A high-ranking member of the House of Representatives condemned the alarming number of incidents leading to threats, attacks and killings involving legal practitioners in the country.
The House Committee on Human Rights, headed by newly-appointed Assistant majority leader Atty. Jesus “Bong” Suntay, said that the harassment against legal representatives has become brash despite government efforts to address the problem.
“The Committee abhors the brazen attempt by the PNP Calbayog to ask the courts to compile a list of lawyers representing alleged Communist Terrorist Groups personalities. Inquiries with other lawyers and court officials across the country by concerned groups confirmed that similar letters were received by them,” the committee explained.
A lawyer by profession, Suntay said that despite the Philippine National Police (PNP) successively denying that such directive, the persecution against lawyers continues, posing a chilling effect on the country’s justice system.
“Clearly, this action by some quarters in the PNP force is intended to harass, intimidate and hinder lawyers from performing their duties as officers of the Courts and may deprive persons accused of a crime of their Constitutional right to be represented by a counsel. Practicing the legal profession is not a crime, regardless of who they represent,” the committee explained. They should not, in fact, be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions. Ergo, lawyers must not be targeted for upholding constitutionally and universally guaranteed rights,” it noted.
“We, the members of the Committee on Human Rights, stand with everyone with a resounding call to end the culture of impunity, violence, intimidation and unjust persecution. As duty bearers, we uphold and affirm the right to fundamental freedoms, liberty, due process, and human dignity.”