61 lawyers killed since Duterte assumed office in 2016, says group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2021 08:42 AM

61 lawyers killed since Duterte assumed office in 2016, says group 1
Members of human rights groups lay flowers on photos of victims of extra-judicial killings as part of activities leading up to International Human Rights Day at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on December 1, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Some 61 lawyers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, according to a report by the Free Legal Assistance Group released Thursday.

Nearly half of the killings or 26 were work-related, 15 were drug-related, 12 were allegedly due to personal motives, and the remaining 15 are unknown, the report showed.

"This, along with the fact that no one has been arrested in 73 percent of the killings, are indications that the government has failed to fulfill its obligation to adequately safeguard lawyers who are threatened as a result of discharging their functions," FLAG said.

An alleged perpetrator was charged in only 9 out of 59 incidents, with zero convictions, it added.

Of the 61 victims, 32 were engaged in private practice, 21 were incumbent public officials, 8 were former public officials, and 4 were public interest lawyers, according to FLAG.

The group said a killing is tagged as drug-related when the victim was known to represent alleged drug suspects or was alleged to have been a drug personality. 

"Aside from the number of work-related killings of lawyers, the statements of the President have also given a chilling effect to the legal profession," it said.

"In one instance, President Duterte criticized the lawyers of suspected drug lords, saying they had been taking advantage of the circuitous judicial process, allowing their clients to continue with their illicit activities. He then warned: 'Even their lawyers, I will include them.'"

In one case, a police officer had confessed his superior was the one who ordered the killing by making him "believe that the victim was an illegal personality who had to be 'operated,'" according to the report.

"The fact that law enforcement officers comply with patently illegal orders to conduct summary extra-legal executions is an indication that the government has failed in its obligation to prohibit such orders and emphasize the duty to defy such orders," FLAG said.

The Office of the Court Administrator on Tuesday ordered an inventory of criminal cases who were either harassed, threated attacked or killed.

Judges of first and second level courts are directed to accomplish nationwide survey within 10 days, it said.

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