De Lima seeks Senate probe into killings of lawyers, judges under Duterte gov't

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has sought a Senate investigation into the increasing number of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges killed under the Duterte administration. 

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 33, saying the "targeted and systematic attacks" against members of the Bar are detrimental not only to the profession, but also to those who turn to them for justice.

"This escalating and alarming trend and spate of attacks and killings of members of the Bar makes it imperative for the government and law authorities and institutions to conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice," De Lima said.

"As the HRW (Human Rights Watch) puts it, 'by silencing a lawyer, many victims are also silenced. But then perhaps that is the purpose,'" she said.

The opposition senator added there is a need to address and ensure the safety of lawyers to prevent further attacks on them.

According to reports collated by Rappler from July 2016 to May 2018, at least 40 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have been killed across the country.

Among those recently killed was lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was shot several times inside his vehicle in Negros Oriental on Tuesday, July 23, by still unidentified assailants. Prior to that, lawyer Val Crisostomo was shot by a gunman at the Dagupan City Justice Hall in Pangasinan in May 2018.

Trinidad was a known human rights defender in Negros, while Crisostomo was among the lawyers who filed a case against the National Bureau of Investigation over supposedly illegal raids in Peryahan ng Bayan games in Pangasinan.

"It seems that this administration's idea of a better life for Filipinos is one without its critics – where peace comes from the barrel of a gun," De Lima said on Saturday, July 27, as she condemned the murder of Trinidad.

De Lima said the murders showed the need for an "independent and unhampered probe" by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into the human rights situation in the Philippines.

De Lima likewise highlighted the case of an international delegation of lawyers who visited the Philippines in March 2019 and claimed they experienced heavy surveillance during their visit. The foreign lawyers were in the country to investigate the deaths of those in the legal profession.

De Lima cited Philippine National Police data which estimated that at least 29,000 cases of deaths under inquiry have been recorded nationwide from July 1, 2016 to February 4, 2019.

De Lima had filed a similar resolution in the 17th Congress, but the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs and justice and human rights did not take it up. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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