More lawyers have been killed in the five years since President Rodrigo Duterte took office than under any other government in Philippine history says Carlos Conde, senior researcher of the Asia Division of the Human Rights Watch.
Of this 110 were killed from 1972 to the present. Sixty-one of those killings have taken place since 2016.
“Many of these killings had been carefully planned and were probably carried out by professional killers, that’s why it has been more difficult to crack these cases compared to ordinary crimes that happen on the streets,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said last November.
“The government is very much concerned about the increasing number of crimes committed against lawyers, prosecutors, and judges,” said Guevarra, adding that more National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) field operatives have been deployed to hunt for the killers.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go echoed his condemnation of the rise in the number of lawyers killed in the country in recent years. He called on Filipinos to unite and cooperate with the government to help resolve pressing issues and challenges hounding the country.
In an interview in Tacloban City, Leyte last March 18, Go mentioned that President Rodrigo Duterte, who is a lawyer himself, shares his sentiments because the President is fully aware of the essential role lawyers serve in the country’s justice system.
“Ako naman kinokondena ko po ‘yun na may namamatay,” he added, emphasizing that such acts of violence are not tolerated and sanctioned by the government.
In an independent tally released by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on, of the 61 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors who have been killed since 2016, that 43% of the killings are “deemed work-related,” or associated with the victims’ legal profession.
No one has been arrested in 73% of the killings.
According to FLAG, while around a dozen of lawyers were being killed yearly for the past four years, not one conviction has been made,
“The government investigated most of the incidents,” FLAG said, but noted that suspects have been arrested only in 13 of the killings, and charges have been filed only in nine cases so far.
Forty-eight of the legal practitioners were killed by motor-cycle riding assailants. The perpetrators were later identified in five of these killings. In four killings, the suspects were police officers. In one of these cases, charges against the cops were dismissed by the Department of Justice.
Besides the executive, completing a tripartite action has also reached Congress and the Judiciary.
Senator Richard Gordon in the DOJ budget hearing pointed out that the X rate reflected in 2019 alone of 11 lawyers killed, is alarming.
“The efforts are not ceasing, they’d like to inform you that they are investigating all of these cases but they admit that in some of these instances that you mentioned, there is a dearth of eyewitnesses, and very little evidence to proceed on, but for other cases, they are pursuing every lead,” adds Senator Sonny Angara.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta pushed for a Judicial Marshal bill, and has proposed that those marshals not only be given the power to secure court houses, but also act as the main law enforcement agency for court-related offenses.
Go lamented that the unfounded accusations and biases against the government are only hurting the country’s efforts in optimizing productivity and meeting other issues
While he acknowledged the rights of individuals to freedom of expression, Go said that this should not be weaponized to hamper progress in the country and, instead, be used to support the government’s efforts towards resolving social and economic issues.
“Tumulong na lang po tayo, tulungan n’yo po ang gobyerno, mas maa-appreciate po ‘yan ng tao, batikos di po ‘yan nakakain, criticize di nakakatulong pero ‘yung tulong, ‘yun ang kailangan ng kapwa,” the senator from Davao said.
– Ado Paglinawan