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Calls for justice on attacks vs legal profession grow as another lawyer killed in South Cotabato

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Calls for justice on attacks vs legal profession grow as another lawyer killed in South Cotabato
Lawyers submit a letter to the Supreme Court on December 22, 2020 urging action on the killings of lawyers.
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers via Bulatlat

MANILA, Philippines — Calls for justice on continuing attacks on members of the legal profession continue to grow as another public interest lawyer was brutally killed, the 65th in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, on Wednesday night.

The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao confirmed that Juan Macababbad, their vice-chair, was shot multiple times in front of his house in Surallah, South Cotabato.

In the NUPL’s own tally, Macababbad is the 58th lawyer killed with prima facie link to his profession, and their third member slain in the Duterte administration.

“While the case may go through the usual investigation, as with the other growing number of unresolved cases, it is clear that the murder of Atty. Macababbad is connected to his vocation of lawyering for the people,” the UPLM said.

They added that Macababbad had been receiving death threats before he was killed.

“The culture of impunity pervades with the lack of serious investigation and prosecution over thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country. The legal profession is not spared, and our colleagues have become main targets especially those who resist tyranny and defend human rights,” the UPLM also said.

In a separate statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabaty also demanded justice for the killing of Macababbad and all lawyers killed in Duterte’s term.

“Such attacks against those in the legal profession, particularly against the committed and tireless human rights defenders among them, should stop,” she said.

“We call for accountability for those who are fostering this climate of impunity that has led to these killings and attacks against those who serve the poor and vulnerable communities,” Palabay added.

The UPLM urged the authorities to “do their job in resolving the crime” and called on the international community to denounce attacks against Filipino lawyers.

“If they cannot stop the killings, then they should give way to those who have the moral ascendancy to bring back peace and justice to our country,” the UPLM also said.

Continued attacks

The brazen killing of Macababbad happened just three weeks since lawyer Rex Fernandez, also a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, was shot dead in his car in Banawa, Cebu City.

Under mounting pressure from progressive and lawyers groups, the Supreme Court, in a rare move, condemned the attacks on the legal profession and asked concerned groups to submit reports of harassment and violence to them for evaluation and recommendation.

An independent tally from the Free Legal Assistance Group found that as of March, 61 lawyers were slain in the past five years under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. This number is higher than the killings in the past six administrations combined.

Since the SC’s statement, four more lawyers were killed, including Macababbad.

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo in June said that the SC is working on reports submitted by concerned groups on attacks on the legal profession.

The high court has also revived its Committee on Human Rights that has been analyzing submitted reports “to discern whether there are patterns in the killing of lawyers and threats to judges so that we can evaluate a strategic response.”

ATTACKS ON LAWYERS NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES LAWYERS SUPREME COURT
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