PH: Most unsafe country for lawyers and environmentalists?

Published July 19, 2021, 12:03 AM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

A few days ago, a lawyer from Davao City, Atty. Sitti Gilda Mahinay-Sapie and her husband, Muhaimen Mohammad Sapie, were gunned down just right outside their home in a supposedly very secure subdivision.  This adds to the growing number of cases of members of the legal profession being killed, a great majority of which remains unsolved to date.

Earlier, Global Finance Magazine (GFM) flooded forums when it released its latest ranking of the World’s Safest Countries as of 2021, with the Philippines infamously landing 134th among a roster of 134.

Critics and apologists of the administration alike are at each other’s throats once more on this latest bombshell.

One may need to call for sobriety as no less than the author of the article himself, Mark Getzoff, warns readers to take this ranking with a grain of salt and that three fundamental factors were considered in the scoring: war and peace, personal security, and natural disaster risk including the unique risk factors stemming from COVID-19. Another disclaimer is that the list does not include countries like Bhutan, Belarus, Sudan, Kosovo and Somalia simply for lack of data and reporting. Personally, I did not see Iraq and Syria in the list, as well. There are, after all, 195 countries in the world today.

Nonetheless, I must agree that C0V1D-19 handling plays a big factor in safety issues of citizens of any given country. Our own Inter-Agency Task Force is facing critics of its gross flip-flopping on its policies, said to be more of a reactive than a proactive approach to the crisis.

However, as the country is divided, more than ever, on whether or not this pandemic is being managed properly, what comes more strongly to mind are two issues always prone to be buried under oblivion: the unsolved murder of lawyers, prosecutors and judges; and the red-tagging of environmentalists. Both issues are not mutually exclusive.

From 2004 to 2021 of the 61 members (now 62, to include Atty. Sapie-Mahinay) of the legal profession who were victims of murders, only seven of such cases have been filed in court. What happened to the rest?

Some of the lawyer-victims have handled drug-related cases, while some others were red-tagged for purportedly supporting communists groups parading as environmentalists.

I have full respect for the PNP’s intel-gathering and cannot credibly question their sources, as I am no expert myself.

However, as my brothers and sisters in the profession are affected to a great deal, I find it my bounden duty to speak out. As lawyers are duty-bound to uphold the law based on their own interpretation, analysis and conviction, whatever happened to trabaho lang?

And what about the moderate and true-blooded environmentalists? Where can they find themselves in this sweeping generalization of environmentalism being equated to communism?

One time, an environmental lawyer-friend once told me that, lately, he has been refusing to accept environmental cases for fear of being red-tagged. He says he excuses himself under the guise of fear of being exposed to Covid-19. This is really sad.

Remember: One scoring factor used by the GFM in ranking the safety and security of countries is their vulnerability to natural disasters. But I find the present handling of this problem by those in-charge severely wanting, even nil.

Indeed, notwithstanding that we had a very recent experience of #UlyseesPH leaving a path of destruction in its wake, our leaders are pandering to the short-term memory of Filipinos and, with the red-tagging going on, the issue of climate crisis has been swept under the proverbial rug.

As environmental security and the rule of law are both a matter of national security, how then can we complain and raise hell against being ranked as kulelat among the safest?