Foreign lawyers claim harassment from government agents

Published March 20, 2019, 3:26 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Jeffrey Damicog 

A delegation of foreign lawyers who conducted an investigation over assaults against lawyers and members of the judiciary in the country claimed they were harassed by government agents.

“The International Delegation of Lawyers which just concluded a colloquium and issued a critical Initial Findings on the query into the attacks on Filipino judges, prosecutors, lawyers and paralegals was itself the subject of brazen threats, harassment, and surveillance,” said delegation members, American Suzanne Adely and Dutch Hans Gaasbeek, in a statement.

Despite this, the delegation assured that they will return to the Philippines as they pointed out the harassment they experienced bolstered their conclusion that the attacks against Filipino lawyers have been state-sponsored.

“Indeed, to see and feel is to believe. And no amount of ad hominem insults and official denials of reality can change this matter of fact. But we will be back,” they stated.

During the delegation’s press conference last Monday at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Pasig City, they recounted “a man in civilian clothes who identified himself as a military personnel approached an IBP staff and boasted that ‘these foreigners are now under surveillance’.”

Apart from him, there was also a woman at the press conference who claimed to be a member of the media but failed to present credentials.

The delegation said after the press conference they observed they were tailed by two men aboard a motorcycle without plates to the mall where they ate lunch and even to the hotel where they stayed.

“When one of the men visibly posted close to the entrance was confronted by the hotel security, he claimed he was waiting for his relative to check in though he was just standing outside pounding incessantly on his mobile phone for several hours already. We learned that he actually left for the night,” they recounted.

They also noted a female member of the delegation was also tailed presumably by the same group of people when she left the hotel.

On Tuesday, they said a heavily tinted car parked at the basement of the hotel tailed the vehicle of our delegation even while motorcycle-riding men were idly posted at the hotel’s street corner.

“Under the contemporaneous circumstances and in the context of the usual reaction of the Duterte government towards opinions inconsistent with its official line, these vexatious acts against our Delegation appear to have the fingerprints of intimidation and reprisal by State agents,” they stated.