March 28, 2017
FREE LEILA – Members of the #FreeLeilaMovement assembled in front of the Supreme Court in Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila today (28 March 2017) to express their solidarity with Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s powerhouse legal team attending the 3rd session of the Oral Arguments of the High Court where they seek to nullify her arrest and detention for trumped-up charge of illegal drug trafficking. #OneForLeila #LabanLeila
(Leila de Lima Facebook)
March 27, 2017
TWENTY-EIGHT shots were fired, eight hit their target and killed 49-year-old lawyer Manuelita “Mia” Mascariñas-Green the day after Valentine’s Day. Five bullets hit the lawyer’s neck and three her head. Green was driving home with her three young children and their yaya when they were attacked in broad daylight in Tagbilaran City, the capital of the province of Bohol. The killers got away by driving their motorcycles into a vehicle that was waiting near the crime scene.
Principal suspects Lloyd Lancer Gonzaga and Romarico Benigi-an, not hiding their faces, were identified by several witnesses. Gonzaga is the son-in-law of 52-year-old widow Conrada Otero-Blomqvist who had hired Green to handle her cases against Gonzaga. Blomqvist, her daughter and Gonzaga lived in Sweden until Blomqvist bought a 38-room resort in Brgy. Tawala, Panglao from Jovelyn Acebedo-Forsberg, her niece. Together, mother, daughter and son-in-law, were going to run the resort. In June 2015, using 20 armed men reportedly from Davao City, Gonzaga—who hails from Tagum City—took control of the resort and the Forsberg family was driven away (Bohol Chronicle).
In July 2016, Gonzaga evicted Blomqvist who then hired Green. According to Blomqvist, her niece had executed a power of attorney for the deed of sale in her favor but Gonzaga was now claiming Alona Embrace Hotel for himself. Blomqvist told Swedish news publication Expressen that she chose Green because the latter had a reputation for being loyal and for taking good care of her clients. They were like sisters, according to Blomqvist. Gonzaga and Blomqvist retained a Davao City-based lawyer when they were still on good terms. Mr. Forsberg, it turns out, still has legal rights over the resort and retains a lawyer.
March 17, 2017
European Parliament calls to free Sen. Leila M. de Lima, condemns her political persecution and the continuing spate of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration
(source Leila de Lima Facebook)
“I won’t be silenced”
Arrested in Manilla on drug-related charges on February 27, Philippines Senator Leila de Lima, the most vocal elected opponent to President Rodrigo Duterte, says she won’t be silenced in a statement sent to the organizers of the Festival.
(FIFDH, Festival du Film et Forum International sur les Droits Humains Facebook)
March 9, 2017
Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the murders of lawyers handling controversial cases, including the counsel of the late Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was himself killed inside his jail cell by police.
“This recent spate of killings victimizing members of the Bar makes it imperative for the government to enact measures for the personal and professional safety of Filipino lawyers and to effectively prevent attacks on their independence and safety,” De Lima’s Proposed Senate Resolution No. 300 said.
She cited the following murders:
- Atty. Rogelio Bato who was the lawyer of alleged drug lord, the late Mayor Rolando Espinosa, was killed in an ambush in the town of Albuera, Leyte last Aug. 24
- Atty. Melver Tolentino who was shot several times by two motorcycle-riding gunmen while he was refuelling his vehicle at a gasoline station in Ilocos Sur last Sept. 16
- Atty. Goering Paderanga who was killed while his son was wounded when they were shot by a security guard as they stepped out of his office in Bgy. Sta. Cruz, Cebu City last Dec. 22
- Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green, a known environmental lawyer handling cases involving property disputes and criminal cases and a volunteer lawyer’s network of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, was also ambushed and shot dead by four motorcycle-riding gunmen near her home in Bohol
De Lima said the 8th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders mandates that “governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”
“[W]here the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities,” she said, quoting paragraph 17 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of the UN instrument.
March 9, 2017
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers condemns the harassment of Atty. V.J. Topacio, a lawyer of the Pro Labor Center, and a member of the NUPL
Atty. Topacio was followed and tailgated after he attended a preliminary investigation hearing of Ferdinand Castillo, the campaign officer of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila, who was illegally arrested recently. During the hearing, Atty. Topacio questioned the propriety of the appearance of a certain Bryan De Guzman Bantilan, who introduced himself as a lawyer representing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. On his way home after the hearing, Atty. Topacio was followed and chased by a white Toyota Revo with Plate No. SGY 793 and a motorcycle. He was able to shake off the vehicles.
This is not the first time that Atty. Topacio was subjected to such form of harassment. In a similar instance he was also surveilled and followed by suspected state agents a few days after he represented Andrea Rosal, the daughter of former spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Obviously, these are intended to intimidate Atty, Topacio to discourage him to represent victims of harassment by state agents like Ferdinand Castillo and Andrea Rosal.
The harassment of Atty. Topacio, and the recent attacks and killings of other lawyers, is an attack against the legal profession, since these are all obviously intended to prevent them from performing their functions as lawyers and undermine their independence. Ultimately, this is an attack against the client’s right to effective representation as guaranteed by the Constitution and the United Nation Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
As such, the NUPL condemns the harassment of Atty. Topacio, and the continuing attacks against lawyers, and calls on the Government, as well as the military and police establishments, to respect the role of lawyers as embodied in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and to stop the attack against them.
Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General
Atty. Cristina Yambot
NUPL Public Information Officer
(National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Facebook)
March 4, 2017
Various organizations in Bohol have formed an initiative to push the police to give justice to the death of lawyer Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green who was killed in front of her three children and nanny last Feb.15.
The Justice for Atty. Mia Kalinaw sa Bohol (peace in Bohol) Movement, was formed on Friday to put pressure on the police to solve the killing of Green and other unsolved crimes in the province.
“The call for the speedy justice for Mia is connected to the seeds of impunity that is an obstacle to attain justice not just for Mia but for many cases here in Bohol, our peaceful Bohol,” said Pat Ruiz, a board of director of the Bohol Nature and Conservation Society (Bonaconso).
Ruiz was one of the conveners of the movement which included representatives from civil society groups, the religious sector, the academe and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as well as friends and relatives of Green.
Green was driving home with her three children aged 10 and two-year-old twins and a nanny in the afternoon of Feb. 15 when she was waylaid at the corner of H. Zamora and J.A. Clarin Streets in Dao District in Tagbilran.