Senator Leila De Lima on Saturday condemned the arrest and detention of three lawyers who were monitoring police officers' search of a Makati City bar last Thursday evening, saying attorneys are now targets of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs.
"The message is clear. The police is no longer making any distinction between lawyers defending clients and the target of police operations," De Lima said in a dispatch from her detention cell.
A lawyer herself, De Lima added: "Lawyers are now fair game as targets of the drug war. That IBP [Integrated Bar of the Philippines] card is no longer protection from police abuse."
Lawyers Leni Rocel Rocha, Jan Vincent Sambrano, and Romulo Bernard Alarkon were arrested at the Time in Manila bar located in Makati City for alleged "obstruction of justice" and for "intimidating cops" implementing a search warrant, according to the Southern Police District.
She said the PNP has just "declared lawyers as combatants," with the arrest of the three lawyers, attributing the police action to President Rodrigo Duterte.
"By arresting lawyers defending their client from a PNP raiding team, the police were responding in the only manner that they know since they were unleashed like dogs by their master in Malacañang two years ago," De Lima said.
"Maybe it is only ironic that the mastermind of this breakdown in the rule of law, where even lawyers are no longer safe, is a lawyer himself," she added.
The former Justice secretary, who is a fierce Duterte critic, warned: "Tokhang is no longer for the poor and defenseless alone. Lawyers are also now in the PNP’s line of sight. Everyone is now equal, not before the law, but in the breakdown of the rule of law and Duterte’s reign of impunity."
De Lima is being detained over charges stemming from the supposed proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison while she was still the Justice secretary. —Margaret Claire Layug/LBG, GMA News