Amid crackdown, IBP agrees to 'briefing' by anti-communism body

MANILA, Philippines – Amid intensifying crackdown on activists, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has agreed to a "briefing" by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-Elcac.

The IBP is the latest venue for the military's anti-communism roadshow, which has begun inside universities.

The briefing will be held Friday afternoon, November 22, at the IBP headquarters in Pasig,  inside the main hall named after the esteemed human rights defender, former Supreme Court justice Jose Benedicto Luna (J.B.L) Reyes.

The briefing is being done against the backdrop of a growing list of more than 2,000 human rights workers charged in the 3 years of the Duterte administration.

IBP national president Domingo "Egon" Cayosa defended the briefing as "helpful."

"Briefing is not necessary but helpful for IBP to listen to different sides for proper balance and so that we can make well-informed decisions," Cayosa told Rappler in a text message.

IBP is the mandatory organization for lawyers.

"In the first place communism isn’t outlawed as a belief and membership in the communist party is no longer a crime. So why even bother to listen to such a briefing?" said Law professor and human rights lawyer Ted Te.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año wants to restore the Anti-Subversion law which would make membership to communism a crime.

Cayosa said: "Helpful and fair to listen to the left and the right, activists and conservatives, opposition and administration, complainants and respondents. I trust that IBP can ferret out the truth and will remain committed to the rule of law, human rights and due process."

'Be extra alert'

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia said the IBP must be "extra alert, critical and conscious" to the government's red-tagging not only of activists but also of fellow lawyers.

"Given the intention, design, framework and precedent of this orchestrated government roadshow doing the rounds of different sectors of society, our colleagues must be extra alert, critical and conscious that they will not be made unwitting tools in a well-laid trap of a vicious redtagging circus," said Olalia, one of the convenors of the recently-relaunched Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL), which the IBP is a part of.

The CLCL is a group of lawyers formed during the Arroyo era, and which reorganized to oppose "government policies and actions that violate constitutional rights and civil liberties."

During its relaunch, Ateneo Human Rights Center executive director Ray Paolo Santiago listed as among the threats to civil liberties the rampant red-tagging, and the crackdown on dissent, which have seen charges filed even against lawyers. (PODCAST: Bakit malaking banta sa demokrasya ang crackdown sa progressive groups)

Olalia said the government's anti-communism roadshow is a "slanted propaganda under the guise of information to further demonize, villify, justify legal assault by weaponization of the law and even incite physical violence against those who dissent."

"In which case, our brethren in the profession has the duty to expose and oppose this so-called information drive as a fraud and folly that threaten liberties," said Olalia.

Cayosa said all "IBP officers and leaders regardless of ideology or orientation are invited." – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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