Filipino lawyer group, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, has filed a complaint in Geneva Switzerland, asking the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to hold the government accountable for the continuing attacks against lawyers, prosecutors and judges in the Philippines, just as the country’s human rights record is due for a Universal Periodic Review by the UNHRC.
NUPL said that while 59 out of the 133 lawyers, judges and prosecutors who had been killed since 1984 were attacked during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, the harassment “has gone unabated” after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took over.
“[We] urge UN Human Rights Council member states to compel the Marcos government to stop committing human rights violations against Filipino human rights defenders,” NUPL secretary general Josalee Deinla said in a statement.
The NUPL noted that recently, its members were Redtagged along with Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, a Manila trial court judge who dismissed the government petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples’ Army.
It added that 61 percent of the attacks on lawyers appeared to be linked to human rights and public interest cases, and services to human rights defenders and civil society groups. Five of those killed were NUPL members who represented indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, environment activists, political prisoners and human rights defenders.
“These attacks on officers of the court have to stop once and for all,” Deinla said. “If lawyers are hampered from freely and independently exercising their profession and if judges are threatened for their judicial decisions, access to justice and judicial independence will suffer.”
The UPR is a peer-review mechanism of the UNHRC that can help governments that are willing to improve how it fulfills its obligations under international and domestic human rights laws. As always, there are those who see a lot of room for improvement and demand it, while there are also those who seem to think that everything is fine. Hopefully the representatives of the Philippine government come into the review with an open mind and the willingness to elevate the quality and independence of the justice system in this country so it can protect all Filipinos, regardless of beliefs, convictions and access to the ones holding the reins of power.*