Please find below statements from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL):
1. Rights lawyers strongly denounce the killing of Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green and attacks against lawyers: call for action and demand justice
2. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers condemns the harassment of Atty. V.J. Topacio, a lawyer of the Pro Labor Center, and a member of the NUPL
We are also very pleased to inform you that the 2016 Karapatan Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines is now available for downloading and sharing.
——– Forwarded Message ——–
NUPL Press release No. 1 for March 9, 2017
Rights lawyers strongly denounce the killing of Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green and attacks against lawyers: call for action and demand justice
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers denounces the continuing attacks against lawyers and the legal profession and demands that justice be served to the victims, and that perpetrators be held liable. The NUPL likewise calls for an end to these attacks.
Few days after NUPL expressed alarm over continuing attacks against lawyers and the failure of the government to run after the perpetrators after the killing of retired RTC Judge Victor Canoy and shooting of City Prosecutor Manuel Tesiorna, a known environmental and lady lawyer Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green from Bohol was killed while driving her children on February 15, 2017 in Tagbilaran City. She died of gunshot wounds in her head and body. “The manner by which Atty. Mia was killed by men riding motorcycles who blocked and fired at her shows it was a planned attack. The pattern of killing is the same as the killings of other lawyers and other political activists in the past years,” said NUPL Secretary-General Ephraim Cortez.
Atty. Mascariñas-Green also handled agrarian and human rights cases in Cebu before she transferred to Bohol and was described by her colleagues as brave and courageous.
With the government’s lackadaisical efforts to investigate these killings amid the growing number of unresolved extrajudicial drug related killings and attacks against political activists, NUPL fears that this new attack will be merely an addition to the long list of unresolved killings. Atty. Mascariñas-Green is not the first, but the seventh lawyer killed under the Duterte administration. One of the seven killed is a judge while two are prosecutors. All seven were shot to death.
Meanwhile, many other members of the legal profession have been subjected to failed killings, threats, vilification, and name-tagging, among others. NUPL believes that this series of attacks against judges, prosecutors and lawyers is not only directed against their persons and the legal profession but also against the litigants and victims’ constitutional right to counsel and justice. It throws a cold water to lawyers and is indeed alarming. If the lawyers representing and defending the victims of rights abuses do not feel safe in the discharge of his duties, not only the cause of action of their clients but justice are at stake. Without that freedom from fear in performing their duties as lawyers, they cannot effectively be agents of justice. Atty. Ian Manticajon of NUPL Cebu said, “The unarmed lawyer, clothed only in his barong, his knowledge of the law, and the authority of his Roll of Attorney’s number, is supposed to be shielded from violence in cases that almost always involve disputes. That’s the only way to ensure that he can do his job effectively for his client.”
“We condemn the killing of Atty. Mia and continuously condemn each and every attack, in whatever form, against lawyers, especially those seriously involved in seeking justice for their clients and victims of rights abuses. We strongly denounce these attacks against the legal profession and the right of every one to counsel. We call the attention of President Duterte, being a lawyer himself and a former prosecutor, to take appropriate action to end these attacks,” said Atty Cortez.
NUPL Chairman Atty. Neri Colmenares added, “We join the National IBP in the condemnation of the killings and call on other lawyers’ groups to denounce these attacks as well. We demand the serious and thorough investigation of these cases and making the perpetrators liable. We reiterate our call for the Supreme Court to step in to preempt the escalation of these attacks and give justice to the victims. Finally, we again appeal to our fellow lawyers to have courage and remain steadfast in providing legal services especially to the poor while battling the continuing attacks against the members of the legal profession.” ###
Press release No. 2 for March 9, 2017
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers condemns the harassment of Atty. V.J. Topacio, a lawyer of the Pro Labor Center, and a member of the NUPL
Atty. Topacio was followed and tailgated after he attended a preliminary investigation hearing of Ferdinand Castillo, the campaign officer of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila, who was illegally arrested recently. During the hearing, Atty. Topacio questioned the propriety of the appearance of a certain Bryan De Guzman Bantilan, who introduced himself as a lawyer representing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. On his way home after the hearing, Atty. Topacio was followed and chased by a white Toyota Revo with Plate No. SGY 793 and a motorcycle. He was able to shake off the vehicles.
This is not the first time that Atty. Topacio was subjected to such form of harassment. In a similar instance he was also surveilled and followed by suspected state agents a few days after he represented Andrea Rosal, the daughter of former spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Obviously, these are intended to intimidate Atty, Topacio to discourage him to represent victims of harassment by state agents like Ferdinand Castillo and Andrea Rosal.
The harassment of Atty. Topacio, and the recent attacks and killings of other lawyers, is an attack against the legal profession, since these are all obviously intended to prevent them from performing their functions as lawyers and undermine their independence. Ultimately, this is an attack against the client’s right to effective representation as guaranteed by the Constitution and the United Nation Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
As such, the NUPL condemns the harassment of Atty. Topacio, and the continuing attacks against lawyers, and calls on the Government, as well as the military and police establishments, to respect the role of lawyers as embodied in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and to stop the attack against them.
Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General
Atty. Cristina Yambot
NUPL Public Information Officer
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”
– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007
“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010