Sunday, January 01, 2006


CODAL strongly condemns the slaying of Judge Henrick Guingoyon and the impunity that rages in the Philippines with the unsolved killing of members of the legal profession, journalists and activists. Judge Guingoyon’s controversial decisions as a judge or his previous involvement as counsel of BAYAN and KMU does not justify his killing. Members of the legal profession, like journalists and activists, must not be attacked for the practice of their profession or political beliefs. The attacks against lawyers and judges are attacks against the legal profession and civil liberties.

Fifteen (15) violent attacks against lawyers were recorded by CODAL in 2005. Other than Judge Guingoyon, seven lawyers many of whom were human rights lawyers, were killed in 2005: Atty. Felidito Dacut (Leyte), Atty. Norman Bocar (Samar), Atty. Ambrosio Matias and his son Leonard (Nueva Ecija), PAO lawyer Teresita Vidamo (Las Pinas), Atty. Victor Padilla (Manila) and Atty. Reuel Dalguntas (Davao). Human rights lawyer Charles Juloya was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt last March 2005. Atty. Romeo Capulong. Judge ad Litem to the Yugoslavian International Criminal Tribunal and head of the Lawyer-Presentors of the Peoples Congress on Truth and Accountability (CCTA), was also the subject of an assassination attempt in Nueva Ecija. PAO lawyer Armando Cabalida was ambushed in February 2005 resulting in the death of his driver. CODAL members, and other members of public interest lawyers groups, were also subjected to threats and harassment.

Three judges namely RTC Judge Paterno Tiamson, Judge Milnar Lammawin and Judge Voltaire Rosales were brutally killed in 2004. Four lawyers were also shot to death in 2004. The killing of Judge Guingoyon brings to ten (10) the number of judges who suffered violent deaths since 1999. CODAL has recorded eleven (11) lawyers, mostly public interest and human rights practitioners, killed since Pres. Arroyo came to power in 2001. The killing of human rights lawyer Atty. Juvy Magsino in February 2004 by suspected elements of the AFP remains unresolved until now.

CODAL reiterates its demand for Pres. Gloria Arroyo to move swiftly and decisively to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these acts. Pres. Arroyo has yet to act on the Manifesto on the killing of lawyers submitted by CODAL in August 2005 urging her to publicly condemn the killing and harassment of members of the legal profession.

CODAL, which was originally organized by judges, lawyers and law students as the Committee for the Defenses against Attacks on Lawyers to protests the killing and harassment of members of the legal profession, circulated a Manifesto signed by hundreds of lawyers including IBP provincial chapters nationwide and international lawyers groups. CODAL lobbied for the passage of resolutions on the issue from the National IBP in April 2005, the International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). These international lawyers groups condemned the killings and declared the Philippines one of the most dangerous place for lawyers in the world. Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, in a letter to CODAL on May 19, 2005 condemned the killing of lawyers and judges and supported CODAL’s advocacy to protect members of the legal profession from attacks and harassment.

These brazen attacks undermine the practice of law and the ability of lawyers to fulfill their sworn obligation to serve their clients to the fullest. The capacity of the legal profession to uphold Canon 2, Canon 18 and Canon 19 of Code of Professional Responsibility is diminished when its members face threats by reason of their profession and are paralyzed into playing passive roles instead of vigorously serving their clients and aiding in the administration of justice. These Canons require lawyers to represent their client ‘in an efficient manner compatible with independence, integrity and effectiveness of the profession’ (Canon 2) and ‘with competence and diligence’ (Canons 18 and 19).

Judges are expected to promulgate their decision without fear or favor based on their evaluation of the evidence presented. Their decisions should not be influenced by the consideration of the capacity of one of the parties to physically eliminate them. The recent attacks, however, threaten the independence and integrity of judges thus making the effective administration of justice even more difficult or elusive. Canon 1 (Rule 1.03) of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge should be vigilant against any attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary and resist any pressure from whatever source.

According to Paragraph 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eight United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (1990) “lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of the discharge of their functions.” The Philippine government is required to protect lawyers under Paragraph 16 of the above Principles which declares that “governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and consult with their clients freely; (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic and other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”

Any attack on lawyers and judges ultimately constitute a threat to legal profession and civil liberties including the constitutional principle that grants everyone access to courts and the right to counsel to protect or promote their rights.

We urge decisive action from Pres. Gloria Arroyo who has not only failed to respond to the spate of killings but has also refused to publicly condemn the impunity existing in the Philippines today. We demand that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales desist from his political work as press relations defender of Pres. Arroyo and focus on his work in the investigation and prosecution of the unabated killings. We call on members of the legal profession to unite and protest against these attacks and threats on the legal profession and the justice system in the Philippines. We must end impunity and the breakdown of the justice system in the Philippines.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares (Spokesperson)
Date : 1 January 2005


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:46 PM  

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