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CA reverses conviction of KMU union organizer

By Joseph Cuevas

The 10th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the decision of two trial courts in Rizal province convicting a labor union organizer of possession of illegal firearms.

In a 18-page decision released last September 15, the CA voided the conviction of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labor organizer Marklen Maojo Maga by San Mateo Regional Trial Court Branches (RTC) 75 and 76, sentencing him from 8 to 14 years imprisonment.

The May 16, 2019 decision by San Mateo RTC 76 Judge Josephine Zarate-Fernandez and the January 21, 2020 resolution by San Mateo RTC 75 by Judge Maria Beatrice Cunanan are set aside for failure of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt Maga’s guilt, Kapatid, families and supporters political prisoners, announced Saturday, September 18.

Maklen Maojo Maga (Kilusang Mayo Uno photo)

The appellate court ordered Maga’s immediate release in connection with the illegal firearms possession charge.

Arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police on February 22, 2018, Maga was nabbed for his alleged involvement in a government soldier’s murder in March 2017.

The arrest warrant against the union organizer was issued by Branch 34 of the Cabadbaran RTC in Agusan del Norte.

In its decision, the CA said the prosecution failed to present absolute proof the bag containing a gun belonged to the accused.

The appellate court also said the Rizal courts took as gospel truths the testimonies of the arresting officers despite inconsistencies.

The higher court also said the RTCs denied Maga the right to present additional witnesses to corroborate his testimony.

Initial victory

Maga’s wife Eleanor de Guzman told Kodao that the CA decision is a hard-fought victory, but a bittersweet triumph as the labor organizer still faces a criminal charge in Cabadbaran City.

Maga remains detained at the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 in Taguig City.

In a message posted on Facebook by de Guzman, Maga said he warmly welcomes his exoneration and considers it as a victory for all activists persecuted by the government.

“Unionists and activists are charged with trumped-up cases and manufactured evidence so they can jail and silence us and prevent us from our advocacies. Our imprisonment is the result of abuse of power and wrongful conviction by some courts who fail to truly study the cases before them,” Maga wrote in Filipino.

Maga added that the CA decision would greatly help in his defense against the murder charge in Agusan del Norte, a province he has never set foot in. #

Nasino’s lawyer hopes for her immediate release

Court of Appeals declares another Burgos-Villavert warrant defective

A lawyer of jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino hopes for her immediate release and two other fellow activists after the Court of Appeals (CA) voided the warrant used for their arrest.

In a decision dated August 31, the 12th Division of the CA said the search warrant used by the police to arrest Nasino and fellow activists Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran in 2019 failed to meet standards of validity.

The Court added that the evidence presented by the Philippine National Police for obtaining the warrant were inadmissible.

Upon learning of the decision, one of Nasino’s lawyers said they are working on her, Bautista and Moran’s release at the soonest possible time.

“Hopefully, maparelease na sila agad. Mag-uusap kami on what to do with their pending case sa trial court,” Atty. Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said.

(Hopefully, they will be released immediately. We will discuss what to do with their pending case before the trial court.)

The three were arrested in a midnight raid on November 5, 2019 by the Philippine National Police at Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard non-bailable charge against activists.

Nasino’s imprisonment became more controversial when she learned she was several weeks pregnant when arrested.

She eventually gave birth to her daughter River while in detention, despite pleas from her family and petitions by her lawyers for her release on humanitarian grounds.

Lacking maternal care, the infant died after three months. A Manila Court initially gave the grieving mother two days furlough to attend to her infant’s wake that was later reduced to just six hours.

At the infant’s funeral, jail personnel ran away with the cadaver, leaving family members and supporters behind.

The incident earned global condemnation against the “heartlessness” of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

Irregular warrant

In its decision voiding the warrant, the CA pointed out that the police presented three different addresses in the documents it submitted while applying for the warrant.

The search was also conducted at a different address without the presence of barangay officials who have actual jurisdiction of the area.

“These apparent irregularities in the application and implementation of the subject search warrants are more than enough to debunk the presumption of regularity of performance of official duties,” the CA said.

The defective warrant was among the series of controversial ones issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert  that were eventually quashed by other judges.

Other defective warrants issued by Villavert included those used to arrest journalist Lady Ann Salemn and union organizer Rodrigo Esparago on International Human Rights Day (December 10) 2020, activists and unionists called the Negros 57 on Halloween (October 31) 2019, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace talks staff Alexander and Winona Birondo in July 2019.

Villavert had been dubbed by human rights groups as a “defective warrant factory” whose credibility in issuing such warrants is “questionable”.

“The Supreme Court must investigate and hold Judge Villavert accountable for her travesty of justice by using our courts for judicial harassment and political persecution, along with other similar judges who have been involved in the issuance of questionable search warrants and their lying accomplices in the police,” human rights group Karapatan said in August 2021. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KAPATID: ‘Jun Lozada should be regarded as a political prisoner’

Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr should be regarded as a political prisoner, human rights group Kapatid said, adding the whistleblower has done great service to the people and does not deserve to be in jail.

Kapatid said the Supreme Court’s decision finding Rodolfo and brother Orlando guilty of graft is a “travesty of justice” that sends the wrong signal to whistleblowers.

The High Court upheld Rodolfo’s graft conviction last week for leasing 6.6 hectares of idle public land to his brother Orlando and sentenced the siblings to six to 10 years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.

Kapatid, the support group of families and friends of political prisoners, however said the Supreme Court should reverse its decision as Rodolfo deserves the protection of the law for reporting evidence of wrongdoing.

“Thanks to Jun Lozada’s courage [a] scandalous megadeal was cancelled. But because of the rotten double standard of justice in the Philippines, he is the one who will go to prison while the biggest masterminds of graft and corruption are exculpated and allowed to perpetuate themselves in public office,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Lim added that Rodolfo has become a victim of retaliation and persecution by powerful enemies who have in effect made him a political prisoner for speaking truth to power.

Rodolfo was former head of the Philippine Forest Corporation and a government information technology consultant when he revealed alleged anomalies in the establishment of a National Broadband Network (NBN) by the Chinese corporation ZTE in 2007 during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Lozada said President Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel were “masterminds behind the NBN-ZTE crime” worth P17 billion of pesos. He also said former Commission on Election chairperson Benjamin Abalos stood to gain from kickbacks.

The Lozadas turned themselves in at the National Bureau of Investigation last Thursday after hearing the Sandiganbayan reportedly issued a warrant of arrest against them following Supreme Court’s affirmation of their conviction.

In a statement, Rodolfo said his enemies made good with their threats they will make him regret for his revelations.

“Yes, they succeeded in sending me to prison. But they will not succeed in making me regret my decision to side with the truth and the people. I do not regret my decision to side with the truth,” Rodolfo said.

“Our hearts go out to truth-tellers like Jun Lozada. Kapatid stands by him and with him in his statement that embodies the plight of the political prisoners in this country,” Kapatid said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Karapatan lauds affirmation of Palparan’s conviction

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the affirmation of retired Major General Jovito Palparan’s conviction for the kidnapping of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno by the Court of Appeals last Tuesday.

“This recent legal victory affirms the need to pursue justice and accountability through and through — despite threats, harassment, reprisals, and patronage by those in power of these human rights violators,” the group in a statement said.

In a decision promulgated last May 31 by Court of Appeals (CA) First Division, the appellate court said Palparan and cohorts Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio are sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility of parole.

The three were also ordered to pay the families of the victims P300,000 in civil indemnity and moral damages, subject to six percent interest per year from the date of finality of the decision until full payment.

The CA affirmed Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15’s decision of September 2018 saying Palparan, Anotado and Osorio were responsible for the disappearance and serious illegal detention of the victims.

MUST READ: Abandoned Mount Samat Military Camp Yields Bones, Evidences, Quest for Justice Continues

Cadapan and Empeno remain missing to this day. Palparan meanwhile has started serving his 40-year imprisonment at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.

Karapatan said the affirmation of Palparan’s conviction could not have been possible without the strength and perseverance of the victim’s parents and the witnesses, as well as their lawyers and various local and international support groups.

“Sadly, Karen and She, along with many other desaparecidos remain missing, and Palparan should be made to divulge their whereabouts. This struggle for justice is for them and many other victims of State terrorism,” Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP demands arrest of media killing ‘mastermind’

Joel Reyes campaigning to reclaim Palawan governorship despite arrest warrant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, alleged mastermind in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.

In a statement on Ortega’s 11th death anniversary on Monday, January 24, the NUJP said former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is campaigning to reclaim the top provincial post even as he remains a fugitive from law.

“[N]ot only is former governor Joel Reyes evading his warrant of arrest for Ortega’s killing, he is running for Palawan governor, according to news reports, and is campaigning while a subject of a manhunt,” the media group said.

Reyes and brother and former Coron mayor Mario fled the country in 2012 to evade arrest related to Ortega’s murder.

Both were arrested in Phuket, Thailand in September 2015 but were freed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in January 2018.

The appellate court however reversed itself and ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Joel) and to conduct proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” in November 2019.

“What is clear is that due to a Court of Appeals directive in 2019, the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa had released an arrest warrant against him for [the] murder [of Ortega],” NUJP said.

Reyes is also facing separate graft charges over the alleged misuse of P1.5 billion in Malampaya funds.

Ortega, an environmentalist and known critic of the Reyeses, was the first media killing under the then Benigno Aquino government.

The broadcaster was shot in broad daylight in downtown Puerto Princesa City after leaving radio station DWAR.

The NUJP said the lack of justice over Ortega’s murder and Reyes’ bid for the governorship despite a graft conviction add to the impunity that has surrounded attacks against journalists as well as land and rights defenders.

READ: NUJP: Where is justice in Doc Gerry’s killing?

The group added the lack of justice in Ortega’s killing is emblematic of the culture of impunity in the Philippines, reminding them how the powerful seem to make a mockery of the justice system.

“We stand with the Ortega family, Doc Gerry’s colleagues and friends in the environmental movement and colleagues in the media in calling for justice and in demanding the service of the arrest warrant against Reyes,” NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court dismisses ‘traveling skeleton’ cases against Leftists, civilians anew

A Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed charges against dozens of Leftists and civilians and ordered the release of the detained in the case involving the so-called “traveling skeletons” of Inopacan, Leyte.

In an order dated December 16, Manila RTC Branch 32 granted the demurrer separately filed by farmers Norberto Murillo, Dario Tomada and Oscar Belleza, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) announced.

Manila RTC Branch 32 presiding judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the first element of murder, that is, the alleged 15 victims were actually killed and that the accused were actually involved in the alleged crime, the NUPL said.

“[The government]…failed to scientifically prove that the subject skeletal remains exhumed in Mt. Sapang Dako, Barangay Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte on August 26-29, 2006 belong to the latter and [that]…the accounts of its eye-witnesses as regards how they were killed, who killed them and other surrounding circumstances behind their deaths are palpably unreliable,” it added.

The court reportedly noted the numerous infirmities in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses who claimed to be former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and rebel returnees.

 [T]he Decision found “overwhelming contrarieties and infirmities in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses,” the decision reportedly ruled.

The court also dismissed the cases of others “against whom the prosecution had already terminated the presentation of its evidence but who had not filed their Demurrer to Evidence,” including prominent Leftist leaders and peace negotiators.

‘Traveling skeletons’

In 2006, the government’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group again filed multiple murder charges against 38 civilians as well as prominent Leftists, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison who was under maximum security detention of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship at the time of the alleged crime.

An earlier 2000 case was filed on the allegation that the 67 skeletal remains were of victims of a purge of NPA members carried out by the accused.

Human rights group Karapatan however pointed out in 2019 that the skeletons of three of the alleged victims in the 2000 case as well as other witnesses were “recycled” in the later Hilongos, Leyte trials.

Karapatan said the 2006 charges were simply a “remake of the story portrayed by the prosecution in Criminal Case No. 2001-6-51 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), 8th Judicial Region, Baybay, Leyte which was dismissed by the said court.”

Sison in turn accused then Philippine Army commanding general, now national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., of collecting the bones from various cemeteries for his “legal offensive” against those opposing then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Other defendants questioned the articles of clothing presented during the hearings which still displayed vivid markings and colors.

“Those who have been to the mountains would know that clothes buried in the rainforest for more than 20 years would not appear like that. It should have completely decomposed by now,” accused Benito Tiamzon, NDFP negotiating panel member, told Bulatlat during a 2016 hearing.

Public Interest Law Center and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers defense counsels with some of the accused and their supporters. (Photo from Atty. Kristina Conti/PILC-NUPL)

‘Christmas gift for peace consultants’

The Public Interest Law Center, co-defense counsels, said the Court’s decision is an early Christmas gift for the defendants.

“[We]…counsel for [co-accused] Saturnino Ocampo, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, and the late Randall Echanis, (are) heartened by the ruling, which is tantamount to an acquittal, in one of the most controversial cases initiated by the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group. The Court’s painstaking consideration is patent in a 97-page dissection of the prosecution’s evidence. In all, the Decision found “overwhelming contrarieties and infirmities in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses,” the PILC said.

“We are delighted that the Court has well-taken our consistent position that these cases are trumped-up, arguably part of an elaborate ploy to vilify our clients. These cases impleaded many consultants in the peace talks who had gone public – and these charges were but part of persecution by the government,” the lawyers said.

Accused Ocampo, Silva, Baylosis and Echanis, as well as Vicente Ladlad and Wilma Austria are NDFP peace consultants who actively attended formal peace negotiations with the Manila government.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) hailed the decision, saying it is a hard-earned victory for Murillo, Belleza and Tomada, the last a leader of its Eastern Visayas chapter Sagupa at the time of their arrest in 2010.

“It (the decision) inspires hope for farmers nationwide facing the criminalization of asserting land rights. KMP likewise calls for the unconditional release of all political prisoners,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant Suaybaguio walks free

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio walked to freedom at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) offices at past 5 pm Friday afternoon, cleared of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

With no available Quezon City barangay available to witness her release by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the CHR agreed to be the venue of the process yesterday.

BJMP and CHR personnel complete the process to release NDFP peace consultant Esterlita Suaybagio last September 17. (Photy by Defend Jobs Philippines)

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 judge Janet Abegos-Samar acquitted the women’s rights advocate of charges stemming from a search warrant issued by controversial QC executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019.

Suaybagio, alleged by the military as a high-ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was arrested in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City early morning of August 26, 2019.

Suaybaguio told the court police officers pushed and pinned her to the sink after storming in, preventing her from viewing the commotion inside her apartment.

The activist said she was shocked to learn later that a police officer had allegedly found a 9MM firearm and a hand grenade inside her bag.

Suaybaguio’s acquittal was a triumph over government’s policy of trumped-up charges against activists, particularly NDFP peace consultants, her lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said.

“Her acquittal adds to the victory in a string of cases against activists which have been recently dismissed…We hope the dismissal of other fabricated charges (against other political prisoners) will follow,” the PILC said.

The law center noted similar warrants issued by Burgos-Villavert against journalist Lady Ann Salem and NDFP Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Marie Birondo have been dismissed earlier.

Burgos-Villavert has been accused by rights defenders as a “warrant factory” after meeting with former police general Debold Sinas and subsequently issuing warrants used by the police to arrest activists.

The most controversial warrant issued by the judge was used to arrest women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino in 2020, who was then 7 months pregnant. Nasino gave birth while in detention to her child River who died weeks later. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ICC asked to proceed with investigations on Duterte gov’t’s war on drugs

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been asked to proceed with an investigation on the human rights crisis in the Philippines after the conclusion of the preliminary investigation pointing to mass murders under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

“Following a thorough preliminary examination process, the available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians [between 2016 and 2019],” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

“My Office has also reviewed information related to allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as 1 November 2011, the beginning of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines, all of which we believe require investigation,” she added.

Bensouda said her preliminary investigation has determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines’ “war on drugs” campaign.

The prosecutor said the situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary examination since February 2018 when her office started analyzing “a large amount of publicly available information and information provided to it under article 15 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is a treaty that established the permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Lawyer Jude Sabio filed charges before the ICC on April 2017 accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity in connection with the thousands of deaths of suspected illegal drug dependents.

In 2017, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV traveled to The Hague, The Netherlands to submit information bolstering Sabio’s charges.

The group Rise Up for Life and for Rights composed of families of the victims of Duterte’s war on drugs also submitted a complaint before the ICC in 2018.

Duterte responded by ordering the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute and repeatedly insulting Bensouda.

Bensouda however clarified that although the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute effective March 17, 2019, the ICC retains jurisdiction over crimes that are alleged to have occurred on the territory of the country during the period when it was still a party to the statute.

“Moreover, these crimes are not subject to any statute of limitation,” she explained.

Karapatan photo

Welcome development

Bensouda’s announcement was welcomed by human rights and activist groups as a “long-awaited step towards justice and accountability.”

“[I]t is yet another damning indictment of the Duterte government’s murderous policies that have killed — and continue to kill — thousands of Filipinos with impunity,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Karapatan, together with the families of the victims of the drug war and other human rights advocates, welcomes this significant and much-needed development amid the backdrop of the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines,” Palabay added.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said that one of Duterte’s grossest crimes is its so-called war on illegal drugs.

“In spite of the thousands upon thousands killed, the illegal drugs scourge has gone unabated, proving it is ineffective,” Reyes said.

The ICC prosecutor’s findings is another clear basis why darkness should never be allowed to reign over our country. The regime of state-sponsored killings must be stopped,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PLM names new gender and development program after Liliosa Hilao

The Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila launched on Monday, April 5, its new gender and development (GAD) program and named it after an activist alumna.

University President Emmanuel Leyco said PLM’s Liliosa Hilao Gender and Development Corner (LHGDC) honors its student leader and honors graduate who was the first political prisoner killed under President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law.

“Liliosa Hilao remains relevant today. We look up to her as an icon of empowerment. More than gender emancipation, she exemplifies how the youth can spark important conversations on human rights, equality, and justice,” Leyco said.

“It is our privilege and honor to call Ms. Hilao as one of our own and to name our GAD corner after her and the causes that she represents,” he added.

Located at the Celso Al Carunungan Memorial Library, the corner will carry various materials that will promote gender equality and equitable opportunities for all members of the PLM community, the university said.

PLM said LHGDC shall organize annual lectures and forums as well as film showings and exhibits on gender and development as its initial set of activities once the coronavirus-19 pandemic is over.

The launch, held virtually, coincided with Hilao’s 48th death anniversary.

Lilliosa Hilao (PLM image)

Who was Lilli?

Hilao was associate editor of PLM’s pre-martial law student newspaper Hasik and held other positions with the student government while an honors student throughout her academic life.

She also organized the university’s Communication Arts Club, founded its women’s club Alithea and represented PLM College Editors Guild of the Philippines conventions.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani, an institution that honors and remembers martial law heroes and martyrs, wrote “Lilli”, Hilao’s nickname, had a strong sense of justice and a mind of her own.

“This was expressed in the thoughtful essays she wrote for the student paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (where she was associate editor); some had titles like ‘The Vietnamization of the Philippines’ and ‘Democracy is Dead in the Philippines under Martial Law,’” Bantayog said.

In April 1973, mere days short of her class’ graduation rites, Philippine Constabulary’s Anti-Narcotics Unit personnel raided their house to look for Lili’s brother, an engineer and activist.

“When the young woman insisted that they produce a search warrant or an arrest order, the soldiers beat her up, then handcuffed and took her away. She was brought to Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police),” Bantayog said.

She would not be seen by her relatives until she was returned dead –– her body mangled, tortured, and reportedly raped.

The authorities claimed Hilao committed suicide by drinking muriatic acid.

The LHGDC logo

At the graduation ceremonies held two weeks afterward by PLM, a seat was kept vacant for Lilli, who was still conferred her degree, posthumously and with honors.

PLM Regent Wilma Galvante said during the launch their class wore black armbands on their graduation day in Lilli’s honor.

 Galvante said her classmate was a “true leader who wielded her pen to fight for what is right.”

Lilli’s name is inscribed at the Bantayog’s pantheon of heroes and martyrs.

In her birthplace and hometown Bulan, Sorsogon, a street was named after her in 2001.

Lilli’s sisters Alice and Josefina attended the launch in behalf of the Hilao family. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP letter reveals ongoing profiling of lawyers

The police are going after human rights lawyers representing suspected communist sympathizers, a letter from an intelligence officer revealed.

In a letter to the clerk of court of the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Police Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr, requested for a list of lawyers representing CTG (communist terrorist groups) personalities in proceedings.

Calabria’s letter said the request is in compliance with directives from “higher PNP (Philippine National Police) offices.”

The letter, dated March 12, was printed on an officer Calbayog City Police Station letterhead.

PNP’s letter request to the Calbayog RTC.

The request also came with a table that seeks information on the lawyers’ names, affiliations, clients’ names, “modes of neutralization”, cases filed and status.

Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the Calbayog RTC has confirmed receipt of the request on Friday afternoon, “but no action has been made by them on the request.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines quickly condemned PNP’s action, saying the letter is “improper, deplorable, and alarming.”

“The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld,” the IBP through its national president and board chairman Domingo Cayosa said in a statement.

Cayosa asked government authorities to investigate the incident and exact accountability to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the incident is an assault to the administration of justice.

“The letter-request shows the barefaced disregard of the PNP for human rights, particularly the right to access lawyers and legal services. It is an affront to the right and duty of lawyers to exercise their profession without fear as well as the administration of justice,” the NUPL said in a statement.

The lawyers’ group said the police have no right to profile lawyers on the basis of their clients’ personalities or ideologies.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers must “not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” the group explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)