IBP, NUPL slam police request for names of lawyers representing ‘communist terrorist’ groups

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2021 11:22 PM

MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Friday slammed an alleged Philippine National Police (PNP) request from a court a for list of lawyers representing members of supposed "communist-terrorist" groups in the country.

The Supreme Court earlier said Calbayog Regional Trial Court received the request signed by a certain Police Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr. from the Calbayog City Police Station, but "no action" has been done by the said court so far.

"The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and even duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld. Lawyers therefore should not be suspected, discriminated against, faulted, red-tagged, or attacked for doing their professional duty," IBP national president Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.

"The letter is improper, deplorable, and alarming."

Cayosa called on authorities for a comprehensive probe on the request and "promote state responsibility to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution."

"As we remain vigilant, we trust that Filipino lawyers will remain courageous and steadfast sentinels of the rule of law," he said.

The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) also condemned the request. The NULP said the letter shows "barefaced disregard of the PNP for human rights, particularly the right to access lawyers and legal services. 

"It is an affront to the right and duty of lawyers to exercise their profession without fear as well as the administration of justice," the NUPL said in a statement.

"The police has no right to profile lawyers on the basis of their clients' personalities or ideologies. Under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers must 'not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.' Nevertheless, lawyers, like other citizens, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. The persecution of lawyers, on account of their functions as officers of the court, simply cannot be tolerated," it said.

The union accused the PNP as the "leading perpetrators of lawlessness and terror" in the Philippines under the "murderous regime" of President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power in 2016 on a promise to eradicate crime and illegal drug trade through violent means.

"It was the police that mercilessly killed suspected drug offenders in the tens of thousands and, most recently, nine activists in Southern Tagalog -- tokhang-style -- while allegedly enforcing search warrants for loose firearms. Even the reported assassins of Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino are uniformed police personnel," the NUPL said. 

The police request came days after Aquino and several others were killed. Authorities claimed it was a shootout between the mayor's men and the police, but a lawmaker, along with Aquino's son, argued it was an ambush by non-uniformed cops.

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"The letter intensifies the atmosphere of fear and repression with which lawyers are trying to perform their sworn duties towards the courts, society, and their clients, regardless of the latter's political beliefs. It has no objective other than to create a virtual hitlist of lawyer targets to be 'neutralized.' Needless to state, it must be rebuffed, even condemned, by the courts," the NUPL said.

At least 54 lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed during the term of Duterte, the union said, and the PNP's request to get the names of lawyers of CTG members' "produces a chilling effect" to legal counsels in the Philippines.

"We thus reiterate our calls for measures that will ensure that lawyers such as ourselves will be able to perform all of our professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. We also demand that the PNP immediately desist from harassing our colleagues in the legal profession -- lawyers for "CTG personalities" or not," the NUPL said.

According to Cayosa, the IBP was assured by top PNP officials that there was no directive to Calabria to procure the names of legal counsels.

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