De Lima hails ‘gathering of the brave’ on lawfare


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Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended the more than 1,400 participants who attended the first-ever international forum on lawfare which she describes as the “gathering of the brave” to combat the misuse of lawfare against democratic dissent.

De Lima made the statement after she learned about very positive feedback from the recent holding of the “International Forum on Lawfare: Weaponizing the Law Against Democratic Dissent,” held at the De La Salle University, Manila last Feb. 21.

“I would like to thank and congratulate all my fellow defenders of Democracy, Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights for taking a very vocal, visible, decisive and unequivocal stance against the silencing of democratic dissent through the weaponization of law,” she said.

“Even while our government continues to slide backwards into tyranny and repression, it is a source of comfort to know that the rest of Filipino society has not given up the fight for their rights, liberties and sovereignty,” she added.

In her keynote address read by her youngest brother, Vicente “Vicboy” de Lima II, De Lima described the first-ever international forum on lawfare as a “gathering of the brave” to stand up against repressive regimes that misuse lawfare against their critics.

[T]his (forum) has to be a gathering of the brave. Brave enough to share their experiences as victims of lawfare. Brave enough to share their expert’s take on what turns governments and public servants into oppressors of the people they swore to protect,” she said.

“But most of all, brave enough to face the reality that the weaponization and bastardization of the law cannot truly take root and overtake justice as its twin pillar without the complicity or, at the very least, the passive acquiescence of the people,” she added. 

The one-day international forum on lawfare brought together local and foreign experts from the legal and human rights community, academe, church and civil society leaders who tackled the growing pandemic of lawfare around the globe.

The forum was organized by DLSU, Alternative Law Groups (ALG), Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, and the Committee for the Freedom of Leila de Lima, with the support of news website Rappler as its media partner.

“Lawfare” is a portmanteau of the words “law” and “warfare” to signify a form of war consisting of the spurious use of the legal and judicial system to silence government’s adversaries.

“In truth, weaponizing the law victimizes human beings in many ways in different levels. It destroys individual lives. It destroys families. It destroys nations by destroying the trust that holds together the social contract between the government and its people,” De Lima said in her speech.

“For that is the very core of the vileness of weaponizing the law: it turns the people’s shield from oppression into the very tool of oppression they need protecting from – all for political gain,” she added.

Apart from De Lima, other prominent targets of lawfare in the country include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, AKBAYAN Senator Risa Hontiveros and Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa, all of whom also shared their insights and experiences on lawfare.

“Indeed, we must continue to fight against the bastardization of the Rule of Law, and to reclaim its dignity and role in upholding – and not corrupting! – Justice! That is what the Forum is about, yet it is but a start,” De Lima said.

“[H]owever long it takes, we must fight for the fundamental principle that Justice and Rule of Law ought to serve the people, not enslave them in fear of reprisals for simply exercising their fundamental rights and protecting their dignities as human being,” she added.

Other foreign and local leaders who shared their views about lawfare include France Insoumise Party General Secretary Marina Mesure, rights activist Mu Sochua of Cambodia, Malaysian human rights lawyer and Chairperson of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats’ Women’s Caucus Jayanthi Balaguru, former University of the Philippines-College of Law Dean Pacifico Agabin, Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, former senatorial candidates Jose Diokno, Neri Colmenares, Samira Gutoc, former Reps. Walden Bello, Carlos Zarate, Teddy Baguilat, and Tom Villarin, ALG Sheila Formento, among many others.

Among those who sent their video message to the lawfare forum were United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, Prof. Richard Falk of Princeton University, France Insoumise Party President Jean-Luc Melenchon, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Express David Kaye, Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong, former Lingnan University Prof. James A. Rice, and press freedom and human rights activist Emily Lau. (30)

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