lawyer killings in the Philippines

DOJ, law groups condemn ‘heinous killing’ of Abra lawyer

Jairo Bolledo

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DOJ, law groups condemn ‘heinous killing’ of Abra lawyer

SLAIN. Lawyer Saniata Alzate was slain by still unidentified assailants in front of her house in Bangued, Abra on September 14, 2023.

Saniata Alzate's Facebook Page

'In a society built upon the foundations of justice and equity, there is no place, nor can there be any tolerance, for those who would assail those dedicated to upholding the legal profession and the cause of justice,' the IBP says

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and several groups of lawyers sounded the alarm over the killing of 48-year-old lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Gonzales Alzate in Abra on September 14.

“UNACCEPTABLE. We hope the manhunt operation will result in the murderer’s capture so he or she can feel the full force of the rule of law,” DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said on Friday, September 15.

Alzate was shot dead while inside her car parked in front of their house in Bangued town – Abra’s capital. As of writing, the police have yet to identify her killers, who fled on a motorcycle. She was survived by her husband, who was a judge, and their four sons.

In a statement on Friday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – the official organization of Filipino lawyers – condemned Alzate’s “heinous killing,” adding that her death serves as a “stark reminder” of the threats legal professionals face in the Philippines.

“We unite in solidarity with the legal community and the family of Atty. Alzate. We honor her memory as an esteemed public interest lawyer and a dedicated Commissioner of the Integrated Bar. She upheld the highest standards of the legal profession, leaving behind an enduring legacy for us all,” the IBP said.

The organization added: “In a society built upon the foundations of justice and equity, there is no place, nor can there be any tolerance, for those who would assail those dedicated to upholding the legal profession and the cause of justice.”

The IBP also urged the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, and relevant agencies to launch deep probe into Alzate’s killing. They called on these agencies to also act on the unresolved cases targeting the legal profession.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said it extends it sympathies to Alzate’s family: “The NUPL mourns the loss of a colleague in the legal profession who was committed to serve the poor and marginalized. It joins her family’s call for others to carry the torch sparked by her spirit of service.”

The NUPL also called on the authorities to probe the killing, noting that “the persistent climate of impunity renders possible these brazen, daylight killings of members of the legal profession, including judges and prosecutors.”

Edre Olalia, transitional president of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said Alzate’s killing is enabled by the government’s lack of proper response on the harassments against its own citizens.

“Whatever the motive and whoever are the assailants and masterminds, this merciless murder of a young, principled and idealistic lawyer is enabled by impunity engendered by passive, token and ningas cogon responses from State authorities whose single most important job, mandated even by international law, is to protect its citizens from harm,” Olalia said in a statement.

“The international legal community has never seen such cold-blooded murders occurring with such frequency and impunity as in other countries where lawyers are also under attack,” he added.

Alzate was the third lawyer killed under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. alone, according to the NUPL’s tally. She was killed after lawyers Danny Pondevilla on December 20, 2022 and Elmer Mape on August 22 this year.

The high number of lawyers killed in the Philippines in the last five decades proved that lawyering is a dangerous profession in the Philippines. Including the three lawyers killed under the incumbent president, there were 113 lawyers slain in the country from 1972 up to present.

Most of these killings were recorded during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who is also known for his war on drugs that killed almost 30,000 people. At least 61 lawyers were slain during Duterte’s

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.