Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the government’s continued inaction over incessant calls to investigate the systematic attacks and killings against Filipino lawyers whose profession places their lives in great danger.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 170 urging the Duterte administration to exert and exhaust all efforts to investigate the unresolved extrajudicial killings involving Filipino lawyers and finally end the attacks against them.
“The killings and the subsequent failure of the government to take meaningful action to give justice to the victims are a part of ‘a pattern of and systematic violations of human rights in the country’ in violation of both the country’s national and international obligations,” she said.
“The government is duty-bound to protect its people, especially those whose lives are in great danger because their profession requires them to defend others, especially the vulnerable. Now is not the time to play deaf ears to the plight of our country’s lawyers,” she added.
Since Mr. Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs in July 2016, an estimated 27,000 Filipinos were unjustly killed, including lawyers, prosecutors and judges. At least 41 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have been murdered as of July 2019 and counting.
In September 2019 alone, five members of the legal profession were attacked by unidentified men. Of this, only three survived.
Those who died include Atty. Irineo Cabugoy who was gunned down in front of his family in a fastfood chain in Rizal last Sept. 3 and Atty. Jesus Acpal who was gunned down by unidentified men outside his house in Muntinlupa last Sept. 21.
Despite the international attention on the issue, the former justice secretary lamented that Mr. Duterte has continuously denied cases of extrajudicial killings while his lackeys have also turned a blind eye on the spate of EJKs to prevent antagonizing him.
“The failure of our government to abet the killings continue despite the fact that United Nation bodies and experts have already raised concern over the extrajudicial killings in the country as manifested in the adoption of Resolution 41/L.20 by the UN Human Rights Council last July,” she said.
In the said Resolution supported by 18 countries, the Philippines was urged “to take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable, in accordance with international norms and standards…”
More so, 76 international lawyers’ groups and 76 lawyers from 49 countries released a joint statement last September calling on the Duterte administration to take necessary steps to end the attacks against lawyers in the country, but to no avail.
De Lima, a law practitioner and a known election lawyer before she joined government service, reminded the government that threatening or endangering lawyers is tantamount to subverting the effective functioning of the country’s system.
In this 18th Congress, De Lima filed a similar resolution, logged as SR No. 33, urging the appropriate Senate committee to look into the continued assault against members of the legal profession, including lawyers, prosecutors and judges.