We express our collective outrage over the killing of civilians in Maguindanao including members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) and the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) Atty. Connie Brizuela and Atty. Cynthia Oquendo. Human rights lawyers have lost two strong advocates for human rights with the tragic death of our two colleagues who were killed by warlords of impunity in Maguindanao for merely practicing their legal profession. Attacks against lawyers and judges are attacks on the administration of justice as it threatens members of the legal profession from fulfilling their duties with independence and competence. With 15 judges and 26 lawyers killed since 2001, the Philippines has indeed also become one of the worst places for attacks on members of the legal profession.
We condemn the relentless killings of activists, media persons and lawyers due to the culture of impunity spawned by Pres. Gloria Arroyo who have exercised no restraint in going after dissenters and opposition but have handled warlords such as the Ampatuan’s with kid’s gloves. We ask for a collective outrage and action from the legal profession in order to demand justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre and extra judicial killings in general and stamp out impunity. NUPL will launch a nationwide call among judges, lawyers and law students to hold protest rallies expressing this outrage and wear black arm bands on December 1 especially during court proceedings as part of the important battle to curb impunity.
We thank the International Union of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL) based in Belgium which issued a statement declaring that “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.”
We are encouraged by the statement of the National Lawyers Guild of the United States (NLG-USA) who declared in their statement that “The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands real justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre and other extra-judicial killings in the Philippines . The NLG calls on the Arroyo government to cease words without action and tolerance of the status quo that has bred this culture of impunity in the Philippines”
We join the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD )which issued a statement calling for the implementation of “ all structural reforms recommended by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” as part of the efforts to curb impunity.
We thank the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) for their expression of concern and outrage over the killing of lawyers and other civilians and their demand for justice for the victims.
Demand for Collective Action
We demand the immediate revocation of all firearm licenses issued to and confiscate the firearms of all warlords in Maguindanao and arrest members of armed groups carrying firearms in the province.
We demand the immediate preventive suspension of the provincial officials in Maguindanao, including responsible commanding officers of the PNP and AFP in Maguindanao not only to ensure that they do not influence the investigation but also for abetting if not encouraging the free and illegal presence of armed groups in the province. We demand the immediate prosecution of the PNP and AFP commanding officers who have allowed, if not conspired, with the perpetrators of the massacres to conduct this horrible crime.
We urge the creation of an independent and credible special court that will handle the cases against the Ampatuans and those involved in the massacre considering that judges of ordinary Regional Trial Courts may be threatened with violence by those accused and may therefore not be able to provide a fair hearing of the case.
We urge the international community including the United Nations to send teams of international election observers to monitor election fraud and violence in the May 2010 elections.
We urge the Filipino people, including members of the legal profession, to join in all efforts to battle impunity in the country and demand the accountability of all public officials who have committed crimes against the Filipino people.
Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares
Mobile no. 09178350459