MANILA — More lawyers were killed during the administration so far of President Rodrigo Duterte than under previous presidents since dictator Ferdinand Marcos combined, according to a study by the Free Legal Assistance Group.
FLAG listed 61 lawyers killed since 2016 after Duterte took office compared, to only 28 from 1972 to 2016, the period spanning the administrations of Marcos, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.
FLAG earlier released details of the killings during the Duterte administration, which showed nearly half or 26 to be work-related, 15 as drug-related, 12 to be allegedly due to personal motives, while the remaining 15 were due to unknown causes.
In contrast, the FLAG study listed 7 lawyers killed under Marcos, including Marcos critics former Antique governor Evelio Javier who was assassinated a few days before the EDSA People Power Revolution in February 1986 and Zamboanga City Mayor Cesar Climaco who was gunned down in November 1984.
Nine lawyers were killed during the term of Corazon Aquino, 5 of them were FLAG members Vicente Mirabueno, Alfonso Surigao, Jr., Oscag Tonog, Antonio Nazareno and Gil Getes who all succumbed to gunshot wounds.
None were killed during Ramos’ term.
During the presidency of Estrada, 2 judges — Celso Lorenzo and Hassan Ibnohajil — died, also of gunshot wounds, in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
FLAG listed 9 lawyers killed during the Arroyo administration, and one under Benigno Aquino III, most of whom were judges.
FLAG’s total of 28 lawyers killed from Marcos to the younger Aquino's administrations would, however, increase to 49 if the Supreme Court’s own list of judges killed and the Department of Justice’s list of slain prosecutors were to be considered.
The Supreme Court’s list, which started in 1999, listed 10 more judges killed under Arroyo and 6 judges during Benigno Aquino III’s time.
Meanwhile, the DOJ list, which started in 2004, added 3 prosecutors killed during Arroyo’s time and 2 more under the next administration.
No other publicly-accessible list of killed lawyers prior to the SC’s and DOJ’s lists were readily available to cross-check and compare FLAG’s figures. But FLAG National Capital Region coordinator Ted Te acknowledged more lawyers could have been killed under the earlier administrations.
“I’m sure there are. The list is not intended to be comprehensive. It is as far as we know. There are more names that are certainly not there. Killings over private disputes by private persons are not included as they wouldn’t directly cover a violation of human rights,” he said.
ABS-CBN News is still trying to get comparable figures from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). But the NUPL has maintained a lower count of 54 lawyers killed during the Duterte administration, which it called “prima facie work-related.”
It cited FLAG’s 61 count in its letter Monday to United Nations special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán, asking for an investigative mission on the attacks against lawyers, prosecutors and judges in the country.
The FLAG list included the killing of AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe who was killed in December 2018 supposedly upon orders of former Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwyn Baldo. Baldo is facing murder and attempted murder charges.
It also included the death of former Court of Appeals Justice Normandie Pizarro in October last year.
The National Bureau of Investigation said it was eyeing 4 persons of interest in the killing of Pizarro, including a person last seen with him who owed him money after meeting at a casino in August last year.
Many of those killed were public interest lawyers, according to Human Rights Watch Asia Division senior researcher Carlos Conde.
Twelve members of FLAG, which is engaged in free legal services to indigents, were included in the list of those killed.
“You don't have to agree with their politics to appreciate the good that they do in a society like the Philippines riven by conflict, dysfunction, & injustice. They're often the last men & women standing against the tyranny of the state,” Conde tweeted.
Te also expressed indignation on Twitter.
“That this list is even needed is a tragedy in itself, that many of the names on the list have been forgotten makes the tragedy worse, that justice remains elusive for many on the list makes the tragedy unforgivable,” he said.
For Senator Francis Pangilinan, “the rule of law is under siege and this is a challenge.”
“Fifty-four lawyers killed in the last 4 years. No way in any stretch of imagination can you say that is isolated. I beg to disagree with the observations, if this will be one of issues raised by the PNP—that these are isolated cases. They are not isolated cases,” he said on ANC’s Headstart on Monday.
GUEVARRA: KILLINGS COULD NOT BE ATTRIBUTED TO DUTERTE
In a press conference in Malacanang, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra sought to dissociate the killings from the President, saying lawyering is a profession inherently “fraught with danger.”
“It’s so difficult for me to relate 'yang number of deaths and make a comparison, depende kung sino ang Presidente ng Pilipinas. The President himself is a lawyer. Do you think he will have a policy na parang, will be something that will put his fellow members in the legal profession in personal jeopardy or something to that effect? I don't think so,” Guevarra said.
“Nangyayari 'yan because of circumstances, and not because of whoever is the head of the present administration,” he added, pointing out that lawyers could have been killed because of the nature of the cases they handled such as corruption, terrorism, drugs or election, aside from personal, business-related, political or advocacy reasons.
FLAG earlier said the number of lawyers killed, along with the fact that no one has been arrested in 73 percent of the killings, indicate “the government has failed to fulfill its obligation to adequately safeguard lawyers who are threatened as a result of discharging their functions.”
Data from the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service and media reports show only 6 of the 61 cases of killings during the Duterte administration resulted in charges filed in court.
These are the cases involving:
-Goering Paderanga, Sr. (Cebu City)
-Gerik Ceasare Paderanga (Cebu City)
-Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green (Tagbilaran City)
-Salvador Solima (Cebu City)
-Eric Jay Magcamit (Palawan)
-Joey Luis Wee (Cebu City)
Prior to Duterte’s term, another case was filed over the death of Dumaguete City Prosecutor Gelu Togonon in February 2004.
CALLS FOR MORE PROACTIVE STANCE
The IBP and other lawyers groups have called on the Supreme Court to take a more proactive stance over the killings and attacks on lawyers, especially with the recent incident involving Iloilo City-based lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen who was stabbed with a screw driver on the cheek. He survived and is recuperating.
The DOJ is also facing criticism for only holding dialogues on lawyers’ killings in January this year when 2 of its lawyers were killed in 2020 — Fredric Santos, head of the Bureau of Corrections legal service, in February, and Manila City Prosecutor Jovencio Senados in September.
“Better late than never. This is something that is being done informally naman all the time, na napag-uusapan yan, at kung merong mga members of the legal profession who are... who become victims of these violent crimes, ay iniimbestigahan din naman 'yan kaagad, like any other common crime,” Guevarra said.
“Kaya lang naman talaga nagkaroon ng formal dialogue ay dahil nga nagkaroon ng recent spate of killings in the legal profession. Whether nagkataon lang 'yun, or not, we're not really sure kung nagkataon lang. But the point is, something is being done about it,” he said.