Int'l lawyers allege they were watched, tailed by 'state agents'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2019 11:32 PM

Members of an international delegation of lawyers hold posters on Monday, March 18, found in different provinces red-tagging lawyers. On Tuesday, they alleged that "state agents" were monitoring their activities. Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA--A group of international lawyers investigating attacks on their Filipino counterparts said it was subjected to surveillance by state agents on Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, the 9-member International Delegation of Lawyers alleged they were watched and tailed from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines office to their hotel.

The team met with government officials, NGOs, the Commission on Human Rights, legal professionals, victims and families of victims in Metro Manila and Iloilo. 

The group said a man in civilian clothes approached an IBP staff "and boasted that 'these foreigners are now under surveillance'."

"Afterwards, he milled around the delegation and was not-so-discreetly taking our pictures and snooping on our conversation," it said.

A woman claiming to be a journalist but could not show proof her identity, meanwhile, reported "at the top of her voice to somebody over the phone."

"Thereafter, the delegation was closely tailed from the IBP to a mall where we took lunch by two men in bullcaps riding in tandem on a motorcycle with no plate number," the group alleged.

More men in civilian clothes and bullcaps awaited the delegation at the entrance to its hotel, it further alleged.

A heavily tinted car also tailed the group's vehicle earlier Tuesday, the group said, adding that the harassment "appear to have the fingerprints of intimidation and reprisal by state agents."

"We were made to understand that our delegation was probably the first foreign group to enter the country and conduct a firsthand open inquiry on the reported rights violations under the present Philippine government," it said.

"It is indeed ironic that our lawyers’ delegation representing various legitimate and prestigious organizations from all over the world which openly met with government offices and officials -- other than the police and military which gave us a runaround -- will be subjected to brazen harassment ourselves."

The group, which includes lawyers from Belgium, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and the United States, said it has informed its members' respective embassies and missions regarding the "unacceptable harassment."

"Indeed, to see and feel is to believe. And no amount of ad hominem insults and official denials of reality can change this matter of fact. But we will be back," it said.

Members of the group belong to international lawyers’ groups International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA) and Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation (DELF).