IBP president: We have more democratic space now

MANILA, Philippines – Singing a slightly different tune than the general messaging of the relaunch of the Concerned Lawyers of Civil Liberties (CLCL) on Monday, September 23, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Domingo Egon Cayosa told a room of law students that "we have more democratic space now."

Before that statement, CLCL convenors Ray Paolo Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center and Neri Colmenares of Makabayan delivered speeches that centered on the Duterte administration's seeming war on dissent.

The CLCL, of which Cayosa and the IBP are a part, is a revival of the 2006 legal group that protested policies of the Gloria Arroyo administration. 

"Members of the legal profession have the duty to help in the administration of justice, uphold the 'rule of law' and defend constitutional rights. All these are under attack today," said the CLCL's statement of unity and commitment.

But when asked by a law student "the difference between the sword we had previously and the sword we have now," Cayosa said "the democratic space we have now is to our favor."

"Mas malakas tayo ngayon because we have more democratic space; pangalawa, mas marami tayo; pangatlo, mas mabilis na 'yung ating communication eh – hindi na iisa ang newspaper, hawak na ng bawat Pilipino, lalo ng kabataan, ang communication through cyber space, so with that technology and the reality that we have more democratic space, the less afraid we should be," Cayosa said.

(We are stronger today because we have more democratic space; second, there are more of us; third, we have faster communication – we don't have just one newspaper, Filipinos today, especially the youth, have communication in their hands through cyber space, so with that technology and the reality that we have more democratic space, the less afraid we should be.)

Santiago and Colmenares cited as example of repression of dissent the rampant red-tagging of human rights workers, killings of human rights lawyers, and attacks on media. There is also a full-on clampdown on the Left, with political groups being sued for recruiting students, and the interior department wanting to restore the anti-subversion law.

Other issues

Answering another question on media reporting on legal issues, Cayosa said "I agree that media is not at all times fair, slanted, because media has its own agenda in many ways, but regardless of what they do, media is supposed to cover what happens."

Santiago, for his part, said: "How you approach is where the bias lies, how you explain the issues is where you have balanced reporting, bias is what you want to highlight."

Cayosa also opened the event with the reminder that the IBP should remain apolitical, which Santiago later disputed by saying, "Standing up for what is right is a political choice."

Former senator Rene Saguisag also hit the Duterte government's move to arrest without warrant heinous crime convicts who were freed on the basis of good conduct time allowance (GCTA). They were asked to surrender, or be rearrested, in line with the government's revision of the internal rules of the law that excudes heinous crimes from GCTA.

"Ano ang karapatan ni Duterte na magpaaresto today? Si Marcos, super court, super legislature...but as of today, ang tinuturo natin ay if caught in the act or escaped convicts. Hindi naman escaped convicts ito, napalaya dahil may kabobohan sa record-keeping," Saguisag said, referring to the aborted release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.

(What gives Duterte the right to arrest today? Marcos worked on a super court, super legislature, but as of today, we teach that you are either caught in the act or are escaped convicts. But they are not escaped convicts, they were freed because of stupidity in record-keeping.)

Sitting beside Saguisag was Cayosa, who earlier told media that there need not be a court order to rearrest the convicts, contrary to opinions of other CLCL convenors like Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). – 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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