The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution condemning the rampant killings and acts of violence against members of the legal profession and urging President Rodrigo Duterte to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and protection.
Senate Resolution No. 691 was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Pia Cayetano, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Francis “Tol” Tolentino. All senators were made co-authors of the resolution.
“We condemn, in the strongest sense, the killings of and acts of violence against members of the bar and bench. To not act nor speak will be an act of cowardice,” Drilon said in his sponsorship speech.
“We further urge the President to undertake the necessary steps in ensuring the safety and protection of the judges, prosecutors and lawyers. We ask that he lays out definitive solutions and actions to address the rampant and unspeakable violence and killings. We petition for prompt, impartial and efficient investigation and prosecution of the cases. We seek justice for our slain colleagues,” he added.
Drilon said in the last 20 years, 100 lawyers were murdered.
He cited a Department of Justice (DOJ) data which showed that 54 members of the legal profession had been killed since 2016. Of that number, he said 13 were prosecutors and eight were judges. The DOJ data showed that only five of the cases had actually reached the courts.
He said the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) had pegged deaths at an even higher number at 61.
Aside from the killings, Drilon said there were also threats, harassments, intimidations, surveillance and some other forms of attacks, such as the rapid escalation of red-tagging against lawyers.
He said the legal community was shaken early this month by a request from a police lieutenant from Calbayog City asking the Calbayog Regional Trial Court for a list of lawyers who represent terrorist/communist group personalities.
“The situation is made worse by the lack of general condemnation of prompt and efficient investigation, and impartial prosecution,” Drilon said. “This horrendous pattern of taking lives and violence, impunity, lack of accountability and apathy are symptoms of a government run by the rule of men and not by rule of law. We must put a stop to this madness.”
Drilon said the failure to condemn, investigate and prosecute the brazen killings against the legal community and bring the perpetrators to justice is an act of injustice in itself.
He said lawyers, prosecutors and judges play a crucial role in the administration of justice in the country, especially in representing the most marginalized members of the community.
“They should be able to exercise their sworn duties and represent their clients or dispense justice without threats, persecution and fear for their safety and their lives,” he added.