Lawyers' groups condemn murder of defense attorney Rafael Atotubo
MANILA, Philippines – The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on Sunday, August 26, condemned the "cold-blooded murder" of Rafael Atotubo, a lawyer who handled drug cases.
"Just because a lawyer defends someone in a drug case does not make the lawyer a drug coddler or protector," FLAG chairperson Jose Manuel Diokno said.
"It simply means that the lawyer is fulfilling the oath that all lawyers swear upon entering the legal profession – to support the Constitution and faithfully discharge our duties."
Atotubo was shot by unidentified men in front of his house last Thursday, August 23. Police are looking at all possible motives, including his work as a defense lawyer for drug personalities.
His death, according to FLAG, is the latest in a series of "premeditated attacks on lawyers related to the government's drug war."
"The attacks on lawyers are part of this dastardly attempt to dismantle the legal system by means of fear and violence," Diokno said.
"Since the legal system cannot work without lawyers, we have become targets for neutralization. But we will not be cowed," he added.
The group of human rights lawyers also called on the government to investigate the killing as well as other attacks on members of the legal profession – including lawyers, prosecutors, and judges – and for the Supreme Court to take measures to protect lawyers.
"Despite the brazen nature of these attacks, the government has shown little interest in identifying, apprehending, and punishing the perpetrators," Diokno said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Occidental chapter earlier condemned Atotubo's killing, adding that any attack against a lawyer "weakens the practice of law and demoralizes lawyers from fulfilling their sworn duty to defend their clients."
"It threatens the independence of lawyers and judges, hindering their pursuit toward an effective administration of justice," the group said. "Ultimately, an attack against a lawyer is a threat against civil liberties and should not be tolerated." – Rappler.com