Following slay of rights lawyer, IBP calls for 'nationwide effort' to protect members of legal profession

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Following slay of rights lawyer, IBP calls for 'nationwide effort' to protect members of legal profession
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 — Following the killing of lawyer Juan Macababbad in South Cotabato, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has called for a “nationwide effort” to protect members of the legal profession that continue to experience threats and attacks.

The national organization of lawyers said they will continue to cooperate with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police “to address and arrest these rising attacks against its members.”

But it also called upon “our police and investigative agencies to formulate and implement specific measures to improve the security of lawyers, judges and prosecutors and to expeditiously resolve its investigations on these killings so that perpetrators are swiftly and truly held accountable.”

“The disturbing and increasing frequency of lawyer killings can no longer be ignored,” the IBP also said.

Macababbad, a public interest lawyer, was gunned down by two unidentified men in front of his house in South Cotabato on Wednesday afternoon.

PNP General Guillermo Eleazar ordered an investigation into the killing of the lawyer. He issued a separate directive to the national police’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management to look into the progress of cases of other lawyers killed.

The murder of Macababbad came three weeks after lawyer Rex Fernandez was shot dead in his car in Banawa, Cebu City.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, chair of the revived SC Committee on Human Rights, reiterated in August the high court’s condemnation of killings of lawyers.

He assured that the committee is sifting through and analyzing the 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.”

‘A blow to the cause human rights’

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, in its independent tally, said Macababbad is the 58th lawyer killed with prima facie evidence that the murder is due to his profession in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

A separate record puts Macababbad as the 65th lawyer slain in Duterte’s term.

In a statement by NUPL-Panay Chapter, they lamented the killing of Macababbad as a “staggering blow to the cause of human rights.”

The slain lawyer they said “helped investigate rights violations, represented political prisoners and served indigenous communities under frequent attack from the military and other state forces.”

The IBP condoled with the bereaved family and colleagues of Macababbad, and committed that it will help and monitor investigation and prosecution of his case.

They stressed: “Lawyers are mandated to strive for justice and they must be able to do so without fear of reprisal or violence. Our country cannot attain true independence and freedom when conformity is extracted by fear and criticism silenced by force.”

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