MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least 133 lawyers have been killed in the Philippines since the 1980s in work-related attacks, nearly half of them in the last six years during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s turbulent term, a prominent group of lawyers said Saturday.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers also said that harassment of lawyers and judges in the Philippines has continued under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June, despite alarms raised by the country’s Supreme Court and international watchdogs.
Last year, the Supreme Court condemned in a rare public expression the rising number of killings and threats against lawyers and judges and asked lower courts, law enforcers and lawyers’ groups to provide information about such assaults in the last 10 years so it can take preemptive steps. The attacks “cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours,” the high court said.
The lawyers’ group reported to its members in a conference on Saturday that 59 of the 133 lawyers killed in the country since 1984 were slain under Duterte.
Most of the killings remain unsolved and the attackers unidentified although state forces have been blamed for dozens of the attacks against lawyers, who were apparently targeted for representing human rights defenders and activists, according to Melai Pinlac of the lawyers’ group.
Founded in 2007 as a private group of mostly rights lawyers, it has since lost five members “in murderous attacks” while three other members survived violent assaults. Several other members “faced trumped-up charges” and harassment for doing their work, she said.
With the advent of social media, threats have become prevalent online with member lawyers becoming frequent targets of false accusations “and wrongful branding as terrorists, communists or destabilizers,” Pinlac said.
Others have been “red-tagged” — linked by authorities to communist guerrillas — and became targets of physical attacks especially during Duterte’s presidency, she said.