Updated: March 15, 2019 05:44 AM GMT
Filipino lawyers and their counterparts from several other countries gather in Manila this week to look into the reported killings of legal profession members in the Philippines. (Photo by Marielle Lucenio)
Law groups from the United States and several European and Asian countries have decried a reported rise in the number of attacks on lawyers and judges in the Philippines in recent years.
In a colloquium held in Manila this week, the lawyers' groups released a report on the killings of legal profession members.
The Philippine Judges’ Association reported that at least 29 judges have been killed in the past 30 years.
According to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines — the national organization of Filipino lawyers — 38 lawyers have been killed since 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.
The most recent victim was killed on March 13.
Rex Jasper Lopoz was gunned down outside a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Tagum in Davao del Norte province.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines noted that Lopoz’s death was the latest "in a quick succession of violent attacks" on members of the bar.
"This series of unsolved crimes against lawyers has germinated a dark halo of fear that has paralyzed the most important pillars of the justice system," read a statement from the organization.
The group called on the Supreme Court to conduct a "thorough and impartial investigation" into the killings.
Most of the murdered lawyers were handling drug-related cases, while others were known to be outspoken critics of Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign and other policies.
"As professionals, we shouldn’t be attacked on the basis of cases that we are handling as lawyers," said Integrated Bar of the Philippines president. Abdiel Fajardo.
"This is a nightmare that has to be stopped," said Johannes Karel Geesbaak, director of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, a Netherlands-based foundation.
The international lawyers' groups will hold a "fact-finding mission" on the reported killings this week.
Similar missions were conducted in the Philippines in 2006 and in 2008.
The 2008 mission noted little or no progress has been made in cases investigated in 2006.
The international delegation of lawyers is also set to meet government officials and representatives from law enforcement agencies to discuss the attacks on members of the legal profession.