Philippine lawyers and law students launched on Nov. 2 an alliance to coordinate legal challenges to drug-related killings and other alleged human rights abuses committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. In a strongly worded statement, the group Lawyers Against Extrajudicial Killings, called the anti-narcotics war of the government "a blatant disregard of the right to life." "Thousands of poor and powerless victims have been targeted and brutally, nay mercilessly, executed by the state, its agents and proxies with blatant contempt and disregard of due process," read the group's statement. The group aims to hold forums nationwide and train paralegal volunteers to help families of victims. "We have never had a greater need for paralegal aid," said Antonio La Vina, former dean of the School of Government of the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University. He said the group’s advocacy goes beyond the drug-related killings and include threats to freedom of expression and attacks against human rights defenders. Lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of People's Lawyers said there is a need to challenge "an array of authoritarian tactics" by the government, including random drug tests and the use of intelligence "drop boxes" and surveys that violate privacy. "With violence on all fronts ... there is deep fear indeed among the living that death will come, for virtually any one, sooner at the door," read the group's statement. The group said the "effective solution" to the drug problem is clearing the government of officials who protect drug syndicates. The lawyers dismissed the government's claim that its conducting of the drug war has popular support. La Vina said surveys show that most Filipinos are concerned about extra-judicial killings and are scared that they could also fall victim. "It is clear that there is no approval of its methods," he said. "Our records speak for us," said Olalia, adding that members of the new alliance have consistently fought for human rights since the reign of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
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