The House Committee on Human Rights has joined the snowballing condemnation of the “rash of threats, attacks and killings” of lawyers and legal practitioners in the country.
Chaired by Quezon City Rep. Jesus “Bong” C. Suntay, the House panel issued on Monday, March 15, a statement stressing its concern over the recent controversy in connection with the request of the Calbayog City police station to the courts for a listing of lawyers representing suspected communist terrorists.
“The Committee also deplores the brazen attempt by the PNP Calbayog to ask the courts to compile a list of lawyers representing alleged Communist Terrorist Groups personalities,” the committee stated.
“We, the members of the Committee on Human Rights, stand with everyone with a resounding call to end the culture of impunity, violence, intimidation and unjust prosecution,” the lawmakers said.
The added: “As duty bearers, we uphold and affirm the right to fundamental freedoms, liberty, due process and human dignity.” Himself a lawyer, Suntay said the House panel is alarmed that that there has been a spate of killings of members of the legal profession notwithstanding “government efforts to address the problem.” “Inquiries with other lawyers and court officials across the country by concerned groups confirmed that similar letters were received by them. That the PNP leadership has subsequently denied any such policy does not help alleviate the situation as the chilling effect of the intimidation has started to creep,” human rights committee members said.
“Clearly, this action by some quarters in the PNP force is intended to harass, intimidate and hinder lawyer from performing their duties as officers of the Courts and may deprive persons accused of a crime of their Constitutional right to be represented by a counsel,” they added.
Acting PNP chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar has ordered the relief of Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr., the police intelligence chief who asked the court for the list of legal counsels to suspected communists.
Committee on human rights members in the Lower House said lawyers should not be “targeted for upholding constitutionally and universally guaranteed rights” of an accused to be given legal representation in courts.
“Practicing the legal profession is not a crime, regardless of who they represent. The should not, in fact, be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions,” the committee stressed.