Tag Archives: The Philippines

The Philippines: Letter on the killings of Atty. Juan Macababad, Atty. Rex Fernandez and Atty. Sitti Gilda Mahinay-Sapie


Letter on the killings of Atty. Juan Macababad, Atty. Rex Fernandez and Atty. Sitti Gilda Mahinay-Sapie

In a letter to President Duterte, Lawyers for Lawyers expressed concern about the recent killings of Atty. Juan Macababad, Atty. Rex Fernandez and Atty. Sitti Gilda Mahinay-Sapie and the further deteriorating situation of lawyers in the Philippines. Lawyers for Lawyers called on the authorities  of the Philippines to respect their human rights obligations under international law.

On September 15, 2021, Atty. Juan Macababad, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in front of his home. According to our information, he had been receiving death threats prior to the attack. Atty. Macababad is the second lawyer killed in the last months, and the third lawyer killed in Cebu in less than a year. On August 26, Atty. Rex Fernandez was shot dead in an ambush while aboard his car in Cebu City on his way home and on July 14, 2021, Atty. Sitti Gilda Mahinay-Sapie and her husband were gunned down by an unidentified suspect outside their home.

Lawyers for Lawyers has been closely monitoring the situation of lawyers in the Philippines for many years and is deeply concerned about the oppressive working environment for lawyers in the country. In the letter, Lawyers for Lawyers urges the President of the Republic to adequately protect the safety and independence of lawyers.

Since the start of the administration, an unprecedented number of lawyers have been killed; very often after being threatened, harassed, and publicly labelled as ‘communist’, ‘terrorist’, or ‘enemies of the State’ by state agents and officials. This labelling takes place regardless of actual political beliefs or affiliations of the targeted individuals and is aimed at making lawyers legitimate targets.

The cases of Attys. Macababbad, Fernandez, and Mahinay-Sapie  are not isolated. At least 65 lawyers, prosecutors and (retired) judges, including 38 practicing lawyers, have been killed in the Philippines since the administration of Duterte took office on June 30, 2016.


Integrated Bar of the Philippines count of lawyers killed under Duterte inaccurate


Your editorial “Impunity gone berserk” (9/22/2021) contains much with which all would agree—the killing of lawyers with impunity is a threat to the rule of law and therefore to a democratic Philippines. However, it seems that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has also gone berserk.

The number of lawyers killed under President Duterte, now 69, is lamentable, but it is nowhere near the 500-percent increase that the IBP proclaims and which, willy nillly, the media continues to trumpet unquestioningly. Unfortunately, the IBP continues to use the inaccurate numbers first produced by the Free Legal Assistance Group.

Here are the numbers recorded by the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers: According to numerous monitoring groups, there were 18 lawyers killed from the Marcos to Estrada presidencies, 83 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and 47 under President Benigno Aquino III. Thus, pre-Duterte there were at least 148 killings.

Your editorial cites the IBP claim that ”the number of lawyers killed since President Duterte came into power in 2016 has skyrocketed by 500 percent.” That is obviously a claim that cannot be justified. What is true is that at 1.1 lawyer killed per month, the rate under Mr. Duterte far exceeds the rates under his two predecessors: Arroyo at 0.74 and Aquino at 0.65.

The IBP would be well advised to seek ways in which the lawyers can protect themselves. Relying on the government, especially when state forces are involved in lawyer killings, is rather like waiting for snow in Manila. They might follow the example being set now in Nigeria where the national Bar has called a temporary boycott of the courts, in similar manner as in France, India, and Pakistan. Governments must be persuaded to act, and not only expected to do so.

Gill H. Boehringer

co-chair, Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers






September 2021

Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers


Prof. Gill H. Boehringer, Hon. Senior Research Fellow,                 

Macquarie University Law School, Sydney, Australia;

Co-Chair, Monitoring Committee on Attacks Against Lawyers,

International Association of People’s Lawyers


Our Report expands and develops the recent Submission we made to the Supreme Court on “Patterns in the killing of Lawyers: the Case of Attorney Rex Fernandez” (September 8, 2021).  Here we provide  results of our research on Judges and Prosecutors.

While I am the author of this Report  the research has been a joint exercise by the Committee, co-chaired by Prof. Stuart Russell, formerly a colleague at Macquarie University Law School and an Administrative Tribunal Judge in Sydney, Australia.

In Part A, we provide empirical details on the attacks on Attorneys, Judges and Prosecutors. and paralegals. We include survivors as well as those killed. This is the historical and contemporary material that can aid in constructing the Defence and Protection policies needed urgently.

The increasing onslaught against the legal system represented by the attacks on its sentinels must be seen as a constant threat to the rule of law and democracy in the Philippines over the last 20 years, now more than ever. These attacks on legal professionals and paralegals working to support their efforts to provide justice, is an historical legacy of the failure of governments under the Presidencies of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte, to act with any seriousness to see that the defence and protection of those being targeted is given the attention required.

It is therefore gratifying that the Supreme Court is now providing leadership in recognizing those failures and taking action to rectify them.


We provide below material on all the attacks our Committee has recorded from 2001 to mid September, 2021. It illustrates the size and tenacity of the problem, as well as the increasing rate of attacks with impunity under the government of President Duterte.







The Philippines: FORSEA Dialogue on Attacks on Lawyers in the Philippines


With Prof. Gill Boehringer, Co-Chair of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, IAPL






NUPL lawyer Juan Macababbad. Image from Karapatan
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The Philippines: Lawyer in South Cotabato shot dead outside house



Lawyer Juan Macababad was a public interest lawyer. Two unidentified gunmen shot him in the head seven times.

Public interest lawyer Juan Macababad was shot dead outside his home in Surallah town, South Cotabato, on Wednesday, September 15, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) confirmed to Rappler.

“Atty. Macababad was gunned down at around 5:30 in the afternoon earlier just outside of his house by two unidentified individuals. According to initial reports, he sustained seven gunshot wounds to the head,” IBP South Cotabato and General Santos chapter president Remigio Rojas told Rappler in a phone interview Wednesday night.

Macababad was declared dead on arrival, said Rojas.

Macababad is a member of the red-tagged National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), and the chairman of the Socsksargen chapter of the  Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM).

“He’s active in peoples’ lawyering, he handled a wide array of cases from civil to criminal. Wala naman akong nabalitaan na controversial at high profile cases ang nahawakan. (I haven’t heard of any controversial or high profile case that he handled),” said Rojas.

“He was a silent, unassuming & amiable guy who had a ready smile behind his rather fatherly bespectacled profile. We are losing the good guys out there while the bad guys are frolicking and plundering all over,” said NUPL president Edre Olalia.








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Prof. Gill H. Boehringer, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Macquarie University Law School, Sydney Australia;

Co-Chair, Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers


Supreme Court Associate Justice Leonen has called for submissions on the killing of Atty. Rex Fernandez  in order to determine if there are patterns in the killing of Philippine lawyers into which his death fits. [See last page for links to media accounts of the circumstances of the killing.]

I will show that there are indeed such patterns. The sad case of this latest killing in Cebu City can be seen as representing many of the patterns discovered in research carried out on attacks on lawyers for the past two decades by the International Association of People’s Lawyers. The empirical research has been carried out by the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers (MCAL), Co-chaired by myself and Professor Stuart Russell.

Numbers of violent attacks on lawyers

We have examined the circumstances in 219 violent attacks on lawyers under Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte. In those attacks 197 lawyers were killed since 2001, while 22 survived the attack.

Here are the overall comparative numbers of violent attacks we have recorded, broken down by the role of the lawyers:



The Philippines: Supreme Court vows to address murder of lawyers


Gunshots from a treacherous assassin felled long-time human rights lawyer Rex Jesus Mario A. Fernandez and seriously wounded his driver in Cebu City on 26 August 2021.

The masked gunman stealthily approached and shot Fernandez with a .45 caliber pistol as Fernandez’s vehicle slowed down at a busy junction along Salvador Street, Sitio Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, at around 4:10 pm. After the shooting, the killer fled on board a motorcycle driven by a co-conspirator.

Fernandez, 64, died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds.

His ambush slay, which was caught on video, came in the heels of a growing number of killings of lawyers and human rights defenders.

Per the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ count, Fernandez’s murder is the 64th recorded killing of lawyers that happened under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Supreme Court

The unabated killing of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers has prompted the Supreme Court to act.

In a statement dated 27 August 2021, the highest court condoled with Fernandez’s family and friends.

Expressing concern over Fernandez’s ambush-slay, the court remarked: “The killing of any lawyer is of serious concern to all of us.”

“Violence,” stressed Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, “solves nothing.”

“It is anathema to the rule of law.”

The court, Leonen said, continues “to sift through and analyze the voluminous records and reports submitted to us upon our call to discern whether there are patterns in the killing of lawyers and threats to judges so that we can evaluate a strategic response”.

The court “will welcome new reports to be submitted by the police and by other organizations” involving Fernandez’s death, Leonen added, as he urged “law enforcement authorities, and human rights and other groups” to submit their own “findings by the end of September at the latest.”

The highest judicial body’s Committee on Human Rights that he chairs, Leonen vowed, “will be submitting our report and recommendations for the action of the Court En Banc.






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The Philippines: Human rights group renews call to end lawyers’ killing


A human rights group has renewed its call to end the killings and continued attacks against lawyers in the country.

“We join lawyers and fellow human rights defenders in calling to stop the attacks against lawyers in the country. Perpetrators of the killings, from the one who pulled the trigger to the masterminds, should be made accountable and be brought to justice,” Karapatan said in a statement.

It also said: “The rampant killings must end, together with a regime that has encouraged and enabled the culture of impunity in our country.” it stressed.

Karapatan’s statement was issued in reaction to the Aug. 26 killing of lawyer Rex Jose Mario Fernandez in Cebu City. Fernandez was Karapatan’s former legal counsel.

Karapatan said that Fernandez “handled cases of rights violations, and represented victims and their families in court for years and defended political prisoners charged with trumped-up cases.”

“A few years after the Writ of Amparo — a legal remedy to seek protection amidst threats to life, liberty and security — was made available by the Supreme Court in 2007, Atty. Fernandez served as legal counsel in petitions for Amparo on a number of cases of abductions and enforced disappearances,” it said.

“Among these were the petition for the Writs of Amparo for Romulo Robinos, Ryan Supan, and disappeared UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan,” it cited.

It also said that Fernandez “also lawyered for peasant activist Noriel Rodriguez and Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, both abducted, detained and tortured in Cagayan and Tarlac, consecutively, both in the y0ear 2009.”

“In 2010, he went back to Cebu to continue his law practice there, after his stint with Karapatan,” it recalled.

At the same time, Karapatan said that Fernandez “provided legal services to the eight protesters in Cebu who were arrested while protesting the Anti-Terror Law in June 2020, among other cases.”

Reports stated that Fernandez was onboard his car on R. Duterte Street when he was shot by a still unidentified gunman who later fled aboard a motorcycle. His driver was injured and was taken to a hospital. The same reports stated that a woman at the backseat of the car was unhurt.





According to research by the International Association of People’s Lawyers there have been 67 lawyers killed under Duterte, at the rate of 1.1 per month. this is he highest rate of any Presidential regime going back to World War II. From Marcos to Pinoy there were 158 killed. Thus the problem is not unique to the Duterte regime. See:


The Philippines: Cebu lawyer killed


A veteran lawyer, who recently held a “hunger strike” after the management of the condominium he was living in cut his water supply, was shot dead by a still unknown assailant along R. Duterte Street in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City on Thursday, August 26.

Lawyer Rex Jose Mario Fernandez, 62, was on board his car when he was shot by the gunman who waited for him in a corner at around 4:10 p.m., according to Police Major Jonathan Dela Cerna, chief of the Guadalupe Police Station.

Fernandez’s driver, who police investigators have not yet identified, sustained gunshot wounds to his body and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A woman in the back seat of the car survived although investigators have yet to determine her identity.

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) in the area showed that the lone gunman, who wore a red jacket, immediately boarded a getaway motorcycle driven by another person.

At least six empty shells of a .45 caliber pistol were recovered at the crime scene.













That makes 67 lawyers killed under Duterte. according to the International Association of People’s Lawyers who have been monitoring killing of lawyers around the globe for years. The rate at 1.08 per month is higher than the rates under his predecessors.

The Philippines: Australian law professor reacts to killings of lawyers



Last week, in response to my July 30 column on the killing of lawyers,  Gill H. Boehringer, Professor and former Dean (ret.) of Macquarie University Law School in Sydney, Australia sent an email that clarifies some of the points raised:

 “Thank you for your column today in the Manila Standard. It is important that the desperate situation of the lawyers in the Philippines is brought to the attention of the public and, of course, that something be done about this dreadful phenomenon, and others, that face the Filipino people.

“Unfortunately, the situation is worse than you suggest through no fault of your own. The material released by the IBP—and that by FLAG, Rappler and the NUPL—all understates the problem of lawyer killings. Why they do this is not known to me.“

“I am the Co-Chair of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers. We have been independently monitoring the attacks on lawyers in the Philippines for more than a decade.

“Our research, based on sources, including the PNP, IBP, Filipino monitoring groups such as several mentioned above, media, academic, foreign monitoring groups, reports from official monitoring by the UN and independent Fact Finding Missions, reveals the following:“

“Lawyers killed under Arroyo: 83, with 4 survivors; under Aquino: 47 with 1 survivor; Duterte 66 with 17 survivors.

“Assuming the IBP and the others are correct (although I expect they are on the low side) there were 28 killed from Marcos to Estrada. That means that prior to Duterte there were 158 lawyers killed prior to Duterte’s 66.

“Why the claim is being made that there has been a 500% increase only those who make such a claim can answer. But to indulge in such historical revisionism is surely not the way to understand the nature of the problem nor to come up with solutions to, or even mitigation of, the problem.