Atty. Maria Alzate, a Philippine lawyer known for defending the poor, was killed on Thursday September 14, in Abra province, in the north of the country. In broad daylight, two unidentified assassins on a motorcycle shot her at close range, at least eight times, just outside her home, according to local media. See the CCTV of the killing here. (Warning: these are shocking images, viewer discretion advised)

The police claim to be investigating the case, but as of now nobody has been apprehended for this incident, as far as L4L understands. According to her husband, Maria Alzate was especially doing pro bono-cases.

Unfortunately, the killing of Alzate fits in the trend L4L and other human rights groups have been observing during the previous Philippine government. Under former President Duterte killing of lawyers became rampant. Between 2016 and April 2023 at least 70 lawyers were killed. More than 40 of them were practicing lawyers, who seemed to be killed simply for doing their job. Even more lawyers were attacked.

Since the new administration under President Marcos took office, the situation does not seem to have improved. Aside of the fact of the high number of murders, L4L is appalled by the fact that these incidents are hardly properly investigated by the authorities, let alone that culprits are convicted or even apprehended.

The motives of the killing of lawyers cannot be established for certain, and might differ from case to case, but many of these killings are preceded by so-called ‘red-tagging’: labeling these lawyers as ‘rebels’ or ‘communists’ by agents of the state, which makes them vulnerable to attacks from persons who prefer to take matters in their own hands and, especially worrisome from a human rights perspective, apparently get away with it, while the Philippine government does not take sufficient steps to adequately safeguard the lawyers against these killings.

Lawyers for Lawyers is extremely concerned about the situation in the Philippines and keeps monitoring it closely.