Philippines: Legal system under attack as 7th lawyer shot dead

On 15 February, environmental rights lawyer, Manuelita Cumba Mascariñas-Green was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen while she was driving her three young children home in the capital city of Tagbilaran, Bohol. Two men on motorcycles blocked her car and shot her dead. The manner of the killing is consistent with the pattern of killings of other lawyers and political activists in recent years and shows it was a planned attack.

Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement «Those who cause environmental destruction are resorting to savage measures and deplorable acts to stop communities and people who are standing up to protect our imperilled environment and the very ecosystems that support  the lives and livelihoods of our people».

Atty. Mascariñas-Green handled agrarian and human rights cases in Cebu before she transferred to Bohol and was described by her colleagues as brave and courageous. Atty. Mascariñas-Green is the seventh lawyer killed since President Duterte came to power. Of the seven killed, one was a judge while two were prosecutors. All seven were shot to death.

According to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), “Given the government’s failure to adequately investigate these killings, amid the growing number of unresolved extrajudicial drug related killings and attacks on political activists, there are fears that this new attack will become just another name on the long list of unresolved killings”.

Meanwhile, many other members of the legal profession have been the targets of unsuccessful killings, threats, and smear campaigns. The NUPL believes that “…this series of attacks against judges, prosecutors and lawyers is not only directed against their persons and the legal profession, but also against the litigants’ and victims’ constitutional right to counsel and justice. If the lawyers representing and defending the victims of human rights abuses do not feel safe in the discharge of their duties, not only the cause of their clients but justice itself are at stake. Without that freedom from fear in performing their duties as lawyers, they cannot effectively be agents of justice”.