Thursday, December 14, 2006


CODAL condemns the brutal killing of human rights lawyer Atty. Gil Gojol and the recent spate of attacks against lawyers and their families. Atty. Gojol has been a human rights lawyer in Bicol since the 1990s and was lawyer to Bicol farmers and many political prisoners charged by the military with acts of rebellion, including Sotero Llamas who was also gunned down this year. He was also counsel to members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bayan Muna. He has been in the so called ‘order of battle’ of the AFP for sometime now due to his militant advocacy for human rights.

No less reprehensible is the killing of Asst. Solicitor General Nestor Ballacillo who was the second lawyer involved in the Piatco-Naia 3 expropriation case to have been assassinated. Seven members of the legal profession were killed this year, mostly by motorcycle riding men, namely:

1. Atty. Gil Gojol who was killed with his driver in Gubat, Sorsogon;about 200 meters from a detachment of the 22nd IB of the Philippine Army;
2. Atty. Nestor Ballacillo who was killed with son, Benedict in Metro Manila;
3. Atty. Froilan Villacorta Siobal who was killed with his wife, Erlinda, in Alaminos, Pangasinan,
4. Atty. Rogelio Montero, who was shot together with his son who is a State Prosecutor in Bulacan;
5. Atty. Carlo Magno Umingga, whose wife was also wounded in the attack in Pangasinan;
6. Pros. Godofredo Pacenio, who was killed in Agusan del Norte; and
7. Judge Sahara Silongon who was killed in Cotabato City.

Human rights lawyers of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, who are counsels to workers of Hacienda Luisita were trailed by unmarked cars and a motorcycle riding man who was later accosted and identified as Private Rommel Santiago of the Philippine Army. Army General Jovito Palparan is suspected of involvement in many of the political killings. The killing of human rights lawyers such as Bayan Muna counsel Atty. Felidito Dacut and Vice-Mayor Juvy Magsino is part of the unabated political killings that plague to country today meant to eliminate activists, dissenters and their lawyers. Surviving victims of the attack and the families of those killed point to the military as the perpetrators of these crimes. Gen. Palparan headed the army unit in Mindoro when Atty. Juvy Magsino was killed in 2004. He was also head of the Army in Eastern Visayas when Atty. Dacut was killed in 2005.

The Philippines has become one of the most dangerous places for lawyers. Nine lawyers, one judge and one law student were shot and killed in 2005. Twelve judges have been killed under the administration of Pres. Gloria Arroyo, and many of these remain unsolved until today.

The attack against lawyers, including human rights lawyers, is a serious threat not only on the practice of law but also on civil liberties as well, since it deprives the poor and marginalized sectors access to and representation in our courts. Almost all of these attacks have remained unsolved as the police continue to fail to arrest the perpetrators, thereby resulting in impunity and unabated killings. There has been no satisfactory development in the case of Judge Guingoyon who killed almost one year ago. The government has failed to come up with serious leads in the killings of lawyers and activists since 2001.

CODAL calls on Pres. Gloria Arroyo to condemn these attacks against lawyers and order the Philippine National Police to immediately and seriously investigate the killing of lawyers and harassment of other members of the legal profession. We challenge the government to also offer a P 1 Million reward for those who will provide information leading to the arrest of the killers of Atty. Gojol similar to that offered in the case of Asst. Solicitor General Balacillo.

CODAL asks the Supreme Court to intervene and actively press the government to prosecute those involved in these attacks. CODAL asks the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to file a complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and inform international bodies of lawyers and judges of the current condition in the Philippines considering that the Philippine justice system, including the Melo Commission, is unable or unwilling to seriously investigate these killings and prosecute the perpetrators.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date : December 14, 2006


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