MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte likely "does not care" about a virtual protest by several lawyers who called last week for a stop to the killings of legal practitioners and judges.
Duterte's taped speech was played during an online convention of Integrated Bar of Philippines on Saturday, when some members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers changed their profile photos, with the phrase "Stop the Attacks on Lawyers and Judges."
"Wala pong reaksiyon si Presidente. Alam ninyo naman kung ikaliligaya ng NUPL iyon eh ‘di hayaan natin, eh ‘di naging maligaya sila," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
(The President has no reaction. You know, if that made them happy, let's let them be, they're happy.)
"I don’t know what that achieved but if that made them happy, well and good," he said in a press briefing.
Roque said Duterte "made sure" he would tape a message for the IBP, as requested by its president.
"Before making the recording, sinabi nga niya na medyo masama ang loob niya sa IBP (he was a bit resentful) because of a past incident pero nonetheless he proceeded to record a message because he knows that IBP is still the association of all lawyers, his fellow lawyers," said the Palace official.
He did not say which "past incident" caused Duterte's ill feelings towards the IBP.
Referring to the NUPL protest, Roque said, "The President did not know about it, he probably does not care."
"But I personally feel that since I was instrumental in making that record, hindi ko maintindihan iyong kaligayahan na makukuha ng mga NUPL lawyers na iyan," he said.
(I cannot understand what joy the NUPL lawyers can derive from that.)
ATTACKS AGAINST LAWYERS, JUDGES
The Free Legal Assistance Group in May said more lawyers were killed during Duterte's administration so far, than under previous presidents since dictator Ferdinand Marcos combined.
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.
Following the virtual protest against these killings, NUPL president Edre Olalia said it was "discomfiting to be addressed in a national gathering of lawyers by a fellow lawyer who cannot be considered sentinel of everything that lawyers should believe in and defend."
Roque meanwhile said, "Have we addressed the killings of lawyers and judges? Of course, we are."
"Abogado po ang ating Presidente at talaga naman pong ang kaniyang utos, lahat ng mga pinatay, lalung-lalo na ang mga abogado at mga mahistrado, kinakailangan maimbestigahan at kinakailangan maparusahan ang mga pumapatay sa kanila," he said.
(Our President is a lawyer and his order is all killings, especially those of lawyers and judges, should be investigated and their killers should be punished.)