The Philippine government must urgently put an end to the surge in often-deadly threats against judges and lawyers, Amnesty International said today, echoing the concerns of the country’s own Supreme Court and Senate this week.
“When the country’s own Supreme Court and Senate are seized of the death toll facing the legal profession, it should be clear to everyone that the situation is disastrous,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director.
“President Duterte continues to incite killings and the climate of impunity across the Philippines is catastrophic, with lawyers and judges increasingly the targets.
“The justice system as a whole is in deadly danger. The government’s executive branch, led by President Duterte, must take immediate steps to ensure that judges and lawyers are not attacked or threatened simply for doing their jobs”.
A recent investigative report which included data from the Supreme Court, stated that at least 61 lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed under the Duterte administration since 2016. From 2004 to 2021, according to the report, only seven cases have resulted in charges filed in court.
On 23 March, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a statement against these attacks and described them as an “assault on the judiciary”.
The Supreme Court also pledged to take action, including issuing a call to lower courts and law enforcement officials for information on incidents of threats and killings over the past 10 years. On 24 March, the Senate adopted a resolution also condemning the brazen attacks against judges and lawyers.
Legal organizations inside the country, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), are increasingly sounding the alarm at the attacks and killings of their colleagues.
Some of those killed or threatened had been ‘red-tagged’ – labelled as “communists” or “terrorists” – as part of the Duterte administration’s widening counter-insurgency campaign, while others were representing clients facing drug-related or other unpopular charges.