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IBP: Cops' letter asking court for names of lawyers representing suspected Reds 'improper'

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Saturday said the letter of the Calbayog Police asking a trial court to furnish them with the names of  lawyers representing “communist terrorist group personalities” is "improper, deplorable, and alarming."

"We are acting on the March 12, 2021 letter to the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court, Calbayog City that went viral, and we are assured by top PNP Officials that there is no directive to PLt Fernando G. Calabria, Jr., Chief Intel/SDEU of the Calbayog City Police Station or to any police unit to secure from the courts the names of lawyers representing suspected communist terrorist groups," the IBP said in a statement.

"The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and even duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld. Lawyers, therefore, should not be suspected, discriminated against, faulted, red-tagged, or attacked for doing their professional duty," it added.

"The letter is improper, deplorable, and alarming," the IBP said.

Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court received the letter that was signed by Police Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr. but “no action has been taken on the request.”

Calabria said in the letter that the request was in compliance with a directive from “higher” offices of the Philippine National Police.

But Police Brigadier General Ronaldo de Jesus, head of the Region 8 police, denied this.

“There is no directive from our headquarters. [The] matter is being investigated,” de Jesus said when sought for comment.

The IBP asked for a thorough probe into the matter.

"We ask all concerned government authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter, exact accountability, and more importantly, promote state responsibility to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution," it said.

"As we remain vigilant, we trust that Filipino lawyers will remain courageous and steadfast sentinels of the rule of law," the IBP added.

Reacting to the letter, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia thanked the police “for helping us produce damning evidence against them.”

“This audacious request that is hard to refuse is the smoke in the gun traceable to the hand that pulled the trigger and the enablers of various attacks against lawyers especially human rights lawyers representing clients the state does not like,” he said.

Early this week, several lawyers asked the SC to help stop the attacks on members of the legal profession.

The Office of Court of Administrator has already directed judges to submit an inventory of cases involving violence against lawyers. —KG, GMA News