Update June 2021:
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) released a report on April 26 with newly analyzed figures. In the last decade, a total of 176 attacks on lawyers were recorded, including 73 murders, the vast majority of which – 54 fatal attacks – fell under the Duterte administration. According to the NUPL, an average of 11 murders have occurred every year since Duterte took office, almost all of them unsolved to date.
Suzanne Adely of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) summarizes the situation as follows: „the killings, harassment, surveillance, criminalization of lawyers prevent them from fully and freely exercising their profession, and acting with defensive people who should have a right to the processes of justice. It hampers the integrity of the law as a whole, hinders opposition and democracy as a whole.”
Background: The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) asked the United Nations Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, to investigate the killings of lawyers in the Philippines. According to the NUPL 61 lawyers, prosecutors and judges have been killed since Duterte came into power in 2016.
Most of the victims of these atacks were, as stated by the NUPL, defense lawyers who were working with drug suspects or who were promoting human rights. “And the prevailing climate of impunity emboldens the perpetrators of these dastardly acts to commit further attacks“ stated the NUPL.
Senator of Justice, Menardo Guevarra, said during a press conference, Duterte should not be blamed for the high number of killed lawyers, since Duterte himself is a lawyer as well. However, already when he came into office in 2016, Duterte directly threatened lawyers who would defend drug suspects and proclaimed he would take them as well.
Senator Richard Gordon stated that if the killings of thesw lawyers remained unsolved, it could easily lead to a state of anarchy. He is concerned that citizens will take the law into their own hands if the government isn’t capable of protecting judges and lawyers. Several senators are agreeing with him. They issued their concerns in a joint statement in which they condemn the attacks on lawyers and judges.
On March 23, 2021, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a statement condemning the murders and asking the local courts to investigate them thoroughly.
Amnesty International is concerned about this situation as well, because the Philippine justice system is in lethal danger. The violence against lawyers and judges has to be stopped immediately.