Defensa de la defensa | 14.10.2019

Situation of lawyers in the Philippines - The UIA signs a joint statement

Recently the UIA signed a joint statement with numerous other international associations, as well as individual and collective UIA members, expressing grave concern about the situation of lawyers and judges in the Philippines.

Since the assumption of his presidency in June 2016, President Duterte has engaged in a so-called “war on drugs”, and it is estimated that more than 5500 “drug personalities” have been killed or “disappeared”. In fact, human rights groups allege that as many as 27,000 people, including government critics, the urban poor and those who have been accused of terrorism or communism, have been killed. The government has failed to investigate such extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and the perpetrators of such acts have not been brought to justice. 

Among the victims of such extrajudicial killings and “disappearances” are at least 46 lawyers and judges who have been targeted because they represented clients accused of terrorism, communism, drug-related crimes or who were government critics. Lawyers, who are continuously harassed and threatened, are afraid to take on sensitive cases, and the rule of law and the protection of citizen rights have been drastically impaired.  

Over the past few years, the UN has repeatedly but unsuccessfully urged the Government of the Philippines to halt these extrajudicial attacks. In June 2019, 11 UN human rights experts requested the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines. In July, the UN Human Rights Council narrowly endorsed a resolution directing an investigation into the deaths resulting from President Duterte’s “war on drugs.”  In response, President Duterte has directed a halt on negotiations with respect to loan and grant agreements with countries which supported this resolution. 

UIA continues to follow this situation and to support the Philippine lawyers and judges who are persecuted by the Duterte government.

By Jacqueline Scott,
UIA-IROL Director General 
Fortney & Scott,
LLC, Washington D.C, USA