MANILA, Philippines — The Free Legal Assistance Group on Monday renewed a call for the Supreme Court to protect members of the legal profession, following the attack on one of their fellow counsel on the Anti-Terrorism Act last week.
“The attempt on Attorney [Angelo Karlo] Guillen’s life is the latest demonstration of impunity by offenders enabled and emboldened because of the absences of any demonstrable attempt to hold them accountable,” FLAG said in a statement.
Guillen was stabbed twice last Thursday night in Iloilo. He is the fourth lawyer to have survived a murder attempt since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said.
FLAG said that while the SC deliberates on whether the anti-terrorism law “creates a chill through well-crafted hypotheticals in sterile arguments,” lawyers including ATA counsels have been red-tagged and surveilled, while killings among their ranks have reached 61 since 2016.
“There is nothing hypothetical about the extrajudicial killing of lawyers, prosecutors and judges, There is nothing hypothetical about the red-tagging and surveillance of lawyers by security forces of the State. There is nothing hypothetical about a lawyer being stabbed with a screwdriver,” FLAG added.
“The [SC] has the legal as well as moral mandate and authority to protect its own officers—lawyers, prosecutors and judges—from these threats, which have been brought to their attention through several motions. If the Court will not protect its own, no one will,” it added.
FLAG urged the SC to formally inquire from the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police on the status of investigations on the killings and to make public any response from government agencies through the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
The lawyers’ group again pressed the SC to “de-escalate” the situation by temporary halting the implementation of the law as a measure to protect lawyers.
“FLAG calls on the Court to take action to protect its own, to stop the terrorism against the officers of the Court, and to defend the rule of law,” they added.
Resumption of debates moved to March 16
In another show of unity, petitioners filed a joint reiterative motion for temporary restraining order against the law in February.
In this latest pleading, the petitioners cited “supervening events” such as threats against, and arrests of, petitioners; rampant and erroneous red-tagging and a continuing prosecution of two Aeta farmers.
The SC however said they will wait for the comment of Solicitor General Jose Calida on the motion before they resolve it.
Resumption of the oral arguments however has been pushed back to March 16, as “some justices are on self-quarantine” as precaution against COVID-19.
Calida is set to present the government’s defense of the law next week.
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