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Lawyers: Duterte a disgrace to the legal profession

Rodrigo Duterte is a disgrace to the legal profession, a lawyers’ group said after the president reportedly authorized the release of a matrix to the public yesterday alleging a destabilization plot by journalists and lawyers.

In the press conference in Quezon City this morning, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), named as among those involved in the destabilization plot to oust the president, said Duterte may have violated several laws in allowing a “foreign intelligence body” to launch surveillance operations against Filipino citizens.

“He is a big disappointment to the legal profession as he has abandoned all legal tenets,” NUPL chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Duterte, a lawyer, may have violated several laws in authorizing the release of the matrix naming the NUPL as well as Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as among those seeking to destabilize the government.

Among the laws that may have been violated are the Anti-Wiretapping Law, the Data Protection Act, the Eletronic Engineering Act as well as Constitutional provisions on privacy, he added.

“Duterte is intolerant of dissent. Diyos niya ang intelligence reports. Lawyers like us should be ruled by evidence, which he and Panelo, also a lawyer, failed to present,” Colmenares explained.

NUPL recalled that Duterte announced last week he will get back at media organizations that came out with reports about the rise in his family’s wealth.

“In the coming weeks, I will return the favor. So [PCIJ], you better stop,” Duterte said.

NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez also said that the president may have also violated the Rules of Court allowing lawyers to represent anyone.

“[The matrix is] disturbing and without let up…designed to stifle dissent and is an attack against the legal profession,” Cortez said.

“It is doubly dangerous because it is peddled by Duterte himself, which means he is telling his foot soldiers it is open season for lawyers and journalists,” Cortez added.

The NUPL said they will raise Malacañan’s latest attack against them to the Supreme Court as a supplement to its Writ of Amparo petition filed last April 15 seeking protection for government state forces linking the human rights lawyers to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The NUPL yesterday immediately denied it is involved in any plot to oust Duterte, saying its lawyers does not have time beyond defending their many clients. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer, doctor refused from seeing Frank Fernandez

A lawyer assisting arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez complained of being repeatedly barred from visiting and consulting with her client at the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Atty. Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that she has twice been refused from seeing Fernandez and his fellow detainees at the hospital even if she is allowed by law to do so.

“For the second time at Gate 6 of Fort Bonifacio, I have been denied access by MPBn (Military Police Battalion) chief Capt. Andres B. Ramirez upon instructions of his ‘higher-ups,’” Conti said on her Facebook account late Tuesday night.

Conti said that Captain Ramirez in fact told her she can visit Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez, who are all confined in the said hospital.

“Yesterday (Monday), he denied that a Frank or Francisco Fernandez was confined in the Army General Hospital. Today he reverses, but tells me that I can visit ‘anytime’ but only between 11am-4pm,” Conti said.

The lawyer said the military is violating Republic Act 7438, the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation Law.

The law says lawyers, doctors, priests or spiritual adviser cannot be denied access any time, which Conti said Ramirez is disregarding.

“What’s roundly dissonant for me as a lawyer is the police posturing that this was a legitimate law enforcement operation, specifically arrest due to a lawful warrant. Yet, when I asked either Calabarzon Police Regional Director Edward Carranza or Laguna Police Provincial Chief Eleazar Matta for access they defer to the military,” Conti said.

Conti asked the military to be upfront if the three detainees are being treated as prisoners of war and under military custody instead of the police.

If the three are POWs, they should be treated as hors de combat, or out of action due to injury or damage, the lawyer explained.

’Wag nyo na kami paikut-ikutin, literally and figuratively,” she said. (Do not try to fool us and make us run around.)

Conti said she wonders what excuses the military will use the next time she tries to visit her clients.

Kelangan naka-sapatos? Naka-white? May strip search? Walang cellphone? Anong patakaran sa kampo na naman ang mangingibabaw sa civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?” she asked (Do I need to wear shoes? Wear white? Will they conduct a strip-search? What camp policies will they say lords over civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?)

“Martial law ba ulit?” she asked. (Is it Martial Law all over again?)

Doctor also turned away

Conti also revealed that an unnamed doctor sent to check on the three detainees was turned away.

“Earlier we sent a doctor, who came within the time stated by Capt. Ramirez, to check (on) the three. He was rebuffed, even if the inquest prosecutor’s resolution specified that Fr. Frank should see his doctor of choice,” Conti revealed.

Conti said Fernandez reported to the Sta. Cruz, Laguna inquest fiscal Monday evening that he is suffering from incessant interrogation by military agents, depriving him of sleep and affecting his general health.

Fernandez is reported to having heart and lung ailments the lawyer said need special attention.

“His condition, fluctuating BP (blood pressure) and all, is very worrisome. The military even had to pull into Asian Hospital on March 24 while they were taking him to Manila from Laguna because he was slurring his speech a bit,” Conti said.

The lawyer said it is suspected the former Roman Catholic priest and long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros suffered a mild stroke or heart attack.

 “[Y]et he has not been allowed to choose a doctor or specialist. I am not too sure the Army General Hospital can take care of his needs – and in the first place, if it is in their interest (to do so),” the lawyer said.

Lagtapon is reported to be suffering from frail health while Perez is being treated for Hansen’s Disease.

Conti recalled previous clients who were sick while in prison and eventually died under detention.

“My experience with sick political prisoners is marred by deaths. Diona Andrea Rosal, stillborn, because his mother was under too much stress. Eduardo Serrano, Bernabe Ocasla, Alex Arias who suffered heart attacks in jail. My fervent hope is he does not join this mater dolorosa list,” she said.

She cautioned the military to treat the three detainees humanely.

“I understand the context is war – and two sides are at odds. Pero bawal bang maging makatao ‘pag magkaaway? Kung kaya ng isa, kaya din naman ng kabila, di ba?” she asked. (Isn’t it possible that both sides treat each other humanely? If one side can do it, the other side also can.)

Conti said that killing Fernandez while under government custody would not be killing the Communist Party-led revolution but is actually killing the peace. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PH withdrawal from ICC to worsen impunity, groups say

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — As the Philippines withdrawal from the International Criminal Court takes effect today, rights groups warned of escalating human rights abuses and further impunity.

Senatorial candidate and long-time human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “self-serving” move. In his speech March 14 at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Colmenares said Duterte intends to evade accountability for his crimes against poor Filipinos.

The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

Duterte announced the country’s exit from the ICC after the tribunal started its preliminary examination of the charge of crimes against humanity filed against the President. Two complaints were filed against Duterte — one by Jude Sabio, lawyer of self-confessed Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato, and another by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, counsel of families of victims of extrajudicial killings.

READ: Why kin of drug war victims charged Duterte for mass murder before ICC

Still, Colmenares explained that the withdrawal has no impact on the pending complaints filed against Duterte.

He cited Article 127 Rome Statute of the ICC stating that “a State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute.” The Rome Statute further states that a State’s withdrawal shall not affect any criminal investigations and proceedings which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.”

Colmenares said the ICC has jurisdiction over Duterte because domestic laws provide the Philippine president immunity from suit.

For its part, human rights alliance Karapatan underscored Duterte’s “double-talk” with regard to the ICC.

“Duterte previously denied ordering extrajudicial killings, only to admit to it in several live telecast. He has also expressed willingness to subject himself to investigation under the ICC, but withdrew the country from the Rome Statute. This government has denied perpetrating human rights violations while persecuting human rights advocates and silencing the voices of victims and their kin who counter the State’s repeated denials,” Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said in a statement.

“The Duterte government is run by pathological liars and militarists who are corrupt to the core, able to subvert laws and mechanisms to evade accountability,” Clamor said.

In a separate statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia said that with the Philippines’ exit from the ICC, “victims will again be deprived of an alternative arena for redress.”

In lieu of the ICC, Olalia said other means of exacting accountability could be explored, such as the creation of a special tribunal sanctioned by the United Nations or through people’s tribunals. #

Accusing lawyers as communists sets them up to be killed—Agcaoili

Accusing progressive lawyers of being under the direct control of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is setting them up to be killed, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

Reacting to a February 27 Philippine News Agency (PNA) report that he has the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) directly under his command, Agcaoili said the accusation by the so-called “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition” has a more sinister objective.

“[The accusation] is meant to smear any organization or individual to set them up for the kill, as has been shown in many cases in the past such as those of NDFP consultant Randy Malayao and NUPL lawyer Benjamin Ramos,” Agcaoili said in a statement.

In a PNA report, the coalition accused Agcaoili of using the NUPL to lawyer for accused communists facing legal complaints so that “top-level” rebels are shielded.

“Agcaoili handles the legal affairs of the [communists] and he has the NUPL directly under his command,” the group alleged.

The Left’s chief negotiator, however, denied the allegations, adding the PNA report was also mistaken in saying he is a lawyer.

“For the record, I am not a lawyer, never had the ambition to be one despite coming from a family of lawyers. So I have nothing to do with the [NUPL], though some of its members happen to be legal consultants of the NDFP Negotiating Panel even before the organization was founded, as well as legal counsels of detained NDFP consultants and political prisoners,” Agcaoili said.

“Such happenstance does not make NUPL a so-called front of the [CPP] nor are the concerned lawyers as members of the Party,” he added, challenging his accusers of proving their accusations.

“In accordance with due process, it is for any court of law, be it revolutionary or reactionary, to determine the truth of such allegations through competent and admissible evidence and not through manufactured witnesses or planted evidence like what is brazenly happening now,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili in turn accused the coalition of being part of “the GRP security cluster [that] are having a heyday in engaging in a wild frenzy of anti-communist witch hunting against legal democratic organizations, individuals and the parliamentary opposition.”

“They have even become bold enough to disrespect and challenge the pronouncements of their commander-in-chief. But I leave it up to them to sort out their differences,” Agcaoili said, referring to a recent pronouncement by Government of the Republic of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that he may be allowed back into the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Masugid na peoples’ lawyer’

Si Ben Ramos ay isang masugid na people’s lawyer, abogado ng mga magsasaka, abogado ng napakaraming political prisoner. Dahil dito, siya ay pinatay.–Atty. Rey Cortez, Secretary General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)

Meme by Carlo Francisco

‘Gigising sa manananggol ng bayan’

“Ang dugo ni Ben Ramos ay gigising sa mas marami pang mananggol ng bayan, sa mga manananggol para sa interes ng bayan.”–Rep. Carlos Zarate, Bayan Muna

Meme by Carlo Francisco

Lawyers hold rally vs Sereno ouster

Lawyers held a rally in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday to protest the May 11 decision of the majority of its magistrates to oust Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.

Dissenting with the decision, lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Sereno’s ouster through the quo warranto petition is unconstitutional.

In a statement, NUPL said the “erroneous” and “shortcut” petition has far reaching effects as it slays judicial independence.

“Our democracy is in peril. Monopoly of power in the Executive without checks and balance is practically complete,” the NUPL said.

Performance artist Mae Paner dramatizes what lawyers says is the death of judicial independence with the ouster of Ma Lourdes Sereno as chief justice through a quo warranto petition. (Photo by Sarah Jane Mendoza Aguilar/Kodao)

The group earlier said Sereno should have been subjected to an impeachment trial in the Senate as an impeachable official, blaming the Rodrigo Duterte government for the chief magistrate’s ouster.

“Dissent even in traditional forms are shot down. Those who stand in the way of government policy and fancy are waylaid,” NUPL said.

The NUPL said it is its duty to protect the rule of law and has thus decided to organize the nationally coordinated  protest actions.

“Our reason for being is put to question. We are being forced to relearn or unlearn what we studied or taught in law school. The Decision revolts against norms we hold dear,” it said.

Wearing court attires, the lawyers also wore black ribbons as a sign of protest and pleading. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)