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Mandaluyong judge red-tagged after freeing two activists

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Mandaluyong judge red-tagged after freeing two activists
In this undated photo, militants troop to the Senate building in Pasay City for the hearing of the committee on national defense and security on the issue of red-tagging.
The STAR / KJ Rosales, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — A Mandaluyong judge, who recently ordered the release of two activists, is the latest to be tagged as supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna party-list) posted on his Twitter account a tarpauling bearing the face of Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio.

The tarpaulin, seen in Shaw Boulevard corner EDSA, supposedly came from the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines-New People’s Army, thanking the judge for ordering the release of journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago.

“The Courts are under attack! After [Philippine National Police’s] attempt to profile [human rights] lawyers, we’re now seeing harassment vs. judges who exposed their flawed searches!” Gaite said.

“Even Judicial Independence is now being labeled as Terrorism. Another reason why the Terror Law must be junked,” the minority lawmaker added.

Independent media network AlterMidya expressed concern for Salem who, although released from detention, is again red-tagged as the poster suggested. “We denounce this newest attempt to vilify our colleague, and we request our fellow journalists and press freedom advocates to continue supporting Lady Ann and other truth-tellers under attack,” it added.

Quisumbing-Ignacio in February junked illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges against Salem and Esparago after it found the search warrant implemented that led to their arrest as vague. The court had also flagged “substantial inconsistencies and contradictions” in the testimony and sworn statements of the informant and law enforcers involved in the operation.

Progressive groups have repeatedly raised the alarm on posters and fliers proliferated, especially in provinces, red-tagging known public rights defenders and community leaders, as with the case of murdered lawyer Ben Ramos.

In October 2020, tarpaulins, bearing logos of the PNP and the National Democratic Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, declaring communist rebels as “persona non grata” were also put up in several places in Metro Manila.

UP Law asks SC to create committee to protect lawyers

The red-tagging of Judge Ignacio came days after local police asked the Calbayog, Samar courts for a list of lawyers representing “communist terrorist groups” in court.

The PNP top brass later distanced itself from the letter and relieved Calbayog police officers.

But the more than 150 University of the Philippines College of Law faculty, backed by 736 supporters, urged the Supreme Court to not let this pass without a proper investigation.

In a letter to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, the UP College of Law faculty led by Dean Edgardo Carlo Vistan II, asked the high court to convene a “Special Committee to Protect Lawyers” to look into circumstances of the letter and connection, if any, behind such attempts to profile and/or red-tag lawyers.

They slammed the police’s action as a “blatant attempt to make courts complicit” to a potential violation of rights of litigants to a counsel and undermining the Judiciary’s independence. “[T]his police action is a patent demonstration of impunity,” they said.

“Never in the history of any country has there ever been such an open and flagrant attempt to cow the legal community into shirking their sworn duty as lawyers and officers of the court through an act of discrimination and inquisition clearly targeting lawyers for representing a particular category of accused clients,” the lawyers said.

The UP College of Law asked the SC to “verify the number of lawyers killed to attempted to be killed in connection to similar threats” and “explore the need to promulgate rules to protect lawyers from threats, including amend the Writs of Amparo and Habeas data.”

RELATED: FLAG report found almost half of lawyers killed linked to legal practice FLAG: 61 lawyers slain in Duterte term — higher than killings from Marcos to Aquino admins

An independent tally from the Free Legal Assistance Group said 61 lawyers were killed since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, and almost half of these killings were tagged as work-related.

They told the high court: “Protect the officers of the Court. Ensure the independence of the Judiciary. Uphold the role of lawyers in the administration of justice and the defense of the rule of law.”

ATTACK ON LAWYERS

SUPREME COURT

UNIVESITY OF THE PHILIPPINES

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