Human rights lawyers to SC: ‘How many more lives, your Honor?’

At least 40 lawyers have been killed under President Duterte alone according to the NUPL.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has urged the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals decision dismissing the group’s petition for writ of amparo and habeas data.

In its petition filed on Monday, Aug. 5, the NUPL said that it is quite ironic that human rights lawyers, “who have pushed for its drafting and hailed its promulgation are the very ones who are deprived of the very remedies the Writ seek to promote.”

The Court of Appeals denied the plea of the NUPL, saying that the latter has not presented “substantial evidence of alleged violations, or threats of violations of rights to life, liberty, and security.” The CA decision also said that there was no evidence linking President Duterte to the alleged violations.

“How many more lives, your honors,” the NUPL said in its petition, saying that another lawyer, Anthony Trinidad, was killed after the CA dismissed their petition.

At least 40 lawyers have been killed under President Duterte alone according to the NUPL.

“If members of the bar cannot avail of these legal remedies, what more for the ordinary victims of state-sponsored violence and impunity,” the NUPL said.

The NUPL filed petition for writs of amparo and habeas data on April 15. The petition was granted by the SC and directed the appellate court to conduct hearing. On July 29, the CA dismissed NUPL’s petition.

Read: Court junks rights lawyers’ plea for protection 

The red tagging of the NUPL by the Armed Forces of the Philippines has led to their filing of the petition. They assert that the lives of human rights lawyers were at great risk by linking the group and its members to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

‘Threats to life, liberty and security’

The group cited several instances to back their claims in the petition. Among those were the case of late human rights lawyer, Benjamin Ramos who was killed on Nov. 6, 2018 in Kabanlakan, Negros Occidental. Months before his killing, police were seen posting a poster with alleged CNN (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) personalities. The poster allegedly included Ramos who was the NUPL-Negros secretary general.

During his wake, two motorcycle gunmen who turned out to be undercover agents of the military tailed, harassed and threatened members of NUPL Metro Manila and Panay including NUPL President Edre Olalia and NUPL Secretary General Ephraim Cortez.

They also noted that there was no progress to the investigation of Ramos’ killing.

A poster was also seen posted along Guanco Street in Iloilo City on Dec. 11, 2018 with pictures of 11 members of NUPL-Panay and two paralegals with a caption: “minions of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”

NUPL and its affiliate, the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and three of its members, Beverly, Czarina and Beverly YR Musni were also tagged as members of the CPP-NPA-NDF in an anonymous list circulated around Cagayan de Oro on Feb. 22.

They also cited several instances when Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., accused the NUPL, human rights group Karapatan and other groups of having links with the CPP and NPA.

“The labeling and vilification against Petitioners by the respondents, particularly by respondent Parlade, is not only vicious and unmitigated. It is unrelenting and continuous as he goes to town with reckless impunity, ” the group said.

Duterte’s involvement

The NUPL also asserted that there is substantial evidence of Duterte’s involvement in the alleged violations. They said, Duterte has publicly declared his intention of killing suspected NPAs and communists.

“Being listed therefore as a member or having organization links with the CPP and NPA already constitutes a threat. It also sends a signal or message to his security forces and avid followers,” the group said.

They added, “As members of the bar, we do not only serve justice, we also seek it. We do not seek protection for ourselves alone; we seek protection so we can perform our sworn duty to serve our clients effectively,” they added. ()

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