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Ex-VP Binay: Lawyers more scared under Duterte than Marcos

Lawyers are more scared now under President Rodrigo Duterte, than they were under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, according to former vice president Jejomar Binay.

Binay knows what he's saying. He was a human rights lawyer during the dark Martial Law era.

"I had thought all along that the years of martial law were the most dangerous years for lawyers. Sadly, I'm mistaken," Binay said during a webinar held by the University of the Philippines (UP) Portia Sorority on the alarming increase in lawyer killings.

Data collated by Rappler, both from government and other groups, including a most recent list by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), showed that there have been at least 61 lawyers killed under the 5 years of Duterte. In contrast, only 49 lawyers were killed in a span of 44 years from Marcos to former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, Duterte's predecessor.

"Lawyering under the Marcos administration is – hindi umaangal, hindi nagagalit, kahit anong banat mo laban sa gobyerno. Heto ngayon, pikon ang presidente na ito, marami nang natakot," said Binay.

(He did not get angry easily, no matter how much you criticized the government. But now, this president is so onion-skinned and many are scared.)

The most recent attack against a lawyer was anti-terror law petition counsel Angelo Karlo "AK" Guillen, who survived an attack by masked men. The suspects stabbed Guillen to the head with a screwdriver.

Binay said there was also "persecution of lawyers" happening under Duterte.

"We are witnesses to the persecution of lawyers, who are painted to be enemies of democracy, as the government blatantly conducts red-tagging initiatives, putting lives in peril," Binay said.

The Supreme Court has asked for an investigation of the red-tagging of Mandaluyong Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, who was linked to communists in a tarpaulin in EDSA, after she freed and cleared two activists.

A local police in Calbayog City in Samar last month asked a court to provide them a list of lawyers representing alleged communists.

Just recently, a lawyer in Eastern Samar reported seeing a list with his name on it accusing him of being a communist. The list included names of other people who were already either killed or charged of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

'A different situation now'

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te agreed with Binay that "it's a different situation" now. Te became a lawyer in 1990, during the Corazon Aquino administration, Marcos' successor.

Te said he represented political detainees, or the perceived communists during that time, but "at no time was I fearful for my life, fearful for my security to the extent that I probably would hesistate to take on that case."

"I have to say the situation is different now, you'd have to think twice really about doing certain things. Of course it doesn't stop us from doing the right thing, but you're thinking what would happen to me if I do this, that's what changed" said Te in a mix of English and Filipino in the same webinar.

Te said that's the extent of chilling effect under Duterte. Asked for an advice for lawyers, Te said "pray hard and drive fast."

"There's a big chill. It is that moment when a lawyer at a stoplight looks around and sees helmeted people on motorcycles and wonders whether he will be the next statistic on the list of lawyers killed," said Te.

The Supreme Court has condemned the lawyer killings in a rare public statement, and will receive letters and reports all throughout April as basis for an assessment if there needs to be institutional changes to protect members of the legal profession.

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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