The international community should urge the Philippine government to protect Filipino lawyers, scores of whom have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said last night.
HRW cited a report published by local news website Rappler which said that 61 lawyers have been murdered since 2016. This stands in stark contrast to the 49 who have been killed within the 44 years that spanned the administrations of five presidents, from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to Benigno Aquino III.
“The international community led by the United Nations Human Rights Council needs to act more decisively to press the Duterte administration to end the violence,” HRW’s senior researcher Carlos Conde said in a statement.
Conde added that since 2004, charges have been filed in only seven cases. The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) has found that the killings are mostly work-related, while the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) found that many of those killed represented clients who have been victimized by Duterte’s war on drugs or those whose human rights have been violated.
FLAG was founded in 1974, during the peak of Marcos’ dictatorship. to defend political and human rights victims. Meanwhile, the NUPL was established in 2007 during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose administration was marked by multiple cases of human rights abuse.
HRW cited the case of NUPL lawyer and peasant advocate Benjamin Ramos who was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen in 2018 in Negros Occidental. Another NUPL lawyer, Angelo Karlo Guillen, was stabbed and robbed earlier this month in Iloilo City. Guillen is the counsel of 16 members of the indigenous Tumandok tribe, whom state forces have arrested in Iloilo and Capiz in December for allegedly being communist rebels.
“The targeted killing of Filipinos swept up in the brutal ‘war on drugs’ or taking part in human rights activism is bad enough. The killing of those who defend them or seek to provide their families redress adds immeasurably to the horror,” Conde said.
A few days ago, several lawyers, led by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, urged the high court to address the spate of lawyers’ killings.
This article, Urge Duterte to stop lawyers’ killings, Human Rights Watch tells int’l community, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.