Press Release
December 3, 2020

De Lima condemns unabated killings of PH lawyers, urges authorities to stop red-tagging democracy fighters

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged authorities to stop red-tagging defenders of democracy and the rule of law to put an end to lawless killings, which also victimizes members of the legal profession.

De Lima, a lawyer herself, lamented that there are already 53 judges, lawyers and prosecutors who were killed under the Duterte administration, the recent being Atty. Joey Luis Wee.

"When lawyers and judges are killed in their very offices and their own chambers - the sentinels of the rule of law to whom those whose rights and freedoms are transgressed run to, how do we assure the public that they are safe?" she asked in her Dispatch from Crame No. 978.

"Ito na nga ang estado ng kaligtasan sa ating bansa ngayon - tila isang madilim na kabanata na walang wakas. Hindi mo masisisi ang mga tao kung nababalot na sila ng pangamba," she said.

As such, De Lima appealed to those tasked with the enforcement of the law "to set their priorities straight. Enough with your obsession with red-tagging individuals who are only exercising their right to speak in a democracy."

Based on media reports, Wee was shot twice by a couple of assailants at the stairs of the building of his law office in Cebu City last Nov. 23. He died while being treated at a local hospital.

Wee's death happened just six weeks after another lawyer was also shot to death in the same city, and almost a week after a young lawyer was murdered in Palawan province.

"The death of Atty. Joey Luis Wee is another horrendous reality check on the state of the rule of law in our country," De Lima said.

Aside from condemning the senseless killing of lawyers and other human rights defenders, De Lima stressed the need to demand accountability and justice for all the victims and their families.

"We not only condemn the killings; we demand accountability. Swift justice and accountability. Kailangang managot ang mga may sala, at kailangang wakasan na ang walang habas na pagpaslang sa mga inosente," she stressed.

Since 2017, De Lima has called for independent inquiries on these killings. In the 18th Congress, she filed Senate Bill No. 780, which seeks to amend Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) to add, as an aggravating circumstance, the crime committed against lawyers and justice sector officials, and to increase penalties for killings of legal professionals.

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