Killings and “red-tagging” of judges and lawyers
Lawyers and judges come under constant intimidation from the Government and the military, The most common form of intimidation is being labeled a communist or a terrorist by the police and military. In March 2021, one judge who threw out trumped-up police charges against a journalist found banners hung up in her neighbourhood accusing her of being a communist. Being “red-tagged” in this way represents a serious threat. Angelo Karlo Guillen, National Union of People’s Lawyers assistant vice president for the Visayas, was stabbed by two unidentified men in the head in March 2021 not long after he appeared on a police list calling him a communist. Anthony Trinidad was shot dead on his way from a court hearing in July 2019, his car riddled with bullets (see picture) after being tagged as a communist by a local vigilante group.
In 2017, the president of the Philippines was reported to have ordered national police officers to shoot lawyers who represent clients associated with the “war on drugs” and those who “obstruct justice”. Since President Duterte was elected in 2016, sixty-four lawyers have been assassinated. Many of the high-profile attacks involved members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), which represents victims of human rights violations.
On 21 March 2021 after pressure from lawyers throughout the Philippines, the conservative Philippines Supreme Court issued an unprecedented warning that the rule of law was under the threat.
In September 2019 the UK Law Society signed a letter with 151 international and domestic bar associations, other lawyers’ organisations and legal professionals from 49 countries around the world, protesting against attacks on lawyers in the Philippines.
The Intimidation and “Red-tagging” of Teachers
On 17 March 2021, Rosanilla Consad, assistant principal in San Vicente National High School in Butuan City was arrested by the military. She is charged with being a communist rebel and attempting to murder a policeman. These are the kind of serious but trumped-up charges the police regularly put against anyone who criticises the government. Consad is the local union secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) who has been campaigning for rises in teachers’ pay.
ACT has reported that several of its regional officials have been “red-tagged” in the same way and their offices have been raided. The Government and Department of Education have held seminars in which military officers have warned teachers that the union is “communist”. The Department of Education sent a form round to teachers in May 2021 asking them to declare whether they were members of the union. ACT refuses to be intimidated and demands that it be left free to bargain unhindered and negotiate on behalf of its members.
In November 2019 the British University and College Union (UCU) wrote to the Philippines Government protesting that the current anti-union climate has caused unionists, teachers and academics to fear for their rights and safety. Teachers unions are red-tagged by your administration. Union activists are unlawfully profiled by the Philippine National Police and put on lists of “terrorists”. Raymond Basilio, ACT General Secretary and EI Board Member, has received multiple death threats since January 2019. In 2020 the ACT General Secretary Raymond Basilio received an International Solidarity Award from the British union NAS-UWT.