The Confederation of Lawyers in Asia and the Pacific COLAP strongly condemns the worsening attacks against lawyers and judges in the Philippines. There have been at least 54 lawyers and judges who have become victims of extrajudicial killings and violent crimes since 2016 under the Duterte administration. These attacks were made with brazen impunity and with the perpetrators emboldened by the deafening lack of response by state forces.
The continuing, increasing, and more brazen killings on Filipino lawyers and judges have been going for many years now, but we noticed a sharp increase since Pres. Rodrigo Duterte came to office in 2016 and has made the legal profession one of the most dangerous professions in the country. This is further worsened by the repressive state terror under the Duterte government when it passed the draconian Anti-Terror Law that stifles dissent and free speech.
We would like to reiterate that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments are mandated to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their profession without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference; able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards, and ethics.
Furthermore, the same UN Declaration states that where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities and that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions. Lawyers must be able to perform their duties in every case, regardless of who they represent, without being harassed, threatened, or killed. Lastly, there must be accountability through the swift and effective investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators to stem the increasing tide of impunity in the country today.
The attacks against judges also impinge on their independence and their ability to perform their judicial function impartially and without fear of harassment, external pressures, and threats on their lives and security.
COLAP demands a stop to the killings and the immediate prosecution of the perpetrators. We condemn government inaction to go after the perpetrators. We call on the international community of lawyers and defenders of human rights to stand in solidarity with the beleaguered Filipino lawyers and judges and to call on their own governments and on internuptial bodies and agencies to exert pressure on the Philippine government of Rodrigo Duterte to respect the rights of lawyers and judges to pursue their work without threat, force and intimidation.#