Mar 13, 2021 @ 13:17

IBP: Lawyers duty-bound to represent defendants regardless of political beliefs

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has denounced as “improper, deplorable, and alarming” the letter of the relieved intelligence chief of the Calbayog City police seeking to profile lawyers representing suspected communists in the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

“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,” the IBP said in a March 13 statement.

“Lawyers, therefore, should not be suspected, discriminated against, faulted, red-tagged, or attacked for doing their professional duty,” it added.

The country’s mandatory bar organization said it was “assured” by top Philippine National Police (PNP) officials that there was no directive to Police Lieutenant Fernando Calabria, Jr., to demand from the local court a list of the names of lawyers and threaten to “neutralize” them.

It also cited the PNP leadership’s claim that there was no order “to any police unit to secure from the courts the names of lawyers representing suspected communist terrorist groups.”

The IBP asked “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.”

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

Calabria’s March 12 letter, filled with many grammatical errors, stated it was written “in compliance from higher PNP offices [sic] regarding of [sic] lawyers who represents [sic] Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) personalities in the court.”

He told the Office of the Clerk of Court of the city’s Hall of Justice to list down the names of such lawyers in a table that included a column marked “Mode of Neutralization.”

Section 14 of the Bill of Rights states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel.”

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