Killing of lawyers in the Philippines

Who we wrote to

The president of the Republic of the Philippines.

What’s the issue

On 6 November 2018, Benjamin Ramos, a Philippine lawyer, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen while leaving his office in the town of Kabankalan.

He was a founder and member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), a nationwide voluntary association of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, committed to providing legal services to the marginalised sectors of Philippines society, including upholding and promoting fundamental rights and freedoms.

Previously on 23 August 2018, Raphael Atotubo, another Philippine lawyer, was murdered in front of his house by an unidentified gunman in the town of Bacolod.

Since 2016, it’s been reported that three judges, seven prosecutors and an estimated 34 lawyers have been killed for exercising their professional duties.

In 2017, the president of the Philippines was reported to have ordered national police officers to shoot lawyers who represent clients associated with the “war on drugs” and those who “obstruct justice”. Such public statements put members of the legal profession at risk and undermine access to justice and the rule of law in the Philippines.

What we asked for

We respectfully urged that the relevant authorities in the Philippines:

  • investigate promptly and effectively the killing of Mr Ramos and Mr Atotubo, as well as other lawyers who have been murdered in the Philippines, and bring the perpetrators to justice in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards
  • take effective steps to ensure the psychological and physical integrity of lawyers and human rights defenders in the Philippines
  • refrain from making public statements that could be construed as endorsing attacks against members of the legal profession and the judiciary, which could contribute to put them at risk
  • comply with the Philippines’ international obligations to ensure that members of the legal profession and human rights defenders can carry out their professional functions without harassment and improper interference

Timeline

2017 – the president of the Philippines was reported to have ordered national police officers to shoot lawyers who represent clients associated with the “war on drugs” and those who “obstruct justice”

23 August 2018 – Raphael Atotubo was murdered in front of his house by an unidentified gunman in the town of Bacolod

6 November 2018 – Benjamin Ramos was assassinated by unidentified gunmen while leaving his office in the town of Kabankalan