Day of the Endangered Lawyer - Philippines

Lawyers all over Europe protested in Ankara, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Bern, Bilbao, Brussels, Düsseldorf, The Hague, Istanbul, Izmir, London, Madrid, Manila, Milan, Paris, Rome and Vienna focussing on lawyers in the Philippines who are murdered and who receive death threats because they defend the rights of the poorest, and who work on cases of human rights violations. 

Protest outside Philippines Embassy London

Protest outside Philippines Embassy London

The reported total number of lawyers that have been killed after 2001 is 41, nine (22%) of whom were directly involved in handling human rights cases or issues. On top of this, 57 lawyers have been threatened, harassed, intimidated, surveilled, labelled and attacked in other forms, a sizable 43 (76%) of whom were directly involved in human rights cases or advocacies. In addition, 18 judges have been murdered since 2001. Of the known perpetrators recorded, 65% were identified to be members of the military while 20% were from the police service. More than half, however, of all attacks have no known perpetrator to date. 

Among the lawyers who have been killed recently are: Rudolfo Felicio, Noel D. Archival, John Mark Espera, Ian Vela Cruz, Jubian Achas, Sulpicio Landicho, Lazaro Gayo, Christobal Fernandez. 

Despite international pressure on the Philippine government to address the issue in the last year the situation has again deteriorated. The documented reports about the killings and attacks on Philippine lawyers and also judges show an increasing number of killings, harassments and other attacks on the profession. Only very scarcely a perpetrator is arrested and nearly never prosecuted or punished by the courts. 

For the endangered lawyers, their families, the victims of the killings and other different forms of attacks, it is unacceptable that the State does not take the full responsibility to act according to the rule of law and to make all necessary steps to fulfill its human rights obligations and legal and ethical duties. 

Four years after 30 June 2010, the day that Benigno Aquino III succeeded Gloria Arroyo as President, we have to draw the very sad conclusion that President Aquino's promises - not to tolerate extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, and to prioritise the judicial reform and the strengthening of the judicial system - seem to have been hollow promises, as far it is shown by all the new attacks and killings that have victimized also members of the legal profession which have occurred after 2010, in the last four years. Only in the case of the murder of the judge Reynerio Estacio Senior on 28 February 2014 in Tugbungan village there was a suspected gunman arrested. This judge handled politically sensitive cases including cases about policemen and politicians.