Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the unabated spate of killings of lawyers in the country, the recent of whom include the senseless killing of lawyer Rex Jasper Lopoz whose death is linked to the Duterte administration’s all-out war on drugs.
De Lima, a lawyer by profession, said the recent spate of killings involving legal professionals sends a chilling message that the rule of law in the Philippines is “decaying at a rapid rate.”
She also welcomed the initiative of an international law delegation composed of lawyers from Belgium, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and the United States in conducting a probe into these murders involving lawyers.
“Lady justice has been raped, and she is dying. Her children are caught in the middle of the bloodbath,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 488.
“Imagine, the very people who swore a sacred oath to uphold and protect the rule of law, are being silenced – perhaps until no one and nothing would be left to stand in the way of Duterte. Walang pinipili ang walang habas na pagpaslang, walang takot na paghasik ng karahasan,” she added.
Lopoz was reportedly shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was about to board his vehicle parked outside a mall in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last March 13. His family believed his representation of accused in drug cases prompted his murder.
According to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Human Rights Watch, Lopoz was the 38th lawyer to have been murdered since Mr. Duterte assumed presidency in 2016. He was representing defendants in drug-related cases.
After conducting interviews and research into 37 cases of lawyer killed under Duterte’s presidency, the international probers concluded that most of their cases remain unresolved since the authorities failed to conduct proper investigation into their deaths.
“At this time, we saw in several cases that prosecutors have a passive role, don’t push the police officers to do a proper investigation. Impunity is obviously quite clear in several cases,” said Joan Callewaert of Belgian group Progress Lawyers Network (PLN).
De Lima, a former justice secretary, urged her colleagues from the legal community to stand united in pressing the Supreme Court to investigate the continued spate of killings of lawyers in the country.
“Let us storm the gates of the Supreme Court and beg the gods of Padre Faura, to stand for their slain brothers and sisters,” she said.
“The scales of justice should never bend to cater to the whims and caprices of a demagogue. Huwag natin pabayaan at ipagsawalang-bahala ang mga pagpatay ng mga tagapagtanggol ng batas,” she added. Last year, De Lima filed Senate Bill 1721 seeking to protect the members of the legal profession and the justice sector officials by increasing the penalty against crimes committed against them.