By Public Interest Law Center
April 15, 2019
QUEZON CITY – A group of human rights lawyers tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a communist front filed today a petition before the Supreme Court seeking its protection from attacks and threats to life, liberty, and security. Petitioner the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), through and with its national executive board, asked the Court to order the military to desist from threatening NUPL members and to disclose and destroy whatever information the military has illegally obtained against them.
The Public Interest Law Center (PILC), counsel for the petitioners, explained that the Petition for Issuance of the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data, was sought by NUPL because of the continuing and escalating threats and harassment its members have experienced in relation to their duties as legal counsels in various cases they are handling.
According to Atty. Rachel Pastores, PILC managing counsel, “The right to counsel is one of the pillars of our justice system. And it is clear that this concept is totally lost on the military. By wrongly and maliciously branding the lawyers of activists, human rights violations victims who have spoken up against military and police abuses, and other critics of the Duterte administration as communist fronts, terrorist protectors, and even as NPA combatants, the military institution is showing its contempt not just for the legal profession but against the very foundation of our judicial system which is crucial in a supposedly democratic society.”
Atty. Pastores further explained that “very few lawyers have taken up the cause of the marginalized and underprivileged. And those who have chosen to do so have become targets themselves. NUPL members have been harassed, intimidated, vilified and subjected to surveillance operations. We are now asking the Supreme Court to put a stop to all these.”
Named respondents in the suit are President Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Brig. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, Maj. Gen. Erwin Bernard Neri, Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto and Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr.
“This petition is just a small step towards making the military and this administration accountable for its actions. This is only the first of many legal actions that we have planned. We will not stand idly and cower in fear. We will continue with our duty as people’s lawyers”, added Pastores.