April 26, 2023
Human rights lawyers said it is the government that should investigate allegations of war crimes in connection with the reported death of top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
Reacting to a statement made by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) Legal Cooperation Cluster, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the government is bound to gather evidence and initiate prosecution of those connected with the alleged torture and execution of the Tiamzons.
The NTF ELCAC earlier said that those who made the allegations, including the NUPL bear the burden of proof, adding that the lawyers’ group and human rights group Karapatan are affiliated with the CPP.
The task force added the mere fact that both the NUPL and Karapatan are demanding an investigation are “a clear proof that they are lying and can’t prove their perverted claim.”
The NUPL however reminded the government that it is the State’s duty to conduct investigations on complaints of rights violations.
“These types of comments are non-sequitur (illogical) and unduly place the burden on human rights lawyers and defenders to conduct a probe,” the NUPL said.
The lawyers added that it was the military that first reported the supposed waterborne firefight that may have killed the Tiamzons and eight others in August 2022, but later took down their social media posts on the matter.
Keep it professional
When citizens complain of rights violations, the government should welcome it as part of its commitment to uphold international humanitarian law, the NUPL said.
Instead, government lawyers—colleagues in the legal professions and co-officers of the court, are choosing to resort to “hateful and gratuitous name-calling” by labeling human rights attorneys as “CTG (communist terrorist group)-affiliated or CPP, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front of the Philippines front without competed, credible and admissible evidence,” they said.
The NUPL was reacting to Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda, a member of NTF ELCAC’s Legal Cooperation Cluster, who alleged that both NUPL and Karapatan are fronting for Communist groups.
The NUPL said such practice endangers their lives and prevents them from independently performing their duties as lawyers.
“Especially since we in NUPL are compelled to handle cases that most of our colleagues in the profession cannot, would not, or do not – for reasons we respect – handle,” the group said.
“While we may differ in views, opinions and positions – just like we do in court – we should all endeavor to keep our professional dealings civil and fair, use only dignified language, avoid low blows, and refrain from promoting an unsafe environment in any setting, as we are mandated to do as lawyers under the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability and out of basic respect for our fellow human beings,” the NUPL asked.
“We expect nothing less from our fellow lawyers. Let us keep it fair and square, if you please,” NUPL added. #
(Raymund B. Villanueva)