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PHL, foreign lawyers ‘disturbed’ by attacks vs. NUPL

Seventy-five Filipino and foreign attorneys on Monday stood behind the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers and said they are "disturbed" by attacks against the group of human rights lawyers.

The signatories to a solidarity statement expressed "grave concern" over "heightening attacks" against their fellow lawyers in the Philippines, particularly NUPL members, who are allegedly red-tagged and threatened.

"The red-tagging of NUPL is contrary to basic rules of evidence, due process and fair play," reads the statement released Monday. "Political harassment undermines the rule of law and substitutes it with the law of rulers."

Vouching for the "character, competence, and courage" of the NUPL's pro bono human rights lawyers, the statement added that dissent and criticism are an exercise of democratic rights.

Former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin, former senator Rene Saguisag, members of the Free Legal Assistance Group, and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay were among the several Filipino lawyers who signed the solidarity statement.

They were joined by lawyers from India, Australia, South Africa the United Kingdom, Belgium, Bangladesh, the United States, France, Canada, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Honduras, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Iraq, Greece, Puerto Rico, Germany, Nepal, and Turkey.

"Labeling, discrediting, threatening, and attacking lawyers are against the basic principles of lawyering, the State’s duty to protect them and the delivery of justice," they said.

"More importantly, these attacks beg the fundamental question of whether there are valid reasons to dissent, criticize and advocate change and how to address them for the people’s benefit."

They expressed solidarity with their fellow lawyers irrespective of their clients and said they support the actions taken to defend NUPL and "all lawyers under attack" in the line of duty.

"We shall also cooperate and collaborate in all fora to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us," they said.

The NUPL has asked the Supreme Court to protect its members from acts of harassment allegedly perpetrated by state forces. The union told the Court that its members have been falsely accused of links to communist rebels and targeted by surveillance, false charges, and violent attacks.

The group has most recently protested its inclusion in a Malacañang-backed matrix of media groups and lawyers allegedly conspiring to discredit President Rodrigo Duterte. — BM, GMA News