Sunday, July 09, 2006


CODAL condemns the continuing attacks and threats against members of the legal profession with the recent killing of another lawyer and continuing threats against the life of three human rights lawyers.

The killing of Atty. Evelyn Guballa by motorcycle riding men on June 21 brings to twenty-five the total number of lawyers killed, including ten judges, since Pres. Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001. Atty. Guballa is the fourth fatality of the legal profession this year.

Atty. Romeo Capulong, who was Ad Litem Judge in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, was the target of another and more serious assassination attempt when he went home to Nueva Ecija on June 25, 2006. Atty. Capulong, only managed to escape this latest attempt on his life due to the timely warning given him by an informant. Atty. Capulong believes that the assassination threat is related to his active role as counsel for the farm workers, employees and victims of the November 2004 massacre in Hacienda Luisita.

In Cagayan de Oro, Atty. Beverly Musni, labor arbiter of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and Secretariat head of a militant lawyers group the Union of People’s Lawyer of Mindanao (UPLM), aside from being placed in the military's "Order of Battle" for the longest time, was tailed on the night of June 27 by men aboard a motorcycle on her way home together with her daughter. She is also active in progressive human rights and people’s organizations like Karapatan and Bayan Muna. This incident is serious considering that many of the 693 extra judicial killings since 2001 were committed by motorcycle riding men .

On June 23, Atty. Concepcion Jayme-Brizuela, of Kidapawan, North Cotabato, and presently Member of the Executive Committee of the UPLM received SMS messages that she is next in line to be killed after the killing of a couple involved in development work recently.

These attacks and threats do not only affect the safety of these lawyers but also harm the independent exercise of the legal profession particularly by those handling cases involving human rights and military abuses. CODAL reiterates its call on Pres. Gloria Arroyo to condemn the attacks against lawyers if only to show that her government does not tolerate such attacks.

International Lawyers Organizations Find Pattern in the Killings of Human Rights Lawyers

Attacks against lawyers increased even as a just-concluded independent International Fact-finding Mission made initial findings “confirming the pattern of killings of lawyers and judges in the Philippines”. The Mission, organized and headed by Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (SAVA), upon the initiative of the Netherlands Lawyers Without Borders and also participated in by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) concluded that “the violence seems to be mainly directed to lawyers defending human rights or representing clients who are dissenting or protesting against a particular governmental policy”.

Other international law groups from 14 countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, France, India, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Nepal, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey, and the US, among others, have also expressed serious concern over the attacks against members of the legal profession in the country.

Government responsibility in these attacks is not only highlighted by its failure to condemn the killing of lawyers but also by Paragraph 16 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) requiring governments to “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.”

CODAL reiterates its call for even more effective and stronger action on the part of the national and international legal community to help stop these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice. CODAL maintains that only independent bodies can credibly investigate the killings taking place all over the country. CODAL believes that the PNP through Task Force Usig will never be accorded the credibility necessary for the resolution of these cases, not only because they will be investigating members of the AFP and the PNP themselves, but also because the PNP has failed to conduct any serious, competent and impartial investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators since these killings started in 2001. Until and unless these attacks stop, the Philippines will continue to be considered by the international community as one of the most dangerous places for lawyers.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date : 9 July 2006