Tell it to SunStar: Attacks on lawyers, dissenters condemned

WE, the members of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL), strongly condemn and protest the baseless and unfounded attacks against fellow members of the profession and other human rights defenders.

The incessant harassment and threats towards our colleagues, trumped-up charges against dissenters and unsolved extra-judicial killings are attacks on civil liberties and constitutional rights of the people.

In the past year alone, trumped-up charges against fellow lawyers Vice President Leni Robredo, Chel Diokno, Florin Hilbay, Erin Tañada, Ted Te and other lawyers, as well as religious personalities, were filed for supposed sedition and other criminal acts.

Earlier this year, public interest lawyers Kathy Panguban and Joe Begil, who only zealously represented their peasant clients’ interests, faced ludicrous charges which were eventually dismissed. Sen. Leila De Lima, an outspoken critic of the administration, has been unjustly detained for more than 1,000 days.

This is within the context of escalating killings since President Duterte took office on

June 30, 2016.

On Nov. 5, 2019, Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez was the sixth judge killed under the Duterte administration and the 43rd member of the profession fatally shot since July 2016. None of these killings have been successfully prosecuted, and all remain open investigations. Many of the killings, like those of human rights lawyers Ben Ramos and Anthony Trinidad, are believed to be related to or reprisals for taking on cases or positions for clients charged with crimes related to rebellion or drugs.

A climate of fear and impunity pervades amid the administration’s attempts to intimidate the opposition and demonize dissenters. Even non-lawyers are not spared.

We stand behind our colleagues and partners in defending human rights. The State’s continued intolerance of dissent and chronic disregard of rights have to end. Lawyers and human rights defenders have the duty to assist in the dispensation of justice for all. We will not be cowed by attempts to sideline and silence us. We will not let it interfere in our obligation to provide effective legal representation and to uphold the rule of justice.

We call on the government to desist from attacking members of the legal profession for the practice of their profession or the exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of expression. We call on the government not to attack dissenters and abide by the State’s duties to secure the people and respect their human rights.

We call on lawyers to unite against brazen impunity and looming tyranny!

Dean Pacifico Agabin

Rene Saguisag Sr.

Co-convenors, CLCL

(Statement of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties)