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New alliance to seek accountability for drug war-linked EJKs, HRVs

Just because the police is no longer heading the government's anti-illegal drug operations does not mean people should look the other way, a head of a national lawyers' organization said Thursday.

For lawyer Edre Olallia, the president of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), accountability is now the name of the game.

"The more important thing is accountability...kasi 12,000 (killed), that's it? Then you look the other way, until the next cycle of killings? No," Olalia said on Thursday, in the sidelines of the launch of a new alliance of lawyers and law organizations against extrajudicial killings and human rights violations linked to the government's anti-drug campaign.

"Precisely you need to make people accountable so that they will say 'I cannot do that will be held to account for it,'" he added.

Accountability and a human rights advocacy with a legal perspective — these are the hallmarks of "Manlaban sa EJK"— a play on the commonly touted explanation of policemen who pulled the triggers that killed alleged drug addicts and pushers —or "Mga Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings, an alliance that will consolidate the individual efforts of its lawyer members, said Olalia.

This, weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte transferred the leadership of his administration's war on drugs from the police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, marking the beginning of what many expect would be a less bloody approach to anti-narcotics operations.

"MANLABAN SA EJK will fight for human rights especially the sanctity of life," read the group's unity statement.

The statement said the alliance will conduct advocacy campaigns through forums and other platforms, especially in law schools; issue statements; join or initiate mobilizations; and use their legal skills to "provide concrete legal assistance to victims and help in putting a stop" to alleged EJKs and human rights violations.

Olalia said the group's members will have to meet---finding common time is difficult since they represent different organizations, he said---to concretize their next actions.

The group is an addition to the array of alliances already formed that carry the same demand.  For one, Tindig Pilipinas, a similarly-oriented group composed of known opposition figures, was launched in September.

Olalia said this is not the first time lawyers are speaking out against extrajudicial killings, citing a statement released by the group in July 2016 calling for an end to the "madness" posed by the war on drugs.

Legal suits have also been filed before the Supreme Court by various groups and lawyers, he said.

However, the convenors were quick to point out that the alliance is not political in nature---"walang kulay"---and that they banded together in their personal capacities, their affiliations only listed for identification purposes.

The alliance's convenors are:

  • University of the Philippines College of Law Dean Pacifico Agabin
  • Atty. Minerva Ambrosio
  • Prof. Victoria Avena
  • Atty. Roberto Eugenio Cadiz, Human Rights Commissioner
  • Atty. Neri Colmenares, NUPL chairperson
  • De La Salle University College of Law founding Dean Jose Manuel Diokno
  • Ateneo School of Government former dean Antonio Laviña
  • NUPL president Atty. Edre Olalia
  • Atty. Rachel Pastores, president of the Public Interest Law Center
  • Prof. Roberto Rafael Pulido
  • Former Senator Rene Saguisag
  • Former congressman Atty. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III
  • Atty. Evalyn Ursua
  • Hon. Cleto Villacorta III

— RSJ, GMA News