Philippines L4L raises the alarm: Filipino lawyer at risk
24 April 2014

Philippines L4L raises the alarm: Filipino lawyer at risk

L4L and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) warn in an open letter to President Aquino of the Philippines for the continued labeling of lawyers as enemies of the state by the military. Since March, Atty. Maria Catherine L. Dannug-Salucon has been the subject of death threats, labeling, surveillance and verbal intimidation by military officers.

Labeling of lawyers by military continues

Atty. Dannug-Salucon is reportedly on the Filipino military’s Watch List of so-called ‘Communist Terrorist’ supporters providing legal services.  She has also been under the surveillance of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The surveillance is particularly concerning in view of the killing – reportedly by members of the Intelligence Services – on 25 March 2014 of Mr. William Bugatti, a human rights defender who was also working as a paralegal for Atty. Dannug-Salucon.

Practice of labeling root cause of extrajudicial killings

The practice of labeling, in combination with the culture of impunity and the military involvement in politics, has in the past been identified by national and international fact-finding commissions as one of the main root causes for the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since 2001. At least 23 lawyers were killed from 2001 to 2009. Many of them were labeled  as  ‘enemies of the state’  or included in the so-called military watch-list prior to being attacked,  apparently because they were identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of doing their job. So far, only one person has been convicted for these killings and this occurred in 2006.

Pattern of ongoing threats against legal profession

The case of Atty. Dunnig-Salucon is not isolated. In July 2013, Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes reportedly branded the National Union of People Lawyers (NUPL) as an ‘enemy’ in reaction to the NUPL’s criticism on the promotion of an army general who is facing credible charges of human rights violations. Until now, the tag of “enemy of the state” against NUPL has not been withdrawn by the Army chief. L4L and LRWC call on the Philippine government to ensure the personal and professional safety of lawyers in the Philippines and to effectively prevent and punish attacks on their independence and/or safety.

You can find the official press release here.

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