Tag Archives: The Philippines

The Philippines: IBP condemns attack on Cotabato City lawyer; PNP, NBI action sought


The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Sunday condemned the attempt on the life of a lawyer in Cotabato City, and requested the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to provide protection.

The IBP, in a statement, said lawyers like Atty. Ronald Torres — who was on his way home when he and his driver were shot by unidentified gunmen — are given the “difficult task of striving for justice.”

“Apart from instilling fear and restlessness in the hearts and minds of his family, such an occurrence plainly subverts the administration of justice, which is one of the hallmarks of our free and civilized society,” said IBP.

This danger, the IBP said, may “unduly temper his zeal in representing his client to the fullest extent under the law.”

 “The IBP thus respectfully calls upon our law enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP and the NBI, to thoroughly investigate the matter, exact accountability, and all the more significantly, elevate state responsibility to guarantee that lawyers can do their job without fear of reprisal or violence.”

“The IBP stands beside Atty. Torres on his quest to bring the perpetrators to justice and in his fidelity to the oath he gave as a member of the bar,” it added.

Torres was on board his bullet-proof vehicle when gunmen opened at him and his driver. Both escaped unharmed.

Torres later said that he had no known enemies and believed the attempt on his life was work-related.

The Philippines: Elections must be ‘game-changing’ moment for human rights


Upcoming elections next month should be a game-changing moment for human rights in the Philippines, Amnesty International said today, as it released an eight-point agenda urging all Presidential candidates to ensure that the protection of human rights is a core part of their plans.

Following six years in which human rights significantly deteriorated and were repeatedly attacked by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the 9 May elections should be a moment to dramatically change course.

“The forthcoming elections are set to be some of the most important in recent history, and we hope they will help pave the way for a radically different approach to human rights,” said Erwin van der Borght, Interim Regional Director for Amnesty International.

“Over the past six years, thousands of people, overwhelmingly poor, have been killed by the police and other armed individuals as part of the government’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. On top of this, there has been almost no justice and accountability. The next government must restore respect for human rights, including the right to life and due process, by urgently abandoning this murderous policy and instead adopting an approach to drugs that puts health and human rights at the centre.”

Across the country there has been a sharp increase in human rights violations and overwhelming impunity under the Duterte administration.

“Political activists, human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples, lawyers and others critical of the authorities have been threatened, attacked, arbitrarily detained and killed either because they were accused of supporting the communist movement or because of their work to expose and condemn human rights violations.”

“In addition to ending these appalling attacks, the new government must tackle years of impunity, hold perpetrators of serious violations to account in fair trials and ensure long-awaited justice and reparations for thousands of victims. Human rights violations must not be swept under the rug for political expediency.”




The Philippines: Lawyer from Bureau of Customs shot by riding-in-tandem in Pasay City


Two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot a lawyer from the Bureau of Customs along Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City on Monday night, April 4.


According to a report by Sam Neilsen on Super Radyo dzBB, the shooting incident happened near a shopping mall, MET Live, in Barangay 76 around 6 p.m.

The victim was identified as Atty. Joseph Samuel Zapata, 30, resident of San Isidro in Paranaque City.

Zapata was inside his Toyota Fortuner with plate number TP-7726 when suspects opened fire and fled the scene.

The lawyer was then rushed to Manila Doctors Hospital for medical treatment.



The Philippines: Iloilo lawyer continues to help marginalized folk a year after surviving screwdriver attack


The physical pain from human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen’s injuries still lingers a year after he narrowly escaped death when he was repeatedly stabbed with a screwdriver on March 3, 2021 in this city.

“It is still painful when pressure is applied on the area where the screwdriver was embedded,” Guillen told the INQUIRER in an interview on Wednesday.

The scar on his left temple that is covered by hair is barely visible, but those on his shoulder and neck are constant reminders on how he cheated death exactly a year ago.

Two masked assailants repeatedly stabbed Guillen while he was on his way to his boarding house.

They sped off on separate motorcycles driven by two accomplices after taking the lawyer’s backpack with personal belongings and a shoulder bag containing his laptop, external disk for backup files and case documents.

His assailants, however, left behind his wallet and smartphone, which were inside his pockets.

Guillen, 34, spent 18 days recuperating in a hospital from at least eight stab wounds. For several months, he experienced numbness on the right side of his body.

“The doctors said I was very lucky because the screw driver struck a hard bone. A few centimeters off and it could have been fatal,” Guillen said.

Investigators initially surmised robbery may be the motive of the attack, but Guillen and his colleagues believe it was related to the human rights cases he handled as vice president for Visayas of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and secretary general of its Panay chapter.

“It is clear that it was part of the continuing pattern of attacks against members of progressive organizations and human rights defenders,” Guillen said.


The Philippines: Vehicle of lawyer working for Bangsamoro parliament member damaged in gun attack


Two vendors were killed by unidentified gunmen in Pikit, North Cotabato on Saturday.

The police identified the victims as Pepito Sobrepeña, 57, a smoked fish vendor, and his 26-year-old helper, Juner Alconera, who both died on the spot from bullet wounds.

The police said they have the names of the suspects and are now verifying the lead.

Meanwhile, a vehicle of a lawyer working for a Bangsamoro parliament member was damaged in a gun attack on Sunday also in Pikit.

The police said the shooting incident took place in the town proper of Pikit. No one was, hurt, but the Ford Raptor pick-up truck owned by lawyer Badrudin Maguindra, a senior staff of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim parliament member Jack Abas, was damaged.

Abas is a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Pikit and has anointed local candidates for the coming elections.








The Philippines: Cease dangerous practice of red-tagging human rights defenders


The Philippine authorities must refrain from ‘red-tagging’ human rights defenders and activists, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to conform with international human rights law and standards, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a new legal briefing published today.

In the Philippines, State authorities have branded human rights defenders, labor leaders, public interest lawyers, journalists, political opposition, religious groups and other activists as “terrorists” and/or “communists” without substantial proof of any unlawful conduct, in a practice locally known as ‘red-tagging’.

The legal briefing, Danger in Dissent: Counterterrorism and Human Rights in the Philippines, underscores how this practice often has deadly consequences, with many of those red-tagged by State authorities being subsequently killed or injured by unidentified assailants. There is often no effective investigation and accountability for such killings or any accountability for the red-tagging by government officials.

The legal briefing highlights how the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which may be used to further extend the practice of red-tagging, is incompatible with international human rights law and standards.

For instance, the Act contains an overbroad definition of terrorism, permits potentially unwarranted government surveillance and requests for data, and allows the arrest and detention of any person suspected of committing terrorist acts for up to 24 days without a judicial warrant, among other problematic provisions. Despite these flawed provisions, in December 2021, the Supreme Court of the Philippines upheld the constitutionality of most of the Act, only striking down two provisions of the Act.






Philippines: Events of 2021



Serious human rights abuses continued in the Philippines in 2021. On September 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) agreed to open a formal investigation into possible “crimes against humanity” committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” from 2016 to 2019, and extrajudicial executions committed in Davao City in the southern Philippines from 2011 to 2016, when Duterte was mayor.

In October, Maria Ressa, the co-founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, won the Nobel Peace Prize for defending media freedom, specifically for resisting the Duterte government’s attempts to muzzle the press.

In July, the Philippine government and the United Nations launched a joint “human rights program” to address human rights violations and accountability failings in the country, reflecting domestic and international concerns about “drug war” killings. Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, consider the program inadequate, and continue to call for an independent international investigation.

Killings of civilians and “red-tagging”—accusing activists and others of being combatants or supporters of the communist New People’s Army—are endemic to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. Many of those red-tagged are subsequently killed. Journalists covering the insurgency or investigating abuses and corruption also face harassment and violence.


Killing of Activists, Rights Defenders

The country’s 52-year-long communist insurgency continued in 2021. During counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), government security forces frequently targeted leftist activists, including peasant leaders, environmentalists, human rights lawyers, and Indigenous group heads, among others. Government and military officials often “red-tag” such individuals through announcements and social media, putting them at grave risk of attack.

In March, nine individuals belonging to different activist groups were killed during police raids in the Calabarzon region south of Manila. All those killed were previously accused of communist involvement. The simultaneous police raids occurred two days after President Duterte publicly ordered law enforcement officials to “finish off” communist insurgents. Human rights groups rejected claims that the victims were rebels or rebel supporters. In December 2020, police killed nine members of an Indigenous people’s community on the island of Panay, in the central Philippines.

The counterinsurgency campaign has likewise targeted lawyers, including some representing clients who have been “red-tagged.” In Cebu City in August, gunmen shot dead Rex Fernandez, a human rights lawyer whose group, the National Union of People’s Lawyers, provides legal services to activists. Juan Macababbad, a human rights lawyer who worked on environment and Indigenous rights cases, was shot dead in September, by gunmen in South Cotabato province, in the southern Philippines.



Fixing human rights disaster under Duterte should be priority for next president – HRW

IBP seeks protection for court officers after latest Cavite killing

The Philippines: Police arrest suspected gunman in Cavite assistant city prosecutor’s murder


Police arrest suspected gunman in Cavite assistant city prosecutor’s slay

The Philippine National Police says 44-year-old Marvin Linaban was arrested during a buy-bust operation

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Sunday, January 9, said it has arrested the suspect behind the killing of Assistant City Prosecutor Edilberto Mendoza, the 66th lawyer killed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Marvin Linaban, 44 years old, was arrested during a buy-bust operation in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, on Friday, January 7. Police said he admitted to the killing and “expressed remorse and willingness to execute an extrajudicial confession.”

Mendoza was gunned down at close range in Trece Martires City, Cavite, on December 31, 2021. CCTV footage showed a lone gunman attacking Mendoza while he was doing his morning exercise in front of his home.

“If all evidence and facts check out, the arrest of Linaban could be a major breakthrough in the investigation of the murder of [Attorney] Mendoza,” PNP chief Police General Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.

Aside from Linaban, the Cavite Drug Enforcement Unit also arrested a certain Elvin Esguerra, who was injured in a shootout that ensued, according to police.

Police recovered two firearms, which have been turned over to the PNP Forensic Group, and sachets of possible shabu worth P69,000.





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The Philippines: On last day of 2021, Cavite prosecutor becomes 66th lawyer killed under Duterte


[PODCAST] Law of Duterte Land: Your Honors, they are killing lawyers

A gunman approaches the 48-year-old prosecutor doing his morning exercise in front of his home, shoots him in the head three times, and flees on foot

Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Edilberto Mendoza from Trece Martires, Cavite was gunned down in front of his home on Friday, December 31, making him the 66th lawyer killed in the past five years and a half of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay issued an order on Friday for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to step in and do a case buildup, a move that the DOJ does for special cases in order to beef up or expedite investigations.

Mendoza was 48 years old, according to the Cavite provincial police.

Cavite police chief Arnold Abad said the gunman, who went to the prosecutor and shot him in the head close range, was still unidentified. The gunman fled the crime scene on foot, said the police.

Mendoza was doing his morning exericise in front of his home when he was shot.

Cavite police said it has organized a special task force for the case.



The Philippines: A bloody trail: People we lost under Duterte


As we end 2021 – six months before a new administration steps in – let us remember the ones who lost their lives during Duterte’s term, a period tagged by critics as having the worst human rights crisis in the country post-Martial Law

President Rodrigo Duterte’s trail is one that is bloody.

Duterte’s violent rhetoric – publicly threatening suspected drug personalities, activists, and even journalists, among others – and problematic government policies have placed the Philippines under a climate of fear and culture of impunity.

His words do not stay as mere words. His orders are the rallying signal of his allies as they carry out his war on drugs, the fight against activists, as well as threats against the media, among others. Thousands have ended up dead since 2016, while countless others remain fearful for their lives.

As we end 2021 – six months before a new administration steps in – let us remember the ones who lost their lives under Duterte, a period tagged critics as having the worst human rights crisis in the country post-Martial Law.



There were 65 lawyers, prosecutors, and judges killed from July 2016 to September 15, 2021.

The total number is collated by Rappler based on monitoring by various sources, including the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and the Free Legal Assistance Group.

Their numbers vary because there are victims excluded in the counting of some groups as preliminary investigation showed their deaths were allegedly not work-related.

Read Rappler’s coverage of attacks against lawyers and members of the judiciary in 2021: