The police of Calbayog City in Samar have asked their local court for a list of lawyers representing alleged communists, a document showed.
Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr, Calbayog police intelligence chief, sent the letter to the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court on Friday, March 12, as Philippine authorities stepped up their crackdown on activists that led to 9 deaths in Calabarzon on Sunday, March 7.
“This pertains to the compliance from higher PNP (Philippine National Police) offices regarding of (sic) lawyers who represents (sic) Communists Terrorist Group (CTG) personalties in the court,” Calabria said in his letter to the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court.
“In this regard, the undersigned would humbly request list of lawyers represent (sic) personalities in the court. Attached herewith is the table being requested for your reference,” he added.
The Supreme Court confirmed that the Calbayog RTC received the letter on Friday. “No action has been made by them on the request,” said Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.
The request has raised concerns among the lawyers, even on their right to privacy.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said the request, if granted, will “enable the attacks” against human rights lawyers.
“This audacious request that is hard to refuse is the smoke in the gun traceable to the hand that pulled the trigger and the enablers of various attacks against lawyers especially human rights lawyers representing clients the state does not like,” said Olalia.
This request was also made in the wake of increasing killings and attacks on lawyers. Rappler has counted 56 lawyers killed since 2016, while the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) has counted 61 since 2016.
Of the 61 killings they tallied, FLAG counted 4 cases where policemen are the perpetrators.
This also comes in the wake of the killing of Calbayog Mayor Ronaldo Aquino, in what the PNP called a “shootout” – the mayor’s escorts supposedly fired at the cops and the latter allegedly fired back, killing the mayor and his aides.
Aquino’s camp, however, citing witnesses’ accounts, believed that it was an ambush and no exchange of shots took place.
The PNP has disowned the move, saying there was no such directive from Camp Crame, at least according to Domingo “Egon” Cayosa, national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the mandatory organization of all Filipino lawyers.
“We are assured by top PNP officials that there is no directive to PLt Fernando G. Calabria, Jr., chief intel/SDEU of the Calbayog City Police Station, or to any police unit to secure from the courts the names of lawyers representing suspected CTGs,” said Cayosa in a statement sent to media late Friday evening.
Cayosa urged “all concerned government agencies” to investigate. The IBP has ongoing dialogues with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the PNP to address the problem of lawyer killings.
“The letter is improper, deplorable, and alarming,” said Cayosa.
“We ask all concerned government authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter, exact accountability, and more importantly, promote state responsibility to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution,” Cayosa added. – Rappler.com