Senate condemns brazen attacks on lawyers

Senate condemns brazen attacks on lawyers
Members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers in December 2020 filed an administrative complaint against three officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict over their unabated red-tagging.
Karapatan, release

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution condemning the brazen attacks on lawyers and judges in the country.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, addressing the plenary on Wednesday afternoon, said: “Today, lawyers are being gunned done, murdered, summarily executed at dawn, broad daylight, at night from Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Iloilo, Tacloban, Cebu, Negros, Davao to Osamis to North Cotabato while walking, while driving, while eating on their way to work, at work, on their way home, at home, in front of friends and colleagues, families and even in front of a mother’s two-year-old twins.”

“These horrendous pattern of taking lives and violence, impunity, lack of accountability and apathy are symptoms of a government run by rule of men and not by rule of law,” Drilon added.

Crossing party-lines, eight senator-lawyers led by Drilon filed a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to take necessary steps to ensure the safety of the members of the legal profession.

Apart from Drilon, others who signed the resolution are Sens. Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon, Kiko Pangilinan, Koko Pimentel and Francisco Tolentino.

All other senators were made co-authors of the resolution before the Senate body adopted it.

Senate resolution

In the resolution, the senators stressed that lawyers play a crucial role in administering justice in the country, but also in representing the most marginalized sectors in the country.

“The brazen acts of violence against lawyers send a chilling message to the members of the bench and the bar who, in the performance of their responsibilities to the society as administrators of justice, should be able to exercise their sworn duties and represent their clients or dispense justice without threats, persecution and fear for their safety and their lives," they added.

The lawmakers also said that the continuing attacks on lawyers and the subsequent failure to condemn and investigate these acts of violence and bring perpetrators to justice “is an act of injustice in itself and erode the public's trust and confidence in our justice system.”

This comes a day after the Supreme Court, in a rare move, issued a collective statement condemning “in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labelled.”

“To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault to the Judiciary. The assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the court's watch,” the SC justices added.

The senators then called on Duterte, also a lawyer, to lay out “definitive solutions and actions to address such rampant violence and killings, including the prompt, impartial and efficient investigation and prosecution of the cases."

Duterte’s Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier distanced the administration from the rise in killings, noting that lawyering for other cases or causes may be attended with risks.

The SC has listed courses of action to address the security concerns of lawyers. Among these are asking information from lower courts and law enforcement agencies on related cases, promulgation of rules requiring body cameras for service of warrants and providing security to judges concerned.

Lower courts and related agencies are given until April to submit the data and report. “Based on the information provided, the Court will then decide on the next courses of action, including the amendment of the relevant rules, or if necessary, the creation of new ones,” the SC added. — Kristine Joy Patag

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