Arroyo gov’t liable for allowing murders of 10 judges, 13 lawyers

An international mission to probe the killings of 13 lawyers and 10 judges since Mrs. Arroyo assumed the presidency is now on its second day, with the European participants visiting the exact spot where Atty. Felidito Dacut was felled by assassin’s bullets nd speaking with the human rights lawyers’s family and clients, mostly barefoot farmers, farmworkers and victims of all sorts of injustice.

The family of Judge Henrick Gingoyon (murdered on Dec. 31, 2005) and Justice Romeo T. Capulong (a target of at least two assassination attempts on March 7, 2005 and 30, 2005 for his role as counsel of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers) would be interviewed by the European lawyers tomorrow.

Capulong is the country’s preeminent people’s lawyer. He is founder and president of the Public Interest Law Center. He is the legal counsel of SELDA, the association of human rights violation victim against Marcos that filed and won a class action in the US. He served as a private prosecutor in the impeachment of President Estrada, and was the lead prosecutor in the Citizen’s Congress for Truth and Accountability. He is the general counsel of the National Democratic Front’s negotiating panel and helped craft the 11 bilateral agreements the NDF signed with the Manila government. It is a tragedy that lawyers like Capulong are being attacked by malignant forces of evil now roaming all over the country.

In a statement of solidarity, the International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL) lamented that many of the victimized lawyers and judges are noted human rights defenders, public interest lawyers, public defenders and counsels of mass organizations.

The larger International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) meanwhile said that attacks on lawyers and judges are threats to civil liberties and subverts the right to counsel, the right to a speedy trial and the efficient administration of justice.

The IADL said that government’s must adhere to established international principles and agreements that call on all States to ensure that lawyers and judges are able to perform their duties freely, independently and without any fear or intimidation.

Some may contend that the lawyers and judges may not have been killed along the line of duty. But Atty. Jose Anselmo Cadiz, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, retorts that such view could be due to the sad reality that many have been inured to violence as a daily occurrence. Cadiz said during the Mission’s opening press conference that any killing should be condemned and its perpetrators punished.

We look forward to the Mission’s success in helping the grieving families, friends, colleagues and clients of all the slain lawyers and judges the best way they can: Help ferret out the truth and expose the inaction, or refusal to act, or witting approval of authorities led by President Arroyo in the continuing attacks on lawyers, judges, journalists, churchpeople and activists.

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