Philippine National Police’s supposed profiling of lawyers of alleged communist rebels, which they said presents a “clear and present danger” to the legal profession.

The call of the six-member Makabayan bloc, along with Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) and Rep. Kit Belmonte (Quezon City, 6th District) in House Resolution No. 1657 stems from the attempt of Police Lt. Fernando Calabria to obtain a list of lawyers who are defending alleged communist rebels before the Calbayog Regional Trial Court.

Calabria said in his letter to the court that his request is in compliance “from higher PNP offices,” but the police leadership denied issuing such an order and relieved the police lieutenant from his position as Calbayog City Police Station’s intelligence unit chief.

But the lawmakers are not buying the statement of the PNP, which said Saturday that it will "never tolerate such unprofessional method of information-gathering."

“[This] presents a clear and present danger to the legal profession and such an apparent hitlist for targeting lawyers seems to be prepared by the national PNP down to its lower levels,” they said.

They continued, “Clearly, it can be inferred there is indeed an ongoing profiling and categorizing of lawyers being done by the PNP, given the structure and the table template attached with the letter.”

This is in reference to Calabria’s request to the Calbayog court, which included a table with the headings “legal personality, affiliations, client [Communist Terrorist Group] personality, mode of neutralization, case filed, status.”

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report suggested that Calabria’s request is not isolated, with courts in northern Luzon and Central Luzon having received letters for arrest warrants in archived cases as part of their counterinsurgency and anti-crime campaign.

It is unclear if the House, which is dominated by allies of the Duterte administration, will heed the call to hold hearings.

Rampant attacks

The lawmakers said Congress must protect the people’s rights and deflect attacks on lawyers, especially those who serve the marginalized and underprivileged and are red-tagged due to their causes.

They cited the case of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and National Union of People’s Lawyers Secretary-General Angelo Karlo Guillen, who were both attacked after being red-tagged, or accused of being part of the armed communist movement.

PANOORIN: 'Red-tagging'? Ano 'yon at bakit ito nakasasama?

Ramos was shot dead in November 2018, while Guillen was stabbed in the back and on the face with a screwdriver just this month.

Attacks on lawyers have been rampant under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, where 61 members of the legal profession have been slain in the span of just five years, compared to the 28 killings of lawyers under the past six administrations.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, sought to distance Duterte from the high number of lawyers killed so far during his administration, saying that the president would not enact a policy that would harm fellow lawyers.



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