MANILA, Philippines — The police’s request to have the list of lawyers representing suspected members of communist groups goes against the duty to serve as counsel regardless of political affiliations or ideological beliefs, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Friday.
According to IBP President Domingo Cayosa, the Calbayog City Police Station’s letter to the Calbayog Regional Trial Court (RTC) is improper as it disregards the principle of lawyers’ freedom and responsibility to defend people in court — aside from being discriminatory because it leans to one side of the political fence.
Earlier, stories popped out that the said police station’s intel officer asked the RTC for these documents. The RTC informed the Supreme Court of this request, and has yet to make any action on the issue.
“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,” Cayosa said in a statement.
“Lawyers therefore should not be suspected, discriminated against, faulted, red-tagged, or attacked for doing their professional duty. The letter is improper, deplorable, and alarming,” he stressed.
Cayosa said that government must investigate the issue and ensure that lawyers can work without being threatened just because they are defending people from other political ideologies.
“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,” he asked.
“As we remain vigilant, we trust that Filipino lawyers will remain courageous and steadfast sentinels of the rule of law,” Cayosa assured the public.
In the letter signed by P/Lt. Fernando Calabria, chief of Calbayog City Police Office’s intel division, he asked for a list of lawyers representing alleged members of communist terrorist groups, as compliance for higher PNP offices.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers has expressed shock over the issue, while Bayan Muna claimed that the list may be used as a list to target lawyers, citing the example of attacks against human rights defenders and public interest lawyers
READ: Bayan Muna hits Calbayog police’s request for list of activists’ lawyers
INQUIRER.net reached out to the Philippine National Police for its comments on the issue, but it has yet to give a response as of posting time.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.