MANILA The Office of the President on Tuesday described as mere insinuation the conclusion of a foreign delegation in Manila that there is "a climate of fear and intimidation" in the Philippines that prevents Filipino lawyers from doing their jobs.
"We don't see that kind of climate of intimidation happening considering there are cases being filed, considering there are cases being heard in court," said Undersecretary Severo Catura, Executive Director of Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), in an interview.
This as Catura's reaction after an international delegation of lawyers organized by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), Union of International Advocates (UIA), and Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation recently conducted a fact-finding mission to look into the alleged spike of human rights violations against Filipino lawyers and other legal professionals during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Following a series of interviews and conferences with point persons, the group released its initial findings, citing threats against lawyers defending those accused of drug crimes and the killings of those in the exercise of their profession, among others.
Catura said this was the first time that they have heard about the cases, but he assured the government has always been open in addressing such issues.
"This is the first time that we've heard about these cases of lawyers of drug suspects being harassed. Sinong nangha-harass? Mga pulis? Dapat i-prove nila 'yan na mayroon talaga at huwag lang mag-insinuate (Who harassed who? Police? They should prove it that there are indeed cases of harassment and don't merely insinuate)," he said.
Catura called for cases to be filed in the court as he noted that legal mechanisms are in place in the country.
Catura revealed that they were taken aback following the probe as he described the visit as "unofficial."
"The visit is unofficial in nature so what's their basis to call for the military? You can't just barge in and say 'Hey, we are here to investigate,'" he said.
"All we can say is that I think there is an effort to really shame this administration because if you are an honest to goodness fact-finding mission, there would always be an effort to report to the government your findings first and not to the public," he added. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency