Lawmakers seek probe into police profiling of activists' lawyers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2021 08:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 18 2021 09:16 AM

Watch more News on iWantTFC

MANILA - Lawmakers have called on the House of Representatives to investigate the profiling of lawyers who represent red-tagged activists.

"This profiling of lawyers is a violation of the lawyer's oath wherein a lawyer, among others, is sworn to uphold the Constitution and not to delay any client for money or malice," Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman told ANC.

Lagman, Quezon City 6th District Rep. Kit Belmonte and Makabayan lawmakers on Tuesday filed House Resolution 1657 urging the lower house of Congress to condemn and investigate police's profiling of lawyers defending red-tagged individuals.

This stemmed over a letter from Calbayog police requesting for a list of lawyers representing “communist terrorist groups” or CTGs.

In a letter dated March 12, 2021, Police Lt. Fernando Calabria, Jr., the intelligence chief of the Calbayog Police Station, asked the Office of the Clerk of Court in Calbayog Regional Trial Court for a list of lawyers who represent “CTG personalities in court.”

No reason was cited for the request but the letter drew widespread condemnation because attached to it was a table with a heading in one column captioned “mode of neutralization.”

Police have used the term “neutralization” in police reports on drug cases to refer to killings, as pointed out by the June 2020 report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Philippine National Police has relieved Calabria from his post and has apologized to the legal community.

Lagman noted that the action was sanctioned by higher PNP offices as indicated in Calabria's letter to Calbayog RTC.

"Let me underscore that not only lawyers are being profiled [but also] people in government associated with cause-oriented groups like COURAGE and ACT Teachers for their membership in said organizations," he said.

Lagman added, "The problem is these repressive acts, red-tagging, weaponizing of search warrants, police raids, killing of non-combatant activists, they are all done because police and military elements are emboldened by the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020."

Lagman is among petitioners challenging the validity of the law, which grants state forces sweeping powers to address terrorism.

According to a study by the Free Legal Assistance Group, more lawyers were killed during the administration so far of President Rodrigo Duterte than under previous presidents since dictator Ferdinand Marcos combined.

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.