5 groups file complaint against PH pressure on lawyers, judges

Published April 18, 2018, 2:25 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Chito Chavez

In what is expected to irk President Duterte anew, five groups of lawyers have filed a complaint before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the supposed unjust interference of the state on judges and lawyers in the country.

Neri Colmenares (JOHN JEROME GANZON/Manila Bulletin File Photo)
Neri Colmenares (JOHN JEROME GANZON/Manila Bulletin File Photo)

In today’s press conference in Quezon City, the lawyers’ group denounced the apparent pressure exerted by the President on lawyers and judges who go against his wishes.

The groups unilaterally narrated how the recent actions of the Philippine government have negatively created an impact that put the independence of the judges and lawyers in peril.

Former party-list Rep. Nerie Colmenares of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said the President’s supposed vindictive acts is more evident in his support for the impeachment, quo warranto case and his verbal attacks against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The actions by the President against the Chief Magistrate according to Colmenares had sent “chilling effects’’ on the judges and lawyers.

Using the presidential platform, Colmenares chided the President who is the head of the executive branch of government for publicly issuing threats against Sereno who is his co-equal being in the judicial branch.

Calling Sereno ignorant, stupid, coward and dumb, Colmenares said the President continued his tirade against the Chief Justice upon his arrival from a four-day state visit in China last April 13.

Duterte had lambasted Sereno for telling the judges whom he said were involved in illegal drugs not to surrender to authorities without warrants of arrests issued against them.

Colmenares in reaction to Duterte’s declaration that he is immune from suit agreed but at the same time insisted that he is “not immune from investigation’’.

The lawyers added that the President had not spared Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo president of the 40,000 strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) from his tirades.

On September 29, 2017, Fajardo said that as an independent body the Office of the Ombudsman must be insulated from political pressure most especially from the highest political office of the land.

He added that public officials should not be onion-skinned, stating that upon assumption of public office a government official holds his life open to public scrutiny.

These declarations prompted the President to publicly berate Fajardo the following day in a curse-laden speech delivered in an event of the IBP.

Colmenares also chided the President for threatening lawyers of suspected drug lords that they will be included in the government’s drug war, a comment that the IBP claimed to be dangerous for lawyers handling drug-related cases.

He added that it appears that lawyers who criticize the government’s policies and whose clients have been tagged as dissenters or activists are harassed.

The aforementioned lawyers Colmenares claimed are branded as rebels and criminals and are consequently subjected to intense surveillance.

The group also cited the rise in the number of cases of lawyers, prosecutors and judges being murdered through violent and treacherous means where the investigations have remained open-ended or unresolved.

Colmenares said that the state’s inaction in these cases has created an environment where lawyers are now hesitant to accept drug-related cases.

The groups noted that under international law, a violation of human rights may lead to international responsibility due to the lack of due diligence to prevent such violations or failure to respond to them.