The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) joins the international legal community as well as the countless individuals and organizations all over the world in expressing its outrage over the brutal and beastly killing of fellow people’s lawyers, media and other unarmed civilians in Maguindanao, Philippines.
Atty. Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela and Atty. Cynthia Oquendo, who are active and leading members of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers of the Philippines (NUPL) were attacked in a carnage that led to the deaths of more than 50 individuals – a significant number of whom were journalists – engaged or were monitoring a peaceful election-related activity.
Connie was among those who were met in November 2008 by European judges and lawyers who conducted an international mission on the continuing attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges.
The indubitable reports overwhelmingly point to a local warlord clan and its private armed groups of police and paramilitary fanatics as behind this hideous and unmitigated bloodbath that has shocked the whole world not only in its being unprecedented but also in its barbarity.
This latest brazen attack on our brave colleagues and their group of unarmed civilians is but a result and is engendered by the culture of impunity that has pervaded the Philippine political scene since President Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001.
Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, unjust arrests and detention, forcible evacuations and displacements, and political persecution have been perpetuated by a policy that has targeted civilians and progressive people. These have victimized thousands and remain neither to be effectively resolved nor genuinely addressed to this moment. This revolting state of affairs is exacerbated or even encouraged by the warlordism sanctioned de facto by the Arroyo government for its own political interests.
Attys. Brizuela and Oquendo, together with their courageous and dynamic peoples’ lawyers in the Philippines have tirelessly worked and advocated for good governance and peace. They are a source of unending inspiration to us all even as we grieve and rage. The plight of our colleagues continues to be monitored and addressed by the international legal community with grave concern.
We demand and will work for justice for our fallen colleagues.
Raf Jespers (Belgium)