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PNP vows investigations into lawyer killings, stronger partnership with IBP

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP vows investigations into lawyer killings, stronger partnership with IBP
Photo shows ranking execs of the Philippine National Police meeting with members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines over the spate of lawyer killings in the country.
Release / PNP PIO

MANILA, Philippines — The national police vowed Wednesday to "promptly and thoroughly" investigate the still-mounting cases of lawyer killings that have swept the country since the start of the Duterte administration. 

In a statement sent to reporters, the Philippine National Police committed to expedite the investigation and give preferential attention to incidents and cases of violence against lawyers, prosecutors, and magistrates "to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and that justice is swiftly served."

This comes after top officials of the PNP and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines met Tuesday over the increase of murders of lawyers in the Philippines. 

"The PNP leadership does not sanction or tolerate the use of unnecessary/unreasonable force; illegal/questionable methods, or abuse of authority in pursuing its mandate to enforce the law and maintain peace and order; It shall hold accountable and discipline any police officer or employee who acts in violation of the Constitution, law, or regulations," the two groups said in a joint statement.

"Lawyer-killings shall be investigated promptly and thoroughly with the suspects subsequently identified, prosecuted, and penalized."

According to data from the Free Legal Assistance Group, 61 lawyers have been killed since Duterte's ascendancy in June 2016. That figure surpassed the total lawyer killings over the country's past six administrations combined, during which only 44 law practitioners were murdered. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra remains willfully obtuse about the connection between the uptick in killings and the Duterte administration, during which critics say a culture of violence and impunity has emerged. “I am not in the position to say that there is link to whoever is the president to the number of killed lawyers or prosecutors or judges,” the justice official said at a press briefing Monday. 

It is unclear if PNP leadership, themselves close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte and his campaigns against narcotics and insurgency, acknowledged this pattern during the meet. 

But the joint statement, co-signed by Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa, promised "closer coordination between IBP and law enforcers and investigators resulted in faster resolution of the more recent killings of Atty. Eric Jay Magcamit in Palawan and Atty. Joey Luis Wee in Cebu City".

Eleazar also "expressed the commitment of the PNP to provide timely assistance to lawyers, prosecutors, and judges in distress or danger and extend appropriate security and protection in cases of threat or hazard in the performance of their duties and functions."

He added that the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office is conducting its own review of the PNP’s compliance with human rights standards in police operations, claiming this was because "the PNP remains keenly responsive to the requirement of respect for human rights in law enforcement."

Guevarra at the 46th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in late February admitted before the international community that according to a review by his department, personnel of the national police did not follow procedures on validating whether "drug personalities" killed while supposedly violently resisting arrest really did so.

The PNP also committed to training lawyers in security, personal defense, firearms proficiency and discipline, and allow the use of PNP facilities.

“We have sought to strengthen our partnership with IBP to develop greater confidence among police personnel and officers of the court,” Eleazar said. "The PNP and IBP shall nurture a principled and proactive partnership to end impunity and seek peace and justice for all."

— with reports from Kristine Joy Patag 

ATTACK ON LAWYERS INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PNP
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