STOP THE KILLINGS AND ATTACKS ON LAWYERS!

STOP THE KILLINGS AND ATTACKS ON LAWYERS!

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National Union of Peoples' Lawyers started this petition to THE PRESIDENT and

OPEN LETTER TO CHIEF JUSTICE LUCAS BERSAMIN OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE PHILIPPINES
1 December 2018

Mr. Chief Justice:

We, the undersigned lawyers and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, write to you to express our grave concern over the rising number of cases of extrajudicial killings of lawyers throughout the Philippines.

We urge the Supreme Court of the Philippines, through the Honorable Chief Justice, to take immediate action to protect lawyers in the Philippines as they perform their function to protect their clients’ rights and uphold the rule of law.

It has been reported that to date there have been at least thirty-five (35) lawyers and judges who were victims of extrajudicial killings during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The most recent victim, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, was shot dead last November 6, 2018 by two unidentified men at the public plaza of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Atty. Ramos was the Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)-Negros. There is reason to believe that his death was related to his work assisting the families of the victims of the Sagay 9 Massacre. Prior to his death, Atty. Ramos reportedly received death threats intended to make him stop assisting the families of the Sagay 9 victims.

The facts surrounding many of the killings of the thirty-four other lawyers and judges raise a reasonable belief that their deaths were also connected to their professional work (see list below)

The increasing number of these killings occurring with impunity is alarming. We can no longer stand idly by and allow this to continue.

In addition to the killings, some lawyers, especially those who are into human rights defense and advocacy, have experienced surveillance, harassment, threats, and red-tagging.

Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, we have a duty to society, the legal profession, the courts, and our clients. This includes the duty to serve our clients with competence and diligence and to exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. We will not be able to perform these duties and responsibilities properly if we are in constant fear for our lives.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers stresses that for legal assistance to be effective, it must be carried out independently. For this to be possible, the State must protect lawyers from any unlawful interference with their work and against all forms of harassment and threats from both State and non-State actors. Lawyers must be able to perform their duties in every case, regardless of who they represent, without being harassed, threatened, or killed.

The UN Basic Principles provides that “where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”

We therefore call on the Supreme Court to:

• Take appropriate steps to ensure a thorough, prompt, impartial, and independent investigation into all the killings of lawyers from 30 June 2016; and

• Convene a dialogue between the Supreme Court, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, State security forces, particularly the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, other relevant government agencies, civil society organizations, and other lawyer organizations, where all parties could engage in open and constructive discussion on ensuring the safety and security of lawyers.

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